Mystery Shopping: Frequently Asked Questions

Cathy Stucker

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What is mystery shopping?

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 the visit. Mystery shoppers get paid for providing this service.

What kinds of businesses use mystery shoppers?

Any business that 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.

How much will I earn?

Fees for a mystery shop (including purchase reimbursement when a purchase is required) 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.

Many shoppers do this in their spare time, and earn a few hundred dollars per month. Some consistently earn more—often a lot more. It is not unusual for a part time shopper to make $500 to $1000 or more per month.

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. You will have to juggle lots of assignments with different requirements, due dates and report formats, so you must be very organized and disciplined.

What are the requirements to be a mystery shopper?

You can be any (adult) age, male or female. 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, but good writing skills are important.

The Certifications offered by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association , are helpful but are not required.

Mystery shopping companies use the Internet to recruit shoppers, make assignments, and complete reports. Internet access is becoming a necessity to work with most mystery shopping companies.

How do I become a mystery shopper?

Apply to as many mystery shopping companies as you can. Legitimate mystery shopping companies will not charge you to apply, so do not pay to sign up with a company that says they will get you mystery shopping jobs.

When you get your first assignments, do them on time and do a great job. That will make you a successful professional shopper.

Copyright Cathy Stucker. Cathy Stucker has been a professional mystery shopper since 1995. She is the author of The Mystery Shopper's Manual, the only book endorsed by the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. Sign up for Cathy's free online mystery shopping course at


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