There is no such thing as a “typical” mystery shopping fee. The requirements for each shop are different, and so are each company’s policies. Pay rates for secret shoppers can range from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars, especially when the value of reimbursements is included.
Many times when you are reimbursed for a purchase that has value you will receive only a small additional fee or no fee at all. For example, if you receive free meals, a hair cut, a vision examination, or other benefit, your fee may be from $0 to $10.
You will be told what fee you will receive and what the available reimbursement is when the shop is offered to you. You decide if it is worthwhile for you to do it. If a significant portion of the compensation is reimbursement based, and the required purchase is not of value to you, you might not want to do the shop.
As an example, your compensation for shopping a vision care provider might be a free eye exam, a discount on glasses or contact lenses, and a fee such as $10. If you don’t need a vision examination or new glasses, it might not be worthwhile for you to do the shop just for the fee. On the other hand, if you are due for an eye exam, the value you receive could make this very attractive to you.
If a purchase is required, you will pay for it out of pocket and receive your reimbursement when you are paid for the shop. It can take a few days to several weeks to get paid, with three to six weeks being typical. Using a credit card to pay (if allowed) gives you more time before you have to come up with the cash. Many times, you will have your reimbursement from the mystery shopping company before you have to pay your credit card bill.
Restaurant reimbursements may range from $5 or $10 for a fast food shop to $150 or more for a fine dining shop. Many buffet or full service restaurants will reimburse $20 to $50. The reimbursement level is based on the cost of meals at that restaurant, and will usually cover reasonable costs for two people. You won’t be paid more than you spend, so if the maximum reimbursement is $40 and you spend $38, you’ll get $38. Your reimbursement usually includes the tip in a full service restaurant.
Many retail shops don’t include a purchase reimbursement. You may be asked to make a return of the item purchased and report on the return transaction. Some retail shops include a token reimbursement, such as $2 to $5, so you can make a small purchase. However, others will include greater reimbursement or a significant discount on your purchase. For example, you might receive 50% of your purchase amount up to a set limit.
Shops that require a purchase of services or other intangibles, such as salons, movie theaters, dry cleaners, auto repair shops, etc. will reimburse for a specified purchase. For example, when shopping a salon you might be reimbursed for a shampoo, cut and style or blow dry, but not for getting your hair colored or permed.
Don’t assume that a purchase will be reimbursed. Always look at the shop guidelines. If it is not clear to you what will be paid for, ask.
When you receive a fee in addition to your purchase reimbursement the amount will depend on factors such as how much time is required to do the shop and complete the report and if any special expertise or training is required. You may receive a bonus for doing a rush job when someone else canceled, or for doing a shop that is hard to assign.
Fees for fee-only shops start at about $10 for a very simple shop and may go up to $20, $50, $100 or more. The fee is usually based on how much time you must spend doing the shop, how simple or complex the report is, if any special expertise or experience is required, and the difficulty of finding shoppers to do the assignment. For example, the fee for a bank shop might be anywhere in the above range, depending on what is required of the shopper.
Fees for narrative reports or reports requiring extensive comments are usually higher than for reports that require you to complete a check-off form with just a few comments. Video shoppers often receive higher fees than shoppers who do standard written reports. Even though a video shopper usually does not have to write a report, the special expertise and training required to complete a quality video shop command a higher fee.