Pros & Cons of Mystery Shopping

Finding a side hustle that fits your lifestyle is important if you want to be successful. Mystery Shopping is one of my favorite side hustles to earn extra money on the side. However, mystery shopping isn't for everyone. It requires a lot of work upfront and on the backend to ensure you have a successful shop and get reimbursed/paid for your time.


I've listed out the Pros and Cons of Mystery Shopping below so you can decide if this is something you would enjoy!

Pros of Mystery Shopping:

  • Creating Your Own Schedule: As an individual contributor, you can sign up for shops at your leisure! If you want to take a week off, you can without penalty!

  • Get Paid to Eat Out: What's better than a free meal? Getting paid to have a free meal! This is what mystery shopping is all about!

  • Flexibility: Most shops give you a window for when you can visit. This means you can easily incorporate it into your every day life instead of dropping everything to go shop.

  • Only Sign Up For Shops You're Interested In: Don't feel obligated to sign up for shops that don't interest you. For instance, I don't have any interest in shopping tobacco, so I just skip right over those shops! No harm, no foul!

  • Virtual Options are Available: Not every Mystery Shop will require you to physically go to a store. Some Mystery Shops are virtual or over the phone!

  • Incognito Spy: It's fun to pretend to be a spy for a moment and go "undercover".

  • Try New Places: Sometimes I'll sign up for a shop that is a place I've never been before. It's a great way to try something new while not paying the bill!

  • Learn Behind The Scenes Secrets: When mystery shopping, companies will give you specific things to look out for! These are my favorites because I like to see what the company values and expects from their employees! For instance, one restaurant required it's employees to use the word "legendary" at least twice. I never would have known that if I didn't Mystery Shop!


Related Post: My Favorite Mystery Shopping Companies

Cons of Mystery Shopping:

  • Spend Money Up Front: Typically, you'll need to spend money at the shop/restaurant which won't be reimbursed until later (usually 2-4 weeks after). Be sure to read the fine print to ensure they will reimburse you and know the caps.

  • No Guaranteed/Steady Income: As a self-employed shopper, you'll need to be motivated to sign up for shops in order to earn money.

  • If You Make a Mistake, You Might Not Get Paid: Your reports are vital to the business, so if you forget to take a picture of your receipt, or can't remember the cashier's name, you might not get paid for the shop! This can also hurt you for future shops!

  • Lots of Paperwork: Once you finish the shop, the job really begins. Putting your experience into words is the most tedious part of mystery shopping. Some companies have a survey with yes/no questions, while others require detailed paragraphs.

  • Need to Sign Up for Dozens of Shopper Databases: In order to have the most success, you'll need to sign up for dozens of different databases. This can be tedious and annoying. To help you out, I've drafted a list of my favorite Mystery Shopping Companies here!

  • Responsible for Your Taxes: If you earn more than $600 mystery shopping with any one company, you must report that income your tax returns.


Don't let the cons scare you - you'll get the hang of the paperwork and learn to focus on details. For your first few shops, just go slow, take notes on your phone, and (if allowed) bring a friend to help you remember details. You'll quickly start to get the hang of it after 3 or 4 and soon you'll be a Mystery Shopping PRO!

So, what do you think? Do you have what it takes to be a mystery shopper?

Related Post: My Favorite Mystery Shopping Companies


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