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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.
Monday, November 28th
AboutFace is proud of its 20-plus years as a female-led mystery shopping company. Some of the brands you may encounter as you mystery shop with AboutFace include Bass Pro Shops, Centex Homes, and Shiseido.
Mystery shopping and more
A really good reason to choose AboutFace is the fact that they offer multiple ways to participate. Not only can you be a mystery shopper here, but you can consider opportunities as a field researcher, survey panelist, product demonstrator or focus group participant - or apply to work with mystery shoppers as an editor or scheduler.
Check out social media for current jobs
AboutFace does a terrific job of keeping their social media channels active. In fact, their Facebook page is one of the best ways to see what kinds of jobs they're currently assigning, even before you jump on board as a secret shopper. During this review, some of the opportunities included hotel audits, pest control, even court-ordered drug test scenarios.
Lots of info before you sign up
Another great pre-application resource is AboutFace's FAQ section. Want to know how much you can expect to make, how you're paid (psst... it's via PayPal within 30-45 days after you've completed a shop), or how many mystery shops might be available? You guessed it: just read up on the FAQ.
Simple online application
Ready to apply? You'll enter your name, birthdate, address, phone number and email to create an account. Next, read through AboutFace's contractor agreement and sign it digitally. Once you've confirmed your account through the verification email you'll receive, you're good to go.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of the mystery shopping opportunities offered by About Face include Women's Lifestyle (Beauty, Health, Goods, Services), Retail (Boutique, Big Box, Grocery), Trades (Home Improvement, Commercial), Oil/Gas/Convenience, Technology, Education, Automotive (Dealers, Service), Real Estate, Health/Pharma, Food & Beverage, Transportation, Telecom, Residential (Home Services/Electronics), and Luxury (Goods, Services, Retail).
High praise from mystery shoppers
Whether you choose to be a mystery shopper, evaluator, or editor, you can expect a professional, reliable experience with AboutFace. We really respect their transparency: on some reviews when shoppers left complaints about late payments, AboutFace reps responded apologetically and took responsibility for the delay. Those kinds of complaints are few and far between, though: most of this company's contractors - including those who have been part of the team for years - say that this is the best choice out there, with ample support, generous payments, and easy scheduling.
#1 among mystery shopping companies
We agree. The best mystery shopping companies make it super-clear what you can expect before you sign up, make it easy to apply, and even easier to find assignments and (most importantly) get paid. AboutFace has a top-notch reputation in all of those regards, and we're pleased to give them yet another first-place finish among today's most popular mystery shopping services. There's nothing saying you can't sign up for all of the top companies in our review, but we definitely recommend starting with AboutFace.
Market Force is a huge name in the mystery shopping industry. Their global network of shoppers completes more than 100,000 assignments every month. In business for more than 50 years, this is a company you can trust to offer a mystery shopping experience that's always on the up-and-up.
Ever been convicted?
If you're interested in becoming a Market Force shopper, start by creating an account (side note: the system didn't accept the primary email we entered, so we had to use a different email address to move past the first step here). We thought it was interesting that in the very first questions Market Force asks, you need to indicate if you've ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, as well as whether or not you've been a defendant in a lawsuit alleging fraud or misrepresentation. They're not messing around!
Easily see local jobs
The rest of the application has no surprises. First, you'll read through the Independent Contractor Agreement (which is where you'll learn that direct deposit payments here are made between the 15th and 20th of the month for assignments completed in the previous month). Once you've digitally accepted the agreement, you're given access to the Market Force Shopper Portal as a Level 1 mystery shopper. Click on the Level Up button to add details to your profile and move up to the next level; information required to move to Level 2 includes your SSN and bank account, in order to process your payments. We really like that even as a Level 1 shopper, people can browse available assignments: no Social Security Number or super-personal info required.
