I learned about mystery shopping when I was first researching side hustles in Canada to boost my income.
It turns out there is such a thing as a free lunch. Thanks to mystery shopping in Canada, you can eat in restaurants and get paid to do so. The concept behind mystery shopping, also called secret shopping is that business owners ask you to assess the customer service quality of their businesses.
For example, if the food at the restaurant is terrible or the service is slow, the restaurant owners/managers want to know about it.
If cashiers are not tending to the cash registers at the retail store or the changing rooms in shops are cluttered, those shop owners want to know about it.
If the hairdresser is too busy talking to her friends rather than taking care of you, the shop owner will want to know.
Simply put, business owners and business managers pay you to see how well their businesses do or don’t operate through your eyes.
What is Mystery Shopping?
Mystery shopping is a method of evaluating the quality of customer service.
When the manager walks into the store or restaurant, every employee makes darn sure the boss doesn’t think they’re slacking their duties. As a result, the boss may never see how their customers are really being treated by their employees in their absence.
That’s where mystery shoppers come in.
The secret shopper acts anonymously as a regular customer (“undercover agent”) and reports about things as they are: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Every mystery shopping job has specific shopping assignments.
For example, you may be asked to go into Walmart to the pet supplies section and ask an employee for assistance to find something in a department on the other side of the store. According to the scenario, the employee is expected to take you directly to the item you want, no matter how far away the object is.
Or you may be asked to go into a fast-food restaurant and ask about a specific product on the menu. The employee is expected to answer all of your questions about that product.
You get the picture.
A few companies hire mystery shoppers directly, but in most cases, the businesses recruit people as contractors via mystery shopping platforms that connect secret shoppers with businesses.
How Much Do Mystery Shoppers Get Paid in Canada?
The compensation for mystery shopping in Canada varies based on the complexity of information that the company wants you to collect and the amount of time it’s expected you to take.
Realistically speaking, a mystery shop’s pay ranges between CA$10 to CA$40. On top of that, you often get reimbursed for your purchases, whether it’s service, meal or merchandise.
In other cases, you may not be asked to buy anything at all but to fill out the questionnaire concerning what you found when you went on your mystery shopping mission.
Usually, you’ll get paid for secret shopper jobs via direct deposit, PayPal or gift card around 2-4 weeks after you complete the mystery shopping assignment.
You’ll also need to forward your purchase receipt to your mystery shopping employer, so always keep your receipts. The drawback is that it takes 30 to 90 days to get reimbursed.
Mystery shopping won’t make you rich, but it’s a great way to get free meals, products and services, especially if you enjoy shopping.
Do Mystery Shoppers Get Paid Upfront?
Mystery shoppers typically don’t get paid upfront. You’ll have to pay for the item from your own pocket. The company will reimburse you after you complete your mystery shopping report.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Mystery Shopper?
As no special qualification nor previous work experience is required, anyone can sign up for the mystery shopping jobs. However, you should have certain soft skills to do the job correctly.
First, you need to go into a business with an open mind, with no good or bad expectations.
Secondly, you need to be able to blend in with customers, and act naturally at all times, so that you don’t stand out to the staff. This means keeping your temper even if the service is terrible and saving your comments for your review.
Another valuable skill is attention to detail. Before you even enter the restaurant, you should pay attention to all the little things.
For example, is the open sign turned on? Is there a big patch of ice by the front door? Did someone greet you when you entered?
Mystery shopping jobs are usually tailored to the client’s specifications. If you don’t like being told what to do or can’t follow instructions, this probably isn’t the right job for you.
You need to read, study and follow instructions thoroughly to carry them off as naturally and efficiently as possible.
Making notes while you’re at a site will make it look suspicious, so you also need to have a good memory.
Ideally, you should fill out the questionnaire as soon as possible after your shopping visit.
The ability to meet deadlines is also essential. For example, there may be a two or three-week visit period to get the job done, but quite often, the time frame is a lot less.
How Do I Become a Secret Shopper in Canada?
Becoming a shopper is pretty straightforward. Here’s the step-by-step breakdown of the process.
Step #1 Sign Up with Companies of Your Choice
First, you need to apply as a mystery shopper at specific online platforms. (Check the list of companies below)
You can also find some jobs listed on the Official Canada Mystery Shopping FB Group.
After you sign up, you’ll have access to the database of various mystery shopping jobs.
Most platforms operate on a first-come, first-served basis.
