How to become a mystery shopper

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!

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.

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.



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.

How to become a savvy mystery shopper 

  1. Fit it around your job. Mystery shopping isn’t really an alternative to your job – 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.
  2. Be flexible. 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. You may have to travel to some assignments so bear the cost and time involved before agreeing.
  3. Check the assignment details carefully. Not all assignments are alike so make sure you read the details thoroughly, confirming how much you'll be paid and reimbursed.
  4. Be discerning. Mystery shopping works best when you're getting something you'd have been buying anyway - a sandwich for lunch or some new clothes.
  5. Ensure you have the time. 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.
  6. Find a good provider. 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.
  7. Smartphone apps. 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.
  8. Save your receipts. 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.
  9. Paying 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.