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The Mystery Behind Mystery Shopping

The Mystery Behind Mystery Shopping

Whether you’ve seen it before during an employment search on job sites or as a pop-up, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of mystery shopping. Just by the sound of the name, it would be a great job. At face value who wouldn’t want to make a living casually and covertly shopping at various stores?

It could be the closest you ever get to being James Bond.

Although it sounds like a lot of fun there does tend to be a lot of mystery surrounding what mystery shopping is and what mystery shoppers do. In addition to this, there’s a question of whether or not the job itself is a scam. And if you do find a real position as a mystery shopper does it pay well?

Fortunately, there’s a lot of information available on what mystery shopping is, and what it isn’t.

Not That Mysterious

The simplest way to describe mystery shopping is that it’s a form of first-person customer feedback. You’re accustomed to your shopping or even dining experiences when the person attending to you is aware that you’re a customer, and certainly there are various surveys to get consumer feedback on this experience.

Mystery shopping takes this a step further because while employees can put on a good show at the right time, it’s very difficult to fake great business when you don’t know someone is looking. Companies will hire a mystery shopper to go to a store or restaurant to gain consumer experience. The idea is that the mystery shopper is able to get an unbiased experience and use their intel to improve customer service, product quality, and even to ensure that certain guidelines are being followed.

Also referred to as "shadow shopping" or "secret shopping," this is practiced in various types of businesses. What you’re looking for could be anything from how your meal is being prepared to if you’re greeted at a retail outlet. If there is a consumer experience to be had in person, it can fall under a mystery shopper’s assignment.

No Misery in this Mystery

There’s good news for those of you who love shopping and have been looking into mystery shopping to make money.

Yes. You can make legitimate money as a mystery shopper. However, don’t go into it thinking that you’ll make a budding career from it right away.

It can take some great organizational skills on your part to have a volume of assignments from different businesses. The good news is that there are A LOT of postings on sites like JobSlingerand Volition and with a little time you can apply to several of them to fill your schedule.

Additionally, it can help to join the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. This organization allows you to get ‘certified’ as a mystery shopper and is for a small fee. Having this certification can help to show businesses that you are a serious mystery shopper but will also help you stand out if there are multiple applicants for one assignment.

Pay Attention

Well before you ever become a mystery shopper you should have your senses in tune to scam posts.

While mystery shopping is real there are ways you can easily fall prey to scams. There are a couple of things that you can keep in mind to avoid being taken advantage of.

Be on the lookout for websites whose registration includes a fee. You don’t need to pay anything to become a mystery shopper since you are going to be hired to provide a service for the company.

Another scam to look out for is one that requires you to evaluate money transfer services like Western Union. This phishing scam ends up with you receiving a fake check and sending money to the company as part of your ‘assignment’. Ultimately, the check clears later, and you end up having issues with your bank.

A Great Part-Time Gig

If you have some extra time and can navigate the high volume of positions and likely interests from other applicants, a part-time job as a mystery shopper could be an ideal choice. It provides a decent amount of professional freedom, and if you stay in it well enough you may be able to make a decent living from it.


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