Is Mystery Shopping Right For You?

mystery shopping, side hustle / Monday, January 15th, 2018


mystery shopping woman

It seems like everyone these days is talking about having a side hustle. And if you are on this blog then you are probably interested in getting started with making some extra money from a side hustle too. There are loads of things that people do to make money. Driving for Uber, babysitting, dog sitting and walking, mystery shopping, selling crafts on Etsy, transcription, Amazon Mturk, tutoring kids, teaching an instrument, personal training, the list is really endless. If you have special skills or training, or a specific creative ability, it makes sense to find a way to make that skill profitable.

Most importantly, you have to find something that suits your personality and lifestyle. If you lack a specific creative skill, that’s okay. We can’t all have Etsy shops. But ask yourself, what are your skills and personality traits? How much free time do you have to engage in a side hustle? Do you have kids? Do you have a car? Do you live in a big city or a small town?

Mystery shopping requires a certain set of personality traits and skills. No, you don’t need to know how to play the trombone, but you need to be very organized, pay attention to detail, and have a good memory.

Here’s some traits of a good mystery shopper:


-Able to pay attention to detail

-Good memory

-Able to blend in

-Comfortable acting and/or lying

-Good written and oral communication skills

-Good logistical skills

-Ability to plan and stick to a schedule

Can you multitask?

Mystery shopping requires you to juggle a lot of balls in the air as you usually will work for many different mystery shopping companies and will conduct shops for dozens of different clients. As such, you have to keep organized to make sure that you conduct your shops correctly and also that you track your pay. You have to keep all the receipts and materials for the shop, as well as photos you took so that you can submit it properly. You need to be able to remember the requirements for each shop since you cannot have any notes while you do it. I text myself notes when possible but that doesn’t work for each shop. So you have to be able to memorize details and write them all down right after the shop is complete so you don’t forget them.

Can You Not Be Remembered?

To be a successful mystery shopper, you have to be able to blend in and be unremarkable. That means it helps if you don’t have a face tattoo but it also means that you have to be boring to the salespeople and not talk too much about yourself. You are supposed to act like any other customer and be so generic that you don’t stick out and get identified as a mystery shopper. You also usually have to lie and/or act out a scenario. Some people have a very hard time with this and it is essential for some shops that you play along with the scenario. If you feel you cannot use a fake name and follow a scenario about why you are buying a new car or need to open a checking account, then mystery shopping is not for you. Most of the time you can use your true name and true details about yourself and that makes it very easy, but you still have to remain “under cover” at all times and cannot let anyone identify you as a shopper.

Can you keep organized?

Good logistics skills are a must as well. I mystery shop for dozens of different companies and I know which shops are available in a rotation (some shops are conducted every month or two so you can often do them again when they become available) so I try to plan out my weeks by scheduling routes and doing shops that are nearby each other or near other places I am going that week. Grouping shops together saves time and gas but you have to be able to plan strategically and execute those plans. I use a written planner and schedule my shops on my lunch breaks and weekends and try to group different shops that are geographically co-located which saves me a lot of time. I also have to not over schedule myself, know when I am going to be unavailable and schedule around that, and plan shops weeks in advance.

Other Things You Need as a Shopper

In addition to personality traits, here are some other things you need (some tangible, some not) to be a successful mystery shopper:

-A smart phone with a data plan (for texting yourself notes, using apps for shops, submitting shops, taking photos, etc)

-A car (unless you live in a large metropolitan city with great public transportation like DC or NYC)

-A computer (because not all shops can be submitted from a cell phone and it will drive you nuts to type so much on such a tiny keyboard)

-A reliable and fast internet connection (for submitting and scheduling shops)

-Available time to complete shops (ideally without children in tow) and debrief them (I usually shop on my lunch break and debrief them online in the evening after my daughter is asleep)

-A separate bank account and debit card for mystery shops (it really helps keep me organized)

-Spreadsheets to track shops completed and earnings (I use Google Drive so I have my info on any computer)

-Live in a place with lots of available mystery shops (both big and small cities have lots of shops but rural areas are difficult)

If this all sounds too overwhelming and the idea of reading all those detailed requirements, lying to the salesperson, remembering the pertinent facts and what the salesperson said, taking photos on the sly, keeping your receipt, and typing up the data online all sounds overwhelming, maybe mystery shopping isn’t for you. If you feel like all that stuff if no sweat, then mystery shopping is the right side hustle for you.

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