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Dec 23

Mystery shopping: Become a mystery shopper and get paid to shop and eat out

Reading Time: 8 mins

Become a mystery shopper and get FREE meals in restaurants, FREE stays in hotels and FREE drinks in bars.

Many 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 bag 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 count as self-employed, so you’ll need to declare your earnings to HMRC. 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

 

Jasmine’s experience of mystery shopping

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

Check out our bumper article on freebies and bag yourself even more free stuff.

 

In-store opportunities

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.

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!

Site inspection

For a site inspection, mystery shoppers may be asked to do one of two things. You may be asked to go to a store and buy specific items from a specific retailer. This is to ensure customers are getting what they pay for, as well as the availability of stock.

The mystery shopper may also be asked to interact with staff when searching for and purchasing their items. This is to check how staff interact with customers. You will then provide your feedback to the company conducting the mystery shopping.

Eating at restaurants

Getting paid to eat at restaurants? Sounds like the dream. This dream could become a reality for you if you take up mystery shopping, and could be a fun side hustle.

Multiple chain restaurants use mystery eaters to ensure their customers are getting brilliant food and even better service. They will pay you to go to their restaurants, have a meal and report back to them. In some cases, your meal will be paid for and in other cases, your meal will be covered and you will be paid for your time on top.

It is important to be aware that some agencies will offer you a fixed amount of money to eat at a restaurant. Remember, it may not be enough to cover the cost of the meal, so you will need to check beforehand.

watch films

As with restaurants, cinema chains want to ensure their customers are getting the best experience possible. So, if you’re an avid cinema-goer or movie buff, this may be the perfect job for you.

Not only will you be able to watch films for free, but agencies will often allow some cash for snacks and drinks. This allows you to interact with the staff, try the yummy goodies available to munch on whilst you watch the film.

You will be asked to review many things, from the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff, the availability of snacks, the prices and even the comfort of the seats. Your overall experience will be asked for. It is important to keep in mind that reviews can take time and agencies require detailed responses, so keep this in mind when you apply.

 

Online opportunities

Telephone mystery shopper

If you’re better at playing a role on the phone than in person, you might prefer this option – there’s plenty of work available. You’ll be given a company to call with a set of questions that a typical customer may have. Again, you’ll need to assess the response and provide feedback.

Postal monitoring

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 Action Fraud. Be careful only to use the mystery shopping agencies we mention on MoneyMagpie so that you’re not scammed.

Email mystery shopping

You’ll be sending specific enquiries to websites and monitoring the speed and content of the response. Depending on your personality, writing emails is potentially much easier than talking to businesses in person or on the phone!

Again, you’ll need to assess and then pass on your findings.

giving your opinion online

It’s not mystery shopping as such, 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 sign up to any of these. Give this 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

save money shopping

Check out the list below and sign up with one of the many mystery shopping agencies on offer. It’s not a complete list, the full list of genuine agencies can be found in our mystery shopping eBook (which is absolutely free!)

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.

Be sure to check out…

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’ll 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’s 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

Mystery shopper in disguise

Once the agency accepts you, 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 the guidelines 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.

Note that at time of writing, the UK is on lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic and you should only be doing minimal shopping trips for essential groceries right now. You can however make a note of the in-person mystery shopping opportunities available and apply for them when life returns to normal!

Step 3: Report on your mystery shopping experience.

save money shopping

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

You’ll receive payment/reimbursement after you’ve reported on your job, which you’ll ideally do within 24 hours of completing the task.

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).

 

A Money Magpie’s mystery shopping Experience

Make money mystery shopping

Our Publishing Editor, Marc Crosby, decided to join up to a mystery shopping agency to see just how easy it was to earn money. Here he tells us about the experience:

“I joined up to one of the online mystery shopping agencies and, after putting in a few details, was asked to do a mystery shop for a fast food chain in my local area. It didn’t take long to be offered the job and they were willing to pay £20 for completing it.

It really did feel like going undercover, little did the staff know I was watching their every move, mwahahaha…well, except, they probably did, because mystery shopping takes a little practice. I was told to note down how long it took from asking for my order to the meal being handed to me, which meant using my phone as a stopwatch. That’s easier said than done when you’re juggling your wallet around.

By the time the meal was handed to me and I’d fumbled for the ‘stop’ button, they probably knew what I was up to (which might explain why a member of staff held the door open for me as I left, wishing me a good day – not a normal procedure at fast food stores!) But, hey ho, good service and I gave a good score. All I needed to do was go back and quickly answer a few questions that took no longer than half an hour to complete.

I was paid within two weeks and was offered loads of mystery shopping work after. Honestly, it could have been a nice little earner if I had more time to do it.

So if you’re in doubt, I’d say give it a go. Mystery shopping really is quite easy money, plus the company usually pays for your food/item, so that’s another bonus!”

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!

Make money My Survey
Neilson

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Travis
Travis
9 years ago

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

Travis

Moneymagpie
Moneymagpie
10 years ago

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

Sarah Lamb
Sarah Lamb
9 years ago
Reply to  Moneymagpie

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

Doesn’t look genuine to me.

Moneymagpie
Moneymagpie
9 years ago
Reply to  Sarah Lamb

Hi Sarah,

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

Regina King
Regina King
11 years ago

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
Sally C
11 years ago

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
Adewale
11 years ago

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… Read more »

Alan Breeze
Alan Breeze
11 years ago
Reply to  Adewale

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
John Smith
11 years ago

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.… Read more »

Jennifer Coles
Jennifer Coles
11 years ago
Reply to  John Smith

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
roger
10 years ago
Reply to  John Smith

how do i start doing what your doing?

Mystery Shopper
Mystery Shopper
9 years ago
Reply to  John Smith

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
Sarah-Lou
11 years ago

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
kerrie
12 years ago

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
Han
12 years ago

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… Read more »

Jasmine
Admin
Jasmine
12 years ago
Reply to  Han

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
John Smith
12 years ago

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.

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