For a richer life

Mystery shopping: Become a mystery shopper and get Paid to Shop and Eat Out

Mystery shopping: Become a mystery shopper and get Paid to Shop and Eat Out Susan/Flickr

Become a mystery shopper and get free meals in restaurants, stays in hotels and free drinks in bars. Different mystery shopping companies will provide you with different assignments depending on who their clients are. We can show you here how to get mystery shopping jobs and get lots of freebies as a mystery shopper.

Mystery shopping (sometimes known as secret shopping) has been around for 60 years and is now highly regulated in the UK. The Market Research Society has created a code of conduct, and standards are maintained by trade bodies such as the Mystery Shopping Providers Association.

What is mystery shopping?

Nowadays, all industry sectors employ mystery shoppers – retail, automotive, financial services, hospitality, property, call centres, mystery_shoppingpublic services, travel and even the voluntary sector – so there’s a huge range of work available.

If you become a mystery shopper you could be enjoying a weekend break one month and phoning a call centre to complain about your gas bill the next. You don’t need any formal qualifications to be a mystery shopper – but you do need to have good observational skills and a good memory.

Most mystery shopping agencies ask that you don’t write notes or make what you’re doing obvious while you’re ‘on the job’, as it can affect the way you’re treated by the staff. The company’s main objective is to get an impartial experience. Mystery shopping is very flexible and not usually suitable as a full-time job, but it can be good to fit around other jobs in your life.

And remember that mystery shoppers are classed as self-employed, so you’ll need to declare your earnings to the Inland Revenue.

Jasmine says...

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Viewsbank is a new mystery shopping site that could see you earn up to £100 per assignment! Check it out here.

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Different types of mystery shopper jobs

Report-only mystery shopper

This is the most common option. You’ll be given a brief and a checklist of things to look out for. You need to follow your instructions (without letting anybody know you’re testing them), evaluate the response and then provide feedback, usually by way of an online questionnaire.

Telephone mystery shopper

If you don’t trust your acting skills you might prefer to stick to the phone – there’s plenty of work available. You’ll be given a company to call with a host of questions that a typical customer may have. Again, you’ll need to assess the response and provide feedback.

Postal monitoring

post boxThis one requires minimum effort. Your home address is simply used for receiving brochures and other promotional material. You return the items, and the content and speed of delivery is measured.

N.B. don’t be conned by ‘mystery shopping’ scams that get you to receive money into your bank account and then send most of it on to a foreign account to ‘test’ the money transfer company. These are totally bogus and should be avoided and, ideally, reported to Actionfraud. Be careful only to use the mystery shopping agencies we mention on Moneymagpie so that you are not scammed.

Email

You’ll be sending specific enquiries to websites and monitoring the speed and content of the response. Again, you’ll need to assess and then pass on your findings.

Covert video mystery shopper

This is specialist stuff and only for well-trained shoppers. Essentially, you’re given a brief; you enter the premises as a customer, and then you record the entire process using covert video cameras. Companies need clear pictures, so don’t go for this if you record your feet at family events!

…ooh, and…

Garnier Hand CreamGet free goodies to test out for Toluna. They have loads of products they need to have tested so if you sign up for the testing side can get new things every month. Right now, for example, they’re getting people to test out Garnier Hand Cream and pots of caviar…yes seriously! So you can see the kind of things you could get to try for nothing.  Click here to join up now and get all these great freebies.

Get new money-making secrets every week for free. Signup here now!

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How to get involved as a mystery shopper

Step 1: Find the right mystery shopping agency for you.

Check out the list below and sign up with one of them many mystery shopping agencies around. It’s not a complete list. The full list of genuine agencies can be found in our mystery shopping eBook (half price right now!).

Some specialise in specific industries, others are more general. You could try investigating the major department stores – Selfridges for example has its own mystery shopping panel.

This list contains some the better mystery shopping agencies in the UK. If you want to find your own, just make sure they’re based in the UK with a UK phone number and address.

Make sure you keep an eye out for the small ads too. Local papers and recruitment agencies often carry mystery shopping adverts.

You should be looking for the ones you’ll get the most out of, whether that is the pay you receive for the jobs you do, or the freebies you get from the places you inspect.

It should never cost you to join a company – they should be paying you for the work you do.

Step 2: Go out in the field.

Once you’re accepted to your chosen agency, you can begin looking for jobs on their website.

This is the hard part! You need to go and shop – or eat – or enjoy a show – but the main objective is to follow your instructions exactly, without having the instructions in front of you.

You’ll need to report on products and services, which can include anything from aspects of the decor, cleanliness, atmosphere, how the staff deal with other customers, how many staff there are and what they’re all doing.

Step 3: Reporting on your mystery shopping experience.

This will usually involve filling in a questionnaire with short or longer answers about your experience as a customer.

You’ll only get reimbursed and/or paid after you’ve reported on your job. This is usually done within 24 hours of your assignment.

Pay rates differ from company to company and depend on the complexity of the work.

