Mystery Shopping: How I Started

Photo Credit:  Tomasz Trojanowski –


I have always wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Growing up, I remember telling everyone: "If I had to choose between having a career or having a family, I would choose family". Well, my wish came true. However, due to current economic conditions, it was (and still is) almost impossible to live on one income. Thus, began my search for different ways to make money while staying home with my kids.

The thought of being a mystery shopper intrigued me. But, every time I did an online search for companies to work for, they wanted me to pay a fee. You should NEVER have to pay someone to work for them. They are supposed to pay you. I finally came to the conclusion I should just contact my favorite retailers directly hoping that would generate some leads.

It worked! Each reply I received included the name of the mystery shop company the retailer was affiliated with and minimal details on the program. They were all FREE to register, but each one was different when it came to the application process. Some approved me almost immediately while others wanted extensive background information and required a longer waiting period to start working. Some paid weekly, others monthly. Payment was usually in the form of reimbursement of a product/service/meal purchased or "shopper fee". In some cases, I received both!

You should definitely keep in mind that mystery shop companies use shoppers on a rotation basis, for obvious reasons. If the same individual continued to visit a store, eventually the staff would catch on.

Discretion is key when it comes to being a successful mystery shopper. You absolutely CANNOT disclose any information to anyone that is not directly connected with your assignment(s). You should also possess good organizational skills and be able to pay very close attention to detail in a very short period of time.This job is a great way to make some extra spending money or maybe pay your phone or gas bill. Unfortunately, it will not likely earn you enough to pay rent or mortgage. At least, it didn't for me.

Types of shops I performed ranged from reporting the quality and service of a meal at a restaurant (either fast food or casual dining), cell phone, book, pet, electronics and clothing stores, banks, ice cream shops, etc. I even had the chance to do pricing/inventory audits and simple shops by phone. I am no longer an active mystery shopper. One of the reasons is because of the common "restriction" that children are not allowed on most shops.

Following is a list of mystery shop companies I worked for and the links to their sites. I am also including a link to a mailing list you can join if you want even more info. It usually contains other potential assignments or companies you can look into including freelance work. I hope this helps. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any specific questions. Good luck! Sign up for a separate e-mail list FREE by clicking here. This does NOT come from me, but I am subscribed to it.  

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this post whatsoever. I was under no obligation to write it nor was I obligated to provide a positive review regarding this industry. I am a former mystery shopper and merely sharing my personal experiences. All thoughts and ideas expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.


  1. Brittani says:

    GAPbusters approved me today, but wants bank account info… is this standard and legit? Just want to be sure, I’m not crazy about giving out bank info. Please let me know if you used them and this was safe.


    • bella0421 says:

      Congrats!!! Yes, I did work with GAPbuster and never had a problem with my bank account. They made every deposit on time. Good luck to you!

  2. Jessica Long says:

    Market Force is also a great mystery shopping company, they have two sides to the company (blue, and purple) I have shopped for both sides and have never had problems! Also at the end of the month or shopping period they are willing to give pretty big bonuses if you are able to do the shops.

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    I tried mystery shopping a while back and it was nice to be able to take my cats to the vet and not have to pay for it. I don’t have enough time now to do the mystery shopping anymore but it was a great way to get some extra cash for new clothes and eating out every now and then πŸ™‚

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  5. Great article! I absolutely agree that you should not pay a fee! I have been doing mystery shopping for almost six months now. Did several assignments for pizza restaurants. I really love pizza, and it’s great to get it for free or get reimbursed, especially as a starving student. πŸ˜› I also did many other restaurants; some of them were fancy. I had signed up for but I found signing up in websites of actual mystery shopping companies easier and you don’t have to pay a fee. Also when you go to their websites, you can check if they are a legitimate company and avoid scams.

    The company I found is called SQM ( ), and I am really happy with it. The actual evaluation is online so you can do it quickly. I find places close to school or work to evaluate so I don’t have to travel; works out really well. I have even done a date in a restaurant and didn’t pay anything! It’s actually amazing that you are getting paid for this, but I guess this kinda market research is important for companies, so you are doing a service to them by evaluating their actual customer service.


  1. […] tried anything and almost everything to earn an income from home. Be sure to read my post on Mystery Shopping: How I Started if you've ever thought about doing that as well.HOW: In addition to Facebook and Twitter, I […]

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