How to Become a Secret Shopper

Is it a Scam?

I am sure if you have ever considered being a secret shopper you realized the number of scams out there. Does this mean that all secret shoppers are a scam? interviewed Cathy Stucker who has been a mystery shopper since 1995. She authored a book called, “Mystery Shopper’s Manual”. It’s a very popular book that explains mystery shopping. You can learn more about mystery shopping at Cathy’s website and you will find out Cathy knows what she is talking about.

Since Cathy has been a successful secret shopper since 1995, she was selected by Mystery Shoppers Providers Association to present their Gold Certification Workshops.

ScamBusters has been publishing for over 11 years and have only done one article on secret shopping. That article was based on popular home-based business scams. People seem to still be writing in and wanting more information on secret shopping, so they followed up with another article.

As Cathy explained (and as you probably know), secret shoppers are undercover customers, who gather information about quality, service, cleanliness, and any other issues on behalf of business owners. Secret shoppers go into banks, stores, restaurants, apartment complexes, and just about any type of business and pose as customers. They will ask questions, make purchases, return items, and various other things that customers may do.

People think that secret shoppers get paid for their opinions. That is a common misconception. Normally secret shoppers are asked a series of questions, like were you greeted within 30 seconds? Was your order run up correctly? Did you get a receipt?

Each business has a set of questions they ask that pertains to them. For example, if it is a restaurant chain they may ask things like, how long did it take to be seated, were you told about specials and suggested particular items, and if they were thanked and invited to return. The information that is gained by these forms of questions is used to determine a reward for top performers and possibly suggest training where deficiencies exist.

You may think that mostly just service business that are working for profits are the only ones who use secret shoppers, but even government agencies have used them to discover how well they serve their “customers”.

So, you may still be asking that question, “Are secret shoppers a scam?” The answer is no, and it is a legit way to make money. There are an estimated 2.5 million secret shoppers working for hundreds of mystery shopping companies. Still, you should use caution when you are interested in secret shopping and only choose to deal with companies you know are reputable.

If a company belongs to Mystery Shopping Providers Association, they have to go through an approval process and agree to uphold ethical standards. Go to and learn which companies you can trust. There are companies that are not members but are legitimate, so don’t assume that if they don’t belong they are not. However, if they are a member, then you can assume that they are legitimate.

How Can I Tell if I am Being Scammed?

If anyone asks you for money for a signup fee, run! Secret shoppers companies do not ask for money to complete an application. Mostly the scam will be that you will get jobs from them if you pay them for the leads, but the truth is you can get access to the same jobs, and even better jobs, directly from secret shopping companies for free.

Also, don’t respond to companies who are recruiting via classified ads. Be suspicious of wild claims of making $50 - $100 an hour, or that you can keep the designer clothes.

How Much Do Secret Shoppers Make?

Typically you can expect to be paid by the job, not by the hour. Fees may vary based on knowledge or skill needed to evaluate a business or remote locations that require travel to complete.

Generally, if you are required to eat somewhere or spend a certain dollar amount, that would be reimbursed along with you fee. Obviously if you review a bank or apartment complex there would be no purchase so the fee may be a little more because you wouldn’t have the benefit of services.

Restaurants typically reimburse for the secret shoppers meal and one guest. Some may only reimburse for the meal, while others may also give a fee in addition. Your reimbursement could be someplace between $50.00 to $150.00 or more.

Some retail stores do allow their secret shoppers to keep small purchases made, but generally it isn’t big ticket items. The best deals for secret shoppers are restaurants, massages, hair treatments, dry cleaning, service work, or other repairs. These companies give you the services for free and usually a fee for filling out the paperwork. There are also options like free hotel stays, admission to movies theaters, theme parks, and lots of other cool stuff.

Most secret shoppers work part-time and they are happy with the perks and a little extra cash. You can expect $10 an hour and up, plus your freebies. As you gain experience you will be hired for more high end shops, and with your fees and services you can do well.

What About Special Training?

There are several types of certifications and many companies require their shoppers to go through it before you receive an assignment. This is just to make you familiar with how to do the paperwork, follow guidelines, and understand the process you will be doing. There is a Silver and a Gold Certification that is obtained by attending a one-day workshop. Visit the website for information on this workshop. There is a charge for this certification and it’s not required by all companies. The most important thing is having good people skills, being reliable, and observant.

Does Race Matter?

Not for the reasons you may assume. Race only matters so that companies can see if any patron is being treated differently because of their race. Some companies do like to send several different races of people to the same location to see if there are differences in treatment.

What Would a Reputable Company Normally Ask When I Apply?

There may be questions about the car your drive, if you have pets, wear glasses, own a digital camera, and a few others that seem a little odd. Each question is on the application because that company’s clients need shoppers that match a certain profile.

In the U.S. you will also be asked for your Social Security number online. Just be sure to verify you are on a safe site. Look up for “https” at the beginning of the URL you’re on, and make sure there’s an image of a lock at the bottom of your browser window.

How Do I Find Secret Shopper Jobs Near me?

If you purchase “The Mystery Shopper’s Manual”, you will receive a bonus download with links of over 100 companies you can apply to. This way you don’t have to worry about being scammed. As you get more familiar with it you will be able to sniff out companies on your own as well.

Often times you may be asked to do other assignments other than shopping, like audits, demos, surveys, and other research of market products.