Generally, you can expect to earn £5 – £25 per task plus expenses (but as little as £1 – £5 for phone work).

Useful links

Whatever you do, don’t miss our number one article 10 easy ways to make quick cash – featuring the very best money makers around including mystery shopping!

  • Roxy

    I just want to make a comment with regards to mystery shopping. Before searching for mystery shopper roles always make sure you read fully before proceeding further, make sure the website is based in the country you are in UK and there is a contact number, company info and an email and feel free to send an email so for peace of mind you know it is a genuine website. As many sites are spams. Never give any personal information. If you see an international site offering this work be very vigilant and aware.

  • Travis

    Hi there! We never charge shoppers and are always looking for good quality reviewers. Please check us out here: advancedfeedback.com

    Travis

  • Moneymagpie

    Hi there,

    We’re very sorry that some of the companies we listed spammed you. Please could you let us know which ones they were and we can look into it?

    Thanks

    Moneymagpie

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=633197573 Sarah Lamb

      I’m guessing it was producttesting.uk.com/iphone5/?campaign=Afform+&keyword=CD2392xx-

      Doesn’t look genuine to me.

      • Moneymagpie

        Hi Sarah,

        We have now removed ProductTesting from the site – thanks very much for letting us know.

  • Regina King

    I am a financial Writer. I have written articles for many other sites and blogs. So, Please give me the opportunity to write “Guest Post” for your blog (moneymagpie.com).

    Waiting for your positive reply.

  • Sally C

    Hi all, I registered with JKS after last weeks newsletter about Casino Visits. I was accpeted and have completed 1 visit so far and have another visit planned. All seems to be going well, will be even better in a few weeks when I get paid.

    Thanks for highlighting a great opportunity Jasmine.

  • Adewale

    I’m trying to become a mystery shopper and have to fill in this questionnaire to continure the application. It keeps saying I’m not giving the right answers and I’m so confused as I’ve been a mystery shopper before and no matter how many combinations I use it says they’re wrong! What answers would you give?

    1.Before you set out for your visit, you should…

    (a) Check the address and location of the shop you are to visit:
    (b)Wear a watch
    (c)Check your brief for details / instructions
    (d)All of the above

    2. At what stage in the visit do you approach staff ?
    (a)Right away
    (b)Never, if staff dont approach you
    (c)When instructed to do so on your brief

    3. Which of the following responses to an assistant’s approach would generate a productive conversation
    (a)Have you got this in my size
    (b)Have you got this in pink with high heels and a strap
    (c)I’m looking for new shoes for a party
    (d)Does this come in blue

    4. If you can not establish the name of the assistant, do you….
    (a)Not worry about it
    (b) Ask the assistant their name (stating ‘in case you have more questions’ or ‘ you want to contact them’)
    (c)Settle for the description

    5. When would you tell the assistant that you are the Mystery Shopper
    (a)At the end of your visit
    (b)By Phone, after your visit
    (c)Never
    (d)At the beginning of your visit

    6. When would you fill-in your questionnaire?
    (a)In a quiet place in the store
    (b)Sitting in your car but visible to the shop
    (c)Once you have reached home
    (d)Not necessary to fill it in, your memory and notes are sufficient

    • Alan Breeze

      I have the exact same problem and have tried every conceivable combination of what appears to be correct answers without luck Does anyone know the answers ?

  • John Smith

    HI again.
    Don’t know if it was my typo, of if my post was incorrectly edited, but I regularly earn £3,000 to £4,000 per month as a video mystery shopper, and not the £300 – £400 stated in my previous post.
    I’m not saying that to show off, but simply to try and show people that mystery shopping can be more than just a “hobby” and a way of earning a few “freebies”. Although I accept that we are in the minority, there is a small (but growing) band of professional mystery shoppers that earn a comfortable full time income. In the current economic climate, mystery shopping, and especially video mystery shopping is a viable option. Thanks

    • Jennifer Coles

      Hi John, thanks very much for your comment on mystery shopping. It is encouraging to hear of your success. I am writing about this subject for Moneymagpie and would love to chat to you a bit more about how you got into mystery shopping, and what it is like to carry out video surveillance. Would it be possible to get in touch with you please?

    • roger

      how do i start doing what your doing?

    • Mystery Shopper

      Hi jhone

      Can you tell us about this site that you said that you earn£3,000 to £4,000 per month as a video mystery shopper,

  • Sarah-Lou

    Some fab resources there! Anyone know of any more agencies? I get work now and then but would love it to be more regular! At the moment I have signed up with the two places I found on:

    mysteryshopperjobs.co.uk/

    Thank you, Sarah x

  • kerrie

    hi, im interested in becoming a mystery shopper but when i have come to sign up with the agencys above i have been put of by them asking the value of my house, when it was built. value of my car and what car i drive. is this normal as i dont see why this information is relevant to them.
    please can someone advise me, kind regards

  • Han

    I’ve signed up for a lot of the agencies named in the article (Performance in People, GFK, JKS and Retail Eyes) and have heard back from all of them, some are only offering assignments a bit too far afield for me (ie. airports or just big cities) but atleast they are offering them so they all seem good. I am completing an assignment today for GFK so definitely a good one as long as they do pay up!

