Mystery Shopper Advice

Mystery Shopping – Advice For Mystery Shoppers

For a wider range of UK companies offering online mystery shopping services go to

For details of companies paying you to complete consumer surveys visit our survey page

So You Want To Be a Mystery Shopper?

Please note that the details refer to work in USA but most information is equally applicable worldwide

Before you begin to apply.

Most companies want the same standard information. If you prepare your own answers before applying you will have a much better chance of being selected. The following are the type of questions you are likely to be asked:

Have you done any Mystery Shopping Before? Describe your previous mystery shopping experience?

What is your work experience?

State why you would make a good Mystery Shopper. Describe a recent customer service situation where you and/or others were involved.

What is more important – reporting on employee’s strengths or weaknesses?

Do you have any special skills that we should consider for your qualifications (such as foreign language fluency or others)?

Share with us your specific understanding as to why mystery shoppers are hired to provide these reports, and once the client has the report how they might use it.

What motivates you to be involved in our program(s)?

Detail your schedule flexibility. How many reports would you like to do a month?

Some clients require that two people (and only two) evaluate the property together. Do you have someone to go with you? Are they a tag along or would they be active in helping you? Would they be training with you? Would they be a regular partner? What are their schedule restrictions?

Give examples of why you consider yourself reliable. Why does it relate to this type of project?

What restaurants/bars/hotels/clubs do you frequent? Where? How often? Are there establishments you WON’T visit, i.e. bars, etc.?

Describe your most humorous or unbelievable experience.

Remember – There are no right or wrong answers. The companies will want to get the most appropriate match for their clients and different responses will be applicable to different circumstances.

Be honest in your replies. Include what will affect your shopping, example: transportation, fax machine, e-mail address, and whether you have the ability to accept last minute shops may increase your desirability.

Internet Applications – Many of the bigger companies have websites. If you have Internet access, visit the companies’ website to find out about them and follow their directions to apply. Frequently you will be able to sign up on-line. If you do not have internet access, check your local library or college.

Postal Addresses – Send a letter of interest to these companies along with the reason as to why you would be a good Mystery Shopper. They may have an 800 number to call, but they prefer that you send your application by mail. Most don’t have the resources to handle hundreds of calls a day.

Most companies have clients nationwide so after you express your interest in being a Mystery Shopper for them, inquire if they will have work in your area before sending them anything.

NOTE: After you have done your first shop, you are now an experienced mystery shopper and that can get you MORE SHOPS at other companies. Send out more letters of introduction or reapply with your new shopping experience included.

Basic Information for New Mystery Shoppers

Companies want to know how customers view their business and will contract marketing companies to send mystery shoppers to evaluate their employees secretly. This information can be used by them to learn of problem areas or to give the outstanding employees the recognition they deserve.

This is a serious business and the marketing companies depend on mystery shoppers to follow through on their commitments. Your job is to secretly “shop” a business in a low-key fashion and to fill out a report and return it to the company that you contract with.

Sometimes this can take 5 minutes or an hour depending on the information required. Your pay can be a reimbursed meal, a flat fee or both. Sometimes you are required to make a purchase or just ask questions to evaluate the employees responses. You also need to be observant of your surroundings by counting customers, eyeing cleanliness and any other factors required.

To get started what you need to do is decide if you have the time to do these shops that you commit to. IF you DO, then start contacting companies by Web site, and email, Mail out a letter of introduction and lastly call. Most companies don’t have the manpower to answer all the calls and prefer to have another means to connect with you. For a list of companies and other online resources see the attached list.

What Makes a Good Mystery Shopper?

People who make good Mystery Shoppers are those who appreciate good service and getting paid for doing what comes naturally.

Good Mystery Shoppers look upon Mystery Shopping as an opportunity to help improve service levels at the places they like to frequent. They take personal satisfaction in watching service levels rise and in knowing that they played an instrumental part in that improvement.

Good Mystery Shoppers are conscientious, reliable and objective. They approach each new assignment as if it were the first time they had ever heard of the store. They only accept assignments which they will complete on time, objectively, and without bias.

Good Mystery Shoppers know the importance of following directions, they read and follow each client’s evaluation criteria to the letter.

Good Mystery Shoppers get great pleasure in watching all the checks come rolling in as payment for the joy of shopping.

What does not make a good Mystery Shopper

Individuals that think this is a “get rich quick scheme.” The pay can be very good for the motivated shopper and even better if you are able to accept last minute shops. The prime jobs are given to shoppers who have proven themselves dependable.

Individuals with very little free time. Companies count on their Mystery Shoppers to meet their deadlines and often there is very little time to reschedule an incomplete shop.

Mystery Shopping can be a fun and enjoyable way to pick up a little extra money and, in some cases, a free meal. But, make no mistake Mystery Shopping is serious business. With many client’s, Mystery Shopping results are a key factor in reviewing and assessing bonuses to their employees. They make decisions based on the data supplied by you, the Mystery Shoppers.

Your First Shopping Trip

Your first shopping trip can be an exciting one. Remember that it isn’t a game and the companies are relying on you. Never take a job that you don’t think you will be able to do or feel uncomfortable doing. Be “professional” if you want to get a consistent schedule of shops.

