What Is Mystery Shopping?}

Submitted by: Susan J Smith

Mystery shopping (also known as secret shopping, service evaluations, service checks, telephone checks, performance audits, mystery customers, spotters, virtual customers, and anonymous audits) is the practice of using anonymous shoppers to provide customer service feedback.

Many people think mystery shopping is too good to be true or that mystery shopping is a scam. And although there are some suspect web sites on the internet claiming to get you started in mystery shopping, there are over 100 legitimate companies that provide mystery-shopping services to over 1000 business.

Mystery shopping is a fun and rewarding way to make extra money by visiting amusement parks, apartment complexes, automobile dealers, auto repair shops, banks, bars and clubs, bookstores, boutiques, bowling alleys, brokerage houses, car rental agencies, carpet cleaners, casinos, cell phone stores, coffee shops, convenience stores, copy and print shops, credit unions, day care centers, department stores, discount stores, doughnut shops, dry cleaners, fast food chains, financial services, florists, funeral homes, gas stations, gift shops, grocery stores, hair salons, health care providers, health clubs, home builders, home improvement stores, hospitals, hotels and resorts, Internet retailers, marinas, movie theaters, museums, online merchants, outlet malls, restaurants, RV parks, saving and loan companies, self-storage facilities, shoe stores, specialty retail stores, tourist attractions, travel companies, truck and trailer rental, truck stops, video rental stores, vision care providers and other establishments.

Mystery shoppers visit these businesses acting as normal customers to evaluate the business and the employees who work at these businesses. Once the visit is complete, the mystery shopper completes a report or questionnaire about the visit and details what happened.


Businesses hire mystery shoppers to learn about the type of service its customers are receiving. These businesses want an impartial view of the business and its operations. The businesses want to discover what is good and bad about the products and services their customers are receiving from the point of view of a customer.

The information that mystery shoppers provide to business is used to reward good employees, identify training deficiencies, and make stores safer for employees and customers, and much more. Often, companies may base performance evaluations and bonus pay on the results of mystery shops.

Customer service by businesses that use mystery shopping is often improved when employees know that they will be mystery shopped. This sentinel effect occurs because employees dont know when or by whom they will be mystery shopped, so they give every customer excellent service.

Because the business environment today is very competitive, there is a great need for mystery shoppers. Companies face loss of business when they provide poor service or their employees actions cause them to be sued or fined by the government. Therefore, more and more companies are turning to mystery shopping as a way to reduce these liabilities.

Almost any adult can become a mystery shopper. Companies need mystery shoppers that look and act like typical customers. So people old and young, married or single, with child or without children, male or female can be mystery shoppers. And mystery shopping companies need people from all of these.

People become mystery shoppers for a variety reasons. Many enjoy doing it because it is fun. Mystery shoppers often get free food and merchandise while making extra money. Others enjoy the flexible hours and the ability to work part-time. All know they are providing an important service to companies by helping them evaluate their customer service.

Getting started in mystery shopping is easy but can be confusing because there are few real resources for people interested in getting starting. Many companies who are not mystery shopping companies take advantage of would-be mystery shoppers by proving inaccurate information or by selling lists of mystery shopping companies to them. Mystery shoppers should never have to pay to become a mystery shopper.

If you are interested in becoming a mystery shopper, look for free lists of mystery shopping companies. Also, look for free mystery shopping job boards and e-mail lists.

Then you are on your way to a fun and interesting career in mystery shopping!

About the Author: Susan Smith is a mystery shopper who has done hundreds of mystery shops. She keeps a list of free mystery shopping jobs and a mystery shopping company list at




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