    I have also completed lots of assignments for Grass Roots mystery shopping agency – I’ve been signed up to them for over a year and complete about two/three assignments a month – including one every month that means getting an online grocery shop for free and only answering a couple of questions for it! I have been paid for Grass Roots assignments lots of times too (they pay twice a month so you don’t have to wait too long) so I can definiely vouch for them being genuine and trustworthy. Certainly couldn’t make a living off it at the moment but its nice to have a bit extra every month.

    • http://www.jasminebirtles.com Jasmine Birtles

      Thank you for letting us know. Glad you’re getting so much work! We will look into Grass Roots too and add them to the list. Jasmine

  • John Smith

    Great post. It’s really good to find some constructive advice about mystery shopping. I have been a video mystery shopper for five years now and am able to earn £300 – £400 per month from a handful of agencies that supply me with regular work. I get fed up reading all the negative comments from people who think it’s either a complete scam or, at best just a way to earn a bit of pin money and get a free burger. Thank you for giving such balanced, objective advice.

  • FIONA

    JASMINE I am looking for a job in about six months at the end of an admin contract. I would like to do mystery shopping and one that pays well and promtly and will provide me with regular part time or full time work any ideas? I have vast experience in this field as I come from a sales background and complain if I find service is poor for free though!

    Do you know of any companies that need testers e.g to test cosmetics say or any companies that would employ instore mystery shoppers or spys? Always fancied going undercover!!!

    What about market research, who could I approach for this field?

    What about market research?

    • http://www.jasminebirtles.com Jasmine Birtles

      Oh there are lots of agencies you can join. I’ve done work with TNS-globall (address in the article) but the others that we list above are good too. Just join them all then you will get lots of shops/restaurants etc to review. Also look at our article on conducting market research here http://www.moneymagpie.com/article/1567/being-a-market-researcher/. There are some good ideas and contacts in that. If you want to be asked questions about products then go to http://www.sarosresearch.com and sign up with them. It’s good cash for an evening of saying what you think about products, adverts, ideas and more.

  • Don Lobaugh

    Interesting and good stuff. Keep it coming. I am always interested in the story

  • George

    I have completed a couple of assignments with a company called Retail Eyes, they seem very good so far and I have been paid the fee set with no problems.

  • schmuck
  • Sadye Brees

    Good post and nice design, is this a regular template?

  • Ayesha

    Hmmm – I just applied on the JKS website – filled out all the info requested and set up an account which immediately flagged up as “deactivated”. The link next to this flag takes me to a page which has a link to take me back to the initial page……………….. methinks me’s been had….? Damn it…..anyone had any success with the co’s listed on this page?

    • Paul Prowse

      Ayesha,

      For JKS, once you have completed your application form you should receive an email that says your application has been ‘manually deactivated’ This is because this company vets each application form before they allow it into their database. If you have been successful in your application they will ‘activate’ your application within 10 days.

      If this hasn’t happened after 10 days, e-mail JKS directly (info@jksmysteryshopping.co.uk )

      • Ayesha

        Well,10 days passed and not a squeak. Emailed JKS as instructed by Paul………..no reply as yet. Odd that I have signed up to a few and haven’t heard anything at all………has anyone has any luck with these sites/companies and actually earned money?

        • http://www.jasminebirtles.com Jasmine Birtles

          I’ve done quite a lot of work with TNS-Global in the past. Two friends of mine have worked with some of the others. It’s odd that you haven’t heard back from them

          • Mrs Hibbs

            I have worked as a Video Mystery Shopper for 15 years now and get most of my work from Performance in People, they are great to work for and always pay on time. Anyone thinking of doing this type of job…DO NOT REGISTER WITH COMPANIES THAT ASK FOR A FEE OF ANY KIND.
            If the agency has not emailed you then give them a call and introduce yourself…the reason they have’nt emailed is probably because they don’t have any work available in the area’s you specified so be prepared to travel further.

  • John G

    Does one need to be wary if a mystery shopping co want to charge you to join? I thought they shouldn;t do this if they were genuine. UK Mystery Shopper want tocharge a one of fee of £22.95. Can anyone advise?

    • Paul Prowse

      John,

      You should never have to pay to become a mystery shopper – there is absolutely no need.

      Use one of the companies mentioned in the article above instead, who will not charge you for the privilege!

  • jowanda sturdivant

    do you know anything about larox flowsys agency they have something to do with mystery shopping and i cant find it anywhere on line.

    • http://www.jasminebirtles.com Jasmine Birtles

      That looks like an engineering company, not mystery shopping

    • lucie

      has anyone actually cashed the ckeck, done the shopping, got paid? Did it go well?

  • Nicola

    The new mystery shopping company page has been shut down.

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