Mystery Shopping FAQ, Setting Yourself Up for Success, and Maximize Profits!

Mystery Shopping


Hey everyone! First of all, I am so sorry for the lack of posts in the last days of October. Between our internet going down for well over a week, packing up and moving our family into our very first house (and losing my pocket drive and phone charger in a box), and sharing a nasty cold with my daughter, this series definitely got pushed to the side. I wish I could have, and would have, planned better for all of the chaos that ensued.

The good news is everything is starting to wind down. The boxes are being unpacked, the internet is slowly being fixed, and we are regaining a schedule. Because I was challenging myself to write a mystery shopping post every weekday in October, some of the posts I had planned out were more entertaining than meaty. 

For that reason, today’s post will be a wrap-up to the series. This post will combine the last three essential articles I had yet to publish. It will be longer than normal, but I don’t want to leave out information I feel is important.

If you had questions that did not get it answered with this series, please feel free to shoot me an email at and I would love to answer them personally.


Mystery Shopping FAQ


I completed my mystery shop report, am I done?


Mostly, but not quite! Record your confirmation number on your completed report. Check your email inbox, and regularly check your mystery shopping account to make sure there were no issues with your report. If there is an error, you usually have 24-48 hours to correct it and re-submit the report. Once the company has indicated that everything there are no errors to correct, you’re good to go!


What happens if you don’t get paid?

Keep all of your receipts until you get paid along with confirmation numbers that a report was completed. Companies are upfront about payment scheduling, so I would recommend marking on a calendar when you are supposed to get paid. If you don’t receive payment by that date, contact the company you worked for and be prepared to show your documents. If you don’t get a response, or they refuse to pay for a mystery shop which adhered to all of the guidelines, file a complaint with the Better Business Bearuea.

How long does it take to get reimbursed?

Although every company is different, the average time is 4-6 weeks. Some companies pay the following week, and during Christmas time, many companies offer to pay faster as an incentive.

What if you can’t do a mystery shop?

Contact the scheduler as soon as possible and explain the situation. Keep in mind that when this happens, your mystery shopping rating will go down, and you will not be offered the more desirable mystery shopping opportunities until you prove yourself again. Some companies might disqualify you from accepting any future job opportunities.

When in doubt, wait to sign up for a mystery shop. It’s better to let somebody else have the opportunity to complete a job you want instead of accepting it and needing to back out at the last minute.

How often are new jobs available?

Usually, mystery shopping companies work a month to month basis. Usually, new jobs will available at the beginning of the month, which is why the end of the month is a good opportunity to pick up last minute, high paying jobs.

Do I have to take pictures?

Some companies ask that you take photographs while you are preforming a mystery shop. Most require a digital camera while others require a camera phone (for a more discreet approach). You will need the ability to take a photo as well as uploading and sending with your report. Photograph requirements are stated in the job description.

What do I do if somebody asks if I’m a mystery shopper?

Don’t blow your cover. The best response is to look confused and ask “What’s a mystery shopper?” Don’t ever tell somebody you are a mystery shopper. If you are identified, you can no longer complete reports for that business, and in some cases, you won’t be paid.



Set Yourself Up for Success

Once you begin accepting jobs, these 5 steps are key in setting yourself up for success. As you prove yourself more reliable, you will begin to get more frequent and desirable offers.

1. Keep your word. If you say you will do an assignment, follow through on that. It’s easy to skip out on a job if something comes up, but keep in mind that companies are paying for your specific feedback. Additionally, if you prove to be unreliable, your ratings will drop, you will get offered less jobs, and you may even be dropped as an auditor from the company.

2. Be thorough in your reports and investigations. Companies want details, details, details! The more objective information you are able to give them about an experience, the better. By being descriptive and painting a picture, you will prove to be a key mystery shopper that the company will return to for help.

3. Follow directions. If you fail to complete an assignment in its entirety, you might fail to get paid. It is imperative that you read all instructions and know exactly what you need to do, which location to be at, and what timeframe to complete your assignment in. If you are confused about a scenario, e-mail your scheduler to clarify.

