If you’re looking for a way to make some extra money, mystery shopping might be the answer.
Mystery shopping is one of the most sought after side hustles out there because it’s easy and fun! It also allows you to get paid doing things like eating at restaurants or buying clothes in stores. Who doesn’t love that?
There are a lot of companies that offer mystery shopper jobs; however, not all mystery shopping companies are created equal. Some of them will pay you a lot, while others will try to get away with paying you peanuts.
The best mystery shopping company for you depends on the type of work you are looking for and the pay you are expecting.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about mystery shopping companies in the UK.
Mystery shopping UK companies
If you’re looking for a quick list of mystery shopping companies to check out, here are some of the best mystery shopping companies in the UK:
- Market Force
- iShopFor Ipsos
- Red Wigwam
- Mystery Dining by HGEM
- ESA Retail
- Serve Legal
- Lionbridge Online Mystery Shoppers
We’ll go into more detail on all of these further down the page.
Disclaimer: this blog uses affiliate links. That means that if you make purchase or sign up for a service through a link on this page, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.
What Is Mystery Shopping?
A mystery shopper, or sometimes known as a secret shopper, is someone that a company hires to assess their workers. A mystery shopper’s job would be to collect information from their time spent in the business, while acting as a normal shopper.
Normally, mystery shoppers aren’t hired directly by the store they are shopping at, but rather a third party.
Most businesses combine the results of mystery shopper reports and customer surveys to best know how to improve their businesses. Acting as a normal customer is the most important part of being a mystery shopper; if the workers know you are a mystery shopper, they may act differently and your report will be inaccurate.
What places can you expect to be sent to do mystery shopping? It varies by company, so there are many kinds of shops you might be assigned to:
- Shopping boutiques
- Phone or electronics shops
- And more!
Basically, any type of customer-facing business may hire mystery shoppers at some point. There are even telephone mystery shopper jobs, where you place a phone call to assess a company’s customer service line.
Sometimes, you might even be sent to a company’s competitor to see how they operate and their level of service.
Almost every type of business can benefit from a mystery shopper. It is a great opportunity to explore your local businesses and find out more about your community, while also making money by showing businesses how they can improve their services.
How Does Mystery Shopping Work?
As a mystery shopper, your job is to act as normal as possible to blend in with the other customers. You will observe and collect information based on the condition of the store you are in and the services that were provided. You are usually not hired for your opinion, just for the facts of these matters.
You may be asked to do certain things or act as a difficult customer to see how the employees would handle it. Sometimes, you may even be asked to simply call a store and follow a script.
Here is a list of some things you may be asked:
- How many employees were on the floor?
- Were you greeted? If so, how quickly?
- What products were shown to you? What was the sales pitch?
- Were you invited to join the rewards program?
- How fast was your service?
- Were the employees friendly?
- Did you witness any teamwork?
- Did you see any sales signs?
- Was the store clean?
- Were the shelves neat?
- Were all of the employees in uniform?
- Did you get the correct change and your receipt?
What you are asked to do is always changing depending on the company and what they are looking for in their employees.
How you turn in your collected information may also vary. You may have to fill out a questionnaire, write a detailed report, or record a video while you are in the store and submit it to your supervisor. You will definitely be asked to take pictures often.
Companies that use mystery shopping tend to grow more than those who do not, since they can evaluate their performance without bias. Also, in stores that use mystery shopping, employees tend to get more raises since good performance is more likely to be noticed.
Do not worry if you gave a bad review on a store, it is your job to tell the truth. It is not advised by companies to terminate employees that get a bad score— instead, this is used as an opportunity to change worker incentives to encourage better service by all employees; not just the one you reviewed.
How Much Do Mystery Shoppers Get Paid in the UK?
Now that you know what mystery shopping is and how it works, let’s get into the nitty-gritty: how much does a mystery shopper make?
Most mystery shoppers are paid by the job, not by the hour. Shoppers usually earn £8-£10 for a simple assignment, and can earn anywhere up to £100 for a more complex assessment. With some companies, however, you will not be paid but instead reimbursed for the products purchased while on the assignment.
An individual job might only take 20 minutes in store, but remember to factor in travel time, and another 20 minutes or so to fill out your report and upload photos afterwards.
Some companies also pay for travel, such as a petrol allowance, although this is more likely to be the case if a job is out of the way or difficult to fill. Some people carefully plan their days with jobs starting in one location and moving towards another, so you can walk from location to location and only need one taxi to go home at the end of the day.
With many companies, the more often you go mystery shopping, the better you will get paid. If companies see that they can rely on you, they are more likely to give you a raise and ask you to do more than one job for them. Many companies also keep back their most desirable jobs for regulars.
