How to become a mystery shopper

How to become a mystery shopper

This alternative job fits the bill for:

  • Part time jobs
  • Unusual jobs
  • Jobs that let you have piercings

Renee Vans is not an old man in a mac. Which is how one tends to think of mystery shoppers (pretend customers who are paid to catch lazy restaurant, hotel and department store staff unawares). Renee Vans is a mystery shopper who gets paid to stay in flashy hotels, eat McDonalds food (blech) and shop! Nice work if you can get it?

Why did you first decide to become a mystery shopper, and how did you get into it?

I quit my day-job last year to set up my own business. I needed to earn some quick cash, but needed something flexible to fit around my work. A friend of mine mentioned mystery shopping to me, and it sounded like the perfect job – being paid to shop and getting lots of free booze into the bargain!

Do you need any special skills? And will working as a mystery shopper make you cash-rich?

To be successful as a mystery shopper, you need to be able to think on your feet, be extremely observant and be able to write clear and concise reports. The job won’t make you instantly rich, but you get the opportunity to stay in fabulous boutique hotels, eat at expensive restaurants and fly all over Europe so you certainly get to act like you’re one of the international jet-set! It’s a great source of supplementary income, but you’d struggle to make a career out of it.

What are the pros of working as a mystery shopper?

All the free stuff! I’ve had some really exciting experiences through my job – playing roulette in casinos, eating in Michelin-starred restaurants and checking out new cities.

It’s also really satisfying to give a glowing report about an underpaid, over-worked waitress who gave you great service, or to turn in a really vile review when you’ve been treated badly.

And the cons?

You need to be willing to eat a lot of grim food in dodgy fast-food joints before you move up the ranks of shoppers and onto the more choice assignments!

Danger factor?

Not really – you get to choose when and where you work, so you only need to pick assignments that you’re comfortable in carrying out.

Do you meet fit, clever, solvent blokes in your line of work?

All the time. Unfortunately they’re all mobile phone salesmen.

Do stereotypes exist for working as a mystery shopper?

When people think about mystery shoppers, they tend to picture a middle-aged man wearing a mac with an upturned collar and a newspaper to hide behind, scribbling notes as they go. I consider myself the Mata Hari of the restaurant world – I plan my outfit for the assignment in advance, create a backstory for my character just in case someone starts up a conversation and always adhere to the prime mission objective – don’t get discovered!

What are the bestest and worstest moments you’ve had so far?

The best moment for me was lying in bed watching movies in my five-star hotel room while I assessed the quality of the food and wine that the room service staff brought to my door. That’s the life!

The worst moment was the way I felt after a week of eating at a certain well-known fast-food ‘restaurant’. I can’t look at those golden arches without feeling decidedly green these days.

Are there opportunities for travel/work abroad?

Plenty! The only downside is you don’t get to stick around too long, as you’re on the return flight back either the same day or the next


What advice would you give to young women who are interested in this career path?

There are hundreds of mystery shopping companies in the UK and more worldwide, a quick google will turn up some likely candidates. Register with as many as you can, and take on a few boring jobs to start you off.

Providing that you do well, you’ll be onto the bigger and better stuff in no time. One major point to remember is that you should never ever have to pay to join a mystery shopping company – all of the reputable ones offer free registration! There are a number of scammers out there that offer to sell you the ‘secrets’ of mystery shopping, but the truth is that there aren’t any!