Let's start this off with a story. My cousin's lizard makes $8,000 a week just by Googling pictures of cats — and then she doubles her earnings by investing in a mom's one weird tip for belly fat. Plastic surgeons hate her!
Sound familiar? As veterans of the Internet, most of us can spot a scam in seconds, not in the least bit because they're mostly the same silly ad recycled over and over again in every corner of the Web. Surely, you've seen similar traps advertising positions for "mystery shoppers" — get paid to shop, get free stuff, etc. It's all right up there on our priority list with helping ousted Nigerian princes. But, do you know anyone who's actually tried to falsify (or verify) this stuff? Well someone did, against better judgment, and it actually turned out to be a pretty good deal.
Forbes profiled this anonymous real-life mystery shopper, who claims to make $14,000 in her spare time by visiting stores, pretending to be an average customer, and reporting back on the service and experience. Companies usually pay $5-20 per shopping trip, plus reimburse a portion of anything you purchase if that's part of the experiment, she says.
Honestly, part of us is wondering if this article itself is a scam. A note at the end recommending a certification service is particularly suspect. But it's Forbes, so we'll give it the benefit of the doubt, for now. If it is real, it seems mystery shopping does require one to go out of their way to shop at stores you might not normally visit, and then spend a couple of hours filling out an online report. This particular shopper talks about the pre-recession heyday, and you can expect to find out there's some huge secret disadvantage, but — well, we'll let you find out for yourself. Check it out, and let us know if you're suddenly craving a spam sandwich.
Photographed by Virginia Rollison