Greetings! I’m Jennifer from stopping in to do a guest post about something I’ve tried – mystery shopping.

Wouldn’t everyone love just a little extra cash in their pockets? I’m not talking millions of dollars here, just a little extra each month so that we can loosen the belt even one notch.

Haven’t we all seen the ads? It seems like more of them creep out of the cracks and corners each and every day! “A Stay At Home Mom Makes 1000’s Obeying This One Rule!” or “You Can Get Paid $75 An Hour Just to Shop!” Sometimes, we see them so much, we fall for one. After we live and learn, at least the experience was worth something.

I fell for the mystery shopping “$75 An Hour To Shop And Eat” advertisement and lived to tell about it. Now, first things first – some people do make a fairly decent part-time or less income by mystery shopping. From what I have found, it isn’t very sustainable over a long period of time and there is a whole lot more to it than just shopping and eating.

Had I known about “I’ve Tried That” before I started my mystery shopping trek, I would not have paid for a list of mystery shoppers (see that piece of advice here). Unfortunately, I did spend the extra money to get a list of companies that hire mystery shoppers.

Lesson One- check the web BEFORE you buy something. If I had done a little bit more research, I would have seen tons of lists for free.

Then, I started applying to mystery shopping companies. I spent hours typing in all my information and typing long sample reviews for each and every company.

Lesson Two – be prepared! I didn’t have a sample review ready ahead of time and didn’t realize going into the application process that almost every company asks for a sample. After a few applications, I saved one and reused it with a few modifications depending on what each company wanted.

When I was finally allowed to see the jobs available in my area, I definitely did not find jobs that paid $75 an hour! It was more along the lines of $5 or $6 per hour.

For instance, I signed up for a job to get paid $10 to “mystery shop” at a certain local dollar store. I had to find certain items, check the bathrooms and the store for cleanliness, talk with an employee about a pre-scripted question, lay eyes on the manager if possible and make a $5 or less purchase. The shopping part takes about an hour. Since I am the stay-at-home mom they have targeted with their ads, I brought the kids along so the shopping took an hour and a half! (I have four and they are very well-behaved.)

In the car, I would very quickly write down everything I saw and all the answers to the questions they gave me. If I would have written it while shopping, I’d run the risk of giving away the secret. Once I returned home, I had a certain length of time by which to enter all the information into their computer system via the internet or else not get paid for the endeavor. Filling out the forms with facts and opinions and comments takes at the very least an hour and a half, if not two or three hours sometimes.

To bring it all home, I spent at least 3 hours between shopping and providing opinions and got paid $10 plus a $5 item. $15 divided by 3 hours is $5 an hour. If you are not a stay-at-home mom, it might be worth it. For me, many times it was just so much work for not much pay.

Lesson Three – weigh it all in the balance. What is your time worth? I could have been doing something fun with my kids during those three hours. To me, that is worth much more than $5 per hour. I felt like I had wasted my time.

It takes about 4 to 6 weeks for them to deliver the check. This is more of an issue when you sign up to do an $80 dinner. The amount will come out of your pocket, or credit card, first and then they pay you when you have met all the right criteria.

Speaking of the $80 dinner, it sounds like a fine deal, right? If you aren’t looking to put money into your wallet and just on your hips, it’s absolutely fabulous! We were able to eat a few $80 dinners and $70 lunches at a top-notch Italian Ristorante and the food is magnificent. It isn’t a totally relaxing dinner though, because every move the waiter makes is timed. From the time they set down the first drink to the time they refilled it. From the time I ordered the appetizer to the time the appetizer came. From the time the appetizer came to the time the food came. From the time the appetizer came to the time the last dish was cleared. From the time they took the credit card to the time they brought it back. Get the idea?

