How to Become a Mystery Shopper 2

How to Become a Mystery Shopper

Written by Erin Huffstetler


What is Mystery Shopping:

Mystery shopping, also known as secret shopping, involves posing as a regular customer in order to evaluate the goods and services that a business provides. Your findings are reported back to the client, and used to improve their services.

How Mystery Shopping Works:

A business hires a mystery shopping company to evaluate their services; and the mystery shopping company, in turn, hires shoppers to perform those evaluations. Shoppers are given a list of things to evaluate/note during the shop. This may include:

how long it takes to be greeted

speed of service

cleanliness of the location

compliance with company standards – dress code, signage, greetings, etc.

listening for specific services to be offered

names/descriptions of employees

After completing a shop, the shopper submits her evaluation and receipts. Payment is made one to eight weeks after submission of a successful shop.

What Types of Businesses Use Mystery Shoppers:


hotels and resorts

retail stores

grocery stores

movie theaters

car dealerships

amusement parks

gas stations

and many others


How to Find Mystery Shop Assignments:

If you’re new to mystery shopping, is a good place to start. It provides a database of reputable mystery shopping companies, as reported by actual mystery shoppers – so the information is more reliable than what you’ll find through a web search.

Spend some time looking through the database. Then, form a list of the companies that you’re interested in working for, and submit an application with each one.

Once your application is approved, you’ll have access to the company’s database of shops. Check it often for shops in your area, and apply for any of interest.

How to Avoid Scams:

Unfortunately, not all mystery shopping companies are reputable. To avoid falling for a scam, you should avoid any company that:

requires you to pay a fee – you shouldn’t have to pay anything to get assignments

advertises for shoppers in newspaper help-wanted sections or through unsolicited e-mails

requires you to pay for and earn a shopper certification

guarantees you shops or a set income

For even more protection against scams, look for companies that belong to the Mystery Shopper Providers Association (

What the Typical Mystery Shop Entails:

Every mystery shop assignment is a bit different, but most assignments will require you to complete your shop on a specific day and time. It will also require you to listen for certain services to be offered; to ask specific questions and remember the answers you receive to those questions; and to note the details of your surroundings – everything from the cleanliness of the bathrooms to whether signage is placed appropriately. It may even require you to try out specific services (say a new burger at a fast food restaurant); to take photos of the location; or to record conversations that you have with employees.

How Much Mystery Shopping Pays:

Mystery shopping is not a way to get rich, nor is it a full-time job. Expect to make $10-15 per shop in addition to any merchandise or services that you receive during the course of the shop. A typical restaurant shop, for example, might result in a free meal plus a small shop fee for your time.

What It Takes to Be a Good Mystery Shopper:

attention to detail

a good memory

objective evaluation skills

the ability to perform and submit shops promptly


Tips for Success:

Apply to a lot of mystery shop companies to increase your chance of getting regular assignments

Check for available shops often – the good ones go fast

Don’t accept a shop unless you are sure that you can complete it. Many companies will remove you from their list of shoppers after just one failed shop

Be willing to accept last-minute and less-than-glamourous shops when starting out – this will improve your standing with the company

Read over the requirements of a mystery shop several times before attempting the shop. If you miss some of the details, you won’t be paid


Starting Out with a Mystery Shopping Company:

When starting out with a new mystery shopping company, there are several things that you can do to ensure that the relationship is a good one. This includes:

Starting with a shop with no or low out-of-pocket expenses

Waiting to receive payment from your first shop, before taking on additional shops

Evaluating whether you are being fairly compensated for your time. $20 may sound like a fair payment until you discover you’re spending five hours on each shop

Evaluating how easy to use and reliable the site is. If the tools are difficult to use, you may find your earnings doesn’t justify the hassle


Disclaimer: Mystery shopping ads found on this page may or may not be for legitimate companies. Research all companies carefully before submitting a shopper application.

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