Everything you need to know about mystery shopping in the UK

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Everything you need to know about mystery shopping in the UK

I love mystery shopping, and every month it makes a hefty chunk of our online income! Mystery shopping not only a way to make extra money, but it is also great for the free items we get, which in turn helps to reduce our budget elsewhere. We have used mystery shopping to purchase groceries, toiletries and even to help with Christmas shopping. Here is everything you need to know about mystery shopping in the UK, including a list of my favourite companies.

What is mystery shopping?

Mystery shopping is a tool used by companies to evaluate their quality of service. Imagine a store knowing that a regional manager would be visiting the store – the store would be on “best behaviour” and the manager wouldn't know where the store is failing and where they are excelling.

Companies employ outside mystery shopping agencies to recruit mystery shoppers to carry out assignments. These shoppers will act like a normal customer and look at certain aspects of the service they receive. The shopper then completes a report after the assignment and receives a payment for doing so.

Examples of mystery shopping jobs in the UK

These are three examples of mystery shopping tasks I have completed:

  1. Visiting a popular fast food restaurant, timing how long my order took to arrive, checking that the condiments area was well stocked and visiting the bathroom to check for cleanliness.
  2. Recording a phone call to a hotel whilst booking a room; going to the hotel overnight with dinner for two and then breakfast for two the following morning.
  3. Calling a business school to register interest in a course they were offering. I then had to wait two working days to see if the business school contacted me again to close the sale.

What I've had from mystery shopping in the UK

I have been mystery shopping for years now, so it would take me ages to list everything I have ever enjoyed from mystery shopping. Here are a few photos from Instagram

A photo posted by Emma (@alditoharrods) on

Mystery shopping is awesome! I got all this for free AND £30!

A photo posted by Emma (@alditoharrods) on

If you aren't mystery shopping yet, why not?

A photo posted by Emma (@alditoharrods) on

Mystery shopping is so hard

A photo posted by Emma (@alditoharrods) on

Mystery shopping online or over the phone

As well as shopping in popular high street stores or restaurants, mystery shopping is also conducted over the phone or online. There are mystery shopping companies who only focus on online assignments, or you can find these mystery shops amongst traditional assignments.

Mystery shopping companies

There are so many mystery shopping companies out there, knowing where to start can be a minefield. Below I have listed tons of UK based mystery shopping companies, but first I want to make a special mention to my favourite companies.

Market Force

I have completed hundreds of jobs for Market Force, and they are a great company to sign up for. With lots of clients, you are sure to recognise many of them. You are able to select a few areas, perhaps where you live and where you work, and search for jobs. I would strongly recommend that you join Market Force as your first mystery shopping company.

Grassroots Mystery Shopping

Grassroots are another firm favourite here, and I have completed over 50 jobs with them. Ranging from getting my groceries free to test out click and collect to asking about travel currency, the jobs have been varied and well paid.

Red WigWam

Red WigWam may be the new company on the block, but both Tony and I have made lots of money with them lately. At the moment they seem to be focused on one supermarket, but this might just be the area that we are in. They send detailed pay slips and take care of your tax, leaving you with your take home pay.


If you are looking to exclusively mystery shop online, then register with e-digital! E-digital has regular mystery shopping including purchasing items online (reimbursed) and testing apps. You will need to invoice them monthly once your balance has reached the payment threshold.

Related posts:

Other recommended mystery shopping companies

Mystery shopping apps

Along with the companies listed above, there are a ton of smart phone apps that pay you for mystery shopping. My favourites include:

If you are interested in using your iPhone to make some cash then check out my book, 50 iPhone Apps To Earn Cash, just 99p at Amazon.

Mystery shopping and tax

You will need to declare your mystery shopping earnings and pay any relevant tax on your earnings. I have written about declaring your extra income to HMRC to help guide you. Remember that you can offset any travel you do at a rate of 45p per mile.

Mystery Shopping hints & tips

  • When you apply for mystery shopping companies, they will most likely ask you to write up a report or list why you think you would make a good mystery shopper. If you save this for your next application then you will save time.
  • Be sure to read through the brief carefully and do some research beforehand. Sometimes the reimbursement you are given does not cover the item(s) you are required to purchase. This is fine if you were planning on going there anyway or you are looking to get some money off a purchase, but not okay if your sole aim is to make extra money.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for travel expenses. Sometimes if an assignment has been difficult to place then you might be able to ask for an increased fee or your travel expenses paid.
  • Don't talk about your assignments. Most, if not all, mystery shopping companies don't allow you to mention their clients

So there you have it, everything you need to know about mystery shopping in the UK! If you have any further questions then please leave them in the comments below.

Everything you need to know about mystery shopping in the UK

7 Comments on “Everything you need to know about mystery shopping in the UK”

  1. Thank you so much for this Emma. We used to be regular mystery shoppers a few years ago when we lived in the big city. It is something we have wanted to get back into so will be reading this post in great detail.
    It was very enjoyable and we have had some funny moments too!

  2. Thanks for the list of UK companies. Most of the sites based in the United States don’t have a good resource for shops overseas (where i travel frequently).
    If and of your US readers stumble over here and need a good list of US mystery shopping companies, I found this site to be helpful: http://bestmysteryshopping.howtosecretshop.com/
    Thanks again. I look forward to eating my way through the UK via mystery shopping on my next trip!

  3. Thanks for this, Emma. Great info! Mystery shopping is great for a bit of side income, plus it lets me indulge my shopping habit without actually spending my own money.

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