Get paid to shop: It’s no mystery

Written by Neal F. Litherland. Posted in Pennies Saved & Pennies Earned

Published on December 07, 2011 with No Comments

Whether it is the economy that is getting you down, or you’re just looking for an entertaining way to earn a bit of cash on the side, it seems that everyone’s out to do a little moonlighting.

And if you’re a person that’s articulate and observant, who enjoys a little bit of cloak-and-dagger in your daily grind then you might want to consider becoming a mystery shopper.

Yes, it sounds ridiculous that someone would pay you to go shopping.

But here is the way mystery shopping works.

Companies want someone to review what employees are doing when said employees think no one is looking. Most customers with a bad experience will just not come back to the store, which makes it hard for businesses to improve their services. So they hire a secret shopper.

The shopper is in fact a legitimate shopper, and they should make purchases or eat at a restaurant as required. While you’re in the client’s place you need to make mental notes on quality, service, attitude, and pretty much set your consumer experience in your mind.

Once you’re done you go home and write up your report.

You submit the report, along with all of your expenses. The company that assigned you, on top of your pay for the secret shopping assignment, reimburses you.

Now for lots of people this sounds like a ball; you get to shop, you get all your stuff paid for, and you get the added thrill of being a secret agent for a day.

But, as with a lot of other unique but not very well-known job opportunities, there are a lot of scams surrounding mystery shopping. For starters, do not pay money to a company for “training” or “sign-up fees” in order to become a mystery shopper. You wouldn’t pay to get a job as a cashier, would you? So you shouldn’t fork over money for someone that claims they’ll be able to get you gigs reviewing your local Wal-Mart.

So where do you go to find work as a mystery shopper?

Well, a good place to start is the Mystery Shopper Providers Association. Their website is

The MSPA lists companies that have been checked out and certified as legitimate that you can approach for mystery shopper assignments. All you have to do is send an email to apply for an assignment you want, and wait until you’re given the go ahead from the company to take it. And, that’s it.

Well, maybe not all of it.

There are a few cautionary notes you should take to heart before you get too set on your new life in the world of corporate espionage.

Always read the fine print on the job you’re given so that you know where the store you are going to is, and read exactly what the company wants from you.

Make sure that you have a resume on hand, along with at least one sample review of a recent experience you had so the company can judge your work when you apply.

Also, keep in mind that you might not be paid for some time regarding your assignment. You’ll have to turn in the report as well as all the expense receipts, and then the company is going to have to process your work. Only after your work has been processed, all the Ts crossed and all the Is dotted, will you be issued a check for what you did.

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About Neal F. Litherland

All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Neal Litherland is a Valparaiso resident who has been a freelance writer for several years. A graduate of Indiana University, he holds a Bachelor's Degree in Criminal Justice. He offers advice on money-saving tips using common-sense tactics. He welcomes suggestions and comments. Contact Neal:

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