Get the facts about secret shopping in this FAQ.
What is mystery shopping?
What kinds of businesses use mystery shoppers?
How much will I earn?
What are the requirements to be a mystery shopper?
How do I apply to be a mystery shopper?
Are there jobs available in my area?
The mystery shopping companies listed in the
Manual aren’t in my hometown. How can I find companies near me?
Is the market saturated, or are there opportunities for new shoppers?
What do companies look for when they hire shoppers?
How long will it take to get my first job?
Is it ethical to work for more than one company?
What will I do when I’m mystery shopping?
May I take my spouse, friend or child with me?
Will the employees know that I’m the mystery shopper?
This sounds great! How do I get started?
How can I order The Mystery Shopper’s Manual?
Mystery shoppers go into businesses as customers. They interact with employees, make a purchase and possibly a return, then fill out an evaluation form describing what happened during their visit. Mystery shoppers get paid for providing this service.
Any business which deals with the public may use mystery shoppers—stores, restaurants, banks, hotels, salons, home builders, apartment complexes, gas stations, casinos, auto dealers, auto service centers, movie theaters, health clubs, pet stores, amusement parks, optical providers and more. You can get paid to get your hair cut or your eyes examined, have dinner, go to the bank, have your car worked on or fill up the gas tank, watch a movie, get your dog groomed, and lots of other things you like to (or have to) do.
That depends on you. Many shoppers do this in their spare time, and earn $100, $200, or more per month. Some consistently earn more—often a lot more. It is not unusual for a part time or spare time shopper to make $500 or more per month. Some shoppers work for a large number of companies, or are full time with one company, and make their living this way.
There are some mystery shoppers who shop full time and earn a living this way. It’s not easy, though, to be a full time shopper. It will probably require that you work with a large number of mystery shopping companies—perhaps 50, 80 or more. You will have to juggle lots of assignments with different requirements, due dates and report formats, so you must be very organized and disciplined.
Fees for a mystery shop (including purchase reimbursement) may range from about $10 or $20 on up to $50, $100 or more. Fees will depend on the time required, difficulty, etc. The time required to complete a shop and fill out the form may be a few minutes to an hour or longer.
You can be any (adult) age, male or female. You may be employed, self-employed, unemployed, retired or a full time homemaker. You need to be observant and able to follow directions. You must be reliable. You don’t have to have a degree or any special training or experience, although experience in customer service (such as having worked in hospitality or retail) is helpful. The mystery shopping companies will provide any training you need.
Companies often use the Internet to recruit shoppers, make assignments, and complete reports. Internet access is becoming a necessity to work with most mystery shopping companies, but there are a few that don’t require it—especially some of the small, local companies.
In most cases, you won’t be hired directly by the business you’re mystery shopping. You’ll be hired by a mystery shopping company contracted by the business.
The Mystery Shopper’s Manual includes complete instructions on submitting applications, plus contact information for more than 100 mystery shopping companies. You can apply to as many or as few of those companies as you wish, and the Manual makes it easy and fast to do so.
If you live in or regularly travel to an area where there are national or regional chain stores, banks, and restaurants there are certainly mystery shops being done there. Almost any business that does business with the public may be mystery shopped, although most “Mom and Pop”-type businesses don’t use mystery shoppers.
New shoppers are being hired all the time as businesses begin new mystery shopping programs, programs are expanded, new locations open, shoppers move or quit, etc. Chances are that there are mystery shopping companies actively seeking mystery shoppers in your area.
Jobs don’t exist only in heavily populated areas. There may be more jobs in a major city, but there are also more shoppers competing for those jobs. In fact, you may find yourself in demand if you live in a sparsely populated area because it is often difficult to find shoppers in those areas. Do a good job, and you will be highly valued by mystery shopping companies and schedulers, who will give you as much work as they can.
Most of the mystery shopping companies you will work for will not be located near you, even though they will hire you for jobs in your town. Many companies (such as those in the
Manual) hire shoppers all over the country or even all over the world. For example, if a mystery shopping company is hired to shop all the locations of a national restaurant chain, they will need shoppers in every town that has one of those restaurants, including your town. But there are also local companies which shop only in your area. You’ll learn how to contact them, too, in The Mystery Shopper’s Manual.
There is a lot of competition for mystery shopping jobs, but there are still opportunities for new shoppers. Mystery shopping companies must constantly recruit because businesses begin new mystery shopping programs, companies get new clients, current mystery shoppers quit or move to a different area, etc.
Additionally, most shops must be rotated among shoppers. For example, if a restaurant is shopped twice a month, and the client requires that a shopper may repeat the shop not more than once every three months, the mystery shopping company will need at least six shoppers (and probably more) just to handle that one location.
Most importantly, they want to know that you are reliable, observant and able to follow directions. They will train you on how to mystery shop.
If you apply to several companies, you may get your first job within three to six weeks. Some shoppers have reported getting their first assignments the very same day they applied, but this isn’t typical.
The more companies you apply to, the greater the number of jobs you are eligible for and the sooner you will get an assignment. The more flexible and available you are, the more jobs you can get.
Most of the time, you won’t hear from a company unless they have a job for you. So don’t worry if you don’t hear from some companies right away, or ever. It’s probably not personal. They just don’t have a need for shoppers in your area. You might consider contacting them again in six months or a year.
Most companies understand that you will work for other companies. They know that they can’t keep you busy all the time, and you want to work. Whatever you do, though, don’t share information about one company with another, and don’t share one company’s report forms, completed evaluations, or other confidential information with another. Be professional and be discreet.
You’ll be given specific instructions for completing your mystery shop, and the company will provide training (usually in writing or over the phone). They will gladly answer your questions, so don’t be afraid to ask. They want you to be comfortable doing the shop, and they want you to get it right.
While you are mystery shopping the business, you will be observing things about cleanliness, service, quality and other standards important to the business and its customers.
Questions on the evaluation might include things like: Were you greeted within 60 seconds? Were the floors clean? Did the person who took your order suggest additional items? Was the salesperson able to demonstrate product knowledge by answering your questions? Was your food fresh and served as you ordered it? Did the cashier count back your change and say thank you? Was the rest room clean and fully stocked with soap and tissue? When you leave the business, you will enter the answers on a report form or write a narrative report describing what you saw.
Sometimes, if it is a place they would normally go with you. For example, you might take your children to the grocery store or a family restaurant, but perhaps not a more formal restaurant. Don’t take anyone else along if they will distract you from properly completing your assignment, or if you have not been told that you may.
Remember you are a mystery shopper. If you have young children, don’t tell them you’re mystery shopping. You don’t want them asking, loudly, in the middle of a shop, “Mommy, are we doing the mystery shop now?” Adults who accompany you must know that they are not to talk about mystery shopping or give away that you are the shopper.
No. At first, you might feel like you have a neon sign that says MYSTERY SHOPPER blinking on your forehead, but they really won’t know. If for some reason someone asks you if you are the mystery shopper, just say no or play dumb. “Mystery shopper? What’s that?”
This sounds great! How do I get started?
Follow the Action Plan in The Mystery Shopper’s Manual. While I can’t guarantee that you will get a certain number of assignments, if you follow the instructions here you will get hired. The more companies you apply to, the more jobs you can get.
Click here for more information about The Mystery Shopper’s Manual.