I have been mystery shopping for about four years, as a result of an article that I read on the Dollar Stretcher site! I have had some slightly different experiences.
I have worked for at least ten mystery shopping companies. With all of them, I have received my paperwork and submitted my reports over the Internet, either through email and/or their website. I have never received a debit card to purchase goods. My purchases have been either to keep or to return (making the purchase with my own credit card). I've shopped several times for one grocery store and I was told that I must purchase a minimum amount, say $8, and that is what I am reimbursed for, in addition to the fee that I am paid. I get to keep the groceries. For others, I was told to purchase something with a certain minimum dollar amount, and if I do not wish to keep it, I must return it after waiting 30 minutes or an hour. Then I submit the receipts via fax or upload a photo.
Each company makes it clear when and how you will be paid. One pays by check within two weeks. Others send a check by the 15th or 30th of the next month following the shop. Others require that I have a PayPal account or they send it directly to my bank account.
Some companies provide written feedback about your report and some "grade" your report on a number scale one to five or one to ten. Those scores are then averaged and can help determine which shops you are offered or qualified to complete. Others give no feedback at all.
Several companies ask how far you are willing to travel and provide opportunities within that radius. Because I travel a lot, I use their search features to find shops within the area that I am traveling to or in cities that are along the route. I have mystery shopped in many cities throughout Illinois as well as Florida and Missouri. I have also completed many telephone only shops that require only a cell phone.
Because I am registered with several companies, I have many opportunities to shop during the month. Some companies I shop for every month and others every few months or even once or twice a year. The opportunities depend not only on your location and willingness to travel but also on your flexibility during the day to complete shops. There are many shops that I cannot complete because I work a full-time day job. Sometimes I am able to complete a shop during lunch or after work, but other times I can't.
I have completed shops for grocery stores, movie theatres, restaurants (formal and fast food), convenience stores, gas stations, optical stores, luxury car dealerships, motorcycle dealerships, banks, jewelry stores, department stores, etc. Next month, I will be doing a mystery shop to get my taxes done for free (with reimbursement)!
While it can be "work," I like the variety of the shops and have even taught some courses locally to introduce others to this opportunity. It certainly can be a good second income. I enjoy mystery shopping very much and plan to continue!
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it by mailto:MyStory@stretcher.com
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