Apr 26

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

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Become a mystery shopper and get FREE meals in restaurants, FREE 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 show you here how to get mystery shopping jobs and get lots of freebies as a mystery shopper.



What is mystery shopping?

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.

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.


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.

And remember that mystery shoppers are classed as self-employed, so you’ll need to declare your earnings to the Inland Revenue. Find out here about paying tax when you make extra money.


Want to get a FREE MoneyMagpie eBook about how to be a mystery shopper? Download it HERE…just don’t tell anyone…sssh!



Jasmine’s experience of mystery shopping

See here what Jasmine thinks about mystery shopping after her experiences of it.

Find out here how to test food – even chocolate!



Different types of mystery shopper jobs

Report-only mystery shopper

Man checking off items on shopping list

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

Man making phone call

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

Letters on a doormat

This 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 mystery shopping


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

Smartphone camera just visible though bag zip

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!


giving your opinion online

Woman completing Online Survey


it’s not called mystery shopping, but giving your opinions about products or services through online survey companies is the same type of thing.

It’s another easy and quick way of making some extra cash in your spare time.

You have to be careful which online survey companies you join though. These are the ones that we like:



Make sure you set up a separate email address before you join up to any of these. Give these separate email address to them when they ask for contact details so that your usual inbox isn’t flooded with offers and ads (that’s one of the ways they make their money).

Find out more about online surveys and how to make the most money from them here.



How to get involved as a mystery shopper

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

Young Asian woman with shopping bag and shhing

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.

Most of the agencies will get you to take a test before they will let you in. These can be quite tricky so you might have to do them a few times before getting them right. Don’t be put off though – persist!

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.

You can also find specific offers on UK Mystery Shopping such as the opportunity to get £100 to spend at ASDA – however, these opportunities are offered more as competitions than a standard mystery shopping opportunity, so there’s no guarantee you’ll be accepted.


Step 2: Go out in the field.

Mystery shopper in disguise

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

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.

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.


Step 3: Report on your mystery shopping experience.

Woman with shopping bags using a tablet

This will usually involve filling in an online 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).


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!



Find a mystery shopping job




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Great idea if you live somewhere with lots of shops, unfortunately I don’t.

Rebecca Gurley
Rebecca Gurley

I would love to try it but there’s none in my area.

Katherine Wolf
Katherine Wolf

Do you know of any American mystery shopper companies?


Yes there are loads. In fact many of the agencies we mention in the article are worldwide (usually based in the US) so they will have US versions. Try those first.

Paul Houston
Paul Houston

Good evening my name is Paul Houston and I am very interested in the program and I really really need cash

P G Njeru
P G Njeru

It sounds interesting, but are the jobs available in Kenya?


I would be interested if I was confident that the company /ies were grnuine.For some reason I feel suspicious.

victoria thurgood
victoria thurgood

its not really for me think alot of these company just want your details for free

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