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What is it like to be a mystery shopper?

Many people hear about mystery shopping, but not everyone truly knows what it is like to complete an assignment. Grace Koelma of spoke with mystery shoppers to debunk some popular myths and see what their work is like. For these people who visit stores and businesses to report on customer service, there are often many misconceptions, she said.

"Mystery shoppers need to be able to write very well, with great detail and punctuation or they may not get paid for a job," one shopper told Koelma. "The company I work for will post all the available jobs and pay details on their website, and it is up to the mystery shopper to choose if they want to participate and accept a job. It is usually a 'first come, first served' list, and there is no pressure as to how many jobs you need to accept."

One myth Koelma said is very prevalent is that mystery shoppers get paid large amounts to merely sample freebies. Instead, she said there is usually a smaller payment for quick jobs and writeups. This means if someone wants to make a lot of money working in this industry, they will likely need to line up a lot of jobs and work very hard.

Another myth she discussed is that mystery shoppers are offered flights, cars, expensive meals and hotels, something that is often very far from the truth. In fact, few companies have the budget for those kinds of perks. Having said that, mystery shoppers do get to go to a wide variety of stores and sample new products and services. This can create some very interesting experiences, as one shopper told Koelma they have fallen in love with certain places they wouldn't have ever experienced without mystery shopping. 

Koelma also said while many may think mystery shopping is will result in a large paycheck, most people working in this field will need to put in hours of work and reports to get paid on a full-time scale. It can be an easy way for part timers to get a few extra bucks, but it's hard to get rich off mystery shopping.

Knowing what to expect
Linsey Knerl wrote on WiseBread that mystery shopping is a respectable gig for getting some extra cash, but there are some tidbits that are helpful to know before going full force into a new job like this. One thing that many may not realize is that it can be hard to initially become a mystery shopper, as a large number of people are trying to get into this industry. While some friendly competition never hurt anyone, this will likely make it tougher for a rookie to start getting many jobs right away.

Becoming a mystery shopper will also require an eye for detail, she said, something not everyone has.

"I loved doing the fine dining shops," Knerl wrote. "The problem was, I had a difficult time remembering all the details I needed to complete the shop. I had to covertly keep tabs on the names of every person I came in contact with, what they were wearing, what they said, what my food tasted like, etc. Needless to say it was work. If you are looking for mystery shopping to be your free meal ticket, understand that there will not be much time for relaxing. While it is true that some shops require little work, others require much, much more."