Step #2 Search the Database and Accept Your First Mystery Shop
Once you accept the assignment, follow the instructions and visit the chosen location. You’ll get a list of tasks to perform, questions to ask, details to observe, and more.
Step #3 Complete a Task and Write an Objective Report
After completing your mystery shopping visit, submit your shopper’s report and get paid. The reviews may vary in complexity, from filling in a few checkboxes to full written reports.
You could be shopping for great companies such as Canadian Tire, Tim Hortons, Home Depot, Pizza Hut and more.
You can work as a mystery shopper just about anywhere in Canada. But of course, you’ll find more opportunities in major Canadian cities.
What Are Some Legit Mystery Shopping Companies in Canada?
If you’ve read this far and are still interested in becoming a mystery shopper, then the next step is to find the best companies that are recruiting. You can register for multiple companies to have more options available.
Here’s a list of Mystery Shopping Canada Companies:
1. Premier Service
Premier Service is one of the top mystery shopping companies in Canada, with over 20 years of experience.
The company is a member of the Retail Council of Canada and MSPA. They also ranked on the PROFIT100 list as one of the fastest-growing companies in Canada.
With Premier Service, you’ll receive your payment via Paypal on the 18th of each month for the assignments completed the previous month. Premier Service also covers all the Paypal fees, so you don’t have to worry about any deductions from your hard-earned cash.
They offer jobs across Canada in many industries, such as retail, furniture & appliances, clothing, automotive services, etc.
2. Shoppers Confidential
Shoppers Confidential is an accredited company based in Toronto. They have been in business since 2005.
You can find job opportunities in various categories, such as automotive, hospitality, retail, entertainment, and more. They offer competitive pay via Paypal or direct deposit.
3. A Closer Look
A Closer Look is another excellent mystery shopping company with over 25 years of experience in the industry. They specialize in restaurants, hotels, senior living, etc.
Pay is generally only in the form of reimbursements.
4. Sensors Quality Management (SQM)
SQM has provided mystery shopping services in more than 40 countries worldwide, including Canada, since 1993.
They offer various jobs across Canada, such as retail, hospitality, automotive and financial.
5. Mystery Shopping Canada
Mystery Shopping Canada specializes in various shopping programs, such as in-store mystery shopping, competitor shopping, price comparison shopping, integrity shopping, telephone shopping, online and email shopping to evaluate customer satisfaction.
The average shopping assignment at Mystery Shopping Canada will pay CA$15 per store.
6. Market Force
Market Force has one of their headquarters in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The company has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau and is listed on MSPA.
They provide a mobile app called Eyes on, which makes browsing for assignments more convenient.
You can expect to do shopping assignments for restaurants, health and wellness, cinemas, fitness, financial services, gaming, and more.
7. Field Agent
With the Field agent app, you can collect information about your in-store customer experience and get paid.
Field Agent operates in Canada, the United States, Mexico, Ecuador, the UK, Spain, South Africa
You’ll get paid via Interact e-transfer. The minimum cashout amount is CA$15.
Ipsos is another leading company in the mystery shopping world.
You get paid by PayPal for completing various tasks in sectors such as banks, insurance companies, hotels, hotels, retail stores, etc.
They also have an app available.
Besides in-person visits, you can also get gigs to work from home. For example, making mystery calls, chats, emails and rarely audits to report the quality of customer services provided by various companies.
Lanla is a company based in Quebec that has been operating for over 20 years.
With Lanla, you can earn between CA$10 and CA$40 per gig.
Most of the assignments are available in Quebec. They cooperate with businesses from banks, insurance, insurance companies, restaurants, transportation, etc.
10. Amusement Advantage
Amusement Advantage provides many mystery shopping opportunities that allow you to have fun while making money. With thousands of locations across North America (the US and Canada), you can find a gig near you and start earning extra income right away.
This company was founded in 1997 and had been working exclusively with the amusement industry since then. This market niche includes theme parks, amusement parks, water parks, family entertainment centers, bowling centers, skating centers, zoos, aquariums and many others.
Payments for completed mystery shops are made via PayPal in 30-45 days.
IntelliShop is a mystery shopping company in the US and Canada.
They offer job opportunities in various categories such as retail, grocery, banking & finance, food service, hospitality & entertainment.
Payments are made through PayPal.
The money you can earn from assignments ranges from CA$10 to CA$50, depending on the complexity.
You can also increase your earnings with iSecretShop by acquiring their certification.
iSecretshop has a user-friendly mobile app with opportunities available worldwide, mainly in the UK, US and Canada.
