In my previous article, I touched upon the basics and economic principles of mystery shopping. This post will detail the financial incentives of mystery shopping, and the different types of compensation that I’ve seen over my mystery shopping experience.

To recap, mystery shopping is a market research or compliance tool to quantify the quality of service, get information, or check for legal compliance, according to Wikipedia. Companies pay research firms (known as mystery shop providers, or MSPs) to send mystery shoppers to gather this information, in exchange for free goods & services such as drinks, meals, or experiences.


Mystery Shopping Incentive Compensation

How you are compensated or reimbursed varies between firms, but typically fall into one of the categories below. The great majority of shops I do fall in the food and drink category, varying between casual eateries up to fancy dining or bar & hotel lounges.

Fixed Fee Profit Maximization

Most times I'll stay on the cheaper side to save more - but I'm also happy.

Most times I’ll stay on the cheaper side to save more – but I’m also happy.

For a successfully submitted and approved shop, you will receive a flat, lump sum payment, typically to a paypal account within 45-90 days of approval. This is the most common one in my experience, on iSecretShop. It is a trade off between the enjoyment of the food or experience, and the money that you keep.

For example, if a bar shop requires you to purchase two alcoholic drinks, you could purchase the more expensive cocktails that you enjoy, or stick with draft or bottled beers to keep more of the funds. The choice is entirely up to you, similar to the concept of free hotel drinks I wrote about previously.


Free tastes better

Free tastes better

Similar to the fixed fee, you’ll receive your payment well after approval of the submitted report. However, this reimbursement is only limited to the amount spent on the food and drink items required or listed in the report, and may or may not include tax or tip. This one is less generous and requires more work on the MSPs part, and is less common in my experience. Under this model, I gain more utility from more expensive items (that I don’t have to pay for), and typically skew towards the higher end of the reimbursement limit.


Some shops that I do, especially on the non-food or drink side, use a combination method of paying a flat fee for completion, and a reimbursement amount up to the purchase price of a required item. I’ve seen this on smaller eateries or bars.



You can get this at higher end shops!

You can get this at higher end shops!

All of these payments require a timely, submitted and approved report on your shop / experience. Check out the firms involved and the ones that I use, such as iSecretShop & Field Agent. I would highly recommend them to anyone interested in learning more, and I do not receive any commission as these are not referrals. Lastly, while it is more beneficial to be in a city – with more possible businesses and shop locations, I’ve found plenty of success in the suburbs, as well. Mystery shopping is a potentially lucrative side hustle, allowing you to explore more of where you live!

More details on what exactly is required in a report and how to get shops in the next article!


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