July 2, 2016
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Mystery Shopping is a Big Business

The Purpose of Mystery Shopping

How to Earn Money From Home as a Mystery Shopper

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Popular Industries that Use Mystery Shoppers

Tax Deductions for Mystery Shoppers

How to Spot Mystery Shopping Scams

Mystery Shopping Frequently Asked Questions

Mystery Shopping & How to Present Yourself While On the Job






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Mystery Shopping
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Mystery shopping programs can offer you a simple and fun way to earn money. Companies pay you to shop at their stores, buy their products, attend movies, and eat at their restaurants. In return, you send them a survey reporting on your experience. You are your own boss, and only work the assignments that you choose.

There are a variety of mystery shopping programs available today. The best programs provide you with supporting materials in addition to a large number of job assignments. You can earn a substantial income as a mystery shopper.

When evaluating mystery shopping programs, you want to consider a number of elements. Some of these include:

  • Selection.  Does the program offer a variety of mystery shopping jobs?
  • Support.  What services does the program offer to help you maximize your potential income?
  • Cost.  How much does it cost to participate in the program? Is it a one-time fee or a recurring expense? has reviewed and ranked the best mystery shopping programs available today. We hope this information helps you start your Mystery Shopping adventure today!

Disclosure: We pay our reviewers for their reviews. We are not compensated by companies for their reviews, but we are compensated for links and advertisements on our website. Click here for details.


Mystery Shopping Reviews

5 stars
Elite Mystery Shopper



$29.95 one-time fee Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award Elite Mystery Shopper offers the best overall value of any mystery shopping program we reviewed. Their website is the best organized with easy to find navigation tabs, well laid out text and pictures on the homepage, which is not too lengthy, making it easy to find what you are looking for. A video is automatically loaded when you open the page that shows a special report done on Good Morning America in regards to the opportunities available with mystery shopping.

With your one-time membership fee, backed with a 60-day money back guarantee, your membership gives you access to over 175 companies that are hiring mystery shoppers. There are also a few bonuses that are offered including free business cards, access to online surveys that you can get paid for, and the option to get paid to read emails. Elite Mystery Shopper offers the flexibility to work from home or on site at the actual location. This allows shoppers to choose the jobs that best fit their needs and keep the projects interesting.

Elite Mystery Shopping provides the best mystery shopping experience for those that want to earn extra money working part time. With an excellent website, low membership fee, project flexibility, and a strong return policy, Elite Mystery Shopping earns our highest rating.

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4 stars
Shopping Jobs



One-time fee of $25 for lifetime membership

Shopping Jobs offers members access to a database of nearly 200 companies looking to pay for shoppers to evaluate their customer service, professionalism, and overall shopping experience. For $25, members gain lifetime access to that database, along with online survey opportunities, jobs for passing out samples and demonstrating products, and a step-by-step guide to mystery shopping.

While Shopping Jobs is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, their listing does confirm that it is based out of Vermont, confirming the information given on the Shopping Jobs website.

We really like how the FAQ section clearly explains the ups and downs of mystery shopping, while reiterating that Shopping Jobs serves only as a middleman between members and secret shopper companies looking to hire. We also appreciated the testimonials from actual mystery shopping situations encountered by members, which seem to be sincere in their descriptions of the process and the ups-and-downs experienced. Although Shopping Jobs doesn’t list specific companies, the testimonials describe visits to evaluate car dealerships and trips to the movie theater, so that is likely to be representative of mystery shopping opportunities available.

On the other hand, we did not see any policies regarding refunds or customer satisfaction guarantee until we went to the “Join” page, where it indicated that a 100% refund could be offered within the first 60 days of membership with Shopping Jobs.

Overall, Shopping Jobs has every appearance of being a reliable way to get connected with businesses looking to hire mystery shoppers for a variety of needs.

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3.5 stars
Secret Shopping Center



$39.97 one-time fee for lifetime membership

As with the majority of companies that connect mystery shoppers with secret shopping opportunities, Secret Shopping Center charges a one-time fee for lifetime access to their database.