Some jobs let you ask for greater pay
We found quite a few shops available in our location, a mid-size metro area. It was easy to see the exact address, the assignment details, and how much the job would pay. A feature unique to Market Force is the ability to make an offer, shown by a green circle with a hand holding a dollar sign in the middle. We're not sure how often shoppers' bids for higher payments are accepted, but it's an interesting option you won't see with many other mystery shopping companies.
Most jobs in our area, good pay
At the time of this review, there were almost 100 open assignments within a 45-minute drive of the location we specified. Some of those included a visit to a barber shop ($20 shop fee plus up to $50 reimbursed for a haircut), several Five Guys locations ($9 shop fee plus meal reimbursement up to $15.45), and a self-storage facility ($15 shop fee).
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of Market Force's mystery shopping opportunites include Restaurants, Retail, Grocery, Gas/C-store, Hospitality, Travel, Telecom, Technology, Energy, Education, Health and Wellness, Movie Theaters, Fitness, Financial Services, Gaming, CPG, Alcohol and Tobacco, Pharma, and Government services.
We love the new mobile app
One upgrade Market Force has given its mystery shoppers since our last review is a fully mobile app experience. It's called Eyes: On and it lets you see a map of shops near you (even on vacation or running errands outside of your usual local area), schedule an assignment, enter your report and take pictures. It's just that easy.
You'll need to be very accurate
What kind of feedback does Market Force get from its mystery shoppers? This company has a reputation for demanding excellence: cross every "t" , dot every "i" , and record every required detail, otherwise your assignment may be rejected and you won't get paid or reimbursed. For some, the requirements here are too strict: we found more than a few complaints from mystery shoppers saying that they hadn't gotten a timely response from Market Force's help desk and wound up wasting time and money trying to complete an un-doable assignment. On the other hand, we also read numerous reviews from mystery shoppers who have been a part of the Market Force team for years (decades, even) and describe the experience as fantastic as long as you pay close attention to detail - which is what you should expect from any secret shopping company anyway.
Definitely a mystery shopping company you should consider
Market Force gets one of our highest ratings. The company offers one of the most modernized mystery shopper experiences out there, with a mobile app for booking shops and submitting reports, plus the novel capability of bidding for a higher payout. This service gets an "A+" and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, as well as plenty of positive feedback from long-term mystery shoppers. You're not going to get rich here, but if you'd like to make a little money on the side while you get free meals, haircuts, and other experiences, Market Force absolutely offers that.
IntelliShop is headquartered in Ohio and has been in the mystery shopping industry for more than two decades. The company is a trusted partner of J.D. Power and works in more than 30 different types of industries ranging from Automotive to Restaurants and many others.
Lots of pre-application info here
There's a wealth of information you can get through the IntelliShop website, even before you complete an application to be a mystery shopper. They clearly spell out their process, which includes applying online, taking a five-minute screening test, downloading their optional apps (Shop Notifier and GPS Verifier), scheduling jobs that come up on the app or via email notifications, and then being sure to understand all shop requirements prior to conducting the assessment. You can get even more details through IntelliShop's FAQ section.
Complete basic application to see available shops
Ready to apply? IntelliShop only makes payments via PayPal, so make sure you use the email address associated with your account there when signing up here. (And yes, you'll have to use PayPal if you want to get paid as an IntelliShop mystery shopper; create an account there if you don't already have one.) Your application goes through the SASSIE platform, used by many mystery shopping companies. You'll first read through the Independent Contractor Agreement, and on the same page you'll enter your contact information and other personal details. Be sure to specify up to five area codes (NOT zip codes) where you're willing to conduct mystery shops. IntelliShop asks for your SSN, but you can defer entering that until later. You'll be sent a confirmation email and invited to complete further profile details, but you can still see available shops in your area beforehand.
Decent number of jobs in our area
What kinds of jobs can you expect with this mystery shopping company? During our evaluation, the open assignments in the mid-size metro area we specified mostly consisted of GEICO insurance quotes online ($50), eating at Church's Chicken ($5 job fee, $10 reimbursement), or changing an AT&T service plan ($125). The job board here isn't anything fancy, but it's easy to use and see all pertinent details of a shop before requesting an assignment.
