Getting Things for Free: How to Become a Mystery Shopper

Like this shirt? I got it at the mall, free. We’re going to dinner tonight, free. Oh look, another check in the mail and another PayPal deposit. C’mon kids, we’re going to BurgerLand, free. This new hammer, free. A bouquet of flowers? For Me? How beautiful and free.

Nothing in this world is free, right? Correct. But how about almost free, or free with little effort? Aha! Now that you’re paying attention, let’s talk about how to become a mystery shopper.

In its simplest form, Mystery Shopping, or being a secret shopper, is merely evaluating a product or service, and then getting paid to do it. The only stipulation is that you must be covert about it. The list of assignments is literally endless. You could be asked to go to a fast-food restaurant, a clothing store, an employment agency, a car repair establishment, receive a bouquet of flowers, get your eyes checked, be a potential renter in an apartment complex, or eat out at a fine dining restaurant.

Many will reimburse you for the item they required you to purchase and also give you a small bonus ($8-$15) on top of that. Sometimes you’re allowed to spend $40 for dinner and you’ll get an extra $10 if you submit your report on time. Other times you will be reimbursed only for what you purchased and that’s it. Each company compensates differently.

It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? Like everything, there are a few downsides. Perhaps ‘areas of consideration’ is a more appropriate word to use here. What is your time worth? Sometimes you’ll be offered a gig where you have to stay in a store for 20 minutes and interact with different employees. Then you need to come home and fill out a three-page report detailing every single tidbit that happened. You may have driven 40 miles round trip and you’ll get a check for $10 when all is said and done. Consider how much your time and a tank of gasoline is worth. The assignment may fit your situation just fine. Also, you may be asked to go to a boatload of fast-food restaurants and purchase Crabby Patties. Now suddenly you need an entirely new wardrobe because it appears your dryer is shrinking all of your pants. You just need to evaluate where you want to go and determine if you are willing to do the assignment for the agreed-upon compensation.

Becoming a Mystery Shopper is simple. Google the words ‘Mystery Shoppers’ or ‘Mystery Shopping’ or ‘Secret Shopping’. From there you’ll see a plethora of companies that work in this arena. Visit each site to sign up to become a shopper. They’ll ask you for basic contact information. Some will ask why you want to be a shopper. Others might ask for a sample of your writing. This is to ensure you can complete an evaluation report. It could take 4-6 weeks before you hear back from some. Some will phone you, some will send you emails and some will send assignments in the mail (note: most have done away with snail mail assignments). Register with as many companies that interest you.

Word of caution: You may find some newspaper ads offering you a GUIDE on free mystery shopper jobs. Do not ever pay for a guide. All the information you need is easily available online… Free! Free! Free!

So what are you waiting for? GET SHOPPING!

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