According to The Guardian, there are over 500,000 registered mystery shoppers in the UK. There is a lot of competition, but this doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. There are many businesses that require mystery shoppers, but even if someone is registered, they may not do much work.
Don’t be discouraged by the competition — use it to push yourself to be a better mystery shopper so that companies will choose you. Choosing a smaller company to work for may also be a better option if you are in a crowded area. With fewer workers, there will be less competition for mystery shopping jobs and different opportunities for you to choose from.
Red Flags for Scam Mystery Shopping Companies
If you see a listing requiring you to pay the mystery shopping company you’re thinking of working for, this is most likely a scam. Scam companies such as this often say that if you pay, you are shown into a realm with high-paying jobs.
You should never have to pay under any circumstances for mystery shopping certification, or to join a mystery shopping company’s website or job board.
There are more than enough legit UK mystery shopping out there, such as those covered in this post. So don’t ever pay for ‘membership’ when you can find legit work for free.
Now that you know some of the red flags for scam mystery shopping companies, let’s get into some companies I have reviewed and consider the best options if you’re looking to become a mystery shopper.
Best Mystery Shopping Companies in the UK
I took the time to read reviews for many mystery shopping businesses, and among them, these are the most high-quality and guaranteed to pay if you complete jobs for them.
Each company operates differently and may have different requirements, so the best one for you would depend on your work style and what opportunities you look forward to the most.
Market Force is one of the UK’s most well-known mystery shopping websites. With more than 300,000 users, they have a massive amount of mystery shopping jobs with a wide range of options, which allows you to tailor your experience.
The main goal of Market Force is to show how businesses and customers are changing over time, and how businesses need to adapt to their customers’ needs. This company is customer focused— meaning, they depend on and trust you.
Market Force has offices worldwide:
- United Kingdom
- United States
This mystery shopping company also reimburses most things, including travel expenses, although this needs to be agreed before accepting a job.
You can choose how far you are willing to travel because they are such a big platform with so many businesses. However, with this large size does come with competition.
On the other hand, it is extremely easy to accept jobs at the push of a button, through the online portal or app, so if you see a job you are interested in, it is easy to secure it before another mystery shopper can swoop in.
Market Force have a lot of jobs with fast food chains, pubs and so on. However, in my experience most of these jobs only pay enough to cover your food and you won’t make a profit on top of that.
So if you eat out at these kinds of places a lot anyway, it’s a great way to get your meals paid for. But if you actually need to make money, you’re better off looking for other opportunities.
Their app is very easy to use and allows you to see what jobs are available to you by looking at a map. By clicking a shop shown on the map, you can see an estimate of how long it might take and accept it directly from there. Your reports can also be sent from the app, making it super convenient and easy to become a mystery shopper with Market Force.
Red Wig Wam
Though not only a mystery shopping agency, Red Wig Wam does provide mystery shopping work. They also provide other forms of temporary work that may suit you. They will notify you when a job becomes available in your area, and you can set the distance you are willing to travel and get notifications within that zone.
One great thing about Red Wig Wam is that they sometimes have online shopping jobs!
There is a lot of competition on this website, and most listings will be taken as soon as they are put up. But if you pay attention and watch for notifications carefully, you will be able to make money from this service.
It is also a lot easier to get jobs from this company if you are in the suburbs or a slightly rural area as there is less competition. This means you may have to travel, but depending on the pay of the jobs you choose, it may be worth it.
A great benefit of this service is how you are paid. With most mystery shopping companies, you would be acting as a freelancer, but with. Red Wigwam you are an employee. Not only do you get real payslips, but Red Wig Wam takes out the taxes for you.
Paying taxes can be a big headache, so this is definitely a great opportunity for you. Not many companies do this, so this is one of their biggest assets. They also pay more per job compared to other mystery shopping agencies.
Red Wig Wam wants more than just to help you find mystery shopping work… They want to revolutionize the way the world sees work and how everyone should have a flexible work schedule. They say it is your time and your life, and you should decide when to work and when to spend time with your friends and family.
Though it is listed as ‘temporary work’ due to the nature of the jobs, Red Wig Wam doesn’t believe in temporary work— they want you as a team member to be a part of a community of workers who support one another. They have over 130,000 members.
People who use Red Wig Wam tend to enjoy the experience and the work, rating it at 4.5 out of 5 stars. People say they are easy to work for and they get paid well and on time.
Serve Legal is a company that makes sure businesses are performing ID checks when it comes to age-restricted merchandise. They perform over 100,000 audits per year throughout the UK and Ireland, and will employ you even if you are underage (in fact, this is a requirement for some jobs!)