Your work impacts your Shopper Rating
As you work as an IntelliShop mystery shopper, you'll earn a Shopper Rating. Your score improves as you write thorough reports, follow assignment guidelines to the letter, and turn in reports on time. Your rating can include positive and negative citations: "Flake" if you don't get your assignments in by the due date, "Cancel" if you bail without enough advance warning, or a positive "Hero" citation if you can be counted on, especially with last-minute jobs.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of IntelliShop's mystery shopping opportunites include Agencies, Apartments, Retail, Banking/Financial, Hospitality, Museums, Grocery, Restaurants, Transportation, Concessions, Healthcare, and over two dozen more.
Little activity on social media
IntelliShop could get a little more competitive by keeping its social media channels up-to-date. Many of their rivals post weekly, sometimes even more often, with examples of past and current mystery shopping assignments. It's a great way to give prospective shoppers a reason to apply - but there were no posts on this company's Facebook or Twitter accounts for more than six months prior to this evaluation.
And reputation? The Better Business Bureau thinks highly of IntelliShop, offering its highest rating and accreditation. Mystery shopper feedback here is on par with the other highly-rated services we reviewed: if you pay good attention to detail and complete your work on time, you can expect to receive more opportunities. Otherwise, your rating will decrease if your reports are late, incomplete, or don't follow the assignment guidelines.
Risk-free mystery shopping opportunity
We encourage you to read through all of the information on the IntelliShop site and decide if it sounds like a mystery shopping company that interests you. There's no harm done in signing up for a free account and browsing the available shops in your area before you provide your SSN. IntelliShop is a solid four-star mystery shopping company that you can trust.
With over 500,000 mystery shoppers on their team, Michigan-based Second To None is one of the largest and most experienced companies in the business. Some of the biggest names in Second To None's client list include Starbucks, Under Armour, BP, and Citi.
Activate your account to see jobs
You'll need to create a free shopper account as your first step in working with Second To None. Select a username, enter your address and other personal information, and then read through the Independent Contractor Agreement. You'll have to activate your shopper account through the confirmation email sent by STN in order to continue.
Handy mobile app
One route you can take to apply to be a mystery shopper for Second To None is through their ShopperHub mobile app. That's also what you can use once you've been accepted as a contractor to find assignments near you, sign up for the jobs you want, and submit your reports.
Check out past and current jobs via social media posts
Feel free to check out Second To None's social media channels for extra insights into the kinds of mystery shops they offer. In the weeks prior to this review, assignments featured on their accounts included Krispy Kreme, several banks (both regional and nationwide), and BP gas stations.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of Second To None's mystery shopping opportunites include Retail/E-commerce, Restaurants, Financial Services, Healthcare, Consumer Products/Services, Grocery, Fast Casual Dining, Gas Stations, and Convenience stores.
Most mystery shoppers are happy here
What do mystery shoppers think about working for Second To None? Most of them say it's a good overall experience. Getting paid via direct deposit or PayPal and having a mobile app for submitting jobs are two big perks that get praise from STN's contractors. Some shoppers have a hard time finding jobs in their area, and not everyone loves the ShopperHub app (because they say it's glitchy and sometimes freezes up while submitting a report). This mystery shopping company has an "A+" and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau and is a member of the MSPA, so there's no concern over their reputation.
Good improvements since last evaluation
We've bumped up the rating for Second To None since our last review. They've made it much easier to see how they work, particularly through their ShopperHub app, and the company continues to get favorable reviews from mystery shoppers who have been part of their team for years. We'd like to see STN allow prospective shoppers the ability to see available assignments in their area without having to jump through the email confirmation step, but that's a minor flaw. Overall, Second To None is a mystery shopping company that should be on your list to consider.
Elite CXS is a smaller, veteran-owned small business that helps companies improve their customers' journeys, partly through the perspective of mystery shoppers. But, don't think there aren't a lot of opportunities for secret shopping here just because the company isn't an industry giant: previous clients of Elite CXS have included GMC and Porsche, Gold's Gym, Burger King, Starbucks, T-Mobile, and KB Home.
