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What's A Mystery Shop?

Updated on September 15, 2012

Have you heard of mystery shoppers? Have you wondered what a mystery shopper was and what they do? Here is a simple answer: a mystery shop is the opportunity for a customer to give feedback to a business regarding their employees and service. However, there is a lot behind the mystery shop and the benefit it offers to a company, its employees and its customers. Let's take a look behind the "shop".

Checking to see if products are correctly priced is yet another possible assignment for a Mystery Shopper!
Checking to see if products are correctly priced is yet another possible assignment for a Mystery Shopper! | Source
A simple online survey along with short narratives validate the information discovered by a Mystery Shopper.
A simple online survey along with short narratives validate the information discovered by a Mystery Shopper. | Source

The Basic Mystery Shop

The basic mystery shop is assigned to a shopper. The company often has specific items that they wish to be evaluated that are outlined in the assignment. The shopper is expected to read the assignment, review the survey, and complete a short quiz with the shop requirements. The quiz is a way to ensure that you understand the assignment. Once that is complete, you are ready to complete the assignment.

The assignment often involves evaluating services provided by employees. Auto shop assignments involve taking a specific model of car to a dealer and evaluating the facility, the services and the staff. Restaurant assignments involve evaluating the service speed, the food quality and the staff courtesy. It is important to be observant and each shop requires getting the names and descriptions of the employees with which you interact. In addition, you will be asked to write narratives which include direct quotes of the employee's words. When you complete the "shop" you will be expected to complete an online survey. The survey includes information about employees, narratives and answering simple questions with a click! It takes only a short time to complete the surveys and the more shops you complete, the easier and quicker they are!

It is fun and easy! In the process of completing shops, it becomes obvious that there is more to the "checking up" and "tattling" that mystery shoppers seem to be doing. There are great benefits for practically everyone involved! Read on to learn more!

The Company Benefits

As the economy gets more difficult, many companies are looking for ways to build their business stronger. That means finding ways to make their company the "best"! Many companies already offer good quality products and competitive prices. One way the can edge out their competitors is by providing high quality service. A company who will take the time and spend the money to train employees to provide excellent customer service will have that edge.

A company who makes that leap and plans, trains and expects quality customer service from their employees has several options for making sure that service is being offered to its customers. Managers monitoring their department employees during the work day is one very simple and expected method that every company uses. One step more is offering a method and process for customer complaints. Some companies will have a customer service number posted on the door or a customer service department to make it easy for customers to voice their concerns and complaints. A company that will work to correct and back up those concerns with action will step ahead of its competitors.

The company that demands high quality service from its employees will take the extra step of hiring a Mystery Shopping company to test those employees and provide an avenue for unbiased review. These customers are required to answer simple questions provided by the company to review the qualities that they want their employees to have. The employees are evaluated on the standards set forth by that company. An employee who follows company training and policies will have NO problem. Mediocre employees who provide that quality service under the Manager's eyes will be evaluated by a customer who has been given exact instructions on what the company is looking for in their employees.

These shops provide information that is used by the company to improve their training, monitor their expectations and evaluate their employees' performance. Shops are backed with direct quotes, employee descriptions, time stamped receipts, and specific questions provided directly by the company. They are legitimate information used to improve customer service satisfaction.

The Employee Benefits

An employee who is already meeting the company's policies and expectations will LOVE the Mystery Shopper. This shopper will reinforce the company's knowledge that he/she is providing the quality services that they are trained to provide. They are meeting customer's needs and making that sale!

An employee who is marginal will benefit from the comments and suggestions provided by the Mystery shopper. They will have the opportunity to see what they are doing well and what they need to improve. There is no opportunity to place blame on another employee or an unpleasant boss. The Mystery Shopper is completely unbiased. We give employees every opportunity to meet the shop requirements. We answer black and white survey questions and enter direct quotes received. We account for every part of the interactions we have with employees.

An employee who does not care, will not care what the Mystery Shopper says or does anyway. They have already quit their job and the company can give them the opportunity to improve or validate their choice to move on. Ultimately it is all about finding those employees who WILL provide the quality services and reward them while weeding out those who do not care.

The Customers Benefit

A company that will spend the time and money to hire a mystery shopper to visit and evaluate their business ultimately are wanting to provide the best possible services that they can. This means that customers will enjoy their shopping experience more and then they will spend more. Even if they don't spend more, they will come back....over and an attempt to find items to purchase. People who feel informed and valued will return. People who are treated with respect are going to return. Returning people will make more purchases. More purchases mean more money and a higher profit margin. A healthy profit means better prices....happier customers!

Interested In Becoming A Mystery Shopper?

