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December 19, 2001
How To Earn Money As A Mystery Shopper
by Alyice Edrich

Mystery Shoppers don't wear funny glasses and toursity clothes, they don't have walkie talkies and ear pieces, and they don't sneak around hoping no one will see them. On the contrary mystery shoppers are everyday customers who do a little shopping while taking mental notes of all that transpired.

Since customer service is what keeps a customer returning to the same store or restaurant, it only seems natural that a customer evaluates the employees. The owners want to make sure that each employee is respectful and helpful to their customers, but they also want to make sure that their policies and procedures are being followed.

Mystery Shoppers are asked to fill out reports that detail their latest shopping experience. It may be something as simple as a yes and no form, or something that requires more detailed paragraph answers. The forms usually ask questions such as:

"Was the food hot and did it appear appetizing?"

"Was the following ad placed behind the check out counter, in plain view?"

"When you handed the employee exact change, what did he do with the money?"

"When you asked for an out of stock item, how did the employee help you?"

"How many employees were there in the store and what were they doing?"

"How many customers did you count in the store and were they being helped?"

"Did you find such and such and where was it located in the store?"

Mystery Shopping can be a hobby or a low-paying full time business. The cool thing about making it a full time business is the home business deductions, such as internet service and that extra phone line. One can also deduct mileage expenses for wear and tear on the car.

Most jobs, or "shops" as they are called average $5 to $20 per shop. There are continuous shops, or "ongoing" shops that require eight to ten hours a month shopping the same local department store. These shops earn anywhere from $180 to $200 per month.

The fringe benefits are what really make this experience worth the effort. Fringe benefits such as free meals, free movie tickets, free concert tickets, free tire rotations or oil changes, and the list can go on. But not every shop offers these frills.

Some shops require that you enter a store to try on some pieces of clothing while others ask that you purchase an item only to return the next day.

When we first started mystery shopping, my husband thought it was a waste of our time and resources. He felt the pay was too little for all that we had to do. Keep in mind that my first shops required two trips to the same store. I had to make up a story, ask for certain items, purchase them and then mail them back to the company's head office. I even had a shop where I had to purchase something and return it within a week.

One day, we got a job to go to a Pizza Shop and have a large pizza with a pitcher of soda. The company reimbursed for the food, but did not offer pay for the time to do the job. A few weeks later, we got our oil changed on the car as well as a much needed alignment.

Finally, the light bulb went off in my husband's head. He said, "You had to take the other jobs to get into the company so we could get these jobs. If we only did these types of shops, it would be worth it."

Website to help get you on your way:

Alyice Edrich is a freelance writer providing original content for several online sites and print publications. She also performs copywriting and editing. She is currently a columnist for, Webseed Publishing, DM Ezine, and and she also writes for different genres; such as family, how-tos, business, essays, interviews, and spirituality. Visit her website at

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