Don't get too excited by the numbers
We'll admit we got a little chuckle out of the "simple math" Elite CXS offers on their "Why Become a Mystery Shopper?" page. You could make over $53,000 in a year! We know from our personal experience with mystery shopping that it's never a 40-hours-a-week, year-round kind of job. But that's a nice thought.
Basic application process
To apply for mystery shopping opportunities with Elite CXS, you'll go through the usual steps of entering your name, birthdate, address and phone number. The next screen is the Independent Contractor Agreement: no big surprises here, just the usual spelling out that you're not an employee, you'll keep assignment details confidential, and so forth. After that, you'll have to verify your email address to finish your application.
Finish your profile to see jobs
Once that's complete, you'll have access to your shopper dashboard. Complete your profile to unlock job access; you'll find most of it under the Details and More headings. It's fairly extensive: it even asks for your hair color, height and weight. It only takes a few minutes and then you'll be able to see all current job listings.
Easy reports, good pay
We were pleasantly surprised to see how many options were available in our general metro area. From what we could see, Elite CXS isn't trying to overwhelm you with picky observation details that are easy to miss - and then refuse to pay for not completing the shop according to their specifications. Reading through a few mystery shopping opportunities here, the requirements were straightforward and easy to do. For example, one job focused on financing options offered at a furniture store; the report was simple, you only needed to upload a business card or brochure and a time-stamped photo of the location, and the payout was $22 for a job estimated to take 15 minutes or less. Maybe that $53,000 figure isn't as far-fetched as we thought.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of the mystery shopping opportunities that Elite CXS offers include Property Management, New Home, Real Estate, Senior Living, Retail, Restaurants, Car Wash, Automotive, Education, Hotels, Cruise Lines, Packing & Moving, Self Storage, and Marinas.
Phone/web jobs plus live events
Two other options for mystery shopping here are phone/web assignments and lead generation. The first is pretty self-explanatory, but the second was unique to Elite CXS. At the time of this review, it looked like they were focusing on live events: asking shoppers to propose venues where UFC fights or soccer matches were being broadcast and then offering the opportunity to evaluate those venues.
Active on social media
Elite CXS has an "A+" rating from the Better Business Bureau. We were also glad to see that, unlike many of their competitors, this mystery shopping company has an up-to-date presence on their Instagram account, with plenty of posts over the weeks (even days) leading up to this review. There's not a lot of feedback from mystery shoppers who've worked with this company, however.
Small but solid
Overall, we give Elite CXS a four-star rating and our recommendation. We love how easy it is to sign up and look for available mystery shops, and that there were quite a few ready to go in the areas where we searched for opportunities. This is a smaller mystery shopping company that's still worth looking into.
Secret Shopper has mystery shops around the world, with millions of contractors gathering information and reporting back to clients. This company has been in business since 1990 and is "A+" rated and accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
Application includes a certification test
Secret Shopper wants you to know exactly what to expect when going through their application process. When you select your country from the dropdown box and click "sign up to shop" , you're not dumped right into their forms. Instead, you're given a detailed preview of the process. This will include a basic certification test (to make sure you understand the basics of being a mystery shopper and Secret Shopper's policies), personal information like your name and date of birth, and then the legal agreements. After all of that is finished, you'll get a Shopper ID number that lets you log in and schedule any available shops you'd like to complete.
Don't mess up your first assignment
Big perk: you can use the Secret Shopper app (Android or Apple) to find available mystery shops and schedule them on the go. One detail we spotted in the app reviews is important: if you fail to complete your first assignment (you arrive late, you get sick, or whatever), you are automatically terminated as a mystery shopper here. Keep that in mind, and don't sign up for a job unless you're practically guaranteed to be able to get it done.
