Free Food! Learn How to Get That and More, From Experienced Mystery Shoppers

how to be a mystery shopper
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Of all the ways we’ve found to make money on the side, mystery shopping is still dear to our hearts. After all, shopping for beer is where this blog began.

Mystery shopping is a fun way to turn an everyday activity into a money-maker. But a lot of people still aren’t sure exactly how to get started or what it’s really like.

Lauren Greutman at I am That Lady tapped into some shoppers who’ve been around the block to share their top tips for making money as a mystery shopper.

Here are some of our favorites:

1. Work With a Reputable Company

Not all mystery shopping companies are created equal. You can leave yourself vulnerable to scams if you don’t know what to look for.

Before signing up, look into a company’s history, job offers and pay practices. IATL recommends Bestmark, Volition and MSPA-NA as resources for vetting companies.

2. Have Reasonable Expectations

You’re not going to become rich overnight from mystery shopping. But it is a way to be reimbursed for some purchases, and make a few bucks for minimal work.

For phone call or online mystery shops, expect to earn $3-$5, and for in-store shops, expect $25-$100.

“Phone call and online mystery shops tend to take around five minutes, and around 10 minutes to complete the survey afterwards,” Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, owner of told IATL. “Restaurant mystery shops take around one hour (or however long it takes you to eat) and around 30 minutes to complete the survey afterwards.”

With experience, you can increase your pay-per-hour by reducing the time it takes you to shop and fill out surveys afterward. Our founder Kyle Taylor figured out how to visit lots of grocery stores in one day by strategically mapping out his routes.

3. Consider How Much Time Each Task Will Take

A free meal sounds tempting, but how much time will you invest in driving to a restaurant, scouting out parking and getting through your meal?

Ask yourself: Is it worth the money you’ll make mystery shopping?

As with anything you do to make money on the side, you have to weigh in hidden costs like gas money and demand on your time. Those are easily forgotten when you’re offered the promise of getting paid to eat for free!

Make the most of your mystery shopping time by incorporating the shopping you would do anyway. Can you hit a grocery store nearby or get a free oil change for your car? You can also use mystery shopping to get paid to go to the doctor or ride roller coasters.

Choosing tasks wisely will help you stack the benefits of mystery shopping. Get a free service and make money for completing the survey, and then you’ll get twice the benefit out of the time you spend doing it.

Ready to get started mystery shopping? Read all the tips and more details in the full article at I Am THAT Lady.

Your Turn: Have you ever been a mystery shopper? What tips do you have to add?

Dana Sitar (@danasitar) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She’s written for The Huffington Post,, Writer’s Digest and more.