When you think of mystery shopping, you probably imagine going to a restaurant and quietly checking out the environment, service and food. You’ll get a free meal, maybe a few bucks and that’s it.
But you might be surprised by many of the other niches in mystery shopping, and some of them are more interesting and more profitable.
For example, I recently reported on being a “mystery worshipper” for $45 per church service. You secretly rate the church, and it uses the information to improve its services and attract new members.
Sometimes a mystery shopping company specializes in one niche, while other times they have several departments. Here’s a look at some of the more unusual mystery shopping opportunities.
1. Get Paid to Enjoy Spa Treatments
Coyle Hospitality evaluates companies in travel-related niches, and one of its specialties is spa mystery shopping. These assignments are all over the world, so this could be a good one if you want some freebies and extra income while you travel.
The company also offers hotel and restaurant assignments, but if you just want the spa treatments, don’t worry. The sign-up page says evaluators “may request assignments at their discretion.”
As for potential earnings, the page says “All mystery shopping assignments pay a fee plus reimbursable expenses as directed by the client.”
2. Make Money Going to the Movies
As a “certified field associate” for Market Force, you go to theaters to watch movies and trailers, to count patrons and sometimes to set up movie posters. Some visits are traditional mystery shopping assignments, while at other times the management knows you’re there and your task might be something like; “Watch and record all advertisements shown prior to the feature.”
The Penny Hoarder founder Kyle Taylor says he was paid $30 to attend a Harry Potter premiere, but the pay varies and can be lower than that. Of course, getting to watch movies for free in exchange for counting ads or patrons isn’t such a bad deal.
3. Get Free Beer
The “Bar Integrity Mystery Shop” is one MSP Services’ specialties. As a mystery shopper, you’ll pose as a regular customer while secretly rating each bar on speed of service, friendliness, accuracy, cleanliness and other factors.
MSP Services does other types of mystery shops, but the application page makes it clear “you can choose the shops that best fit your schedule.” That means you can skip the restaurant assignments if you just want to go to bars.
4. Mystery Shop at Home
Web Mystery Shoppers specializes in evaluating companies doing business online. Working for them as a web mystery shopper, you basically visit websites and interact with them while recording your “thoughts, feeling and suggestions.”
I’ve previously written about this kind of website testing, and like other companies that hire for these positions, Web Mystery Shoppers pays a reasonable rate, promising, “Most jobs take about 30 minutes and pay $10-$15.” The problem, in my experience, is that assignments are not available very often.
5. Ride Roller Coasters for Free
Riding roller coasters is just one of the possible duties you’ll have working as an amusement park mystery shopper for Amusement Advantage. The company works strictly in the amusement industry, a niche that “includes theme parks, amusement parks, water parks and family entertainment centers.” In other words you could have some fun assignments.
The company says it often pays only expenses, but that “includes reimbursement for reasonable expenses associated with completing the assignment such as parking and purchases you need to make at the facility such as tickets, food, merchandise and games or attractions charges.”
In other words, you (and sometimes a partner) get a free day of fun, and sometimes additional pay, including a $5 bonus for quickly submitting your evaluation.
6. Get Paid to Go to the Doctor
The Baird Group does medical mystery shopping.
As a medical mystery shopper, you’ll “pose as patients on the phone to hospitals and clinics, or observe on-site interactions to help us create more positive patient experiences and stronger provider/patient relationships,” according to their careers page.
Sometimes, “mystery patients will present as patients with symptoms of a non-threatening matter,” similar to working as a standardized patient. The website does not mention what you’ll be paid, but as with many mystery shopping companies, you’ll need a PayPal account to collect.
7. Make Money Test Driving Cars
Kyle Taylor says he made $60 for each dealership he visited when he was doing automotive mystery shopping.
8. Mystery Shop Banks
Customer Impact does financial institution mystery shopping. As a shopper, you evaluate banks, credit unions, and investment companies for their service, facilities and more. Assignments are both for in-person visits and phone call shops.
9. Evaluate Apartments
Jancyn has a division focused on apartment mystery shopping. You pose as a potential tenant and go through the process of looking at apartments.
Don’t be sloppy filling out the shopper application. Jancyn says, “Our mystery shoppers are evaluated for their integrity, writing skills and attention to detail before becoming independent contractors with us.”
10. Mystery Shop Real Estate Agents
You can be paid to look at houses and rate the agent who shows them to you by working with AdvancedFeedback.
You might do phone call shops or become an “Advanced Undercover Video Specialist” and work in the field. The latter position requires you to get a couple certifications first, and the application page says, “At this time, please do not apply for our video shops unless you are experienced AND own your own equipment.”
11. Paid to Gamble
OK, they’re not really going to cover your losses if you gamble, but both Imyst and BestMark have casino mystery shopping opportunities. You might be evaluating the slot attendants, the table games or the casino’s restaurants and bars.
12. Mystery Shop the Government
Shopper Confidential does mystery shopping of government agencies and services. As a shopper, you might use websites, make phone calls and visit offices of municipal, provincial and federal governments in Canada and the US.
The website FAQ says, “Typically, Shoppers receive payments of $15-$20 per assignment, plus any expenses incurred are reimbursed.”
13. Get Paid to Go to Concerts
“If you’re fortunate enough to snag an assignment where you get to cover a concert, football game or another public event, you’ll be tasked with making note of how facilities are operated from the perspective of a patron,” the company says.
Have Fun but Be Careful
Mystery shopping scams do exist, so be careful. It’s usually a good idea to stick with companies that are members of the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Providers Association).
In any case, here are some simple rules you can follow to avoid being scammed:
- Never pay to become a mystery shopper
- Never pay to see a list of mystery shopping jobs
- Never agree to cash a check and send money back
You generally don’t make much money as a mystery shopper. Kyle Taylor made $5,000 per month auditing liquor stores (and got free beer), but most gigs pay very little for your time. For most shoppers, it’s not a way to pay the bills, but a fun way to generate some extra income and get some freebies.
Your Turn: Have you ever been a mystery shopper, and what’s the most unusual gig you’ve had?
Steve Gillman is the author of “101 Weird Ways to Make Money” and creator of EveryWayToMakeMoney.com. He’s been a repo-man, walking stick carver, search engine evaluator, house flipper, tram driver, process server, mock juror, and roulette croupier, but of more than 100 ways he has made money, writing is his favorite (so far).