A Beginner's Guide to Mystery Shopping Jobs - Elite Survey Sites
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A Beginner’s Guide to Mystery Shopping Jobs

EPF June 16, 2016

One of the hardest things about becoming a mystery shopper is understanding what it’s all about in the first place. Every mystery shopper can relate … you go in blind thinking you know it all but boy were you wrong!

Fortunately, you do not have to set yourself up to fail.

By reading this guide, you will have a thorough summary of what you need to do, what you have to avoid, and also what to be careful of along the way.

If you want to make the most out of your mystery shopping experience, definitely read this guide!

Now let’s get right into it …

AVOID THIS HUGE MISTAKE: ‘Having Expectations’

The truth is you cannot sustain a substantial monthly income off of mystery shopping gigs alone.

You want to pair it with paid surveys, then you’ll have a solid side job!

But why can’t mystery shopping be a full-time job?

  1. You have to pay for anything you need to buy upfront.
  2. The company will reimburse you for the cost of the transaction, but usually not until a month or two later.
  3. You wait to get your profit, not just your cost reimbursement.
  4. Sometimes the mystery shopping company will disagree with additional costs you face, which could eat at your bottom line.
  5. They might not reimburse for everything you end up spending on, such as transportation costs.
  6. It is even possible that a mystery shopping company will just not pay you, so be careful where you sign up!

Well that’s six reasons, but lets also look at how you make money, how much you could make, and how long it will take to make anything reasonable.

Say you make $25 off every $75 transaction

Now pretend you want to make $2,000 a month off mystery shopping.

Okay, so you would need to work five days a week at four mystery shops a day. For the most part, that does not include the cost of your transportation. But that’s a misnomer; if you could pull off 20 shops a week, you should be very happy.
Now quite a few mystery shopping jobs run into the $100’s. You can’t always count on there being gigs that transact $75 and profit $25. Sometimes you will find yourself locking up even more money for the same reward, or else there will be nothing profitable on-the-go for you for the meantime.
If every transaction cost $75 and you ran four a day, and it took even just two weeks to get reimbursed, you would need a $3,000 bankroll to make 2,000 a month. Many mystery shopping companies pay a month later, so this means the following statement is true:

You probably need at least $6,000 to start earning $2,000 monthly off mystery shopping jobs.

With that issue aside, mystery shopping is still a lucrative way to make extra spending money!

Now don’t think we’re knocking mystery shopping, we aren’t one bit. All we suggest is that you find a way to make sure your mystery shopping gigs are worth doing in the first place. We only broadcast the best and most profitable mystery shopping companies, so take a look at the ones we’ve already reviewed. That would be a good place to start.

Next, make sure to put aside some money to use as an ‘investment’ into your mystery shopping plan. That way you can always take on new jobs when they are available. This will prevent you from getting limited to a small profit potential. It puts you into the same scenario as the guy who traded his way from a paperclip to a house in a year.

Now that you have realistic expectations, lets cover some of the things you will discover along the way …

Common Problems Mystery Shoppers Have

A mystery shopping job listing does not include a certain purchase requirement that ends up making your order cost more. In this case, your profit gets partially or completely destroyed because of the extra cost in your order, purchase or reservation.
More often than we would all like, mystery shopping companies take their good ol’ time paying out. It can easily run a month or two before you see any funds. If you are dealing with a quality site, they will run monthly payouts based on the completed and verified shops from each prior month.
Unfortunately so, but there are countless mystery shopping companies that end up not paying for various reasons. Sometimes they have real justification, but a lot of the time there’s no understandable reason for their actions. This puts you out of your initial cost and your profit as well. This could set you back many weeks in profits if it ends up happening, so be careful which companies you sign up with!

The Types of Mystery Shopping Jobs

The problems you will face along the way are also different based on the type of mystery shopping jobs you take.

Let’s break that down for you …

Cruise Mystery Shopping Jobs

You might struggle to luck upon a cruise mystery shopping assignment, but they really are out there and you should jump on one if you are given the chance. However, you have to keep in mind that such a mystery shop requires a high upfront investment — and you really need to abide by all the little rules they set, or else you are at risk of paying for a vacation you were just hoping to get for free.

You can try out Coyle Hospitality — they specialize in luxury cruises, vacations, and similar types of mystery shopping assignments.

Restaurant Mystery Shopping Jobs

You will usually get compensated for the full amount of your meal. But, sometimes there will be requirements from the restaurant you eat at that are not mentioned by the mystery shopping company. This is often just a mistake, but upon requesting compensation for those additional costs you will find that very few are willing to help further.

The biggest discrepancy usually comes to whether you have to buy anything “else” to qualify for what you are required to order. For example, you might need to buy drinks with your meal to qualify for the deal.

It’s best to call the restaurant ahead and to verify the cost of what you plan to order. If the ordering instructions aren’t extensive, this might not be an issue.

If you are particularly interested in scoring free food, there are many great restaurant mystery shopping offers at Measure Consumer Perspectives.

Travel Mystery Shopping Jobs

Most of the time this consists of staying at a motel or hotel at no cost. This might be the only compensation you receive — except for maybe food and/or gas. But, chances are you will make $25 to $75 for doing it; usually you will be required to at least attend an event, which will probably run for 1.5 to 2 hours.

Sometimes you are not required to stay overnight. It all depends on whether the mystery shop was set up by the hospitality company or a group of guests staying with them.

When doing hotel mystery shops, it might seem like a joyful outing but you commonly have to attend an event. These functions usually run many hours long. If you only end up making $25 for the job, you ultimately have to question whether the gig was worth it in the first place.

If you are in Canada, you could score free traveling through SQM.

There are many companies that offer mystery shopping jobs when traveling, but most only offer slight discounts given the high cost of stuff like flights and hotel reservations. Generally, these shopping jobs are available throughout the major mystery shopping sites — so take a look everywhere for such opportunities.

One we recently reviewed that you might want to join is Bare International — you can read our review here before making up your mind.

Are You Ready to Become a Mystery Shopper?

You have to know what to expect, and we have drawn the line pretty clear. These gigs don’t pay miraculous wages and they won’t make you a millionaire after a year. But you can make a nice side income this way, and it’s well worth it if you are okay with waiting to get reimbursed and compensated for your time and money.

With that said, we advocate joining up with some paid survey sites too. That way you can earn as much as possible from market research related jobs; you might even get some high-paying focus group invites along the way!

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