WAITING for the temporary traffic lights to turn green Nat Coote flicks on her car's dashboard camera and starts recording her journey.
Drivers beep their horns in frustration at the delay caused by the ongoing roadworks in Leicester.
But instead of being frazzled the mum-of-two can’t help but smile, knowing that being stuck in traffic lights is earning her cash.
Speaking exclusively to Fabulous, Nat, 38, explains: “I get paid to mystery shop roadworks.
“All I have to do is drive past, record it on my dashcam, fill in the form and I get paid.
“My friends are shocked when I tell them I get paid £20 to be in a traffic jam.
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“I’ve made around £5,500 over the past year by mystery shopping on maternity leave.
“I love being a ‘007 super mummy snooper, the cash and freebies I earned has been a lifesaver.
“It helped pay the mortgage, save for holidays.
“I have earned cash by buying lottery tickets and shopping in outlets.
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“I have gone undercover with the kids to check out children’s nurseries, and busted rude staff at a soft play centre.
“I nab mystery shopping assignments so I can earn while doing the weekly shop in Lidl, Asda or Aldi.
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“I get free nights out, restaurant lunches, free fuel when I ‘buy on the sly’ ’ providing research data for some of Britain's top mystery shopping agencies.”
According to Natalie, her part-time money-maker means that she can be totally flexible when it comes to her childcare and day to day tasks can even earn her money.
“Popping to the shops for milk and bread can sometimes earn me money,” she says.
“I only do jobs I can fit around my schedule, I’ve been able to earn extra ‘cost of living cash’ by taking the kids to the park or simply pushing my trolley in the supermarket.”
According to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA), approximately 50,000 mystery shopping trips are undertaken every month in the UK.
Esomar Global Market Research estimates the mystery shopping sector in Britain has a turnover of £6.6 billion and leads Europe.
In Britain, Market Force, Ipsos, Tern, Serve Legal, Grass Roots, Redwigwam and ESA Retail are among the most popular mystery shopping companies taking on undercover shoppers.
Despite people unboxing and reviewing items on social media it’s super snooper mums like Nat who are have the real secret shopping power.
“We aren't doing paid ‘collabs’, what I report on is my real life experience so you can trust it,” she says.
Married marketing manager, Nat, who is mum to a seven and two-year-old, only started mystery shopping in March 2022.
“I was on maternity leave and needed a side hustle to help pay the bills but one that I could work around the kids' schedules,” she explains.
Nat spent three weeks researching mystery shopping and signed up to four different companies online.
She says: “I wanted to sign up with companies that did mystery shopping on national and local levels.
“It meant I could mystery shop locally but gave me the option to make money if I was away.
“It’s not a daunting process because the websites have videos you can watch and information about the does and don'ts of mystery shopping.”
Nat learnt quickly to read the mystery shopping brief and follow it exactly as well as checking the available jobs daily is critical.
Mystery shopping has been a lifeline, I’m not sure how I would have made it through my maternity without it.”
“You need to log onto the apps or website and be quick to get the best or easiest mystery shopping gigs,” Nat says.
“Overnight stays in hotels, mystery shopping restaurants and mystery shopping holidays are some of the best jobs to get and go quickly when they are posted.”
Nat says it’s important to follow the instructions to the letter or else you won’t be paid or have any money spent reimbursed.
Secret shopping jobs typically include:
- Guidelines on what to buy as part of the assessment
- A list of questions to ask in store
- What photographs to take
- Details of things to watch out for and to take a mental note including cleanliness lighting, if you were greeted as you walked in
- When you should have your written report submitted by.
She explains the forms are done online via a secret shopping app and you have to complete and upload all the documents and photos or videos the day, which she does after the kids are in bed.
“As a mystery shopper you rate shops but you also get a rating and if you fail to complete your own forms properly or present less than quality reports it will go down,” she says.
“It definitely makes you a better mystery shopper.
“If you don't have time to write up the report, don't accept the task.”
Nat reveals fees for mystery shop can vary dramatically,
“I have earnt fees from a fiver to £55 depending on what it involves,” she says.
“The fee can vary due to the time it's predicted to take and the work you're expected to put in.
“You can't mystery shop at the same store or location in a three to six month period to ensure your cover isn't blown.
“You can't take items you buy back so I always pick jobs which involve buying and being reimbursed for things that myself or the kids need.”
I’ve been able to earn extra ‘cost of living cash’ by taking the kids to the park.''
Nat has completed more than 250 mystery shopping jobs since March last year including secret shopping in supermarkets, clothing stores and even post offices.
Now Nat is back working part-time as a marketing executive and is more selective with the jobs she applies for.
“I choose my favourites to complete on my days off or on the way to work,” she says.
“I recently got a month’s free gym membership to check out the premises which was a big bonus.
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“Occasionally a mystery shopping job will pop up when I’m already in Tesco so it’s a win-win really.
“Mystery shopping has been a lifeline, I’m not sure how I would have made it through my maternity without it.”
Become a secret shopper
Tasking apps – Most of the time these don't involve actually buying anything, but you'll still need to sneak around a bit. We've got a full guide to the best tasking apps.
Postal monitoring – You sign up to have brochures and catalogues sent to your home address and record how long they take to arrive, what state they arrive in, etc.
Mystery shopping by phone – This one can even mean starting work before getting out of bed. Telephone mystery shopping involves calling up stores with general questions and assessing (and recording!) how these are answered.
Email mystery shopping – While it's similar to phone mystery shopping, this method is obviously more for online stores or stores that have a strong online presence.
Online survey – completing product reviews or simply filling out online surveys related to certain brands.
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