Info is plentiful
We love that Secret Shopper is really on top of their social media channels, posting available jobs almost on a daily basis. It's a great way to get a feel for the company and maybe even spot an assignment you might like to complete. You can also get some helpful information on their blog; there aren't a ton of articles there, but you can get a preview of what it's like to be a mystery shopper, hints for staying organized, and so on.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of Secret Shopper's mystery shopping opportunites include Banking/Finance, Restaurants, Government Services, Healthcare/Medical, Museums/Galleries, Education/Seminars, Fitness, Salons, Hotels/Resorts, Retail, Grocery, Automotive/Transportation, Real Estate/Leasing, Casinos, and Entertainment services.
Watch for scams
You'll definitely want to go by what you see on Secret Shopper's official channels and not what comes up when you search for them: unfortunately, this mystery shopping company has been heavily impacted by scammers sending checks to unsuspecting people under the guise of a "secret shopping job" , and many of the reviews we read came from those victims. This company only pays by check (not PayPal, Zelle, Venmo, or direct deposit), so it's easy to understand why people were taken in by this scam. Just make sure the check you get corresponds to work you've already done: payments are made around the 20th of the month for all assignments completed in the previous month (such as on Feb. 20 for everything you did in January).
Reliable option for mystery shoppers
Secret Shopper gets a ranking that puts them up with some of today's better mystery shopping opportunities. We're glad that they've got a good track record with the Better Business Bureau and that they're actively posting jobs on social media. This company could get a boost in their rating if they add PayPal (or Venmo, or Zelle) to their payment methods, but it's still a company you can trust if you're doing mystery shopping for the first time (or adding another platform to your current contracts).
For over two decades, Michigan-based Shoppers' View has been helping companies get insights into their customers' experiences with the help of mystery shoppers. They're "A+" rated and accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
You'll know exactly what to expect
There's a ton of information you can learn from on the Shoppers' View main mystery shopping page. Starting with an intro video to walk you through the application and then continuing to nearly two dozen FAQs, this company wants there to be nothing mysterious about their service or what it's like to work with them. We especially appreciate their very honest answer about what mystery shoppers can realistically expect to make: while some companies tell you that the sky's the limit, Shoppers' View says you could more reasonably make $200-$300 a week or up to $20,000 a year if you work hard to complete numerous assignments.
Get paid twice a month
One thing mystery shoppers love about Shoppers' View is the twice-a-month payments via PayPal. Unlike most companies that make you wait a month or more (on the 20th of the month for all shops completed in the previous month), this one pays you around the last day of the month for shops done between the 1st and 15th, and around the 15th for shops in the second half of the previous month. Yes, please!
Not much presence on social media
Shoppers' View is a little quieter than we'd like to see on a mystery shopping company's social media channels: just one or two tweets a year, and less than that on Facebook. That's a missed opportunity: some of their competitors use their posts to showcase businesses where they've had shops in the past or to entice prospective shoppers with current assignments. You'll see more activity through their LinkedIn page, but as you might expect, those are geared more towards clients than shoppers.
Tell us more about your clients, please
They're also more tight-lipped than most when it comes to their shop types and client list. You'll have to go through the application process (which uses the SASSIE platform you'll see with at least one other mystery shopping company in our review) to see what might be offered where you live. That application isn't difficult or lengthy, but be sure to enter the area codes (and not zip codes) where you'd like to see available shops. You don't have to confirm your email to browse current evaluations on the job board at the top of the site.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of the mystery shopping opportunites offered by Shoppers's View includes Banking/Financial, Healthcare, Retail, and Restaurants.
Fewer jobs than rival mystery shopping companies
At least in our area, there were no jobs within a 50-mile radius of our mid-size metro area when we filled out our application. The closest opportunities were 60 miles away at a cigar shop with a bar, paying $20 for the job fee and reimbursing up to $25 for buying a cigar and a drink. We tried a few other zip codes on the job board and got similar results in other areas: nothing at all in the Chicago area, two or three shops in the Milwaukee area, zero on the West Coast, and so on.
