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Are Mystery Shopping Jobs Legitimate? Is It a Full Time Job?

Yes, there are legitimate mystery shopping jobs are out there; however as the popularity of mystery shopping has increased, so too have mystery shopping scams. When setting up as a mystery shopper, you need to only register with legitimate secret shopping agencies or directly with retailers.

Can Mystery Shopping Be a Full Time Job?

Mystery shopping is not a full-time job; it is a super flexible part-time opportunity for students or people looking to make extra income. You get paid for your time, choose the hours you work and scoop up freebies in the process. Many types of businesses, including retail stores, fast food restaurants, and car dealerships, use mystery shoppers to get feedback about their products and services and improve their customer experience.

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Mystery shoppers are known to spend time in the business, interact with the staff, make a purchase, have a meal or engage the services offered in the establishment, then write-up a detailed review of their experience.

The pay rates for mystery shopping vary widely, but usually mystery shoppers are paid a flat fee per shopping event; anywhere from $5-$25. Sometimes, retailers will reimburse all or part of the price of the items purchased. Restaurant mystery shops often pay for the meal only, without any additional pay.

Mystery shopping is not meant to replace a full-time job, but it is a good way to make extra money on a flexible schedule. While a specific education level or specialized training isn’t required to become a mystery shopper, there are some soft skills that are important to have.

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Since you’ll be reporting your finds to your employer, you are expected to have strong written and verbal skills, coupled with an acute attention to detail, since you’ll be following a set list of instructions. Some companies provide training for the mystery shoppers they hire and will hire them based on passing a skills test.

It’s also imperative to be a self-starter who enjoys to work independently and have a driver’s license, since you’ll be travelling from one location to another. Most companies will require a high school diploma or the equivalent.

When you are doing a job, you may have to remember the name of the person who took care of you, notice whether the store was clean, whether employees greeted you and were wearing proper uniforms, etc. It is also advisable to keep a pad in the car so you can make notes while your memory is fresh.

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9 Important Tips to Remember as a Mystery Shopper 

If you’ve ever considered becoming a secret shopper, here are few tips to keep in mind all through the process.

  1. Never be late

Remember that you expected to submit a report after each visit, and this normally has to be done within a specific time frame. If you hand in your report late, you might not be paid and could be sidelined from further jobs.

  1. Do not pay to register

In the United States, no reputable mystery shopper business will ask you to pay to join. It’s unnecessary to pay anyone to get into the industry. A list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free, and legitimate mystery shopper jobs are listed on the internet for free.

  1. Always ask for details
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Note there is a lot of variation in the kinds of reimbursements and payments with this kind of work. So it’s imperative to ask and know exactly what you’re signing yourself up for before taking a job

  1. Don’t rely on mystery shopping as a source of income

Although it is a fun way to make some extra cash, it’s not a reliable form of income. Some companies will take up to two weeks just to reimburse you the money spent, so this isn’t a good idea if you’re on a particularly tight budget.

  1. Work regularly

Although with Mystery Shopping you can choose your hours, the secret to getting the best jobs is being flexible and offering to work regularly. The more you work, the more your reputation will grow, and more work will keep coming in.

  1. Memory practice
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Since you won’t be allowed to have a notepad on the job (this will give the game away), you’ll have to practice and perfect your memory so you can remember details for your report later. Think of it as good practice for exam time!

  1. Keep the tax man happy

In the United States, it is unlikely that you’ll earn enough to be taxed, but mystery shopping technically counts as – self-employment. Howbeit, if you do think you might earn over the personal allowance threshold, make sure you declare it.

  1. Sign up to multiple companies at once

Always remember there are loads of mystery shopper sites out there, but work can be scarce, so signing up to multiple companies simultaneously will grow your chances of finding something that works for you

  1. Always keep receipts
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Irrespective of what you buy as part of a mystery shopping effort, always ensure you hang on to the receipt in case a company asks to see them.

Legitimate Mystery Shopping Companies in the United States

  • A Closer Look
  • About Face
  • Amusement Advantage
  • BestMark
  • Confero
  • GAPbuster Worldwide
  • IntelliShop
  • KSS International
  • Marketforce
  • Secret Shopper
  • Second to None


Being a mystery shopper can evolve into a lucrative part-time job, but it won’t start out that way. Note that once you register to become a mystery shopper, it can take a while before you’re sent on your first assignment. And once you complete assignments, it can take up to a month or more to get paid. So if you’re looking for short-term, quick cash, it’s not the way to go.