A mystery shopper is a paid consumer who is hired to shop in stores and collect data. Think of mystery shoppers as "undercover customers" sent in to observe, interact, and report on other customers and store employees.
Mystery shoppers are typically employed by a third-party rather than the store or company itself.
Where Are Mystery Shoppers Sent?
Shoppers are sent to a wide variety of service-based businesses including stores, restaurants, banks, apartment complexes — potentially anywhere customers are served or serviced.
What Does a Mystery Shopper Do?
Independent or third-party vendors hire consumers to make retail transactions and provide a detailed record of the experience.
Mystery shoppers purchase items, eat at restaurants, make inquiries, or return items.
Mystery shoppers are not hired to give opinions but are hired to assess a business and its employees from the customer experience perspective.
Some of the data mystery shoppers collect and report (usually by completing a survey) include "normal" observations as a casual observer, but mystery shoppers may also be retained to ask specific questions or be "difficult" customers.
You may be asked to relay information on:
- The number of employees that were on duty (or on the floor) when the mystery shopper entered;
- If you are greeted, how long it took, by whom, and was the greeting friendly and.or helpful?
- Name(s) of employee(s) that you interacted with or observed;
- Type of products shown to you, and the sales pitch you were given including whether there were any additional items suggested for you to purchase;
- If you were invited to return to the store or offered sign-up for mailing lists, credit accounts, etc.
- How fast you received service and if the service was satisfactory.
Other things mystery shoppers may be required to observe and note include:
- Cleanliness of the store or facility;
- The personal grooming and appearance of the employees (were they properly dressed, were uniforms clean, etc.) and if employees adhered to any store dress codes.
How Much Do Mystery Shoppers Get Paid?
Most mystery shoppers are paid by the job and not by the hour. Shoppers may earn $8-$10 for a simple assignment, up to $20, $50, $100 or more. In some cases, they are not paid but will be reimbursed for certain expenses.
Do You Have to Pay for Purchases?
If a purchase is required, yes. But in many cases, you may be reimbursed. For example, if you are required to eat at a restaurant, you might not be paid for your time but would likely be reimbursed for the cost of your meal.
Some retail stores include a small purchase allowance but expect only a few dollars.
Other places that typically reimburse you for services include beauty salons, dry cleaners, or even car maintenance. Still, others may offer you freebies include hotel stays or free tickets to movies and theme parks.
How Can You Become a Mystery Shopper?
First, do your homework. Be sure you understand what you may need to do. For example, if you are shy and do not like conflict, you may find arguing with a salesperson or posing as a "difficult" customer uncomfortable. Then apply to become one
Do you have to be a certified mystery shopper?
Not always, but it helps. Some companies give preference to certified mystery shoppers. The certification process helps the potential mystery shopper understand what is expected of them. Although not required, it will help you get more "work." The company itself may also offer their own unique certification (if so, it should be offered to you for free.)
The Mystery Shopping Providers Association offers two levels of certification for shopper for a small fee:
- Silver certification is completed online, and
- Gold certification which is obtained by attending a one-day workshop.
There are many scam companies that offer certification for a fee — be sure to check them out thoroughly before paying for certification and ask what companies accept their certification.