Cookies, A Robbery, and Wings: The Life Of A Mystery Shopper


My secret shopper packages made it safely!

The concept of mystery shopping has been around for awhile. Mystery shoppers go into stores, posing as real customers, and then write up an evaluation of their experience in exchange for a small payment. I started mystery shopping a few years ago primarily as a way to earn a little extra cash. But over time, it has grown to be much more than that. Did you know that mystery shopping can be used to accomplish tasks you wouldn’t have normally? Did you know mystery shopping can help improve your marriage? Did you know it can even add some excitement to your life?


Come along with me as I show you how in my recap of a busy and interesting week of mystery shopping.

Send Cookies!

Three years ago on March 3rd, my very first customer post went live in the CareOne user community. I told my CareOne friends that if we worked in the same office I would have totally brought in treats to celebrate my blogoversary. I even thought about making cookies and shipping them to their headquarters in Maryland, however, I didn’t think it was a great use of our money to ship cookies across the country. But when I saw mystery shopping jobs available for the United States Postal Service, I just couldn’t resist.

The boxes used for shipping, the postage, and even the insurance were all reimbursable. I had to ship a package from two different locations, both of which I pass by every day. I spent less than 10 minutes in each post office.


My friends at CareOne enjoying a blogoversary cookie

Reimbursement (boxes, insurance, postage) : $20.60

Shop Completion :                                        $20.00


Total Value                                                   $40.60


The Cell Phone Robbery

My next job sent me to a Sprint store to inquire about cell phone plan options. The gentleman I spoke with described the plans available, in which I discovered that a comparable plan with them was about $30 a month cheaper than the one we recently signed up for with AT&T. Bummer for us. Then it got interesting. The guy I was talking to noticed a phone that he had just shown me was missing. He yelled to all his employees in the store, but nobody had it. Someone had walked in the store, unhooked a phone that was literally 5 feet away from where we were standing, and walked out the door!

Crazy, right?!?!

I wanted to include that in my report, but that particular evaluation form did not give me the opportunity. I didn’t have to buy anything, so this one is pure profit for spending 20 minutes in the store, and getting a great story to tell.

Total Value (payment):               $11.00

Wings, Beer, and a Date

My final mystery shop of the week sent me to a Buffalo Wild Wings for a late dinner. We had to enter the restaurant after 9pm, so I scheduled a date night for Friday night. We enjoyed some wings, a beer, and some great adult alone time that every couple needs.

Food reimbursement:                $15

Shop Completion payment         $ 5


Total Value:                              $20

The cost of our meal was $28.55 (with tip), so our dinner will cost us $8.55 out of pocket. Not bad!

When it’s all totaled up, I did four shops this week for a total value of $71.60. In addition to putting a little extra change in my pocket, I was able to have a dinner with my beautiful wife, and send cookies across the country so some very special people could share in celebrating a significant milestone with me. Oh, and did I mention I witnessed a robbery?

All just the status quo for a week in the life of a mystery shopper, I guess!

Have you ever done mystery shopping?  Do you have any interesting experiences, like witnessing a robbery?

About Travis

20 Responses to “Cookies, A Robbery, and Wings: The Life Of A Mystery Shopper”

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  1. We’ve never done mystery shopping ourselves, but have had a few friends that have and they have had generally good experiences. Being able to have a date night for less than $10 is not too shabby in my books.

  2. Those cookies were AWESOME!!!! You could always put Vonnie to work as a baker as yet another side hustle 🙂

  3. JMK says:

    I met someone who has a relative in customer relations for a major hotel chain. As a result ever year they are able to stay free for nights in different cities, essentially being a secret shopper/guest. They are provided a list of requirements for each stay. Sometimes they just need to rate various hotel services/departments (housekeeping, room service, health facilities, spa treatments etc). Sometimes they are required to be the annoying customer who finds fault when nothing is wrong. Once they were asked to order room service, and send it back and report on how staff respond to an unjustified complaint.

    They’ve stayed free in some wonderful hotels over the years. Complaining for no reason wouldn’t be a comfortable situation for some people, but I’m glad they are willing to do this so the rest of us can have even better service.

    • Travis says:

      There’s been a few times when a hotel shop has been available in the Twin Cities metro area (just an hour north of here). I took one of those shops and we took the kids up for an overnight family fun day at the Mall of America (they have a theme park inside the mall). Then we got to stay in the hotel for free, go swimming, etc AND have dinner as part of the shop. It wasn’t the best hotel, but it was still fun. I think it would be awesome to do more hotel shops to take the family on more little fun trips like this. Thanks for sharing, JMK!

  4. Sweet! I love mystery shopping too! What companies do you work with? I didn’t know that USPS did mystery shopping and I would love to do that!

  5. I have never done a mystery shopping but my travel blog allowed me to stay in resorts and hotels, dine with my family in a nice restaurant, receive product samples and write a review about their products and services. To get a fair service, I do not reveal that I am a blogger or I was invited by the manager/owner until we are done with our visit.

    • Travis says:

      That’s cool, Manette – traveling, dinners and products in exchange for reviews – sounds like fun! Do you have to reveal yourself at all, or do you never go back to the same place twice? Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Sounds awesome! I’ve wanted to try it but the opportunity hasn’t come yet..

    • Travis says:

      You should give it a try, KC… can pick and chose which shops you want, so you can look for those that interest you. I don’t have a huge selection as I live in a smaller city but it’s enough to give me a pretty good variety using the # of companies that I listed above. Sign up and see what happens…it doesn’t cost anything, and you just might end up living the exciting life too. 🙂

  7. I’ve often thought about trying mystery shopping. Sounds to me like a fun way to be able to get out and play, which is largely off our budget right now. 🙂

    • Travis says:

      That’s exactly right, Laurie! Getting reimbursed to go to somewhere like Buffallo Wild Wings, or a pizza chain in town, or other restaurants are some of my favorite secret shops to do. 🙂

  8. I submitted several applications for a mystery shopper job. My application was rejected 100%! I don’t know what was wrong with me… Or maybe, it was not for me. Oh well, you can’t have everything in life. Anyway, I am earning enough from my writing and blogging gigs so I guess I should be satisfied with it. 😀

    • Travis says:

      Hmm, sounds like you should check out some of the links above, Cherleen. All of the services I use simply had me sign up, read a document on their Terms and Conditions, then take a short quiz to prove I read it. Give it a try, you might find some cool shops in your area. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

  9. Renee S says:

    Thanks for the suggested sites! I like trendsource and corporate research international:

  10. Ethan says:

    If you are interested in more mystery shopping companies you can visit a page that I created:

    • Travis says:

      Thanks Ethan, I checked out your link and you have put together quite a list! I see your list includes the many (if not all) of the companies that I use. I’m looking forward to checking out some of the others to see what other opportunities I can find in my area. Thanks for sharing!

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