Thursday, December 4, 2008

Recapping Mystery Shopping

In the last two or three weeks, two of my friends have asked me for information on mystery shopping. I sent them specific information, but I thought I’d revisit the topic and tell what I’ve done in the seven months I've been mystery shopping.

Let me start by saying that I’m not in any way a career mystery shopper. On average, I do just ten shops a month.

Rarely do I go out only to do mystery shopping. I usually only schedule shops to coincide with my other errands or appointments. Of course, there are exceptions. In fact, just yesterday I went out specifically for "secret" shopping because a commission was raised to an unusually high amount and I couldn't pass it up, especially since I could add two other lesser shops in the same area.

There are many mystery shopping companies to work for; I have done work for four. However, I choose to do most of my shopping for just one company. I like the shops they offer as well as their payment method and schedule.

As I’ve mentioned before, most of the shops I do pay a commission in addition to reimbursing all or part of a purchase. Some only reimburse for a purchase. A few are commission-only and require no purchase. Finally, one was not a shop at all, but rather a product demonstration that paid an hourly wage.

With those points in mind, here is what I’ve been able to do in seven months:

Cash earnings (commissions and product demo) - $488
Fully reimbursed carryout or delivery pizzas – approx. 25 large pizzas
Fully reimbursed pizza buffet lunches for one – 4
Fully reimbursed sports bar lunch for one - 1
Fully reimbursed Mongolian BBQ dinner for two – 1
Reimbursement up to $14 for a clothing item – 2
Reimbursement up to $8 for a household item - 1
Reimbursement of $1-$2 purchases made to prove I shopped – approximately 33

The reimbursements total close to $380. So, the total value of all my shops is approximately $868, or about $125 a month.

The commissions I’ve earned have ranged from $4 to $50 and can vary greatly from one month to the next, even for the same store or business. The shops also vary in difficulty. Some are as easy as driving by a fast food restaurant after dark to check signs and lights for outages. Others have meant posing as a prospective renter at an apartment complex. Most simply require a review of a store’s appearance and customer service along with a token purchase to prove I was there.

The shops can be learning experiences as well. I’m now up to speed on new models of refrigerators, gas ranges, computer printers, and closet organizing systems. Should we need to buy any of those in the near future, I know just what I want and where to find it. And believe me, there’s no doubt in my mind who has the best pizza in town!

As with any job, there is time involved. There is time required to do the shop and time required to complete the online reports. There is usually a window of several hours to submit the report after the shopping portion is done; just as with the shopping, I work the reporting into my schedule more or less at my leisure. The more shops I do, the more quickly I am able to do both the shopping and the reporting.

There is also the issue of taxes to consider. In most cases, it’s up to the mystery shopper to report his or her own earnings at tax time. However, a few companies do collect the necessary information and send out 1099 forms at the end of the year.

I think mystery shopping is a pretty good gig for something that’s really nothing more than a hobby for me. But who knows what a person could do if they applied themselves and worked for several companies at a time?


Amiyrah said...

I've always wanted to start doing this since there are so many stores in our area, but I never knew how to get started. Which companies do you work for? Is it easy to get started? Do I have to pay anything to join? Sorry for all the questions :o)

Annie Jones said...

Amiyrah: Just email me at and I'll send you more details! :)