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Saturday, August 13th
Sinclair Customer Metrics has been working with mystery shoppers for over 35 years - and their website and new contractor application look like they haven't been updated much since then. Still, this company actually had a few jobs in our test area when some of their rivals came up empty, and we didn't find anyone with complaints about being a mystery shopper here. It's not one of our top picks, but it could be a backup plan if you don't find opportunities in your location with another mystery shopping company.
Service Evaluation Concepts, or SEC, proudly proclaims that they have 30+ years of experience in the mystery shopping industry and anywhere from 250,000 to 600,000 "Brand Agents" (aka mystery shoppers). Then where are all the jobs? Their site lets you preview listings in your area before signing up - and we only found two states with one or two active mystery shops in each one. SEC just isn't the kind of actively-engaged mystery shopping company you should be looking for. Choose a different platform instead.
In today's economy, everyone's got a side hustle, from making crafts to sell on Etsy to delivering people's takeout meals. What if you could get paid to eat at your favorite restaurant, get your oil changed, or scope out the newest coffee shop in town? That's what hundreds of thousands of mystery shoppers have been doing - for decades.
This is no "here today, gone tomorrow" gig: companies have relied on the intel gathered by mystery shoppers to get first-hand perspective on their signage, customer service experience, product quality and more. What does it take to be a "secret shopper" ? Attention to detail is crucial: some evaluations may have just a few aspects to track (like cleanliness of an entryway and a particular ad's signage), but others require more.
For example, some mystery shopping programs require you to keep track of specific times and names of salespeople while discreetly snapping photos and not blowing your cover as an everyday customer. And yes, a little bit of acting skills can go a long way when doing a mystery shop, since you may have to pretend to be very interested in that new cell phone plan, hot menu item, or fancy new construction home. Other than that, as long as you look at mystery shopping as a fun way to make some money and not as a career, you should have no trouble succeeding as an evaluator.
A word of caution: mystery shopping companies' names are often used to target victims in money laundering scams. Most of today's secret shopping platforms make payments via PayPal, and never in advance of doing a shop; you won't be "invited" to be a mystery shopper with a $1900 cashier's check in the mail. If you receive anything like that, you should contact the company through the toll-free number on their website and ask how they would like you to go about reporting it to the authorities (such as the Federal Trade Commission or the police department). And, whatever you do, DON'T CASH THAT CHECK.
It's also important to realize that you should never be asked to pay to be a mystery shopper. In the past, some less-than-reputable websites have offered to "unlock the secrets" of mystery shopping for a membership fee or one-time payment - when in reality, all you get is a list of secret shopper companies (like the ones we've evaluated here, for free).
Enough about the tricky stuff: let's move on to choosing a mystery shopping company to get you started. Here are several factors to help you pick where to begin:
TopConsumerReviews.com has sorted through today's most popular mystery shopping programs, to give you the information you need to get started on your new side gig. We hope this helps you choose a company that's the right fit for you. Have fun being a "secret shopper" !
Select any 2 Mystery Shopping Companies to compare them head to head