I Made $16,000 a Year as a part-time Mystery Shopper
We spoke to a veteran mystery shopper to get the
inside scoop on what its really like to get paid to
hit the stores. The shopper asked to remain anonymous,
because of the sensitive financial information in the
Like everyone else, I have an inbox full of spam. I
ignore most of it. But, one day, I decided to open an
email that read: Sign up to become a Mystery
Shopper! And, for some reason, I clicked the link.
Id heard the pitches: Get paid to shop!
and Get free stuff! But I didnt know
what was required to be a mystery shopper. So I took a
chance, figuring, what do I have to lose?
It was more like what I had to gain not only
little perks, like free jeans but also enough
money to buy a car in cash.
How Mystery Shopping Works
When I first signed up to shop, I was 30 years old and
had just started a new job as an intellectual property
assistant (a specialized form of legal secretary) at a
law firm. On top of my regular expenses, I owed about
$45,000 from two years of law school, but I was earning
just enough to afford my overpriced studio apartment on
the outskirts of Boston. And that was about it.
Mystery shopping is pretty simple: Companies hire people
like me to visit their stores, pretend to be an average
customer and report back on the service and overall
experience. For each shop that you visit, companies pay
an allotted amount of money and since they often want you
to make a purchase to get the total customer experience -
they also offer to reimburse for a certain portion of the
item. It sounded doable, so I signed up.
Let the Shopping (and Earning) Begin!
My first shop was for an electronics store.
(I cant say which one because discretion is a big
part of the mystery shopping code!) The company provided
a scenario: I would interact with sales associates in two
different departments, ask about a plasma TV or a GPS
and see if they engaged in conversation, were
helpful or only answered questions in a cursory way.
It seemed weird to pretend in fact, its
still a little weird sometimes. You have to get an
employee name, so if the customer service person
isnt wearing a badge, you need to ask, which can be
awkward. Afterward, you file reports online, which are
structured as multiple choice or two-sentence
At my peak, Id dedicate four to six hours on a
Saturday going to different locations of the same coffee
shop and then spend another two hours working on the
reports because you usually have to file within 24 hours.
And, just like that, I was hooked: I began doing jobs
during my lunch hour. I could even do them on my way home
from work, since Id be walking past retail
locations anyway. Slowly but surely, the money began to
My Early Days as a Mystery Shopper
After taxes, health insurance and other deductions, my
daily take-home pay at that time was around $100. Most
shops paid me a shop fee which equaled about 15% of what
I was making at my real job. That extra 15% a
day was a big deal for me - even if all it afforded me
was the chance to buy lunch a few times a week.
Once in a while, Id have a big score like when a
sportswear company asked me to buy a $250 watch for
reimbursement and I got to keep it. (Actually, I
returned it to the store, making twice the amount back.)
It was amazing how quickly that money grew: Thanks to my
mystery shopping, I was able to set up automatic
withdrawals each month from my checking account to an
emergency fund and an account for house savings. At the
height of my shopping, I was probably shopping for 75
companies. I was shopping six days a week, sometimes even
on Sundays for brunch, of course!
But it was worth it: I made about $16,000 that year as a
mystery shopper, and thats not including
reimbursements just pure earnings. In September of
2008, I paid for a 2009 Honda Fit in cash!
Theres no way that I would have been able to do
that otherwise. I love that car to this day.
Why I scaled back on my Mystery Shopping
Since my early days as a mystery shopper, Ive
changed law firms and I make roughly $20,000 more
annually - so I dont need to spend as much free
time mystery shopping. But I can still earn decent extra
cash. In an average month these days, I probably do 10 to
15 shops. Although its all about convenience now
if I know that Im going to be headed to a
certain restaurant or store, Ill squeeze in a shop.
I cant see a reason to stop being a mystery
Interested in becoming a part-time Mystery
MysteryShoppersAmerica.com can get you started today. We
specialize in connecting new shoppers with mystery
shopping jobs throughout the country. Through our
extensive network of hundreds of mystery shopping
companies, youll have plenty of great shopping jobs
to choose from every day!
To become a secret shopper, visit our registration page.
You'll learn about our secret shopping companies, what
kind of shopping jobs are available and how much you can
make. No previous experience is required.
Click here to Become a
part-time Mystery Shopper