By Dorothy Tucker

(CBS) — Consumers plan to spend nearly $1,000 each this holiday shopping season.

CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker shows you taking advantage of some side hustles could help put some quick cash in your pocket to help pay those bills.

“I have made as much as $7,000 or $8,000 in a year,” says mystery shopper Zipporah Jones.

That’s income she makes on her side hustle.

“I’m a customer, and I’m just trying to get information,” Jones explains.

This retired teacher blends in with other customers, but she is the one “shopping” for companies looking to gauge customer service, to check out product displays or to rate restaurants.

In jobs, “I took pictures of menus, billboards, beer ads, Cinnabons,” she says.

Photos snapped — combined with surveys sent to the companies — equals cash.

She has received checks for amounts ranging from $74 to $300 to $815.

Jones is one of an estimated 5 million mystery shoppers working for some 160 companies. Those looking for jobs can find them on the Mystery Shopping Providers Association website.

Rich Bradley is the past president.

“People say, well, I love to shop, so I would be a great mystery shopper, and that’s not always the case. A great mystery shopper is dependable. They have a fine attention to detail and they have a great mastery of written language,” Bradley says.

So, Tucker tried it, downloading several apps that offer jobs to mystery shoppers.

On Easy Shift, she took an assignment at Bed Bath and Beyond to conduct a product survey. Twenty minutes later, she’d made $11.

At Target, she worked for Field Agent, taking photos of a new display. It’s important to take a good photo.

“Look on that confirmation screen to make sure there’s no blurriness. Can you read the products. Is there glare?” advises Marc Yount, Field Agent’s president.

With apps, you can earn several thousand dollars a year and get paid almost immediately. Other examples of mystery shopping sites and apps include GigWalk and Mobee. 

Jones has picked up a few tricks over the years to work more efficiently.

“Pick the ones that are close by, so you can do two or three at a time and you’re not going out for just $20 when you go out you make $60 or $80 that day,” she says.

Jones also keeps a notebook, writing down all her jobs and when she expects to be paid.

“It’s great. It gives me something to do and make extra money by doing it,” she says.

There are mystery shopping scams. So, be careful. For example, you don’t want to sign up for a job that charges a fee to apply.

 

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