Can I Get Paid to Shop?

Shopping BagYour BBB receives calls every day from consumers who are looking into mystery shopping in order to make a little extra money.  We’d thought we’d pass along the following information on mystery shopping and what to watch out for when you are looking at mystery shopping opportunities.

What is mystery shopping?

Mystery shopping is the practice of using shoppers to anonymously evaluate an establishment’s products, customer service, operations, merchandising or product quality. Most mystery shoppers are independent contractors who agree to complete an assignment for a specific price and are not hired as employees. 

How long does it take and what does it pay?

According to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association, “the length of time a mystery shop takes depends on the type of assignment, but usually a shop is likely to take considerably less than an hour. The fees a mystery shopper may earn from a specific shop vary just as greatly as the time required, but often a shopper might expect anywhere between $8 and $20 for the “typical” shopping scenario.”

What advice does the BBB have to mystery shopper applicants in order to steer clear of get-rich-quick offers?

1. Ignore claims that you will make big profits easily. Mystery shopping will not make you rich; at best it provides part-time income.

2. Avoid falling for claims that “guarantee” a position, without training.

3. Be cautions of unsolicited e-mails offering “work-from-home.”

4. Never pay money up-front. You should not have to pay for certification, training, recruiting or directories.  All instructions and directions should be provided to you for free by the retailer or mystery shopping company.

5. Obtain the name of the company and check the business out with the BBB, local consumer protection agency, and state attorney general.

6. Watch out for ads with just a phone number listed. The phone number may link to a location outside of the US, so you may end up with a huge phone bill without knowing it.

7. Beware of letters “hiring” you to mystery shop money transfer business like Western Union or MoneyGram.  The letter will often ask you to deposit a check accompanying the letter into your bank account then wire money to a third party.  These checks may be fakes.  This fact won’t be discovered for several weeks, and by then, the money has been picked up and the consumer may be on the hook for the money wired and bank fees associated with the fake check.

If you’re interested in a specific mystery shopping company, check them out with your BBB first! You can also visit the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) website at www.mysteryshop.org for information on how to register to be a mystery shopper with a MSPA-member company, find a database of available jobs, and additional information on the industry in general.

About Amanda 202 Articles
Amanda is the Director of Investigations & Information Services and is a regular contributor to the consumer education blog. She is one of our go-to colleagues for answering complex consumer inquires. Amanda also manages our charity reporting program.

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