Can You Mystery Shop with Kids?

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Can you mystery shop with kids?

Have you ever considered becoming a mystery shopper? Secret shoppers are undercover customer service evaluators, who are paid to pose as average customers and report on their customer experience. I have been mystery shopping for almost a decade and it is an awesome side hustle – and one that you can do with kids in tow!

Yes, that’s right, you can mystery shop with kids. In fact, some mystery shopper jobs specifically require that you have a kid with you during the shop. Kids can also help you blend in when you are mystery shopping places like an amusement park.

That said, there are special considerations if you are considering bringing children on your secret shopper jobs. Not every secret shop job is kid-appropriate. Mystery shopping requires a lot of focus and blending in, which can be tricky depending on your kid’s age and behavior.

Below, I go over everything you need to know about mystery shopping with children – the pros, the cons, and tips for success. Already know that secret shopping with kids is right for you? Check out my ultimate guide to becoming a secret shopper for a full rundown of how to start mystery shopping today.  

How to Become a Mystery Shopper

Before we dive in on how to mystery shop with kids, here is a quick overview of what it means to be a mystery shopper and how to become one. Becoming a secret shopper may seem daunting but it is actually easier than you’d expect.

Mystery shoppers are independent contractors that pretend to be normal customers as they secretly evaluate restaurants, stores, and companies. If I mystery shop a restaurant, I’d go eat at the restaurant, take note of all the information asked of me in my secret shop job guidelines, and write a report about my experience once I got home. I’d be paid a flat rate for my time and work, and would get my meal costs reimbursed.

To find secret shopper jobs, you work with a mystery shopper company that basically serves as a middle man between the stores that want their locations to be evaluated by a secret shopper and the mystery shoppers themselves. These mystery shopper companies manage all aspects of the mystery shopper program.

I’ve previously written a complete guide to mystery shopping that is full of great resources to get you started as a secret shopper. I recommend checking that out for the full scoop on becoming a mystery shopper, but here is a quick and dirty version to give you an idea of the process.

How to become a secret shopper:

  • Find a mystery shopper company: The first step to become a mystery shopper is to identify a few mystery shopping companies with whom you’d like to work. The Mystery Shopper Forum has a list of companies to get you started.
  • Apply to become a secret shopper: Each mystery shopper company has their own application process. Make sure you spend time on your application since writing and attention to detail are important skills for secret shoppers.
  • Find open secret shopper jobs: Once a mystery shopper company has accepted you to be a shopper, you’ll have access to their online job board. On the job board, you’ll find available secret shop jobs that you can pick up.
  • Study up on secret shop job requirements: Before your first shop, it is important to study the rules and requirements of your first shop. You have to follow the rules exactly to get paid.
  • Complete your first secret shop: It’s time to do your first mystery shop! You’ll go to the store, perform the shop and then come home and submit a report on the experience.

How to Secret Shop with Kids

Now that you have a general idea of how to get started with mystery shopping, how do you mystery shop with kids? 

The first steps to mystery shopping with kids are the same as becoming a general mystery shopper. You’ll need to identify mystery shopper companies, apply to become a shopper, and find open secret shopper jobs on the job board.

When identifying possible mystery shopper companies to work with, some are better suited for a shopper who wants to shop with kids than others. Mystery shopper companies have different portfolios of brands with whom they work. For example, a mystery shop company that has secret shop jobs for amusement parks and zoos would likely be a better fit for a mystery shopping parent with kids than a company that primarily has shops for fine dining restaurants. 

You’ll also want to pick specific secret shop jobs that are kid-friendly. Mystery shopping companies have a variety of shops available, each with their own set of rules and expectations. Reviewing these secret shop job guidelines and communicating with your scheduler (your go-to person for all your questions about a job) will help you identify the best secret shops for shoppers with children.

How to mystery shop with kids:

  • Identify mystery shopper companies with kid-friendly shops: the Mystery Shopper Forum is a great place to research mystery shopping companies, and you can find the forums here.
  • Review secret shop jobs guidelines for policies on bringing a child or guest: Each mystery shop job has very specific rules that must be followed when completing the shop, including whether children are permitted while shopping.
  • Talk with your secret shop job scheduler: Your scheduler is your go-to person for your secret shop job. Ask them if children are allowed on your secret shop jobs and if there are any special guidelines if shopping with kids.
  • Do solo shops before bringing kids: If you are new to secret shopping, get some shops under your belt prior to bringing along kids. You must know how to secret shop very well before introducing the extra challenge of having kids with you while mystery shopping. It is tricky to keep track of all the required secret shop details and kids at the same time!
  • Be real about your kids’ ages and attention span: Only you know your kid’s temperament well enough to know if you can do your mystery shop job with your kid in tow. Is your kid going to distract you or blow your cover? Or, will your kid be a great secret shopper accomplice? 
  • Pick secret shop jobs that are kid-friendly: Skip the fine dining meal and opt for something like a movie theater shop when shopping with kids. It is easier to blend in with kids in an environment where kids are expected. Do not bring kids along on shops that prohibit kid guests or you could lose your pay or secret shopper position.
how to secret shop with kids

Types of Kid-Friendly Mystery Shopper Jobs

There are three types of mystery shops that can be done with kids, those that:

  1. Require a child be present
  2. Benefit from a child, but a child is not required
  3. Allow a child guest, but the child does not aid the shop 

Yes, kids can actually be an asset on certain mystery shop jobs. They can help you blend in or complete unique shop scenarios, like age compliance checks. In fact, some secret shop jobs actually require you to have a minor with you in order to complete the shop scenario. 

