- May 16, 2018
There’s no shortage of survey site reviews on this forum. And for good reason - survey sites are one of the easiest, most convenient, most fun ways to make money in your spare time. Companies thrive on data and information, which they get through those surveys.
Well, surveys aren’t the only ways companies gather data. They also hire so-called mystery shoppers, which involves real-world work. Mystery shoppers go to the establishment owned by the company and pretend to be regular customers. By pretending to be regular customers, they can gauge accurately what the experience is like for other customers in the establishment. The mystery shoppers then report their findings back to the company, which makes the necessary adjustments based on the feedback.
If there are mystery shoppers, then it wasn’t surprising for me to learn that there were also mystery diners. Yep, you can actually get paid just to try out restaurants! Speaking as a wannabe gourmet, that sounds like a pretty sweet deal! Now, not all of the restaurants a mystery diner tries is fancy, but why cares? Even if you’re assigned to try a cheap diner, you’re still getting paid to eat!
Mystery Dining is one of the more popular sites for this purpose. With my appetite in overdrive I gave it a try, and here’s my review of the site and overall experience!
How Does This Work?
Mystery Dining pays people called Mystery Guests to created detailed reports about certain restaurants, hotels, pubs, and other food establishments. As a Mystery Guest, you can do as many or as few visits as your schedule permits. A flexible schedule is pretty important to me, because I had to juggle this with my teaching job and other money-making ventures.
Working as a Mystery Guest involves five steps:
1. Book a visit
Mystery Dining will brief you on the restaurant you should try, and the things you should look out for.
Enjoy yourself, but don’t forget to note the things Mystery Dining asked you to look out for. The first time I tried this I had such a great time I almost forgot that Mystery Dining wanted very specific feedback on the décor in the restaurant I was trying out! So, be professional at all times.
Oh, and it’s pretty obvious, but I thought it’s worth pointing out that at no point in your visit should you tell the restaurant staff that you’re a Mystery Guest. If they find out, they will, of course, try to give you an above-average experience. You’re not there for an above-average experience… quite the opposite, actually. You want an average experience, the same one everyone has.
3. Complete Your Report
After your visit, log in to the website and complete your report. Mystery Dining will require clear details about your experience.
4. Clarify Details
Mystery Dining may call you after you’ve submitted your report to get a few more details based on the content of your report. It’s no big deal. In fact, I kind of took it as a compliment. I love sharing my opinions, and I’m always flattered when people ask for more info in addition to the ones I already gave.
5. Get Reimbursed
Once you’re done with your report and they’ve gotten the additional info they need, your reimbursement will be processed. Take note that you will only be reimbursed for the things that were agreed-upon during the first step. So you may not get paid for splurging on that lobster thermidor, unless it was specified that you should do that.
It takes up to four weeks after your visit for the funds to be reimbursed. It’s a bit of a long wait, but hey, you still get a free meal!
If this sounds like something you’d like to do (who wouldn’t?), you can try signing-up on their website:
Take note, though. They’re really particular about the people they hire - this isn’t an easy meal ticket.
Here are some of their qualifications:
You must have good written English skills
Since Mystery Dining is relying on you to provide a clear account of your experience, it goes without saying that having great writing skills will be a big plus.
Ability to record detailed observations
You have to be able to observe your surroundings in addition to noting your own experiences. This is no small task - try to remember all those times you dined out or stayed in a hotel. How much of the fine details do you remember? Chances are, you only remember the more memorable ones. But as a Mystery Guest, you will have to remember all the things you experience.
Availability by phone after your visit
This is for the follow-up call I mentioned a while ago. Availability is very important to Mystery Dining.
Earning Potential on Mystery Dining
Now, this is where the other shoe drops - you don’t actually get paid for doing this. As far as the company is concerned, the free meal you get is the compensation. And you know what? That’s fine by me! I’ve been sent to some pretty swanky establishments, and have eaten meals that cost many time more than what I would have earned of this were a paid gig. And take note, they might send you to a hotel! Yep, free hotel stay, baby!
Given all that, I’d say this is a pretty good deal.
Mystery Dining is (spoiler warning) pretty legit, but I’ve heard about a few other sketchy companies operating in this industry. As an independent worker, it’s your responsibility to protect yourself at all times. Always do your due diligence before working for any website. Read up on them, look for reviews, and try to get a feel for what the online community thinks about the company in question.
And most importantly - never give money! Scam sites will try to charge you a “placement” or “processing” fee. But there is absolutely no legit reason for them to do this. Being charged before I can participate is usually a big red flag for me. If you find a site that wants to charge you, whether it’s a survey site or mystery shopping company, move on and never look back!
The Verdict: Legit or Scam?
Mystery Dining is legit! They don’t pay you in cash, but I won’t count that against them. They’re a pretty awesome company, and through them, I got the chance to try out a bunch of really awesome restaurants!
Mystery Dining Screenshots
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This review is based on my own experiences dining out through Mystery Dining. Now it’s your turn to share! Have you tried out the site? What restaurants have you tried?
Let’s hear your stories!