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Mystery Shopping - I was a Mystery Shopper

Updated on July 30, 2017

Who is she?


This review of being a mystery shopper comes from personal experience. Some time has passed since I worked freelance for a company specialising in assignments. These days, you see many advertisments for work in this sector. Can it be worthwhile?

As my permanent job was part-time, I had the opportunity to earn extra income while our sons were at school. Mystery shopping caught my imagination. A little spy work, learning insider secrets, choosing my own hours. Sounds good! I read tales of people flitting from one assignment to the next, having lunch, all expenses paid, then popping to the cinema to round off their day's work. This sounded a little far fetched. In my experience, it is unrealistic. But interesting work does come along, with expenses and pay to boot.

Starting Work

I was fortunate in finding a legitimate company who were experts in their field. The consultancy gave me a trial assignment to test my observation and reporting skills. The brief was to visit a large babywear store to seek advice on a particular item, detailing customer service, noting staff members I came into contact with. The stores have CCVT, so timing and broad details could be verified. Everything went smoothly, it was straightforward to return to my car and log details, then go home and complete the questionaire. Actually kind of fun. I learned what the staff should be doing, and sales techniques.

Once accepted by the company, I was notified of available assignment in my area. The choice was entirely mine to accept or refuse the work. Usually there was a window of a week or two to complete the brief, I had the chance to read through what was expected of me before making a decision.The consultancy rules were that if anyone challenged me, questioning if I was a mystery shopper, I should walk out immediately without saying anything.

Gaining Experience

So, what kind of assignments did I have? One series, visiting different stores within a chain, was to show interest in a child's car seat. A member of staff should approach a customer within a specific time frame. The knowledge and expertise of staff was tested. If a name badge wasn't visible - which it should be - a description of the person was filed. This was true of many stores. I found it simple, completing a report back home wasn't too time consuming.

Did I feel sneaky? No. They were doing their job, I was doing mine. Many large stores run as franchises, so the overall owners need to know if things are being run according to company policy.

Oooh-la-laaa! | Source

From child safety to adult content...I was offered assignments visiting stores to purchase sexy lingerie, not in my size. The stores had, shall we say, a wide range of products. Not sure how I'd feel about buying some of the other items available, but I went ahead with this one. I had to buy an expensive bra and panties combo, money refunded when the items were sent to the consultancy. A story about buying lingerie for my soon-to-be married neice raised a few eyebrows, but I got the jobs done.

For some stores, I had to note whether company policies were followed. Was the door propped open? Were fresh flowers on display? Was the store uncluttered and free of litter? Were all products clearly priced?

Caught in the Act

Possibly my favourite assignments were for a chain of opticians. I'd aways wondered if eye tests were variable. The answer, in my exerience, is, yes. Seven eye tests in three weeks produced a variety of results, granted all similar. One pair of specs gave me very blurred vision. They were all sent back to the consultancy for inspection, money refunded.

These trips were almost my downfall. The consultancy told me two stores had the same owners, but different staff. One weekend, a young woman helped me select new spectacles. Three days later, she was in the second store at my visit, when I went to collect that order. She looked at me quizzically, and said, " Haven't I seen you somewhere before?" I kept cool and said, " I get that all the time. I have that kind of face." The other assistant looked uncomfortable, told her colleague not to stare at me, and gave me the order. Exit!

I rang the consultancy, not having collected the specs from the first store at this point. They asked if anyone else could them pick up, so I didn't have to go in. Oh, Hubby? Could you do me a favour? Hubby collected the specs, and said, never again! He felt guilty duping the assistants, who seemed to know what was going on. The consultancy later said, yes, I was sussed on that one, but they took the blame for sending me to both stores.

Why I stopped Mystery Shopping

There were other assignments. I was pleased to be able to pick and choose, never any hard feelings for things I turned down. The work was interesting. The money did come through. But then I was offered more hours in my permanent post, which has to beat casual work.

Want to have a go?

I would suggest:-

Do your homework. Make sure the company is legitimate.

Test the waters before putting in much work.

Ensure you are observant and can complete the brief. Filing reports on time is crucial.

Don't be unrealistic in terms of pay, or how many assignments you may be offered.

Joining more than one company would give access to more work.

Make sure you follow the guidelines each company provides.

Accept the experience for what it is - a chance to do something different, for a reasonable monetary reward.


I recently signed up again with the same agency as I have some spare time. These days, there's an online jobs board to apply for assignments, and reports are filed online. This speeds up the process, meaning payment arrives faster...always a good thing!