With PrestoShopper, you can take on Insta-Shops, MysteryShops, and LiveShops.
For InstaShops and MysteryShops, you’ll receive payment via PayPal, or you can choose to be paid by Amazon gift card.
PrestoShopper has a mobile app with jobs available within US and Canada.
14. Second to None
Second to None has been around since 1989, so it has solid experience in the mystery shopping industry in the US and Canada.
You can get paid via direct bank transfer or PayPal.
It has a mobile app called ShopperHub.
How Will I Be Offered Jobs?
Some companies will send an email out to mystery shoppers. Others post them on their websites randomly, so it’s worth regularly checking to see what’s new.
Can Mystery Shopping Be a Full-Time Job?
While certain mystery shopping providers may promise you the potential to earn a full-time salary, such cases are rare.
In reality, most mystery shoppers make part-time or supplemental income through these gigs. It can be a fun way to get freebies but not a way to make a living.
Do Mystery Shoppers Keep What They Buy?
Yes, mystery shoppers get to keep what they buy.
What Are the Advantages of a Mystery Shopper?
Mystery shopping can be a fun side hustle and a great way to earn extra money.
You often get to keep free items and services.
Mystery shoppers don’t need special skills or qualifications, so it’s a relatively easy industry to get into.
Another benefit is flexibility. You can choose when you want to work and which mystery shopping jobs you’ll accept.
Moreover, some mystery shops can be done from the comfort of your home.
What Are the Disadvantages of a Mystery Shopper?
The disadvantage of mystery shopping is that you don’t get cash upfront to make your purchases. In addition, it can take between 30 to 90 days to get your reimbursement.
Moreover, you’re only guaranteed payment if your shopper’s report has been performed satisfactorily. So your payment largely depends on your performance.
Besides the cost of the items you buy, there is also a transportation cost for your fuel.
While being a secret shopper is a fairly easy job and a quick way to make money, it can be pretty time-consuming. It’s not just your regular visit to the shop. You’ll need to spend quite a bit observing all the details and consequently writing a thorough report.
Another disadvantage is that you have to file your own taxes as an independent contractor.
Do Mystery Shoppers Have to Pay Taxes?
Mystery shoppers are independent contractors. Therefore, you won’t receive a T4 slip at the end of the year and won’t have any deductions from your mystery shopping paychecks.
A company usually sends you T4A only if you earn over a certain threshold. Some companies have a minimum threshold of CA$500 in one year of mystery shopping.
What Is Included In A Good Mystery Shopping Report?
A professionally written mystery shopping report must be objective. Being objective, truthful and detailed is a vital part of a successful mystery shopping program.
In other words, don’t give your opinions, just explain what happened as if you were a camera filming it. Cameras don’t have opinions. They just observe and record what happened.
Thanks to this report, the business client gets valuable insight into the main areas for improvement and the business’s strengths and weaknesses.
Each report is going to be different based on the goals of the shop visit; however, here’s a look at some key points to include in your report:
- The names of staff and products
- Areas for improvement
- Overall summary of your mystery shop visit
What was the quality of service? What was your first impression?
Was the staff friendly and approachable?
When and what time of day was the visit?
How many customers were waiting in line for checkout in front of you?
How long did it take to get first approached after you entered the store?
The better your reports, the easier it’ll be to land more future jobs. A good mystery shopper can be given a better rating and priority for a job if multiple candidates apply.
How to Avoid Mystery Shopping Scams?
Mystery Shopping has been an effective market research tool for over 80 years, but that doesn’t stop scammers from taking advantage of the industry.
Before you sign up with any company, vet them out with Better Business Bureau and run them through the BBB Scam Tracker. Or simply type in their (business name plus scam) in Google and see what comes up.
Another great resource is the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) and its Scam Alerts page.
MSPA is the international trade association of the mystery shopping and customer service quality industry which encompasses three main regions – MSPA Americas, MSPA Europe & Africa and MSPA Asia/Pacific.
All legitimate companies should be listed on MSPA.
Additionally, some of these mystery shopping companies are members of the Retail Council of Canada (RCC).
You can also check the company’s reviews if they’re available.
It’s a good idea to use the company link provided on the MSPA site, as scammers are known to imitate reputable companies.
As a rule of thumb, never pay anyone to mystery shop or to be included in a mystery shopper database to gain access to mystery shop projects.
And rule number two is never cashing an unsolicited cheque. No legit company will send you thousands of dollars and trust you to send most of it back, no matter how real the check looks.