Fancy making a bit on the side or earning freebies? Why not become a mystery shopper?
Below you will find a list of the best UK mystery shopping companies plus tips on how to make the most of this fun and flexible side hustle.
Mystery shopping is a tactic employed by businesses to get unbiased feedback about their product or services. The data they collect will inform them whether standards are met and whether employees are doing their job.
Mystery shoppers pose as ordinary customers—buying products, talking to staff members, photographing items, and asking questions without being detected.
The first step is joining one of the many UK mystery shopping companies. You will be asked a few questions and probably required to complete a written or English proficiency test to assess whether you are capable of writing a final report.
You will then be tasked with going to shops or restaurants and evaluating the service while staying undercover. Typically you will need to report on the service (whether the staff approach you or provide you with up-selling offers) and the quality of the experience (the quality of food, and availability of stock—depending on what type of establishment you are visiting).
After your visit, you will be asked to write a report. Then it’s just a matter of getting paid.
Mystery shopping is not the only way to make extra money on the side. Here are a few more ideas:
Every company is different—while some provide challenging tasks, others have assignments that take no longer than 20 minutes.
Depending on what you’re looking to get out of the experience, here are some mystery shopper companies in the UK that you can look into.
Market Force is one of the biggest mystery shopping companies in the UK, currently employing over 400,000 mystery shoppers. They have lots of clients too which means a variety of tasks are available, starting from assessing customer service to evaluating refund policies.
The average pay is £5 plus reimbursements if you are required to make purchases—sometimes you can keep the purchase and still get reimbursed.
To become a mystery shopper with Market Force, you need to be at least 18 and proficient in English (you will be tested on this), as well as have a smartphone—all assignments, reports and pictures are completed through the company’s app.
Ipsos is a well-known name in the world of market research. This international consulting company offers a vast range of options for those interested in making a few extra quid, including online surveys and mystery shopping.
With Ipsos mystery shopping, UK shoppers get paid depending on the task. Bear in mind that some assignments such as coffee shops and restaurants might not provide payment—you will just be reimbursed for your expenses.
There are opportunities for earning more, though. For instance, you could make up to £200 in bonus payments if you complete the task before the deadline.
With over 20,000 mystery shoppers, on top of researchers and auditors, Tern is one of the leading mystery shopping companies in the UK. They not only engage a large number of shoppers but also operate in a wide range of fields, including retail, hospitality, financial services, real estate and health & wellbeing.
Like with other mystery shopper companies in the UK, Tern offers flexible working hours and provides plenty of additional freebies, ranging from free meals and drinks to new clothes and days out for the entire family. Payment is based upon the difficulty of the assignment and starts at 10 quid going up to £35 and more.
Currently Serve Legal has over 4,000 auditors in the UK and Ireland and carries out more than 150,000 audits annually, so no job shortages here. Accredited as a Youth Friendly Employer and a member of the MSPA, it is 100% safe as well.
Serve Legal only works with mystery shoppers aged 18 to 25 and aims to provide youth-centred brands with specific insight. They also run age verification checks at pubs, restaurants and supermarkets, ensuring that alcohol and cigarettes are not sold to underage customers.
The work is interesting, flexible and comes with many networking and promotion opportunities.
Related reading: Do teenagers pay taxes in the UK?
Grassroots is one of the more experienced mystery shopping companies, having worked with a huge number of international clientele for over 35 years. Plus, they specialise strictly in mystery shopping so you are sure to find an assignment that matches your interests and location.
This is also one of the best mystery shopper companies in the UK for busy professionals looking to make quick money on the side—each task takes about 30 minutes to complete and some don’t even require you to leave the house. Assignments can involve making phone calls, assessing food delivery services or visiting certain supermarkets and shops.
Interested in more working-from-home ideas? Here are a few to help you get started.
As one of the biggest platforms for flexible staff in the UK, Redwigwam partners with brands, big and small, to provide you with job openings in your area. These include sectors like hospitality, field marketing, warehouse & logistics and mystery shopping.
Assignments are typically completed within 24 hours and involve writing a full report as well as providing audio or visual proof of the visit.
The pay is lower than other mystery shopping companies in the UK, but redwigwam also reimburses you for any expenses made during the job, so you can earn a bit extra and enjoy a free coffee or meal.
Like Grass Roots, ESA Retail, part of the BVA Group, is one of the more experienced UK mystery shopping companies. Founded almost 40 years ago, today it collects 1m+ data points each week, thanks in part to their mystery shopping programme.
Mystery shoppers who sign up with ESA Retail can enjoy flexible working hours (you are in full control over your assignments), visits to various shops and establishments (including casinos and holiday destinations) as well as fast and secure payment (the money goes directly to your bank account).
