I’ve been mystery shopping for more than 3 years.
I first discovered mystery shopping when looking for a way to score cheap oil changes and was instantly hooked! Where else can you get paid to shop, score free products, and enjoy dining out on someone else’s tab?
I’m usually paid $25 – $85 per secret shop, plus free products or meals, if applicable. In the case of my absolute favorite secret shop – oil changes – I’m paid anywhere from $35 – $85 (depending upon the urgency of the shop) PLUS $85 reimbursement for the oil change.
And, for sitting in the lobby of the car dealership while my oil is being changing and working while the oil change is going on, that’s a pretty good rate of pay!
What is Mystery Shopping?If you’re not familiar with mystery shopping, it is a job where a company pays you to test out it’s services as if you were a regular customer, and then give feedback on your experience there and/or the service provided.
As compensation, the company provides you with a set fee for performing the job and/or reimbursement for products or services purchased.
Unfortunately, there are quite a few mystery shopping scams out there, so I’ve compiled a list of my favorite companies to shop with, as well as my favorite secret shop assignments so you can secret shop your way to FREE Christmas Gifts and extra Christmas cash!
There is never a fee to join – you just MAKE money!
There are two ways you can use mystery shopping to your Christmas Fund’s advantage:
Most secret shops take 1-2 hours, and pay is set accordingly. In the example of the oil change secret shops (my personal favorite!) an oil change generally takes 1-2 hours, and I was paid an average of $35 for the shop + $85 reimbursement for the oil change.
Even though I have to hold back $8.75 of my pay for taxes, $26.25 for 1-2 hours of work (all while I was working on my laptop in the lobby) is a pretty good hourly rate!
I always deposit the checks right into our savings account, so we’re not tempted to spend it, and come Christmas time, we have a pretty nice fund all set up.
Scoring Free Products
The second way to use mystery shopping to your advantage is to score free products. I’ve done secret shops where I was required to purchase cosmetics, baby products, jewelry, liquor, and more – and I’ve been reimbursed for every single product I bought.
Of course, you can score these free products while making money, which makes them an extra great deal!
Start early, and you can build up your stash of Christmas gifts without ever touching your budget – it’s a win-win!
A few tips for successful Mystery Shopping:
Pay Attention: As a part of your secret shop agreement, you agree to pay attention to details like times, names of employees helping you, etc, in order to fill out the evaluation after your secret shop.
Take Notes (discreetly): My phone works well for taking notes like employees names, hair color, times, and anything else I might notice. Generally, you’re given access to the questions you’ll need to answer about the secret shop before you go, so anything that might be a struggle to remember I text to myself or write in the notes section of my phone.
Fill out the feedback form immediately: Details tend to fade, so as soon as you get home from secret shopping, fill out the feedback form. It’ll go quickly, I promise :-)
With those success tips in mind, here are my favorite (reputable) secret shop companies:
A personal favorite for my oil change secret shops, Best Mark has clients that are restaurants, retail stores, casinos, hotels, resorts, and more. They are accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BBB), and offers 10,000+ mystery shopping opportunities each month.
Sinclair Customer Metrics
One of the oldest mystery shopping companies, Sinclair Customer Metrics has some exclusive mystery shopping opportunities you will not see anywhere else.
With more than 580,000 Intelli-Shop has a huge network of shoppers and mystery shopping opportunities. They also have one of the most user-friendly interfaces I’ve found.
Free food, free products, and more are all part of mystery shopping withMarketforce. They actually have their own app, Eyes:On that allows you to mystery shop on the go, provide feedback, and even take pictures of your mystery shop.
I think a lot of people shy away from Mystery shopping because of the time commitment, or the fear of scams, but I’ve found that the paycheck and free products are definitely worth it if you make sure to use a reputable company.
Plus, when Christmas rolls around, mystery shopping can play a huge part in making sure you have a Debt Free Christmas.