Shopping Pays the Bills

By David Silverberg in the Metro

The next time you wait in line at a gift-buying marathon, remember someone in line could be shopping to earn extra cash.

Like focus groups that pay participants to evaluate products, mystery shoppers can visit retailers or hotels and get paid to assess their experiences.

Sensors Quality Management hires these shoppers—who work from one to 12 hours a month – to purchase products at a store as if it was a normal shopping day.

“We want the average customer, someone off the street,” says David Lipton, president of the nine-year-old SQM.

Testing sites including clothing retailers, restaurants, hotels, sports centers, and car dealerships. Mystery shoppers are often paid between $10 to $100 per session, while sometimes receiving no cash but free goods or services. Lipton tends to hire mystery shoppers who are reliable, responsible, and observant.

“Even though you may enjoy shopping, this is still a job that requires an evaluation.” Adds Lipton, a graduate of Ryerson’s Hospitality and Tourism Management Program.

SQM identifies a client’s strengths of weaknesses “but we leave it to them what they decide to do about it,” says Lipton.

Patrick, who could not reveal his last name, has been a mystery shopper for four years. The 29-year-old views the contract job as a great opportunity to supplement his income.

Besides evaluating bars and restaraunts, Patrick has been fortunate enough to enjoy a free Maple Leafs game, complete with drinks and food.

But he cautions against joining mystery shopping just for the perks.

“You still have to be alert and detailed,” he stresses. “And it’s important not to play God, but just act as a reactor.”

Those reactions may spark overarching change, Lipton notes. “People enjoy mystery shopping because they like to see their opinions make a difference.”

SQM employs more than 5,000 mystery shoppers internationally, with its head office based in Toronto.
To apply to be a mystery shopper, click on and fill out the online application form.

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