mystery shopping frequently asked questions

Mystery Shopping Frequently Asked Questions(FAQs)

Do you have more questions related to Mystery Shopping? Please let us know so we can add them here!

Q. How much can I make?

The answer is different for everyone.  It depends on how much (unpaid) work you can do to sign up for companies, how many businesses are in your area, your writing and observational skills, your commitment, and how much time you have in your schedule to mystery shop.

From my own experience, mystery shopping doesn’t pay high on a per-hour basis if you only consider the cash rewards.  However, mystery shopping is highly flexible, and you often receive free products or services.  For me, it was a smart decision to mystery shop in my spare time.

The good news is that you can try mystery shopping with no commitment.  As an independent contractor, you’re free to refuse an assignment if it doesn’t give acceptable compensation, and you can stop mystery shopping if you don’t like it.

Can I Really Make Money With Mystery Shopping?

Q. Is mystery shopping tax free?

Mystery shopping does have tax implications, which is why mystery shopping companies will ask for your social security number. Make sure you keep good records regarding how much you’ve earned and when. Make sure you track expenses you have incurred as well as separate income from reimbursements. You can also deduct mileage.

Q. How do I know which companies are in my area?

The only way to find out is to sign up.  You can read forums for assistance, but there are no comprehensive lists available.  Clients move between mystery shopping companies and start and stop regional campaigns, far too often to make it practical to track which companies shop where.

Some companies will only recruit in certain states or areas.  However, most companies allow anyone to apply.  Sometimes you will apply to a company and they do not offer any jobs in your area.  It’s part of the business, but don’t despair – those companies could get a new client in your area in the future!

Q. How do I know which mystery shopping providers (MSPs) shop which businesses?

Due to the agreements, we sign with the MSPs, we can’t tell you which clients are served by which MSP.  The only way to know is from experience, by signing up with lots of companies. You can sign up with us for a list of 600+ Companies.

Q. Which companies offer online mystery shopping?

Check our List of 600+ Mystery Shopping companies directly delivered to your email Id. just Sign Up with us.

Q. I am a stay at home mother.  Is mystery shopping for me?

Being a mystery shopper is a great way to earn income as a stay-at-home mom! Mystery shopping is very flexible.  As an independent contractor, you are free to accept jobs only when you are able to. You may be able to get mystery shopping assignments at places you go anyway, like local grocery stores and retail stores. You may also be able to get telephone mystery shops that don’t require you to leave your home at all!

Q. How do I get started?

Check out the Complete Get Started Guide.

Q. How do I get more mystery shopping assignments?

Check out our article on how to Get More Shops.

Q. What happens if I am discovered as a mystery shopper?

This will depend on the company, and what happened. Typically, you will not be able to mystery shop at that location again. In some cases, you may be barred from shopping at any of those clients’ locations for a length of time (or even permanently). In rare cases, you may no longer be able to work for that MSP.

Be honest and forthright with the MSP as to what happened.  Some scenarios make it easy for you to be given away. Explain what you did and said, and make sure you always follow the scenario and guidelines provided.

Q. What do I do if I have a dispute with a mystery shopping company, or I’m not paid?

As an independent contractor, you will associate with many mystery shopping companies.  Sometimes, there will be a dispute.  The best thing that you can do is contact the company through email, phone, or mail.  Calmly explain what has happened.  You may have worked with an individual scheduler; it’s best to go through them first, then directly to the company.

If this is not successful, you may consider further action.  For payments, make sure you are giving an appropriate amount of time-based on the company’s guidelines (typically a maximum of 8 weeks).  Send multiple communications to the company, but if you make no headway, you may wish to contact the Better Business Bureau, the Federal Trade Commission, and/or your state attorney general.  In extreme cases, you may take the case to a small claims court.

These situations are rare.  Most companies are reputable.  Some shoppers that complain of unfair treatment are upset because they did not follow specified guidelines.  However, in some cases, companies do not fulfill their requirements.

Make sure you read about how to avoid mystery shopping scams.  Get bonuses and fees in writing rather than just verbal agreements, especially for large sums or companies you have not worked with before. Make sure the companies you work with are reputable. (Check out our Reviews section to see if a company has been reviewed by us and, if so, if they’re legitimate.)

Q. Why do companies charge a fee for mystery shopping?

You should not need to pay a fee to be a mystery shopper! The only exception to this would be Silver or Gold certification, which is wholly optional but is provided by the MSPA (the mystery shop provider trade organization). You can mystery shop without being certified, but certification may provide you more jobs, as some jobs (not many) shops are limited to certified shoppers. I highly encourage you to try mystery shopping before you decide to certify.

Other companies that charge for mystery shopping typically fall into three categories:

  • Sites charging for information on mystery shopping: You can get from this site and other free sites and forums.
  • Sites that charge for listings of mystery shopping jobs: You can find many free mystery shop listings on our Lists page.
  • And, sites that charge you for “training” or special priority in getting mystery shops.  Unless there is an alternate way to sign up for free, these sites are best avoided.  Check out our Watch List of known problem MSP companies, which includes some companies who charge in this manner.

You don’t need to use these resources, though you are free to if you wish.  Typically, information is out there for free.

How can I increase the amount of income I earn as a mystery shopper?

Routing, apply for more companies, link to get more shops.  be selective, wait for shops not worth it to a bonus.

Q. How do I handle the expenses of mystery shopping if I am short on cash for one month?

As an independent contractor, you’re free to refuse the assignment. Mystery shopping often requires an initial outlay of cash to pay for goods or services. However, you can definitely look for mystery shopping jobs that would not require any payment; many mystery shops only require an inquiry about services or have only trivial purchases (under $1) to confirm completion.  Make sure that you read the shop guidelines before agreeing to perform the shop if you have any concerns.

Having a credit card with a substantial credit limit is a valuable tool as a mystery shopper, as you can have the expense on the card within the grace period, and then pay the expense once you are paid.

Q. What does [term] or [acronym] mean?

Please consult our Mystery Shopping Glossary for detailed information on most mystery shopping terms and acronyms, such as ICA, MSP, DVR, and more.

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