Becoming a Mystery Shopper

shoppingwritingWorking as a mystery shopper can be both fun and rewarding. Shoppers have the ability to evaluate a store or another business like a restaurant on a number of subjects – including customer service, store stock levels, and overall shopping experience.


What is a mystery shopper?

Mystery shoppers are used by a number of companies to evaluate the type of service their employees provide because mystery shoppers are anonymous, so a true picture of the business is able to be captured. This allows you ‘inspect what you expect’, whether it is demonstrating sales knowledge, the ability to do a return courteously, or the general proficiency level of your staff. It also helps pinpoint any areas of opportunity, because most customers will not tell you when they have a bad experience, they simply leave and don’t come back. They will, however, tell their friends and family, and that negative publicity can be difficult to overcome.

Customer service for many companies is what separates them from their competitors, and might even allow them to charge a bit more for their goods or services because people are willing to pay for better service. Should there be opportunities found during the mystery shop, companies can work on creating training programs to address those gaps and regain their market share. Sometimes what you think will translate to a great experience for your customers ends up being a flop. On the other side, if something is working well, a mystery shop’s results gives you the chance to celebrate that success! There are a number of types of mystery shopping besides visiting a brick and mortar location, including video shopping, where the shopper enter a location with a secret camera and record the transaction for later review; and telephone shopping where the shopper tests customer service call centers or the skills a store’s staff has in handling phone calls. This last version has an advantage in that you can work from home. There is also web-based mystery shopping that involves testing your web crew in terms of how they handle web or e-mail inquiries.

How do I become a quality mystery shopper?

In the European Union, there is a professional organization called the Mystery Shopping Providers Association which works towards setting standards for shoppers, providing education, and certifying members. Membership is not required, but it is encouraged, and certificates are good for one year. If you are interested in being a mystery shopper, a company looking to hire you might be inclined to give you a chance if they see your certification, but there is no guarantee of getting hired. Membership also does not guarantee a better pay rate. The MSPA’s training program gives new shoppers some information they can use to get started, and existing shoppers ways to keep current and learn some new tips to be more efficient. MSPA also offers free information that anyone can access on their website, The organization also has a code of ethics that members adhere to. Member companies cannot charge member shoppers a fee, and the code also gives a resolution method for members, both companies and shoppers. The code is available in a number of languages besides English, including Italian, German, Danish, Polish, Russian, and Greek.

What should I look out for?

If you choose to apply to be a mystery shopper, be aware that this is one area where a lot of scam artists love to hang out. Here are some tips to find a reliable company:

  1. Research the company and be sure it has a positive reputation with your country’s monitoring agency.
  2. Check the domain name of the e-mail addresses – most will come from the company’s website, not from a free e-mail service.
  3. You should only receive e-mails from places where you have registered. If you are receiving e-mails from a place you did not, they are likely phishing e-mails.
  4. Payment will not be done by a wire service.
  5. A reliable company will not ask you to cash a check for them or advance you money for the job that you then have to refund a portion of.
  6. You will not be paid a large sum of money for your first job.
  7. A reliable company will also never ask for your debit card or credit card information.

Where are mystery shoppers used

Mystery shoppers are used most often by retailers, but as we have seen, almost any industry that has interactions with customers can benefit by having a mystery shopper service audit its performance. So where do you find most of the mystery shopping companies? Typically they are found in the United States and the UK, but some companies are headquartered in the Netherlands, Austria, Romania, Greece, Poland, France, Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, and Georgia. Where won’t you find mystery shopper companies? In most of the former Soviet republics and the former Yugoslavia.

Whether you are a company looking to improve your customer service level or a person looking for a unique part-time job, mystery shopping can be a solution for you.