Secret Shopper jobs aren’t a new concept.
In fact, I myself was a secret shopper (or mystery shopper, as it’s also called) years ago with plenty of success.
Though don’t jump on that “success” train just yet, because being a secret shopper doesn’t equal a full-time or even part-time gig. But it is a great way to earn a bit of extra income or get a few freebies here and there through “easy work” that won’t take up a lot of your time.
I’ve rounded up the best 6 companies hiring secret shoppers today.
What does a Secret Shopper do?
Retail chains, restaurants, chain stores, and companies in the hospitality and automotive industry are often on the lookout for regular people who they can hire to test out their brick and mortar businesses, i.e. the quality of their customer service.
Alternatively, if you really love food (and who doesn’t, right) and would love to get paid to eat, rather than shop around, then check out my list of real ways you could get paid to eat.
Sometimes, these companies provide a long list of special requests that a secret shopper has to complete during their ‘shop’.
You won’t always be asked to buy something, but if the company requires that you do then they will reimburse the meals or items bought – up to a certain price – in addition to paying you for your feedback.
A secret shopper, for their part, has to get to the venue where the shop will take place, follow the instructions from the company to the ‘T’, and then write up a detailed report about their experience.
They then also have to hand in receipts (if they were told to purchase anything) so that the company can verify the purchase and reimburse them.
The Truth About Secret Shopper Jobs
While there are some who do make a few hundred bucks a month through secret shopper gigs, this is definitely not the case for everyone.
In fact, they’re rather the exceptions to the rule.
It’s also important to know that you might not always have time for secret shopper gigs while working a full-time job.
Some jobs need to be completed during a certain time of the day and I’ve found that this often falls within normal business hours.
If, after all that, you now feel like this might not be the gig for you, then you could consider becoming an Amazon product tester.
It’s similar to secret shopping in the sense that you get free stuff and have to provide some feedback for that privilege.
Don’t just get discouraged here and start looking for other opportunities, though.
I’m not trying to turn anyone away from mystery shopper jobs because they are a fun way to make some extra side cash or get things like meals and clothes for free.
I just want to make sure your expectations are managed.
So if this still sounds like something you’d want to try your hand at – then keep on reading!
How much can you make as a Secret Shopper?
Normally, a secret shopper is paid somewhere between $7 to $40 per shop, plus reimbursements for any money that the shopper had to spend. Sometimes, companies don’t pay extra at all but do reimburse purchases, equaling a free meal or product.
For example, I used to evaluate a local fast food chain every now and then, where I got free sandwiches every time.
Though keep in mind that reimbursements may take a few weeks to pay out.
As is always the case with pretty much everything, the amount you’ll earn depends on the company that hires you and how involved the shopping ‘experience’ will be.
If you have to spend a lot of time there, ask a lot of questions, or provide a lot of feedback then you can expect to earn more.
That said, this isn’t always true and many companies just won’t pay more than their standard rate, even if you have to put in more effort with some shops than others.
The income is something you need to consider when taking on any secret shopper jobs.
It will be especially low in the beginning until you can prove yourself to be a trustworthy shopper and get better gigs.
Just keep in mind that this is pretty normal for most side-gigs where companies hire independent freelancers for temporary stints.
From my experience, being a secret shopper offers just enough perks to warrant the effort and time you need to put in (if you’re not a perfectionist like I am).
There’s a wide variety of companies who need secret shoppers so you’ll never feel bored with the work, but you can’t rely on it as a steady income.
Which is why most people take on secret shopper jobs as a small side gig in addition to a full-time or other part-time jobs.
The great thing about applying to become a secret shopper, however, is that you don’t need any experience, special skills, or certifications.
Making this an ideal hustling opportunity for almost anyone. Still, it does help if you have an eye for detail and can remember/follow instructions really well.
The 10 Best Secret Shopper Jobs
You’ll find most mystery shopping jobs via online portals on mystery shopping companies’ websites.