Tasks can be completed in several ways including face 2 face chats, telephone conversations, social media communication and through digital channels.
BeMyEye is an app-based mystery shopping job. Essentially, you join the platform and take on missions that pique your interest. The tasks are short and simple—you normally need to photograph store shelves or interact with staff members.
On top of this, you will receive step-by-step instructions on how to do the task as well as support from the company’s team.
BeMyEye may not be one of the biggest mystery shopping companies in the UK or the highest-paying, but it doesn’t demand a lot of time and effort. It provides great opportunities for professional growth as well—many of the app’s most active users have been promoted to company staff.
Volunteer at Mystery Dining and eat out as a mystery guest at different food chains and restaurants across the UK.
To get started simply book a visit. After you are briefed on what you need to do, enjoy your meal, write a detailed report and get money for your expenses within 3 to 4 weeks. You can choose as many tasks as you like, but you must complete the report by noon the next day.
Although there aren’t any payments involved, you’ll get reimbursed for any expenses on the job. Occasionally, you might be covered for travel expenses too, if there’s a need for an immediate task assessment.
Streetbees has two main task types—mystery shopping and general stories. Usually, shopping involves paid in-store assignments like purchasing products and taking photos of both the item and the receipts.
General stories require users to take photos of what they bought or ordered. In return, they get rewarded in the form of a voucher, an entry for a prize competition or a payment.
Although Streetbees is more focused on the story aspect of the app, there are opportunities for mystery shoppers as well. The pay, however, is one of the lowest around and in most cases, you will only be able to receive vouchers and freebies instead of actual money.
Here are the most common dos and don’ts when it comes to mystery shopping in the UK.
Mystery shopping sign-ups are entirely free and open to all, so you can register with a few mystery shopping companies in the UK. This way you will have a wider selection of tasks and get engaged more frequently, which equals more money in your bank account.
Before each task you will be given instructions on how to complete it and the amount you will be paid. Most are simple, but some might have specific instructions, so ensure you are 100% clear on what needs to be done to complete the assignment.
Read the instructions carefully and double-check your assignment before completing it. Make sure it meets deadlines and requirements, otherwise you might not get paid.
Add extra comments where you can, they might earn you a bonus or even a position in a company.
Payments from mystery shopping companies across the UK are taxable, so calculate how much profit you will be left with. It might be worth it to hold out for a better-paying job than taking on several smaller assignments.
If you are asked to make a purchase, hold on to the receipt as proof so you can get reimbursed later on.
To be a mystery shopper you need a keen eye for detail, a good memory and excellent writing skills. More importantly, you must be good at keeping your cool and thinking on your feet. Approach the task with confidence and act as you normally would when out shopping or dining.
Keep in mind that most companies will not pay you if you are identified by the staff as a mystery shopper.
Not all mystery shopper companies in the UK are legit and you can easily become a victim of scams or identity theft.
These are some tell-tale signs that the company is probably fake.
Not all jobs offered will appeal to you, but it is important to accept some smaller and possibly boring assignments for the sake of experience. Also, most UK mystery shopping companies tend to engage active users more, giving you more flexibility in choosing the next assignment.
Take the time to complete the report accurately. Make sure you are concise and clear—the company may not reimburse or pay you for a poorly written report.
If you’re looking for a fun and flexible job that pays a little extra money on the side, mystery shopping could be perfect for you. On the other hand, if you need a regular job with a stable income, consider other options—you cannot make a living out of mystery shopping even if you sign up for several UK mystery shopping companies and take on multiple assignments.
On average, mystery shoppers earn about £20 per job. However, in most cases, beginners usually start at around £5, whereas some agencies pay up to £150 or £200 in bonuses. These are hard to come by, though, so when doing calculations stay in the £5 to £20 range.
In general no, but most companies will require that you own a smartphone. Most mystery shopping companies allow you to do everything in-app—from selecting the assignment to taking photos, videos or audio and writing the final report.
You could also take notes on your phone—using pen and paper might be a bit of a giveaway. Remember that staff cannot suspect you are a mystery shopper.
Some of the best UK mystery shopping companies with generous pay rates include ESA Retail and Tern, both of which pay over £30 per job. Ipsos is another great option since the company has been known to provide up to £200 in bonus payments.
Bojana is my name and writing is my game. I am a content writer from Bitola who is always interested in the latest research in almost all areas of life. I have a Bachelor’s degree in English literature and a perfectionist character, both of which help me find the most accurate data and information available. Although I have my head stuck in studies and reports most of the time, I still have a bit of free time during which I enjoy knitting and watching classic 90’s Disney movies.