Why Can’t I Get a Gift Certificate for Mystery Shopping?

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NOTE: This is a question that I was asked pre-COVID, but I felt it still applies today. Many people may not have the cash-flow available to wait for a reimbursement payment from a Mystery Shopping company, so I thought it was important to have a reminder as why gift certificates aren’t standard practice in Mystery Shopping anymore.


I’m supposed to do a really high-end restaurant shop this week, but the mystery shopping company won’t get me a gift certificate. I’m supposed to take 10 people!  This is going to cost me around $300, and even though I’m going to get reimbursed, it’s going to take awhile. Why can’t they just give me a gift certificate and make my life easier?

First of all, congrats on the restaurant shop!  That’s going to be a lot of fun, and a really hefty reimbursement!  I totally understand where you’re coming from, and that’s why some of these high-end shops may not be worth it to people who don’t have the cash-flow to front such a cost. It can take up around 30-60 days to get paid for an assignment. If you are waiting for a large reimbursement, you need to budget accordingly.

Unfortunately, the Mystery Shopping companies have been burned way too many times on shoppers who came before you.  It used to be that they would give out gift certificates for restaurant and retail shops, but then the shoppers would keep the gift certificates and NOT DO THE SHOP!

Can you imagine how irate the clients were?  Here they are, giving out free food and merchandise, and not getting anything in return for it.  Most of the time, the Mystery Shopping company would eat the cost so the client wouldn’t know, but as you can imagine that would cut into their profits of doing the assignment.

So now, most restaurants and retail shops are doing shops on a reimbursement basis. That way, the Mystery Shopping companies (and their clients) aren’t out any money should a shopper decide to flake.

If you want to do Mystery Shopping, but don’t want to have to worry about getting reimbursed, stick to apartment shops and banks, retail shops that don’t require purchases, or grocery shops – in that case you’d be getting stuff you already needed, so just stay within your usual budget and it shouldn’t be a big issue when waiting for that reimbursement payment.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but hopefully you understand the necessity!


Think about all the extra money you could make by being a mystery shopper, starting your own business, or working from home for a legitimate company. Take control of your income and check out our LEARN page for a list of classes, books, and more!

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