If spending a day in a mall or grocery store is your idea of a great time, you should know that you can get paid to shop.

More than a half dozen sites enlist part-time shoppers to either purchase things for others or evaluate the purchase experience. Some of them pay well too.

Where can you get paid to shop?

Mystery shopping

A wide array of consumer experience companies enlist mystery shoppers to evaluate how well company employees handle customers. Depending on the assignment, you can get paid in cash, merchandize, meals or some combination of all three.

However, mystery shopping companies are not all alike. Some offer relatively pleasant work that’s reasonably paid, while others find every excuse to not pay at all.

Among the best options for mystery shoppers is a site called Service Evaluation Concepts. Service Evaluation Concepts pays between $15 and $100 per gig. In some cases, the shopper will also get merchandize — often alcohol or tobacco — as part of the shop.

All shops require some unpaid training that involves reading about what the client is trying to accomplish and taking a quiz to ensure you understood the material. However, the training isn’t extensive and the gig pay appears to take the unpaid time into account.

Mystery meals

If you’re a foodie, who loves to eat out at nice places, you should also know about EyeSpy. This mystery shopping firm specializes in hospitality, so most “shops” involve eating and drinking in nice restaurants or ordering in from DoorDash.

The downside with EyeSpy is the meal is your compensation. In most cases, you do not get a cash payment — only reimbursement for what you spent. That said, the restaurant shops often involve going to nice places, ordering drinks and a full meal, including appetizers and dessert. If you love dining out, this job compensates you at a nice hourly equivalent in food and drink. We estimate that the value of what you get per hour is in the range of $35 – $50.

Other mystery shopping

Notably, every mystery shopping firm has a specialty, which you’ll see in the type of shops they most frequently assign. Some are more retail oriented — having shoppers buy shoes, music or movies in a retail setting. Others specialize in movie theaters, spas or business services.

Because mystery shopping is generally not highly paid, a lot of the value of participating in these gigs is the gig itself. You love movies? Consider Marketforce, whose mystery shoppers are often given assignments in theaters. (But keep a close eye on the rules. One misstep with this site and your payment is in jeopardy.)

Need an oil change? SecretShopper has a contract with Discount Tire Centers that reimburses shoppers for up to $70 on an oil change or tire rotation, and provides a $10 stipend.

Love having your eyebrows done? Consider BestMark, which enlists mystery shoppers to visit a waxing salon for a free service, plus a payment of $35.

Grocery shopping

You can also get paid to shop for groceries.

Four sites — Instacart, Shipt, Spark and Dumpling — all enlist freelancers to shop for groceries and deliver them.

Dumpling is our favorite of the four. However, it’s best to use in conjunction with either Shipt or Instacart. We don’t recommend Spark.

To explain, let’s start with how each of these companies work.


Instacart gives shoppers two options. They can be an in-store shopper, putting together grocery orders for others to deliver. Or they can be a full-service shopper.

In-store shoppers are Instacart employees. They earn at least minimum wage, but are subject to a regular schedule. Full-service shoppers are independent contractors, who are paid a delivery fee and get tips.

They are able to take any job that’s open at any time they choose to work. They may earn more than minimum wage — or less. It really depends primarily on how well customers tip.

Shipt works much like full-service shopping for Instacart. You get paid a delivery fee and a tip. You can take jobs or pass them up and work when you want.


Spark has much the same set-up as the other two. But the site allows customers to rescind their tips after their groceries are delivered. Naturally, if a freelancer took a gig based on a big promised tip, this feels like a bait-and-switch scam.

To be sure, it would be reasonable to rescind a tip if the delivery driver provided a terrible service. But Spark doesn’t require any explanation or put any restriction on “tip-baiting.” Notably, Instacart once had a similar policy. But driver outrage caused the company to change. Now, if a customer rescinds a tip without explanation, Instacart will provide a $10 tip to the driver regardless.

Site control

In all three cases, the shopping assignments are controlled by the site. Drivers for Instacart, Shipt and Spark are not able to establish a relationship directly with the customers. They simply take a look at what gigs are available when they want to work; how much they get paid to shop for any given order; and evaluate whether it’s worth it to accept the gig.


Dumpling is another story altogether. This site does not control the customer relationship. It simply helps independent freelancers set up a shopping business by providing them with a website and a credit card. Instead of setting rates and paying shoppers a set fee, shoppers set their own rates and, ideally, build up their own regular clientele. That gives them more flexibility to shop when it’s most convenient for them.

However, you need to be more entrepreneurial in finding your clients when you work through Dumpling. This is one of the reasons why it’s smart to use this site in conjunction with one of the others. That way, if you deliver an Instacart order to someone who is nice and tips well, you can drop off your Dumpling business card and suggest they contact you directly the next time they need something.

Because you establish the relationship directly with the customer here, you also have the ability to broaden the type of shopping you do and where you shop. You can also batch orders to earn more per hour. For instance, you might tell your regulars that you go to Costco on Mondays; Macy’s on Tuesdays; BevMo on Wednesdays and HomeDepot on Fridays.

By getting multiple orders for the same locations, you can cut your delivery fees for your customers and still earn more per hour than if you were shopping one order at a time.

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