Great company but not enough shops
There's a lot we like about Shoppers' View, especially the easy-peasy, twice-monthly payments via PayPal. But, if you can't actually find any mystery shops available near you, that won't do you much good. Hopefully in the future, Shoppers' View will have a greater reach with a broader variety of evaluations in more places, but for now the company lands a "just-above-average" rating from us.
Sinclair Customer Metrics has been around since 1987. They don't come out and tell you much about their mystery shopping opportunities prior to going through the application process, other than the fact that their clients may include restaurants, retailers, banks, car dealerships and "other businesses" .
1-month delay on payments
Since there's no information immediately available about Sinclair's secret shopper program, we went ahead with the application process to learn more. It starts by asking for your name and email address, plus the desired password for your account. The next page is a lengthy explanation of how SCM works. That's where we noticed an important detail about payments: "Paychecks are generated with a one-month delay. For example, shops completed in January will be paid [sic] the middle of March." Keep that in mind as you consider which mystery shopping company you want to join.
Application starts out simple
The second page is your Independent Contractor Agreement. The language is fairly standard, but you'll want to read it carefully if this is your first time working as a 1099 contractor (as opposed to a W-2 employee on a salary-based or hourly job). The rest of the application is short, essentially asking for your contact information and basic demographics (age, ethnicity). You'll be assigned a Shopper ID number; we recommend writing that down while you wait for your email confirmation from Sinclair.
More questions to answer
But wait - there's more! Now that you've got your ID number, you'll be asked for even more demographic details - for Sinclair's own data collection and for the purpose of matching you with assignments. These questions range from the basics like what languages you speak and where you work, to more interesting fill-in-the-blank sections asking you to describe your best or worst shopping experience. You can also upload your photo but that's optional.
Enter zip codes where you'd like to mystery shop
Finally, you will reach the page for adding your available zip codes. The easiest route is to put in your home zip code and then the distance from there you're interested in doing mystery shopping. You're not limited to that, though: if you frequently visit your family out of state, your significant other lives in another metro area and you've got free time when you're there, you name it - that can be an area where you're willing to perform evaluations.
Not as many job types as we expected
We live in a mid-size metro area, and there were seven available shops within 35 miles of our chosen zip code at the time of this review. They were all valet parking at various locations of the regional healthcare system, paying $7 for the evaluation and reimbursing $12 for the parking. You're not going to get rich at that rate, but if you needed to visit one of those offices anyway, at least you'd get your valet parking paid for and a little on top of that in exchange for your evaluation.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of the mystery shopping opportunites offered by Sinclair Customer Metrics include Restaurants, Retailers, Banks, Convenience stores, Supermarkets, and Auto dealerships.
Some jobs might be available outside of your results
Below our matching mystery shops, there was a long list of other towns and states where Sinclair needed help. They were also asking for Spanish/English bilingual people from particular states to contact them regarding opportunities that weren't in their primary listings.
"A+" to "Not Rated" from the BBB
We thought it was strange that the Better Business Bureau declined to rate Sinclair Customer Metrics, citing insufficient information. Even after 35 years in operation? The BBB had given this mystery shopping company an "A+" at the time of our previous review, so we're not sure what changed.
Not the best or the worst mystery shopping company
There's just not a lot to say about Sinclair Customer Metrics. They might have shops in your area - or they might not (hey, at least they had a few. Some of the mystery shopping companies we evaluated had zero to show.). This is far from being the most popular, talked-about company for up-and-coming mystery shoppers, but at least there are jobs and someone is answering the phone at headquarters. You could keep Sinclair as a backup if you don't find a better opportunity with another service.
For the last 20+ years, Mystery Shopping Service has deployed mystery shoppers to assignments in all 50 states. If you like the idea of working undercover and you've got a good eye for detail, this mystery shopping company would like to hear from you.
Basic application questions
This company's application asks for your basic information, what languages you speak, if you have any experience as a mystery shopper, if you have any video equipment made for undercover secret shopping, and if you have an airport badge (that would let you do inside shops without an airline ticket).
