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?
- Different types of mystery shopping
- How to get involved as a mystery shopper
Nowadays, all industry sectors employ mystery shoppers – retail, automotive, financial services, hospitality, property, call centres, public 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.
Good part-time work
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.
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.
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.
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!
Get 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.
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 of the better mystery shopping agencies in the UK. We have the complete list in our mystery shopping eBook.
If you want to find a company on your own…
- Make sure they’re based in the UK with a UK phone number and address.
- Don’t just put ‘mystery shopping’ into your search engine. All sorts of dodgy companies could come up.
- If you see a company you haven’t heard of before, put their name into the search bar and see what websites like ours say about them. Check the forums too as people who have had experience of them will say what they think.
- 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: Report on your mystery shopping experience.
This will usually involve filling in a questionnaire with short or longer answers about your experience as a customer.
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).
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!