There may be a few people who work directly with the companies whose businesses they will evaluate, but for the most part, these companies stick to hiring people via mystery shopping companies.
It would be great if you can manage to cut out the middle-man, but don’t bargain on that plan working out.
It’s very important to sign up with authentic mystery shopping companies because there are A LOT of scams out there. I’m not really sure why, but scammers love to target secret shoppers.
Here is a list, in no particular order, of companies that I’ve worked with before and some that I haven’t worked with, but that I know are legit:
1. Best Mark
There are two main reasons to trust Best Mark – First, it was featured by Oprah and second, its BBB rating is consistently positive.
This company is one of the oldest and with the biggest number of assignments available.
Previously known as Kern Scheduling Services from 1998 to 2001, KSS International isn’t itself a mystery shopping company.
It provides a platform for companies to connect with mystery shoppers.
Payment is sent via PayPal directly by the company that hired the mystery shopper.
This healthcare marketing and research firm has been conducting mystery shopping assignments to doctors’ offices for years.
Perception Strategies has an A+ BBB Rating and offers phone-based and in-shop assignments.
Application to become a mystery shopper is harder than the rest on this list though.
Operating for over 25 years, this international business lets anyone become a mystery shopper without much requirements.
Good for maximizing your potential assignments.
5. Market Force
Popular for the fast food assignments that they often carry out.
Market Force has been around since 1972.
6. About Face
Known for having one of the higher rates-per-shop (At $25 to $45 a pop), About Face sends payments via PayPal.
Mystery shop on convenience stores, banks, restaurants and retail stores.
Available via phone and in-store assignments.
This company is known for having a transparent mystery shopping process, including fees for shoppers and process of hiring.
They have online, in-store and phone-based shopping assignments, and caters to the most industries than any other companies on this list.
IntelliShop also has A BBB Rating.
This A+ BBB-rated company offers mystery shopping via phone, internet or in-store.
Most of the jobs are available in the Midwestern and Southwestern United States.
Founded in 1994, this Australia-based company lets mystery shoppers dine or shop for cash.
There are equal amounts of good/bad reviews about Gap Buster, but the company does pay via ETF (electronic funds transfer) at the end of each month.
Also, consider joining MSPA and get certified as a secret shopper.
It costs money but there are a number of perks for joining this trade association, including exposure to better opportunities.
Companies with the MSPA seal of approval are also safe to approach.
How to Avoid Mystery Shopper Job Scams
Like I said above, there are a lot of mystery shopper scams out there so be vigilant.
Things to look out for include:
Unsolicited offers: Work is hard to find and everyone is looking for ways to make an extra buck. Legitimate companies will not go out of their way to find you. You have to find them and apply for the job.
Companies asking for payment: You will never be asked to pay to apply for a job. This is just like any other job in the sense that you’re providing a service and they’re paying you. It’s never the other way around.
They’re not on Google: Real companies will have a website and, often, social media pages as well. Googling an opportunity or company will usually reveal any red flags, especially if you put the word “scam” in your search as well.
They need cashed checks, now: Somehow scammers always find a way for their victims to send money to them. When it comes to mystery shoppers, they frequently use fake cashier’s checks. It’s frustrating, but I always try to look on the brighter side. Halina has a nice collection of fake checks going and we’ve had our share of fun trying to scam the scammers.
Bad Grammar: One of the hallmarks of a good scammer is bad grammar. Don’t think they’re dumb though, it’s a tried and true scammer technique. Be on the lookout for this.
The Bottom Line
Getting secret shopper jobs will require that you be attentive and thorough.
There are a few tricks to completing this type of job successfully, one of which is being good at pretending to be a customer because you may feel a bit sheepish while doing it the first few times. But once you get the hang of it you can earn a nice supplemental income every month.
If you do decide to become a secret shopper, let us know how it goes in the comments.
In the meantime, you can look for opportunities to get paid to test products. It’s very similar work to mystery shopping, but you don’t ever have to leave your house.