They are an ethical company and have a hand in making sure your community is safe.
Not only does the information you give help the police, it also helps the businesses know which employees need retraining, as giving restricted items to a minor can lead the business to pay some hefty fines. Don’t be afraid to be honest about if you were asked for ID; this is for the safety of everyone. The company would rather retrain these employees than let them go.
Though they are focused on ID checks, there are also other mystery shopper opportunities; checking the quality of customer service and cleanliness of the store. More opportunities like this become available the older you are, and you may only operate as a normal mystery shopper in age-restricted environments if you are over the age of twenty.
You need to be age 16 to 19 for the age related checks. This is a great example of a unique and legit job for teenagers.
They encourage you to visit a wide variety of businesses and to explore your local culture. You get paid every two weeks, and you get to choose how little or how much you work. It is just as flexible as the other companies on this list. Your travel expenses, like petrol for your personal vehicle or taxi fees, are also covered by the company.
You are encouraged to apply even if you are in school or if you have another job but would like extra cash. Their flexibility is something they are very proud of. There is no obligation to work in any weekly period either, so if you don’t have time, that’s okay. The only thing is if you accept a job, you are expected to complete it within the deadline.
There is also room for growth in this company— you may have the opportunity to become a manager or a trainer. They are accredited by the MSPA (Mystery Shopping Professional Association) and Youth Friendly Employer. On their website is a wall of fame, showing the feats of their employees and how those who work for them are appreciated.
One of the biggest mystery shopping companies in the UK, iShopFor Ipsos is great if you live in the suburbs as they have more focus on smaller businesses. There is not a lengthy application process, which makes joining easy. They pay well compared to other companies.
The only downside to this company is that your reports have to be very detailed; they want you to work for the great pay! Reports take a bit of time, but it is worth it as the pay is greater than other companies, and the tasks are still easy.
You do get reimbursed for all purchases— make sure to keep your receipt so you can send it to them!
As with other companies, some jobs on iShopFor Ipsos do not pay but instead cover your meal or your product. Double check the job listing before accepting to make sure you are getting what you are looking for, be it a specific product or money.
Like many other companies, they are eager to promote how flexible they are and how easy it is to work for them even if you have other responsibilities. There are only 18,000 users, so it should be relatively easy for you to find jobs in your area.
There are different types of tasks available, and it is easy to pick and choose what pays best, what is easiest, or what you are most familiar with. However, you do need to be eighteen to apply and need a smartphone to download their app. They are also very strict about deadlines, so make sure you submit your report in time!
Not only can you visit stores and make a purchase, but you can also conduct calls or send emails right from your home! You get paid every week via direct deposit.
Mystery Dining by HGEM
If you are looking for a company that mainly focuses on food, then Mystery Dining by HGEM is the one for you! However, there is a downside to this company. Though they pay for your food and travel, you usually don’t make much money.
If you are someone who really likes to eat out and try new foods and places, this may be the company for you. On the other hand, it isn’t just fun eating. You have to make a very detailed report about the experience.
There is also a lot of competition; there is a rigorous application process, and many people are denied. However, if you have experience as a mystery shopper or are a great writer, the application should be easy for you.
The reports need to be submitted by noon the next day after your visit, so be sure to remember in the morning or complete it as soon as you are done eating!
The more you work for them, the more expensive the restaurants you can go to. You are awarded a reviewer rating depending on how many jobs you have completed and the quality of your reports. Reach gold, and you can enjoy free meals at five star restaurants!
As with other companies, they are very flexible and do not have a requirement for how much you have to work. It is based on your time and when you are available. They may need to call you the day after to clarify some details, and you need to answer to be able to be reimbursed which may be inconvenient.
Unfortunately, they do take a while to process your reimbursements; about three or four weeks. If you eat out often anyway, this may be a great opportunity to get some money back, but if you can’t afford to eat out, this probably isn’t the best option for you.
ESA Retail is a well known market research company in the retail sector. They provide all kinds of services to retail businesses, such as mystery shopping, retail audits, and customer experience measurement.
Since they are such a huge company, you will find a full range of mystery shopping tasks here. As well as typical shopping jobs, you might be asked to visit a restaurant, casino, or even go on holiday!
They also have many phone based tasks. These can be a short as five minutes to complete, and of course you can do them from home. They also have many clients in the financial sector. For these tasks, they would typically send you a recording device which you will use to record your conversation in the bank or shop and then send back to ESA. This is so that the client can ensure that staff are compliant with legal requirements in the sector.
It’s easy to sign up online. Once your application has been approved, you’ll receive regular emails when there are tasks in your area. Then you simply have to go the website to accept.