There's a lot of competition for assignments, but sometimes one is difficult to allocate, and the company increase the fee to attract shoppers. It's worth keeping a close eye on jobs available. Not all are first come first served, you earn a rating based on reports filed, and this can play a part in who is offered the assignment.


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    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 4 years ago from uk

      Good to have your comment, tirelesstraveler, thanks. Funnily enough, my son had a Christmas job in a toy store this year, and he served a mystery shopper. They gave a good report, so that was nice.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Great to finally meet someone who has been a mystery shopper. Sounds interesting. Thanks

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 4 years ago from uk

      Hi Becky, I guess some areas will have more assignments than others, depending on the stores. Some use mystery shoppers, some don't. I've been asked to travel more than I'm willing to for assignments, the time factor meant it wasn't worthwhile. But fairly local projects worked out well. Thanks for commenting.

    • Rfordin profile image

      Rfordin 4 years ago from Florida

      I've heard about mystery shopping and even checked into it a bit. The things I was reading about it stated there weren't many projects and that they were NOWHERE near my home. I kind of just let it fall to the bottom of the "checkout list" if you know what I mean.

      Anyway your post has me thinking about investigating again.



    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 4 years ago from uk

      Thanks, torrilynn, I used to wonder if it was a "real" job. I was lucky to work for a good company.

    • torrilynn profile image

      torrilynn 4 years ago

      i've always wondered about this job being a mystery shopper, i just didn't know if it was legit or not but now I see that it is. I like how you gave advice at the end and that your hub was very thorough about the job requirements and the experiences that you had as you worked as a mystery shopper. nice. voted up.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 4 years ago from uk

      Huubers? Oopsie.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 4 years ago from uk

      Thanks, Kimberly. I guess companies may work in different ways, this was based on my experiences. Interesting to hear from other huubers who've also had assignments, they seem very similar.

    • Kimberly Vaughn profile image

      Kimberly Vaughn 4 years ago from Midwest

      Great hub! I've wondered how mystery shopping works.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 4 years ago from uk

      You sound very experienced,LQWILLIams. I didn't go on the dining assignments I was offered, for some reason they wanted a lone diner, I'd rather eat out with companions. Thanks for commenting.

    • LQWILLIams profile image

      LQWILLIams 4 years ago

      I use to do mystery shopping as well. I did apartment shops which paid pretty well. I did fast food, automotive, department stores, and a few fine dining shops. It was tons of fun. I haven't done it in years but I still get the emails and calls from the different companies I used to work for. Great hub!

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 4 years ago from uk

      Thank you, L.L. Woodard, I appreciate it. Glad you found the information useful. The job satisfied my curiosity.

    • L.L. Woodard profile image

      L.L. Woodard 4 years ago from Oklahoma City

      I never had any idea how the mystery shopper experience went, but feel as if I understand it now. It sounds like a great gig for those who love to shop.

      Voted up and Shared.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      Hi, poshcoffeeco, interesting to hear from the other side of the fence, thanks!

    • poshcoffeeco profile image

      Steve Mitchell 5 years ago from Cambridgeshire

      Innerspin, I once worked for a retail chain as a Store Manager and they employed mystery shoppers. Boy did I know about it if I got a less than perfect report !

      Thanks for reminding me. Nice article.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      Thanks, carol777, glad to hear you also enjoyed the experience. It satisfied my curiosity of what was involved, and I got paid, Can't be bad!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      I have done this several times and found it fun and certainly not difficult..Most legit companies are with MSPA...You need to be in a city where there is a lot of shopping activity...You can make some money, but wouldn't count on it for a livihood. Once you get the hang of the shops and filling out forms you do get paid, or at least I did. You did a good job in explaining.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      Thanks for your comment, Angelo52. There are real jobs out there, but also a few scams. As with anything else, it pays to be careful. I would never pay a fee to join an agency.

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Good information on being a mystery shopper. I see the ads for shoppers and wondered what it was about.

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      Hi, midget38, thanks for the share! It was indeed interesting. I can be quite observant, and like to give feedback on service anyway, so it wasn't difficult for me.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Being a mystery shopper sounds like a really interesting job. I am sharing this hub, Innerspin!

    • innerspin profile image

      Kim Kennedy 5 years ago from uk

      Thanks for commenting, Old Poolman. I'm glad I had the experience. After my husband played his part, he said he couldn't take on an assignment, but I found it simple. Stores know they are sent mystery shoppers from time to time.

    • profile image

      Old Poolman 5 years ago

      Wow, this is interesting. I often wondered how this worked. Thanks for sharing with us.