Pose as a consumer at retail stores and restaurants to observe and evaluate customer service, atmosphere and product quality.
- What it pays: Varies; generally $4 or more per visit based on contracts with individual businesses. The perks are worth more than the cash, though: You keep what you buy while working, including clothes and hotel stays.
- Time commitment: Flexible, based on the number of opportunities you receive. Allow 15 minutes to an hour for store visits—more for some services.
- What you need to know: Like most professions, you start at the bottom. Once you prove yourself with observant, detailed and descriptive reports that follow the rules to the letter (such as shopping at a precise hour and buying exactly what is expected of you), you become eligible for jobs with better perks (those hotel stays don’t come easily!).
- Get started: Check the online database of the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (mspa-na.org) to find a wide range of opportunities, searchable by location. Complete a $15 online course (it takes about an hour) to become silver level–certified in the field—which might lead to more opportunities and better pay. It is not necessary to take the course to land jobs, however.
Pass out food samples and possibly do in-store cooking demonstrations at local supermarkets.
- What it pays: An hourly wage based on the store’s rate.
- Time commitment: Part-time shifts depending on store schedules; usually afternoons, nights and weekends.
- What you need to know: Be friendly and professional to get asked back.
- Get started: Visit a local market to inquire about opportunities, or check the grocer’s website. Sam’s Club, the king of in-store product sampling, hires its ambassadors through Advantage Sales and Marketing (asmnet.com) and Crossmark (crossmark.jobs).