Their fee is higher than most at $39.97, and it’s important to note that their refund policies are significantly different and stricter than others’ as well: members who do not register with at least 20 of companies out of their top 30 listed will not be eligible for a 100% refund, only 50%. In addition, for those seeking a full refund within the 45-day limit (also stricter than other sites, who typically offer an 8-week or two-month window), they may be required to provide proof of registration with those 20 companies in order to get their money back. A $10 processing fee is also deducted from all refunds, which strikes us as being overly strict given that it represents at least one-fourth of the total membership fees paid.

However, we greatly appreciate that Secret Shopping Center puts those details very plainly on their website, so that most new members should have no reason not to be completely clear on what they’re getting for their money. The FAQ section is quite comprehensive and should leave users with a solid understanding of what Secret Shopping Center has to offer. A detail we didn’t see on other mystery shopping sites—and probably should have—was that Nevada state law requires secret shoppers to be registered as a private investigator; kudos to Secret Shopping Center for pointing that out to their members.

Secret Shopping Center also seems to go the extra mile to not only encourage their members to get involved but to be successful in their mystery shopping efforts. For example, they offer a $10 referral bonus to anyone who submits a new mystery shopping company/opportunity for SSC’s database. Also, their $10 Challenge pays members for signing up for at least 20 of the paid market research sites that Secret Shopping Center offers.

Although their refund fees are much stricter than other companies and their membership fees are generally higher than most, we like Secret Shopping Center’s efforts to get their new members involved with mystery shopping and their openness regarding the challenges involved with succeeding as a secret shopper.

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3 stars
Paid Surveys and More



Normally $69, currently $24

According to the website, Paid Surveys and More was started by a single mom who left her job after discovering the benefits of how online surveys financially helped her friends and family. Paid Surveys and More is similar to many of the other websites reviewed in that it is one long page, with much information and text. This page, though long and wordy, is much better organized and easier to read than many of the other sites.

The website does a good job of explaining the benefits, and the process of the online surveys. Right up front, it explains that this isn't a get quick rich scheme, and that it takes time and effort to make money. It even goes as far as saying if you can’t commit to an hour or two each day, that this opportunity might not be a fit for you. There is a handy calculator that helps give you an appropriate estimate of how much money you can make by how much time you are willing to put into the business.

There is a 100% 60-day money back guarantee offered by Paid Surveys and More. Once you have signed up you have access to a member’s only area that has resources and assistance in getting assignments and learning tips to cash in on some of the best surveys. Check out the website for more bonuses that are available when you sign up.

Paid Surveys and More is clear about what it takes to make money working with them, they are more upfront than other companies about the expectations and effort required. Unfortunately, no companies are listed to give you an example of what you'll be working on.

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Benefits of Mystery Shopping

If you're thinking of becoming a mystery shopper, there are a number of benefits awaiting you. In addition to terrific hours, the convenience of taking a family vacation without asking the boss and having more fun at any job than most people will ever dream of having, you will enjoy the potential for a decent income at a job that offers plenty of free perks. Below are just a handful of detailed benefits for mystery shoppers.

Flexible work schedule. When you get a job as a mystery shopper, you receive paperwork necessary for your evaluation and you will enjoy being able to arrive at work according to your own schedule. Once you have completed your assessment, you simply fill out the evaluation and submit it to the company that hired you. Being able to set your own hours and work as much or as little as you want are two of the greatest benefits to being a mystery shopper.

Variety. Instead of sitting in the same old office and staring out the same old window every day, mystery shopping offers a literal change in scenery. One day you may be evaluating a retail store, the next a fine restaurant and the next a movie theater. Can you imagine being paid to watch a movie or dine out? If you would enjoy getting out of a career slump, mystery shopping may be the boost that you need.

