Hark, the holiday shoppers are descending. Stores are filling up with last minute gift givers and the holiday shopping is hitting its peak. If you hate crowds you might wish someone would pay you to go to the mall to get your Christmas shopping done. Well, maybe someone can pay you to mystery shop! Better yet, you can also get presents for your friends and family for free by doing mystery shops at retail stores.
There are a lot of mystery shopping providers that offer shops at retail stores that include a reimbursed purchase. The key to getting these shops to work for your gift giving needs is to shop stores that sell items that your gift recipients would enjoy. Most shop reimbursement amounts are small, maybe $5 to $10, but you can often get a small thoughtful gift or stocking stuffer for that price. Maybe you will even find the perfect gift on sale! Sometimes you can luck out and snag shops that offer a higher reimbursement, usually with a higher purchase amount, and get major savings on your holiday gift budget.
Reality Based Group has several clients which are women’s clothing retailers that offer purchase reimbursement shops and pay an additional fee. Usually the shop entails asking for assistance with a purchase, trying on clothing (if applicable), and evaluating the customer service. Some shops require you to say that you are shopping for an item for yourself, hence the need to use the dressing room, in which case you should be aware of the clothing size you are buying and don’t buy something that would obviously not fit you but that your sister might adore. For men, check the requirements for each shop because some allow you to say you are buying a gift. After you complete all the shop requirements, check out small gift or jewelry items which fit inside the purchase reimbursement amount. If the staff comment on your purchase say that you couldn’t resist the cute figurine or that the sweater that you tried on just didn’t fit right. Some excellent gift choices that usually fit the reimbursable amount are books, coffee mugs, frames, dish towels, candles, calendars, hand lotion, cosmetics, and costume jewelry. If you are reimbursed $8 for a shop and paid an additional $10, you can increase your purchase amount to $18 and still get the gift for free without dipping into your holiday shopping budget.
Reality Based Group also offers lucrative and very easy coupon app stores at major retailers. These usually pay no fee but offer a higher reimbursement, usually $20 to $25. You often have to spend over the reimbursement amount to complete the shop because you are supposed to use a coupon for your purchase, say for $25 off your $75 purchase.Sometimes you are asked to shop a high end retailer and they may pay you $75 on your $500 purchase at a jewelry store or other high end shop. These type of mystery shops are great for buying gifts because you usually don’t have to interact with the salesperson other than when you checkout and they often are offered at large department stores or home good retailers which have a wide selection of giftable items. These shops usually don’t have strict purchase guidelines but be sure to check the coupon fine print and read over the shop details carefully because sometimes you cannot buy clearance or sale items.
GFK Mystery Shops offers app pay shops which is another easy retail shop with a good reimbursement amount. In these shops you have to pay for your purchase via the specified app and reimburse up to $25. These are offered at a some national department stores and usually don’t have strict purchase requirements since the shop is focused on the payment method rather than the item purchased. You usually have to take photos from your phone during the shop to show the images on the payment processing screen which can be a bit difficult to pull off so try to be discreet and turn off the sound on your phone so the salesperson doesn’t hear the camera shutter sound.
Pro tip: when mystery shopping around the holidays, especially at the end of the month and year, many schedulers are desperate to get shops completed and will offer bonuses. Keep an eye out for a flurry of emails from schedulers looking for someone to complete a shop in a tight time frame. If you can complete it, reach out to the scheduler to ask for a bonus. Often if a bonus is available they will include it in the email. If there is no bonus noted go ahead and ask. They may negotiate with you to offer a smaller bonus or just deny your request but at the very least it is always worth a shot to ask. If you don’t want to complete the shop without the bonus just wait. They may take you up on your offer if you wait a few more days and the shop is still not scheduled.
Alice Sibley is an avid mystery shopper, penny pincher, and blogger at Earning My Two Cents and Real Chic Real Chic. She lives in Louisiana with her husband, toddler, and two dogs and when she is not blogging she is enjoying re-watching old episodes of The Office and making well timed “That’s What She Said” jokes.