Do I Have to Buy Something When I Mystery Shop?

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I’m really interested in this mystery shopping thing, but I was wondering if I had to buy stuff when I shopped. 

Isn’t that I just would get money back for the money I spent? And what if I spend more than what the assignment paid me?  It doesn’t seem like a good way to actually make money.

Each assignment really depends on the mystery shopping company’s guidelines as well as the requirements from the client.  For restaurant shops, yes, you do actually have to purchase a meal.  Sometimes the MS company will reimburse you for the meal as well as give you a stipend for writing up the shop….other times they’ll just reimburse you for a portion of the bill.

For retail shops you may or may not need to make a purchase. If you do, it could be a P&R (purchase and return shop) where you return the item and then evaluate the company’s return procedure. Or, they may allow you to keep the item and will reimburse you for the purchase…which you can then return later if you like. The MS company may or may not give you an additional amount beyond the spending requirement for the shop. Grocery stores are generally a flat reimbursement since chances are you will find something you personally need. But, for other retail stores, you may receive a purchase fee and a shop fee.

It all really depends.  For me personally, I stay away from restaurant shops and retail shops that are reimbursement only.  I’m like you: I like to make money!  So, I’ll stick with apartment shops and bank shops.  Those, you don’t need to put any money out, and they usually pay better (around $30-$50 each).

Every now and again, if I just want a treat or a night out, I’ll do a movie theater or restaurant shop because it’s nice to get something for free.  But, keep in mind that it takes about 30-60 days to get paid, so make sure you have enough cash-flow to cover any reimbursement you’ll get for that time-frame.

Happy Shopping!


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