Income potential. Whether you want to participate in mystery shopping as a way to earn a few extra bucks or you want to turn it into a part or full-time career, the choice is yours. The more mystery shopping companies that you sign up with, the more income you may receive. As is the case with anything, your reward(s) that you receive will largely be determined by your efforts.

Be in business for yourself. The fact is that you are the best boss that you will ever have. When you work for yourself as a mystery shopper, you are working on your schedule, according to your hours and have more control over your income. Self-employed individuals receive tax advantages, receive higher rates of pay and are much more likely to enjoy their work.

Free stuff. When you are a mystery shopper, you are assigned a job that requires you to evaluate either a product or service. You will be given specific instructions as to what items, if any, are required to be purchased in accordance with your evaluation. Whether it is a slice of pizza or a pair of sunglasses, you will almost always be reimbursed for the cost of these items by the company who hires you as a mystery shopper. What this means for you is, in addition to being compensated financially for your job, you will also often enjoy the benefits of freebies.

Interesting work. At the end of the day, which side of the customer counter would you prefer to be on? Would you rather be the cashier ringing up the purchase or would you rather be shopping and getting paid for it? If you are like most, the latter is the most appealing option. When you are a mystery shopper, your work is never boring because it varies from one day to the next. You can never get bored by seeing the same people every day or doing the same activities. Mystery shopping will keep you stepping high and well over any slumps that a traditional job may offer.




Bamboozled: The job that could get you arrested

Mystery shopping gigs are real, but they're also a common job title you'll see when a scammer is looking for a victim. And now, fraudsters are giving this job scam a new twist. One that could land you in jail. But first, the real thing. Retailers will hire ...

Published:  Thu, 23 Jun 2016 09:19:00 GMT

Don't get tricked into being a 'personal shoplifter' this summer

A female, in Boots and Wilkinsons in Torquay, claimed she was employed by a company called Mystery Shopping UK when she was arrested. Their website (shared by the police) is still advertising a "Shoplifting / Theft Service", but Boots tells officers it ...

Published:  Sun, 19 Jun 2016 17:00:00 GMT

Zimbabwe: How Serious Are You About Good Customer Service?

Employers can learn a lot by carrying out a mystery shopping exercise and using this to get feedback on the real customer service practices pertaining in their organisations. Mystery shopping is a tool used to measure the quality of service and compliance ...

Published:  Thu, 30 Jun 2016 04:06:00 GMT

Debt Buster: Bogus 'mystery shopper' job cons innocent Brits into shoplifting

One woman, who was caught stealing goods in Boots and Wilkinsons in Torquay, claimed she had been employed by a firm called Mystery Shopping UK when police arrested her. The woman told officers she was given a list of items to pinch which she was then to ...

Published:  Mon, 27 Jun 2016 01:00:00 GMT

Port of Spain Mayor to accompany the second installment of the STAR Roving Tourism Caravan.

The Port of Spain edition of the caravan will include a mystery shopping exercise, in which mystery shoppers will secretly assess the quality of service provided by various establishments in the Port of Spain area. Those employees who have been recognized ...

Published:  Thu, 30 Jun 2016 16:25:00 GMT

BancorpSouth fined $10.6 million for discriminatory lending, redlining

According to the CFPB, this is its first use of testing, sometimes called "mystery shopping,"¯ to support an allegation of discrimination. If approved by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, as part of the ...

Published:  Thu, 30 Jun 2016 19:16:00 GMT

Mystery shopper scam offers money, steals from bank accounts

Inevitably, the checks bounce and you are held liable for the money. There are legitimate mystery shopping companies out there. However, they don't send you checks in the mail and then ask you to wire part of it.

Published:  Tue, 21 Jun 2016 04:25:00 GMT

CreditCardForum Reveals Leading Retailers Lag On EMV Compliance

This research covered multiple data sources which included retailer interviews, forum member survey results, mystery shopping exercises and publicly available information. "It is likely a combination of factors leading to voluntary non-compliance ...

Published:  Thu, 30 Jun 2016 10:16:00 GMT

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