I was in graduate school in Winnipeg when I first heard about mystery shopping. At the time, a fellow graduate student and friend was about to undertake a secret shopping mission at Earl’s Restaurant, and he invited me to come along.
Enticed with the promise of “free” food, I was all-in.
Mystery shopping is one way to earn extra cash in your spare time. That said, it is no easy money.
The application process is often rigorous, and you should be prepared to put in a decent amount of work to write reports if you want to get paid for your efforts.
Also, the industry is rife with scammers who are looking to dupe applicants by asking them to pay a registration fee or by using some other tricks.
To find a legitimate mystery shopping company, do your research, read reviews, and never send them money.
For other opportunities to make money in Canada, check out the resources listed below:
What is Mystery Shopping?
Mystery shopping involves using “secret” or anonymous shoppers who pose as regular customers so they can assess the service provided by unsuspecting staff at a store, retailer, restaurant, car dealership, gas station, hotel, etc.
Companies pay mystery shopping companies for this service to measure the quality of service their customers are receiving and use the results to boost customer loyalty.
The qualities that mystery shoppers are asked to evaluate may vary from mission to mission depending on the insight being sought by a client, the kind of service or product being offered, and the type of assessment being applied (e.g. telephone vs. in-person mystery shops).
Top Mystery Shopping Companies and Jobs in Canada
We have listed some of the popular mystery shopping companies that recruit shoppers in Canada.
One way to identify if a mystery shopping company is legit is to check whether it is a member of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA).
You can also see if it is accredited by the Better Business Bureau (BB) and read the reviews left by other shoppers.
In addition, some of these companies are members of the Retail Council of Canada (RCC).
1. Premier Service
Premier Service has been providing mystery shopping services to Canadian businesses since 1991. It is a member of the MSPA, RCC, and the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association.
This company offers services to businesses in various categories, including retail (clothing, gas stations, furniture, stores, car dealerships), and service industries (restaurants, hotels, government agencies, and financial services).
Premier Service tests sales associates and their ability to serve customers quickly and efficiently while being knowledgeable. For example, mystery shoppers will test if clothing sales associates provide customers with a personalized shopping approach and increase units per transaction.
It pays its mystery shoppers every month using PayPal. There is no fee to sign up, and you can apply for missions immediately once approved.
You can apply for four types of missions: mystery shop, merchandising, price and data collection, and brand ambassador.
2. Shoppers Confidential
Based in Toronto and Edmonton, Shoppers Confidential was founded in 2005. It holds an A+ rating with the BBB and is a member of MSPA, RCC, WBE Canada, and Restaurants Canada.
The company serves several industries, including restaurants, retail, hospitality, automotive, government, education, and travel.
Depending on the mission, mystery shoppers get free meals, services, event tickets, or merchandise reimbursed after the report is submitted.
Shoppers are paid on the 15th of the following month in which their mission was completed. You earn between $15 and $50 per assignment, and payment is made using PayPal.
3. We Check
We Check has been around since 1997 and is based out of Ontario. The company is a member of MSPA and RCC and holds an A+ rating with the BBB.
We Check provides customer experience and satisfaction measurement services to companies and businesses worldwide, including Health Canada, Ford, and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).
Once you apply and are in the shopper database, you will get emails when mystery shop assignments are available in your area. Also, keep a lookout for shops on their Facebook and Twitter pages, Sassie job board, and MSPA job board.
Most assignments pay between $4 and $30, while some have paid shoppers as much as $100.
Shoppers are paid 30-45 days after a shop has been successfully completed, and the payment is sent using PayPal.
Lanla is a market research company based in Quebec. It was founded in 2002 and has over 200,000 mystery shoppers in Canada.
Industries served by Lanla include transportation, real estate, finance, and retail.
Shoppers earn between $10 and $40 per mission completed, and payments are processed every other week using direct deposit.
Some missions are online surveys and have no salary; however, your name is automatically entered for a draw to win cash, gift baskets, subscriptions, and more.
5. PerformaLogics (iSecretShop)
PerfomaLogics became a part of the Intouch Insight family in 2020, and its mystery shopping services are now operated under the iSecretShop brand.
Intouch Insight was founded in 1992, and its headquarters is in Ontario. They are a Canadian and US mystery shopping provider available in all states, provinces, and territories. They have an A+ rating on the BBB.
The company services various industries, including retail, restaurant, grocery, and hospitality.
The payment schedule for shoppers on this platform varies depending on the client. Payouts are securely processed through PayPal every 2nd Friday.
6. iShopFor Ipsos
Ipsos is a globally recognized leader in market research. Through its iShopFor Ipsos platform, the company offers mystery shopping services to various clients.
The tasks shoppers may be required to complete include calls, emails, chats, and audits, as well as mystery store visits, in sectors like banks, hotels, retail stores, and car dealerships.
With the Ipsos Mystery Shopping App and the iShopFor Ipsos Portal, shoppers can view all tasks available in their area.
You will need a PayPal account for payments, and shoppers must be at least 18 years old.