And now you wait
And that's where it stops. You have to wait for an email from a scheduler to find out if there are any jobs in your area. Mystery Shopping Service says they get a high volume of applications every day - you might not want to hold your breath waiting for them to get back to you quickly. We were disappointed that MSS provided no way of even previewing what mystery shops might be possible in our area; that makes it hard for anyone to know if they should bother going through the sign-up process here.
"A+" from the BBB
Mystery Shopping Service has an "A+" rating and accreditation from the Better Business Bureau, with no complaints filed there. That's a good indicator that you don't have to worry about any aspect of the mystery shopping experience here being fraudulent or unprofessional.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of Mystery Shopping Service's job opportunites include Multi-Family Apartment and Single-Family Residential Real Estate, Senior Living, Healthcare, Retail, Food, and Hospitality.
Social media channels with no recent posts
On the other hand, this is one of several companies we evaluated whose social media channels seemed to have gone radio silent at the end of 2021. Why offer links to your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts if you're not going to do anything with them?
Better mystery shopping options are out there
We don't give Mystery Shopping Service our lowest ranking: their reputation with the BBB is reassuring. However, there's nothing about this mystery shopping company that's going to draw you in or convince you that your time is well-spent trying to get on board. Come back to Mystery Shopping Service if you've got some free time and you're looking to add them to your possibilities pile, but other companies will likely be a better fit.
Service Evaluation Concepts is based out of New York City and has more than 30 years of experience in the mystery shopping industry.
How many "brand agents" work here, anyway?
This company starts out differently by referring to their mystery shoppers as "Brand Agents" or "BA's" . Apparently, they're not sure how many they have: on the page labeled "Our Difference" , in one paragraph it says they have over 250,000 Brand Agents, and just two paragraphs later it says they have 650,000. Hmm.
Asks for bank account info upfront
To sign up as a mystery shopper for Service Evaluation Concepts, you'll enter your name and create an account. We were more than a little put off by having to provide our bank name and account number on the second page (shouldn't we get to know each other first?) unless we opted for paper check payments with a $3/check processing fee. No PayPal option here. And, you'll only be paid once a month: on the 20th for all shops from the previous calendar month. That means if you finish a shop on, say, August 2nd, you won't be paid for it until September 20th at the earliest.
Answer questions and confirm account via email
You'll be asked other questions like your annual income, whether you've been a mystery shopper before, and what languages you speak. Finally, you'll be sent a confirmation email that you'll have to click in order to complete your application.
Two-step certification process
As part of becoming a Brand Agent here, you can expect to go through a two-part certification process. The first step makes sure you understand the company's policies regarding mystery shopping and that you have the skill set to maintain their high standards of evaluation. The second step verifies that you are prepared to mystery shop a particular client engagement effectively. Only after passing the first exam will you be given access to the "BA Gallery" , SEC's portal that lets you sign up for assignments and get to work.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of the mystery shopping opportunites offered by Service Evaluation Concepts include Automotive, Banking, Construction, Convenience Stores, Drug Stores, Entertainment, Education, Electronics, Finance, Franchise, Grocery, Healthcare, Health & Fitness, Hospitality, Insurance, Leisure, Manufacturing, Marketing, Personal Services, Professional Services, Real Estate, Restaurants, Retail, Software, and Sports.
This company is awfully quiet...
At the time of this review, SEC hadn't been rated by the Better Business Bureau. According to the BBB, they had reached out to the company to request background information and never received a response. That lines up with what we found (or, more accurately, didn't find): Service Evaluation Concepts' Facebook profile and Twitter account went silent in early 2021, and we couldn't find any feedback from their mystery shoppers within the last year.
Disappointing quantity of job listings
That could be because they're really not actively hiring now. We were excited that this mystery shopping company lets people preview available shops without signing up for an account - until we clicked through multiple states and only found two states with two shops. That's it. Who would bother applying to secret shop here? We wouldn't.
