Make Money As a Mystery Shopper

By Janice Sharman

You cut back on your expenses, clip coupons, and watch out for clearance sales, but sometimes that's not enough - sometimes you need to bring in a little extra cash. Working as a mystery shopper is a terrific way to make extra money- it's fun and easy, and, because you choose which assignments to take on, it fits into any schedule. Read on to learn how to get started in this exciting field.

First, the basics - As a mystery shopper, you visit a store and make observations anonymously, which you report back to the agency that hired you. You may be asked to purchase certain products, observe employee's behavior and responses, or survey the general condition of the store. In exchange, you'll receive a small payment and, in most cases, reimbursement for any purchases made. As you gain experience, you may be invited to review hotel stays, nice bars and restaurants or rental car companies - all on the employer's dime.

Sounds too good to be true, right - After all, why would people pay you to go shopping? In fact, businesses and companies gain a great deal of information from mystery shoppers. In an age of increasing competition, businesses must provide the best possible customer service in order to retain customers. By hiring a mystery shopper, businesses get honest feedback on how well they're performing and what needs improvement. The results of a mystery shop may uncover weaknesses that the management was unaware of, allowing them to take action to improve the customer experience.

To get started, you'll need to sign up with a mystery-shopping agency. Check out the forums on the Mystery Shopping Providers Association website for user reviews of the major agencies, or search Google for agencies in your geographic area. Try to identify a number of major national agencies and smaller local groups to ensure that you have a steady flow of jobs in your area. Visit their websites and fill out the application, which will likely ask you for a writing sample and references - just like any other job.

Once you've signed up with several agencies, you'll be notified about available jobs that you qualify for. You may receive email notices or phone calls, or you may need to log on to the agency's website and search for jobs manually. Only commit to jobs you're sure you will do - the agency is counting on you to complete the jobs you sign up for. When you sign up for a job, you'll receive complete instructions detailing exactly what you'll need to do during your visit and what paperwork you'll need to turn in. Follow the instructions as closely as possible - you may not be eligible for compensation if you don't complete the assignment correctly.

After you've finished the shop, submit your follow-up paperwork as soon as possible. You'll remember details better and recall your interactions more clearly. Give as much detail as you can on the report, but make sure you're answering the right question! Most mystery shopping agencies use ranking systems based on the quality of your reports and your reliability as a mystery shopper. Your ranking will go up if you regularly submit good quality reports on time. Before you know it, you could be spending the night on the town with dinner and drinks provided by your new employers!