4. Complete your assignments on time. If you don’t have your assignment submitted within the window your scheduler wants, you could be dropped from the job. In turn, your shopper rating will drop and you will not get paid. To avoid this, I try and complete my reports quickly after finishing the shop. Sometimes, if it’s a busy part of the day, the report has to wait a few hours. However,  I find that it’s better not to have it looming over my head!

5. Proof-read your reports. Did you get the details right? Is your spelling correct? Is your report easy to read and helpful to the recipient? The more professional your work, the higher and faster you will rank as a mystery shopper. Remember- a higher rank equals better job opportunities.


My Best Tips for Maximizing Profits

Time is money, and in order to make a decent income through mystery shopping, you need to be willing to invest time. After all, you have to account for driving to and from a job, thoroughly evaluating what you see, and filling out a detailed report afterwards. However, there are ways to maximize your time investments. These are my best kept secrets for maximizing your mystery shopping earnings.

Accept shops that would normally fit into your routine.

Everyone has to eat, right? If you know you will be spending some time In the upcoming weeks on a date with your spouse or children, start looking for mystery shops to restaurants. If you routinely buy groceries or gas, accept a shop to a grocery or convenience store. If you will be doing something anyway, why not get paid and/or reimbursed?

Use coupons.

Using the examples I listed above, if you know you will be going to a certain restaurant, investigate if that restaurant has coupons or an email club to join. It’s usually a good idea to be familiar with a brand before mystery shopping for them, so you might as well check for coupons! I typically e-mail my scheduler to be sure it is allowed, but I’ve never been turned down. Usually, they are very open to exploring how the company and employee handles your coupon. In addition to that, most grocery mystery shops give you a spending limit, so you might as well maximize that with clipped or internet printed coupons.

Pay attention to clearance or sales.

In a recent retail shop, I was allotted $14 to spend. I went straight for the clearance section and found a dress I loved marked down 75% from $39.50. Instead of buying an item that was normally $14, I bought an item worth almost 3x the value at the same price.

Accept shops to places you would normally love to go, but are too expensive.

I’m always watching for Coach mystery shops, nearby theme parks or attractions, or fancy restaurants. To me, it’s worth it to be able to participate in something indulgent that we normally would never be able to fit into our budget.

Use your mystery shopping as a way to collect gifts throughout the year.

Instead of using your purchase allowance to buy something for yourself, consider using the money to buy gifts for others instead. Also, pick up shops at store that you may not normally shop at, but that a family member of yours loves. This is also a great way to utilize those shops that only allow a purchase of $1-$2. By picking up packs of gum and candy, a bottle of someone’s favorite soda, or a pair of socks, you have a nice set up for a gift basket.

Wait it out.

There are some mystery shops I snatch up quickly because I really want to do them. However, if there is one I could give or take, I will usually wait it out and see if the pay increases. 

Don’t go over your limit.

As tempting as it may be to walk into a store with a $10 allowance, but spot something you love for $20, try to keep looking for something else within your limit. If you pay out extra out of your own pocket, this definitely cuts into your income.

mystery shopping blog


Thanks for joining along in this series! I am still happy to refer anyone who wants to mystery shop to the companies I recommended. I would also love to answer any questions you might have. Feel free to contact me at, on my facebook page, or through twitter.




  1. Thanks so much for this whole series! .. I am bookmarking this series and hope to put it to use SOON! :)

  2. Chelsea, thank you for this series! I am currently a full-time working mom looking for opportunities to make some extra money if I’m able to stay home with my kids in the future. This sounds like a feasible option that I would never have considered before. Thanks again!

    • I think that’s wonderful that you’re trying to “reevaluate” and find some ways to stay at home. Thanks for checking out the series, your comment blessed me!

  3. can you reccomend some reputable mystery shopper companies?


    • Yes, if you go to this post: and scroll down to the index, there is a link called “My top mystery shopping company pick” and “Honorable mentions” you can see my favorites. Also- any companies on are reputable. There is also a link on that post that tells you how to sign up with Volition. Hope that helps!

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