Does being a mystery shopper actually pay?

When I worked in retail I could spot a mystery shopper from a mile away—they stop at the automatic door a second longer than regular customers, look around wide-eyed as they enter and end up being chatterboxes as they cash out. 

It makes sense—they’re being paid to give their opinion and feedback on the store’s atmosphere, offerings and employees. But how much do mystery shoppers make and is it worth the time and effort?

What is it: Mystery shoppers sign up with a company that will send them missions to complete—it could be as easy as taking and uploading a photo of a grocery store display or something more time consuming like documenting a dining experience. 

  • They can earn between $10 to $40 per mission, and payouts can take four to six weeks to process, but some mystery shoppers pull in full time salaries—according to, the average salary is $33,404.

  • Most mystery shoppers pick it up as a part time gig—something they do to kill time while their kid is in an activity or while they run errands.

What you’ll pay: It’s free to sign up, but you will be spending your time and if you’re driving from location to location, factor in that you’ll have to pay for gas. 

What you’ll save: There are plenty of perks to mystery shopping besides the cash. Most agencies will let you keep the item they told you to buy and reimburse you for the cost, but that can take up to 90 days. 

  • If you’re lucky enough to get a restaurant mission, you’re basically getting a free meal out. 

So, is it worth it? If you love browsing new stores and trying new products, this could be a great side hustle to pick up since it won’t really feel like work.