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How do I Become a Mystery Shopper?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated May 17, 2024
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If you have the right skills, it’s possible to become a mystery shopper by contacting and registering with legitimate mystery shopping companies. Genuine mystery shopping companies, or secret shopping companies as they are also called, don't charge a fee to apply. A good place for those with an interest in mystery shopping is to contact the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). The Association regulates secret shopping companies and also provides certification and training courses for those who want to become a mystery shopper. The Association’s website should be easily found when typing MSPA into an Internet search engine.

It’s extremely important to use caution and common sense when applying to become a mystery shopper. This industry is subject to many different types of scams by false mystery shopping companies. Some of the tricks include providing the applicant with a check with instructions to deposit money and keep a portion of it. Legitimate mystery or secret shopping companies don’t operate this way and neither do they send out bulk mail or email to solicit mystery shoppers to work for them. A great thing to remember if you want to become a mystery shopper is to never apply with a company before checking them out with the MSPA or the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

Mystery shopping companies that promise large amounts of pay are most likely not legitimate. If the shopping assignment involves something that takes quite a bit of time such as opening a bank account, then the pay for the secret or mystery shopper to evaluate the experience may be $100 US (USD). However, if you want to become a mystery shopper, you should be prepared for earning an average of $20 to $30 USD for the average shopping assignment. The rates do vary from company to company though. In addition to being paid per shop, mystery shoppers also earn free products and services.

There are opportunities to evaluate online companies, but if you hope for on-site secret shopping work, it’s probably best to have a vehicle. The types of businesses you’ll be evaluating are likely to be varied and spread out in terms of location. Grocery stores, amusement parks, theaters, dry cleaners, restaurants and clothing stores all use mystery or secret shoppers. Becoming a mystery shopper is often attractive to parents since children or other family members are often allowed on assignments. If you want to become a mystery shopper, you should know that you won’t be an employee of a secret shopping company, but rather a part-time or full-time independent contractor responsible for your own taxes and insurance.

Following directions exactly, always meeting deadlines and writing clear, detailed reports, are skills that are absolutely necessary if you hope to become a mystery shopper. Mystery shoppers also need to have a good memory since they have to wait to get to their vehicle to write down the details of their paid shopping experiences. Since the whole idea of a secret shopper is to blend in as a regular customer, a mystery shopper must have the ability to take a mental note of things like customer service, cleanliness and product quality without being obvious about it. You’ll need to promote your skills to legitimate secret or mystery shopping companies if you want to stand out from your competition and become a mystery shopper.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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