Once again, when I arrived home, I had about two hours worth of questions to answer and opinions to give. My husband was sound asleep in bed having wonderful dreams about his great Italian meal while I was at the computer! If I spent an hour at the restaurant and two hours filling in forms, I technically got paid about $26 an hour. Unfortunately, I don’t really get to see that money since I already spent it on food. Now, don’t get me wrong, the food was great and it is a “free” meal – a free meal with three hours of work put into it. But, the gas company doesn’t care that I had a great meal, they want me to pay the bill!

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are quite a bit of competition out there for mystery shopping jobs. You might find one that sounds SO worth it – like a weekend stay at a hotel! The competition is usually so quick, there are 10 applications for the same job before you even click “submit” on yours! I was able to find several like that and was never able to land one.

Overall, you could have some really nice meals and buy a few things on someone else’s tab. But, if you are looking to make some great money, look somewhere else. Joe and Steve at “I’ve Tried That” have compiled a great list of viable money-making options.

This post was written by Jennifer author and owner of where she writes about parenting and homeschooling. Be sure to check out her blog and follow her on Twitter @HomeGrownMommy.

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Join the Discussion

  • Andrea Gilgulin
    Andrea Gilgulin

    I tried mystery shopping a couple of years ago on the recommendation of a co worker, who claimed she made easy extra money. Well, it was anything but easy! As Jennifer said, in her excellent review, there is lots of pre and post work to the job. Besides that, I was sent to review cellphone plans at stall within a store. The clerk who assisted me was very pleasant, but it was obvious she knew little about the cell phones. My Dad went with me, and after, he said, you know if you write up a bad review, the clerk could get into trouble. I thought about it, and as I couldn’t even download the forms I needed to complete the review, I just quit the company. That was the beginning and end of my mystery shopping career!(I was only going to get $9.00 for all this anyway.) I was thinking of giving it another try, but after reading Jennifer’s review, I think I will stick to my freelance jobs for extra income.

  • Joshua

    I’ve heard of people doing this before but like Jennifer was saying about the competition it would seem that a lot people would be out to this. By the way great review Jennifer! Until this post I didn’t realize that soo much paper work and time was going to be invested… and terrible pay. I usually get an e-mail once a day or so offering great money to shop or eat out or… what ever. Last Feb. I got scammed by someone posing as a Secret Shopper Company, the short story is that I was sent a counterfit check. I stilly owe Chase Bank a fee, and now its going to make it a lot harder for me to get an account. Totally stinks, but I was smart enough to turn over all info. to the Counterfit Secret Service. Now I check every thing thru the BBB and never pay to get paid, I maybe missing out but I’d rather missout than get ripped off or mess up my name. Thanks to the I’ve Tried That team, you guys do great work and I never fail to open a new blog from you.

  • A.F

    I feel your pain.

    I found personally that in order to make any significant money I had to attempt to schedule 4 in a day(the limit allowed) Starting with 2 mystery shops or price checks then finishing off with a mystery shop at a fast food and an end cap reset (found a couple of marketing setup positions) on the way home.
    My circuit around the town could net me about 20 dollars in a day… after I deducted the cost to me in gas. Unfortunately the waiting period of 4-8 weeks was the last nail in the coffin. It is a great idea if you could find good paying mystery shops… and drove an electric car!

  • HallyZ

    I have a friend who does mystery shopping, and she says she is a nervous wreck every time she gets sent out on assignment. The only way she manages to do mysetry shopping is because she is home all week and pretty much works on weekends only. She has mentioned that there is a lot of paperwork involved in mystery shopping, and if you screw up, you may not get paid.

    I have also inquired about mystery shopping (and even once signed up for a service), and the assignments that came in were just ridiculous. You had to be present at a certain store at a certain time, then do a whole mess of things, and the payment for all this work was just dismal. For the $5-$7 I might earn by mystery shopping, I could just as easily spend half an hour typing up an article for Associated Content or Textbroker- and all in the comfort of my own home!

    I do wonder how mystery shoppers manage to pay their bills when they are working for below minimal pay wages? PPC, Mystery Shopping- these are certainly the sweat shops of the new century!

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