How to earn money as a mystery shopper

Mystery shopping

This is a black and white image of a shadowy figure with a shopping bag.

I first started mystery shopping last  summer. I retired in April at the age of 65 and decided that I would try to replace some of my lost income by working from home. Thanks to web sites like the money shed I have been dipping my toe in to the world of secret shopping.

My first surprise was that a lot of shopping could be done at home. So far jobs have included ordering groceries on line, phoning up to enquire about insurance, receiving letters and even a tweet to enquire about disabled access at a railway station. In fact so far mystery shopping  has involved very little actual shopping. I am suprised at the variety of jobs offered and it is interesting to compare my findings about a brand with newspaper reports.My favourite jobs have involved visiting local stately homes.

What you need

Mystery shopping actually needs very little equipment. I bought myself a new mobile phone (a Samsung galaxy) and a new computer (which I needed anyway). The phone acts as my camera, voice recorder and stop watch and the computer is needed for writing the some times lengthy reports. I am lucky enough to have a bus pass so get free local travel. I also already had a printer needed for printing out a paper copy of the questionnaire.  You also need internet access.  Reports generally have to be written within 24 hours of a job.

You need to have a reasonable memory and a good standard of written and spoken English.  You need to be able to remember what was said and what the team members looked like.  I take a notebook with me so I can jot down details particularly if I have to ask for something like options for a train fare.  I also try to find a nearby coffee shop or library so I can write up my notes while my memory is fresh.

Payment

Payment is usually about minimum wage for the jobs themselves but this does not include travel time nor time downloading instructions nor typing up the reports. Some jobs include the cost of purchases. A job last year included £5.00 to spend in any department of a local department store and £3.00 for a drink in the cafe.

Payment method varies between the companies you work for. A company like Red wigwam treats you as a casual employee and deducts tax. Other companies pay you a set fee and leave you to sort out your own tax.  Payment is usually by BACS.

I am slowly getting to grips with terms like gondola end and shelf barker. Another useful distinction to understand is the difference between a shop audit where you have to check if a product or poster is present in a store and if goods are correctly priced and displayed and a mystery shop where you are expected to buy something and report on the service received.
A recent job wanted an audio recording detailing my experience which I could do on my phone.

Many mystery shopping companies seem to use Sassie software and once you are signed up to the Sassie system you are given log in details for Presto maps which shows you jobs in any part of England.  You have to apply to the individual job agency for a particular job but you can see what is available locally.

Beware of scams you should never have to pay to join an agency and I have never been offered £100.00 to spend on a product of my choice.

Here are links to a couple of companies that are reliable and good for beginners.  They are also happy to employ retired people.

Market Force

Redwigwam

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