There is nothing for free. But how about almost free, or free with little effort? Ah ha! Now that you’re paying attention, let’s talk about the world of Mystery Shopping.
Mystery Shopping, or being a secret shopper, is merely evaluating a product or service, and then getting paid to do it. The only stipulation is that you must be covert about it. The list of assignments is literally endless. You could be asked to go to a fast food restaurant, a clothing store, an employment agency, a car repair establishment, receive a bouquet of flowers, get your eyes checked, be a potential renter in an apartment complex, or eat out at a fine dining restaurant. Many will reimburse you for the item they required you to purchase and also give you a small bonus ($8-$15) on top of that. Sometimes you’re allowed to spend $40 for dinner and you’ll get an extra $10 if you submit your report on time. Other times you will be reimbursed only for what you purchased and that’s it. Each company compensates differently.
Like everything, there are a few downsides. Perhaps “areas of consideration” is a more appropriate word to use here. What is your time worth? Sometimes you’ll be offered a gig where you have to stay in a store for 20 minutes and interact with different employees. Then you need to come home and fill out a three page report detailing every single tidbit that happened. You may have driven 40 miles round trip and you’ll get a check for $10 when all is said and done. Consider how much your time and a tank of gasoline is worth. The assignment may fit your situation just fine. Also you may be asked to go to a boatload of fast food restaurants and purchase Crabby Patties. Now suddenly you need an entire new wardrobe because it appears your dryer is shrinking all of your pants. You just need to evaluate where you want to go and determine if you are willing to do the assignment for the agreed upon compensation.
Getting started is rather simple. Google the words “Mystery Shoppers” or “Mystery Shopping” or “Secret Shopping”. From there you’ll see a plethora of companies that work in this arena. Visit each site to sign up to become a shopper. They’ll ask you for basic contact information. Some will ask why you want to be a shopper. Others might ask for a sample of your writing. This is to insure you can complete an evaluation report. It could take 4-6 weeks before you hear back from some. Some will phone you, some will send you emails and some will send assignments in the mail (note: most have done away with snail mail assignments). Register with as many companies that interest you.
Remember. Do not pay for a guide advertised on the newspapers. All the information you need is easily available online… Free! Free! Free!