Life before mystery shopping – my first ever income

Life before mystery shopping – my first ever income


During the time I have been developing the Mystery Shopping Guide, I have spoken to quite a lot of young people (late teens) about their earning habits.  This is particularly where they are looking to earn extra money before taking up full time work – either during high school or tertiary studies.  What was your first income source?

In all of this, I had wondered whether young people would be interested in mystery shopping.  My daughter is doing tertiary study currently and as it turns out, is a keen mystery shopper.  It’s fair to say she’s had a bit of a leg up from her old man (me).

She’s enjoyed getting hold of the information I’ve put together for the Mystery Shopping Guide.  As a result, she has done quite a lot of jobs in a relatively short time.

Amy says she’s earnt over $500 worth in the past 6 months and the jobs keep coming in.  She’s also developed quite a good collection of various bottles of this and that.  Liquorland is, after all, a pretty common mystery shopper job!

Mystery shopping in Australia

While it wasn’t around in Australia when I was a kid (not that I’m aware of), mystery shopping has been around for some time.  My wife did mystery shopping when Amy was a baby – Amy is now almost 20.  Curiously, my wife was mystery shopping at Bunnings back in those days (yes, Bunnings has been around that long).  You can still do Bunnings mystery shoppers today.

As I’ve spoken to people in their late teens, many have been more than interested in the idea of mystery shopping.  I suppose in previous eras there wasn’t the same focus on shopping as there is now.  Not so many shopping malls, and not the same range of shopping options.

Now that times have changed, the idea of mystery shopping is really attractive.  Let’s face it, who doesn’t like the idea of being paid to shop?  What is even more attractive is the wide range of businesses that use mystery shoppers – the Mystery Shopper Guide has identified over 100 such businesses in Australia.

The 1980s equivalent of mystery shopping

All of this discussion with young people lead me to reflect on how I first started earning money.  Back in the day for me, outdoors seemed a theme.  We had a family farm in Victoria (still do) and Dad used to pay my brother and me $1 an hour to help around the farm.

Secondly, my older brothers used to do gardening jobs for people (this was before Jim’s Mowing etc) and I would get to go along.  It wasn’t that long before I had some of these jobs in my own right.  I can’t remember the rate of pay but I think at that stage, any income was good income.

Hello milk

My next job involved milk.  I lived in Canberra as a teenager and believe it or not, in those days they used to deliver milk to your door.  I gather this type of service doesn’t exist anywhere anymore in Australia (I could be wrong).

I worked on a milk run after school for several years.  I don’t think it was well paid.  I recall getting $5 for a shift that went for about 2-3 hours plus a ‘free’ flavoured milk at the end of the shift (woo hoo!).

The job consisted of remembering the many obscure orders of customers: different types of milk, potentially in different quantities, on different days.  The tool of trade was a 2 x 8 delivery crate (with a handle) that we filled up based on the upcoming ‘run’.

A run consisted of up to 5-6 houses that you would run to, drop off the correct order, then run back to the truck and restock.  It was tiring work but good for your fitness.  The downside was some of the psycho dogs I came across which seemed to enjoy scaring the life out of milk runners.


While I don’t look back unfondly of my first jobs, it’s fair to say that mystery shopping is a sooo much easier way of making income for people these days.  This is either for the pocket money earners or those people seeking a more serious supplement to household income – a serious shopper can easily make thousands a year.

The wide variety of businesses that use mystery shopping these days (and the variety of fringe benefits on offer) couple nicely with the flexibility of when/where you work.  It does make me wonder whether employers of old would even be able to find anyone to do their milk runs these days.

So what was your first income source?


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