I am new at it! I haven't heard a lot about it and I haven't done many....yet! It takes about a half hour of keen observations and a bit of acting! My short list of community theater roles have been a wonderful help in making the shops. I have found that connecting shopping scenarios to real life events not only make them more believable, but also more relaxed. By tying the shops into a real life situation, it is easier to follow through with conversations and questions that the companies ask you to ask of their employees.

The ability to maintain anonymity is crucial to a successful shop. Telling the employee or making it known eliminates the ability for the company to have an unbiased look at the employee's performance. It jeopardizes the entire purpose of the shop in the first place.

If you are interested in trying it out, go to and enter KS4363 as referral Shopper ID number! Bestmark is a reputable company which is careful to make sure that they follow specific guidelines and policies. They have quality checks in place to make sure that shoppers are evaluating the employee correctly. Assignments are exact and they evaluate a specific set of skills. Payments are not large, but they add up! I have had my oil changed, tires rotated and enjoyed delicious meals. I have even made a couple of hundred dollars doing it! Check it might like the challenge!

Beware of scams however, if a company asks you to do a shop and send a money order to someone, it is probably a scam. Bestmark is a reputable company. I checked it out on the site! Be smart and be safe! Have fun!

Text and Photo Copyright 2012 Deborah M. Carey

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    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 5 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      Cris Sp,

      Thank you for your gracious compliments! I was very apprehensive as well. I went to to learn about e-mail scams and found their recommendations for these companies. I felt better with their approval! Good luck and let me know how things go for you! God Bless!

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 5 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      This is a great article. I've always wanted to be a Mystery Shopper but quite skeptic on those on-line applications. As you said, lots of scams out there. I've been doing some paid-surveys on the side-line and they could be fun. I'm sure it's almost the same for the Mystery Shopper.

      I will go check your link and will make sure to note of your referral shopper ID number.

      Thanks for sharing. This is very helpful and indeed, very interesting read.

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 5 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA


      Thank you for your kind compliments! I have really had fun and have really gotten into it! The company has been super and it really does work! If you get a chance check out my follow up hub on How To Be A Successful Mystery Shopper! Hubber, I Am Rosa, put me onto it! She has also joined me in my shopping endeavors! I have also signed with Market Force who is also a reputable company. They have been really great too! They have different shops available along with other opportunities. There will be another hub....mystery shopper gone wild?? Well....maybe another title! Thanks for reading! God Bless!

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      This is a great article, Prektjr.dc. You've summed up the positive experience and benefits of being a Mystery Shopper and the realistic expectations of the assignments. I had always wondered about doing this. Sounds very interesting and would love to read a follow up to get more information.

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 5 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA


      Thanks for reading! I know I had searched for info when researching the idea and thought it would be "perfect for a hub!" Thank you for your compliments! Have a great day!

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 5 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA


      I WILL write a follow-up!! That is a great idea!! Thank you! There are some perks that I hadn't considered at first! A quick answer to your questions are yes, most things are reimbursed later, and yes, I try to avoid the areas that I frequent. In addition, I have only told a very few people. I will elaborate in my next hub! Thanks for the idea and thanks for reading!

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 5 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      I Am Rosa,

      You're Welcome! I was excited to find Bestmark and even more excited to learn about Market Force. I was introduced to Market Force by an acquaintance with whom I had shared Bestmark. Go to to sign up. I am CFA#1456804 on the Certified Field Associate program. It has movie theater checks, restaurant visits among other things! Check it out! I am really excited!

    • prektjr.dc profile image

      Debbie Carey 5 years ago from Riverton, KS, USA

      Dee aka Nonna,

      Glad to be able to help! It really has been fun. It also has been nice to be able to applaud those who are doing a good job! Thanks for reading!

    • jdodge1216 profile image

      Jessica 5 years ago from Lawton, Oklahoma

      Wow! I never knew the whole process behind it. Wonderful article!

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 5 years ago from Canada

      PS - Perhaps you could do a follow-up Hub that explains the finer details of how to be a mystery shopper. IE. Should I do this outside the community I live in where people don't really know me? ... Do I have to pay for the things I shop for up-front and then get reimbursed? ... etc.

    • I Am Rosa profile image

      Rosa Marchisella 5 years ago from Canada

      (((THANK YOU!!!!))) I've wanted to do this for YEARS, but haven't found a reputable company in Canada. BestMark covers Canada - and the area I live in - so I'm filling out an application tonight.

    • Dee aka Nonna profile image

      Dee aka Nonna 5 years ago

      This is something I have been interested in for a long time. For a brief period (only a few assignments) and when I lived in another State I did this. It was fun. I was able to point out some exceptional people and services. I ended up moving because of a job promotion/reassignment and never went back to mystery shopping. I have often thought about it and this hub really reminded me that I really need to act. Thank you.