There are things to remember that the company wants you to make notes of and yet you have to gather this information without giving away the fact that you are a Mystery Shopper.

Here is a check list that you will want to use with each new shop.

When You Accept an Assignment 1. Verify the PAY you will receive for the assignment (ask if they reimburse mileage) 2. Verify the date and times the shop needs to be done by. 3. Verify how the report is to be returned. By…. fax? postal mail? e-mail? 4. Verify the location’s address AND phone so you can be sure to find it. 5. Do not call the location for directions on the day of the shop.(unless instructed to do so) 6 Make a few extra copies of the blank evaluation report in case you need to recopy a report or get an emergency last minute shop.

Before the Shop Review the report before the shop. Make a note of the items that you are supposed to check. Some companies will want you to check the exterior of the building and want to also know the business names of the surrounding buildings.

Double check the address. Some companies have different branches on the very same street, block, and town.

After the Shop Do not let someone catch you filling out forms or making notes. This is a sure way to blow your cover. Drive down the street and stop to make the necessary notes. You can also carry a small casette-recorder and tape your notes to play back later. The more notes you have, the better your report will be.

The Report A copy of your report will go to the company you are working for. It may also go to the client. It is important that your report be neat without scribbles or cross outs. These things will make your report appear less credible.

For these same reasons, check your spelling. If you are unsure of a spelling, look it up in the dictionary.

Be considerate when describing employees. Do not be insulting. For example, you would use full-figure for women and/or husky for men, pale medium blonde/brown hair versus dishwater blonde.

All reports must be mailed in within 24 hours unless otherwise stated. Reports that arrive late normally will not be paid for. Some companies will allow you to fax or email in the report. Always check with the company for exact details.

Don’t hesitate to call the company if something unusual happens. They want you to be successful and will assist you with any questions you may have.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Am I allowed to work for more than one Mystery Shopping Company at a time?

A. Yes, but you must adhere to each company’s confidentiality policies and not share information between them.

Q. What if there are no companies in my area?

A. The location of the company matters less than the location of the clients business. You can apply to any company regardless of where they are physically located. Many of these companies have shops nationwide.

Q. What if I’m not their “type”?

A. A living, breathing consumer is their type. The needs of the clients are in many areas and few are weeded out. If you keep contacting companies you will not be disappointed.

Q. They asked me to send them money for the application, should I?

A. Not necessarily, We have never “PAID” to shop for any of the companies that we have worked for. There are exceptions. If they ask you to send money, find out what you are getting in return for this fee. Critique International charges a $2.00 filing fee. Sony Theaters charges a $25.00 fee to enroll, but you also receive $100 value in tickets and food.

Q. I have a vacation planned and won’t be available, should I contact the companies I work with?

A. By all means YES! Ask them if they have work in the area you will be visiting IF you are sure you can fit the shop into your schedule. You might get a free hotel stay for filling out an evaluation or several free meals.

Q. I contacted a whole bunch of companies but I haven’t heard anything back yet, why?

A. Not every MS company has the manpower to reply to each inquiry, so normally they will only contact you if they have a shop in your area or need you to fill out an application. Be patient, soon you will have more than enough work.

Q. I was called for an assignment but I had to turn it down, will this hurt my chances of more jobs?

A. The more jobs you say yes to, the more companies will call you again when they have a job in your area.

Q. Do I have to claim my earnings as income and pay taxes?

A. You are a independent contractor and will be responsible for keeping accurate records. You must claim the income you make if you are paid a minimum of $700 for the year regardless of the different companies you worked for. Individual companies that have paid you $600.00 or more will send you a form 1099. Keep copies of all your receipts and keep track of your mileage. These are all deductible. Consult your local tax preparer for the specific laws in your state.

Further Reading

The all-new Mystery-Shopper-USA Guide shows you:

  • Exactly WHO to contact – 200 mystery shopping companies and industry insiders
  • The different types of jobs – for example, the difference between a retail shop and a dead letter box shop
  • WHERE to register – the hidden online application forms for mystery shopping companies near you
  • WHAT TO DO on your first job – how to behave and take notes, and exactly what you need to notice

Just $14.95 with a 100% refund guarantee, you can download your copy immediately at Mystery-Shopper-USA Guide or get the UK version for £9.95 from

Useful Mystery Shopping Links

Mystery Shopping Providers Association

The MSPA is the largest professional trade association dedicated to improving service quality using anonymous resources. With over 150 member companies worldwide, our diverse membership includes marketing research and merchandising companies, private investigation firms, training organizations and companies that specialize in providing mystery shopping services.

They are just beginning to build the most comprehensive resource available to you to help you find shopping engagements that are the right fit for you! Here, you can search for jobs by location and you can find information about MSPA member companies. If you’re new to mystery shopping, check out the Shoppers’ Bulletin boards, where you can exchange information with other shoppers about the business.

Volition has an extensive list of mystery shopping companies both in North America and Internationally. There is also an active forum that is essential reading for both new and experienced mystery shoppers, including a section for urgent assignments.

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