Not a good use of your time
And, we don't recommend that you do either. This could be the most amazing company to work with, but without any mystery shops, that doesn't matter. Service Evaluation Concepts is just a waste of time until they get (and display) more assignments for their shoppers.
BestMark has been hiring mystery shoppers since 1986. They also offer services that include intercept interviewing and compliance auditing, giving you multiple ways to earn money through their platform. More than 600,000 people have been a part of the BestMark team of secret shoppers and evaluators.
Not much info before you apply
BestMark doesn't give prospective mystery shoppers a ton of information prior to applying. You'll have to dig around to find out what industries you could be secret shopping - we can tell you the list includes retail, restaurants, apartments, gas stations, and several others - and there's no indicator how often they'll have jobs where you live and work.
Standard requirements for applicants
Minimum requirements for being a BestMark mystery shopper include being 18+, detail-oriented, and having good written communication skills with full internet access. So far so good.
No surprises in the application
If so, you can move on to the next step: completing your application to work with BestMark as an independent contractor. Provide your name, birthdate, gender, phone number, mailing address, and choose a password for your account. On the next screen, you'll be asked for your ethnicity, marital status, annual household income, and education because their "clients would like to use mystery shoppers that are similar to their typical customers" . You'll also enter your current employment information, work history, and acknowledge that your application is correct. After you hit submit, you'll be taken to the independent contractor agreement; if this is your first time working as a mystery shopper (or as an independent contractor), we encourage you to slog through the wording and make sure you understand what you're signing.
Watch the details
It's even more important that you carefully read the BestMark Guidelines and Policies section that comes next. It includes critical details like needing to write your reports in complete sentences and having a $7 deduction from your pay if you accidentally fill in the wrong form when making your report.
Some profile questions are optional
Next, you'll complete your shopper profile. What languages can you speak? What vehicle(s) do you drive? Do you have memberships at any of the major warehouse clubs? What types of assignments interest you - and which would you prefer to avoid? You don't necessarily have to fill all of those in to accept an assignment here, but you'll definitely need to select a payment method and verify either your phone number or your email address.
Mystery shopping jobs
Some of BestMark's mystery shopping opportunities include Apartments, Automotive, Banking, Casino/Entertainment, Fitness/Health/Beauty, Grocery, Home Improvement/Hardware, Hotels/Resorts, Restaurant, Retail, Gas Stations, and Convenience stores.
Not enough available jobs
Unforutnately, we couldn't find many jobs available. On the left side of the screen, you can start to browse for available shops. There are two categories: Visits and Virtual (delivery, phone, online). For us, the only in-person shops were almost 100 miles from our suburban/metro location; there was no way we would drive 170 miles round trip to get paid $5 for buying beef jerky. You may have better luck in your area. There were no virtual shops available to request. At least where we live, that wouldn't exactly launch us into a lucrative side job of mystery shopping.
Low grade from the BBB
We were disappointed to see that BestMark has a "D-" rating from the Better Business Bureau. But once we saw that it was from a failure to respond to just two complaints out of ten total received in the last three years, we weren't that concerned anymore.
Mystery shoppers aren't getting paid
Then again, the reviews people left on the BBB listing regarding BestMark weren't too fantastic, averaging just 1.18 out of 5 stars over 39 ratings. Most of them were from a couple of months prior to our review, and all of them said the same thing: you won't get paid for your work here. Leaving voicemails and sending emails elicits no response from this mystery shopping company. Mystery shoppers who worked with BestMark for years started having problems in January 2022: not only did they not get paid for their shops, but they also didn't get reimbursed for money they had to spend to conduct the evaluation. That's just unacceptable.
Pick a different mystery shopping company
We've dropped BestMark considerably in our rankings: now they've gone all the way down to the bottom. You may not ever get a mystery shop here, and if you do, chances are increasing that you might not get paid for it. There are lots of secret shopping opportunities out there, but you're not going to find many of them with BestMark. Use a higher-ranked mystery shopping company instead.
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" !
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.
Select any 2 Mystery Shopping Companies to compare them head to head
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