For example, you may be asked to secret shop a movie theater to see if the employees are checking ages before selling rated R tickets. Age compliance shops like these need an underaged guest in order to evaluate if age checks are being properly done.

A child is helpful on secret shop jobs done at child friendly locations like the zoo. A single adult at the zoo stands out more than an adult with their child. 

Lastly, there are some mystery shop jobs that allow you to bring your child along, but they do not directly improve your shopping experience (unless they are old enough to help you remember shopping details!). If you are mystery shopping a grocery store or a restaurant, you may be allow to bring your child along but they don’t help you blend in more. 

Here are some examples of mystery shopper job that you can do with kids:

  • Amusement parks
  • Movie theaters
  • Video game stores (often for age compliance shops)
  • Zoos, museums and aquariums
  • Putt putt golf
  • Bowling
  • Kid-themed stores (e.g. Disney store, kids clothing stores, Build-A-Bear)
  • Activity centers (e.g. trampoline parks, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Chuck E. Cheese)
  • Grocery stores

Advantages of Mystery Shopping with Kids

There are a lot of benefits to secret shopping with your kids. First and foremost, it is an opportunity to make extra money without the burden of finding childcare.

With older kids, secret shopping is a great way to teach them financial lessons and skills, like the value of multiple income streams and creative work opportunities. Teenagers may even learn to secret shop themselves as an alternative to typical teenage summer jobs.

Here are some other benefits to mystery shopping with children:

  • Get the cost of kid-friendly activities reimbursed: Instead of paying for a movie or bowling out of pocket, mystery shopping can reimburse your expenses and keep your kids entertained
  • Make extra money without childcare: Mystery shopping is a side hustle you can do that doesn’t require you to secure childcare, saving you money and stress.
  • Teach your kids while secret shopping: There are lots of teachable moments in secret shopping. Have your kids work on their attention to detail, memorization skills or etiquette during a shop. It is also a great way to learn about customer service and various industries.
  • Prepare older kids for their own side hustles: Secret shopping can be a great summer activity for teenagers. Modeling your own side gig can also help instill the value of hard work and hustle in kids.
  • Blend in on shops: As stated above, having your child on your mystery shop can help you blend in or qualify you for shops that require a minor.

Disadvantages of Secret Shopping with Kids

It is important to note that there are some drawbacks to mystery shopping with kids. Mystery shopping is work and it requires a lot of attention and focus. Secret shopping with kids can be difficult as they also require a lot of attention and focus.

Sometimes, you just have to leave the kids at home because the secret shop requirements are too intensive to do successfully with kids. Having kids in tow will also disqualify you from some shops.

Here are some other disadvantages of mystery shopping with kids.

  • Your success secret shopping with a kid depends a lot on your kid: Are you kids able to entertain themselves or be chill while you are doing a shop? Some ages or kids may make secret shopping difficult, if not impossible.
  • You won’t be able to do every shop: Some shops don’t allow you to bring kids along, period.
  • Your kid could blow your cover: Secret shops will sometimes require you to lie, and your kid correcting you during a shop could reveal you as a mystery shopper.
  • Kids can make you more memorable: The goal of a secret shopper is to blend in and not be memorable. Unfortunately, kids can make you stand out more than you would shopping alone.
  • Kids can change the customer service experience: You may receive different treatment going to a shop with your kids than you would as a solo adult.
  • Mystery shopping with kids isn’t easy: Juggling work and taking care of kids at the same time is hard, and doing a mystery shop job with kids is no exception.

Tips for Secret Shopping with Kids

Overall, mystery shopping is a viable side hustle and a fun way to make extra money, even for those of us with kids. If your kids are older, they may really enjoy the perks of secret shopping and learn how to side hustle themselves.

To conclude, here are some tips to secret shopping with kids:

  • Practice your shop before bringing along a kid: Secret shop jobs usually repeat monthly so you can do a practice run on a shop without your kids before bringing them along. It will be much easier to mystery shop with a kid if you know the shop like the back of your hand.
  • Use tools or apps to keep track of shop details: If you are minding your kids, it can harder to keep track of all the details you need for your mystery shop job. Timing or sound recording apps can lessen the mental load and help you discretely and easily keep track of the details.
  • Enlist older kids to help on the mystery shop: Older kids can be great accomplices on your shop job. Tasking them with helping you on the shop can make the experience more enjoyable for everyone.
  • Bring along the other parent: Having a second parent along can make secret shopping with kids much easier. The second parent can focus on childcare while you handle the secret shop details.
  • Double check reimbursement amount: Before bringing your kids on a secret shop, double check that the reimbursement amount will cover all your costs. If you have to buy extra tickets or meals on your own dime, it may end up costing you more money than you’re making.
  • Never sneak children along on your mystery shop job: If a secret shop does not allow children, leave them at home. Mystery shoppers get audited regularly and violating shop guidelines can cost you. If your shop is rejected, you will not get paid for your time or reimbursed for your costs. You may also lose your ability to mystery shop for that company in the future.

Have you ever mystery shopped with kids? How did it go?

Looking for more ways to make extra money? Check out these 7 Tips for Selling on Facebook Marketplace.

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Can you mystery shop with kids?

About the Author

Elizabeth Jon is a Ph.D. researcher whose work focuses on pregnancy and education. At Shoestring Baby, she uses her skills to research baby name trends, in-depth baby gear reviews & money savings ideas for parents.

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