7. Sensors Quality Management (SQM)
SQM Inc. was founded in 1993 and provides mystery shopping and market research services around the world, including Canada.
It has an A+ rating with the BBB.
The pay for SQM representatives varies with the assignment. Some assignments pay you a flat fee and don’t require you to purchase anything, while others may include a flat fee or fee plus benefits (e.g. meal at a restaurant).
Other assignments don’t pay but allow you to save up to 50% off big-ticket items, like the cost of airfare, train fare, or bus fare, when completing travel inspection assignments.
8. Mystery Shopping Canada
Mystery Shopping Canada Inc. was founded in 1996 and has more than 58,000 mystery shoppers across the country.
The company is based in Vancouver and is not rated by the BBB.
Types of mystery shopping assignments they offer include competitor, price comparison, integrity, telephone, website, and email mystery shopping.
Shoppers earn $15 on average per assignment.
9. Market Force
Market Force was founded in 2005 and operates in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Spain.
It holds an A+ rating with the BBB and is a member of MSPA.
Shoppers can use the mobile app to complete assignments, available on iOS and Android devices.
Some places you can expect to go mystery shopping include restaurants, movie theatres, fitness facilities, grocery stores, and gas stations.
The company has over 300,000 mystery shoppers and completes more than 100,000 assignments each month.
Founded in 1986, BestMark is one of the largest mystery shopping and customer experience measurement companies. It holds an A+ rating with the BBB and is a member of the MSPA. It is based out of Minnesota and also hires shoppers in Canada.
BestMark offers three types of assignments: mystery shopping, intercept interviewing, and compliance auditing.
BestMark’s field representatives (shoppers) must be at least 18 years old. They are paid using PayPal, gift cards, or direct deposit, and payments are processed twice each month.
Shoppers get bonuses for referring friends and family, which is a nice perk that many other companies don’t offer.
11. Field Agent
Founded in 2010, Field Agent crowdsources shoppers’ smartphones to help retailers, brands, and agencies grow. They operate in 7 international markets, serving over 2,000 brands worldwide.
Shoppers can apply and download the Field Agent app, which they use to answer questions, take photos, and share opinions.
Types of jobs shoppers can complete in-app include audits, surveys, mystery shops, eye spys, scavenger hunts, and more.
Shoppers are paid via Interac e-Transfer on Tuesdays at 11 am EST. The cashout minimum is $15, but you can get up to $75 per transfer.
12. A Closer Look
A Closer Look has been around for over 25 years. The company has worked with over 200,000 mystery shoppers to date, helping businesses better understand their operations.
It offers mystery shoppers opportunities in various industries, including hotels, restaurants, residential buildings, and more.
For information on signup, payouts, and more, sign up or contact A Closer Look.
How To Become a Mystery Shopper
The application requirements vary for each company and may include the following:
- You must be at least 18 years of age
- You should have access to a smartphone or computer and internet
- You must be able to pay attention to detail and write timely, concise, and objective reports
- You must be able to conduct yourself professionally and be trustworthy
Mystery shoppers are independent contractors, and you are responsible for filing any taxes you may owe from the payments you receive.
Pros of Mystery Shopping
Mystery shopping is a great way to earn extra money on the side. It is very flexible, as you can choose the missions you complete and when to complete them. You don’t need to accept every mission, only the ones that interest you.
You get to keep any products or goods that you buy during your mystery shops, and oftentimes, you will be reimbursed. On top of earning money for the shop, you get to keep items for free!
By being a mystery shopper and completing questionnaires and reports after your shop, you are helping companies improve their customer service, marketing, and more.
Cons of Mystery Shopping
One downside of mystery shopping is that depending on your area, you may not get many missions to complete. Mystery shopping may only be worth it if you live in a big city or area where companies are doing their quality testing.
Mystery shopping won’t pay much, and sometimes it doesn’t pay at all. Don’t expect to quit your job or earn a ton of money from this side hustle.
Mystery Shopping FAQs
There are many legit mystery shopping companies in Canada. At the same time, a lot of scam operators also exist. Do your research and never pay to become a shopper.
It appears that the pay per assignment ranges from $15 to $50 on average. Some assignments pay more, but they may be few and far between. Often, shoppers get paid by PayPal, although some companies offer direct deposits as well.
You often get to keep what you buy. In the case of a meal, you are reimbursed for the meal and may also receive a fixed payment.
No, mystery shoppers should never pay for completing missions or assignments. If a company is asking you to pay a fee, they are likely a scam.
Mystery shoppers do not need any qualifications besides having a smartphone or access to the internet, the ability to remember details, be honest, remain anonymous, and in some cases, and be over 18.
For most companies, if you fail to complete a mission or do not submit the required documents or feedback, you will get a strike on your account and may not be able to continue to be a mystery shopper with that company.
Mystery shoppers almost always get paid after the mission. Payouts can be anywhere from a few days after the mission, up to a month or two.
Have you tried working as a mystery shopper, or have you been mystery shopped? Let us know about your experience in the comments.