This company doesn’t pay transport costs, so be sure you are happy with the fee and any expenses before accepting a job.
ESA Retail have been active in the UK for 35 years and are accredited by a number of mystery shopping and market research bodies. So you can feel secure that you’re working for a trustworthy and legit mystery shopping company.
They pay monthly by bank transfer. You must be 18 or over to sign up.
Lionbridge is a company better known for AI, internet content and localisation work. But they have recently started recruiting for mystery shoppers in the UK and elsewhere.
The best thing about working as a mystery shopper for Lionbridge is that all the jobs are online! No more travelling all the way across town just for a 20 minute job. You can shop online from the comfort of your home, and get paid for it!
You will be expected to buy apps or physical products based on ads shown online, and then write about your experience compared to the advert.
Unusually for a mystery shopping job, this position pays an hourly rate rather than a job rate. Lionbridge Online Mystery Shoppers earn 13 USD per hour, which is around £9.50. You should be able to expect between 5 and 10 hours work per month.
Mystery Shopping Apps
In addition to all the traditional mystery shopping companies listed above, in recent years a huge wave of mystery shopping apps have sprung up.
These apps are not technically just for mystery shopping – they are often called ‘task apps’ because they give you all kinds of little tasks. But the core type of work is auditing products and displays in stores, which has many similarities with mystery shopping.
A typical job on one of these apps would be to visit a particular shop, locate a particular product, make a note of whether the product is in stock and displayed correctly, and take some photos of the area.
The great thing about these apps is that you complete all the tasks on your phone, while you’re in the shop. You don’t have to go home and type up a lengthy report as with some other companies.
Sometimes you would also have to leave a short voice recording with your impressions.
These apps typically pay £5-£10 for a 15-20 minute job. A fantastic rate, especially if you can pick up some tasks while you’re already out in town, and you don’t need to travel!
The availability of these jobs does depend on the area, but if you’re lucky enough to live somewhere with lots of work, you can make a killing.
Here are a few mystery shopping apps to download:
- Field Agent
Some of these tend to have work in particular cities or areas of the country, but they won’t all work for everyone. I recommend downloading as many as possible and checking in daily for a couple of weeks until you get a feel for which ones work best in your area.
FAQs on mystery shopping UK
How much do you get paid for mystery shopping?
Mystery shopping is usually paid by the job, rather than an hourly or monthly wage. The pay varies depending on the complexity of the job. A typical fee might be £8-£10 for a short assignment. This would take around 20 minutes in store, plus the same amount of time to submit a report afterwards. Some jobs don’t pay a fee but instead simply cover the cost of food, experiences or other goods that you are required to buy.
What is the best mystery shopping company to work for?
The best mystery shopping company to work for depends on your needs and wants. If you want to experience dining in luxury restaurants for free, and you’re not bothered about making a profit, then Mystery Dining by HGEM might be the best company for you! If you want to work from home and earn a steady rate, you should apply for companies that offer internet or phone based mystery shopping jobs such as Lionbridge or ESA Retail.
Which mystery shopping companies are legitimate?
All of the mystery shopping companies listed in this article are legitimate. Rest assured that you will be paid fairly for your work through any of these companies. To avoid mystery shopping scams, never pay any company that promises to find you work.
Why Become a Mystery Shopper?
Mystery shopping is great because not only do you get to choose how much you work, but that work is flexible. You get to choose what jobs to accept, how far you are willing to travel, and what price you are willing to do a job for.
You can avoid places you don’t like, and visit stores you have always wanted to go to. You will probably find places you have never heard of; visiting them can be a fun experience and help you discover your town.
When you’re a mystery shopper, you don’t have set hours, so you can work as much or as little as you want. Some people do it full time, though most do it part time. It is the definition of choice.
You also get to go to a wide variety of places, some you never would have gone to otherwise. You get to meet people, interact with other customers, and have good conversations. Some people do mystery shopping solely for the social aspect.
Being that the vast majority of companies reimburse you for the items you purchase, mystery shopping is also a great way to get free products. It is a great opportunity to stock up on your favourite things and also try new things you never thought to try, like new types of food!
Visiting places you never thought to go is also a great way to grow as a person and expand your knowledge and view of your hometown.
Best mystery shopping companies UK: final thoughts
If you are looking for a fun side hustle to make money outside of your full-time job, mystery shopping may be the perfect opportunity.
Mystery shoppers have flexible hours and can work as little or as much as they want to meet their needs. There is no risk in trying it out! There are many great companies that can help you find work, but which one you should choose depends on your needs and what you are looking for in a job. We hope this post on the best mystery shopping companies in the UK helped you narrow down your options.
Do you think that being a mystery shopper could be something that would interest you?