How to become a mystery shopper
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Whoever said "there's no such thing as a free lunch" can't have heard about mystery shopping jobs. In fact, mystery shoppers can not only get a free lunch, breakfast or dinner, they get paid for the privilege as well!

What is a mystery shopper?

Mystery shoppers are basically secret customer service staff. Your job would be to visit certain shops and businesses - from restaurants to hotels; cinemas to clothes shops - and make extensive, detailed notes on the experience to secretly pass on to your employer. You'll need to pay attention to things like how long the queues are, how clean the business is and how polite and helpful the staff are.

How does mystery shopping work?

"A mystery shopper goes into cafés, restaurants and shops and writes a report about their experience," says Madeleine Earl Gray of Market Force Information. This is then used to make improvements to the businesses, to make the customer experience better. So basically you're doing a good deed, and getting paid into the bargain. Not a bad job really.

Can mystery shopping be a full-time job?

"Mystery shopping is unlikely to become a replacement for a full-time job, but it can help you earn a little extra income, not to mention the costs you'll save from the freebies," says Madeleine.

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How much do mystery shoppers earn?

"Your feedback is then used to measure quality of service or to gather information about products or services. Payment varies depending on the amount of time the job will take, but expect to earn £5 to £25 per job plus expenses. "Some of our more frequent mystery shoppers make over £2,000 per year visiting shops, restaurants, and pubs," adds Madeleine.
 
Almost anyone can be a mystery shopper, from students, to retirees, to full-time workers – you don’t need qualifications, just the ability to write well and a good eye for detail.

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How will I manage my time around mystery shopping?

Fit it around your job or the rest of your life - don't think of it as a job in itself, but just a way to supplement your income. Mystery shopping isn’t really an alternative to working – in fact it works much better as something that fits around your current schedule. This means you can take assignments when you have time, or leave them when you don’t.

What time of day will I need to shop?

You're in control and you'll never be made to accept an assignment. So you can complete assignments before work, on your lunch break or in the evenings. Its flexibility is one of the reasons it's such a popular role. You may have to travel to some assignments so bear the cost and time involved before agreeing.

Read the details before you sign up as a mystery shopper

Not all assignments are alike so make sure you read the details thoroughly, confirming how much you'll be paid and reimbursed.

 Mystery shopping works best when you're getting something you'd have been buying anyway - a sandwich for lunch or some new clothes.

Assignments need to be completed carefully and with a good amount of detail. If you're not sure whether you'll have time to complete the job, it's probably best not to take it on.

Which companies want mystery shoppers?

A few different companies use mystery shoppers but it's important you find a good one. Things to look for when searching for mystery shopping jobs in the UK include how widely they operate, the number of jobs they have available and how easy they make it for you to be reimbursed. You can sign up with companies such as Market Force Information, GFK, Grass Roots or The Mystery Dining Company.

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Find mystery shopping jobs on an app

New app Eyes:OnTM (App Store and Google Play) lets you know about nearby opportunities. So if you're out and about and fancy a free meal, you can use the app to see if any restaurant or retail locations near you need an evaluation. You can then sign up for the job and complete your evaluation on the spot.

How does payment work?

It's important to remember you'll have to purchase items out of our own pocket before being reimbursed. So, make sure you save all of your receipts so you can check against your earnings.

Do mystery shoppers pay tax?

Do bear in mind that, depending on your situation and how frequently you mystery shop, you may have to register as self-employed for tax purposes.

More quick ways to make money!

  • There are more money-saving tips in every issue of Yours magazine, out every fortnight on a Tuesday.