Shopper Information

What is mystery shopping?

A mystery shopper is someone who visits an establishment, typically a retail store, bank, restaurant or other such places where the public does business, for the purpose of observing and measuring customer service, product quality and the environment of the establishment in general. Shoppers are given details, by the mystery shopping company responsible for the shopping program, about expectations for making specific observations during their visits and they complete reports, often using an online form, after leaving the establishment.

Mystery shoppers go to specified stores, restaurants, banks and apartments and pose as typical customers. When they leave, they complete questionnaires or other such instruments that have been custom-designed for the mystery shopping company's clients. Shopper's serve as the eyes and ears for those clients as part of their efforts to enhance the quality of the customer's experience. Many times, the information collected during mystery shopping programs is used to help mystery shopping company clients improve training programs, better articulate expectations they have of their staff, and otherwise improve the ways in which the client serves its customers.

How long does it take and what does it pay?

The length of time a mystery shop takes depends on the type of assignment, but usually a shop is likely to take less than an hour. The fees that a mystery shopper may earn from a specific shop vary just as greatly as the time required, but often a shopper might expect between $12 and $20 for the "typical" shopping scenario. In some cases the shopper might also receive free meals, discounts and savings on merchandise, or other such benefits. However, shoppers should be wary of promises of extraordinary "freebies" that sound too good to be true... if that's the way it sounds, it is probably really too good to be true. (If you are asked to pay to become a shopper, you should be EXTREMELY leery of the offer... there are thousands of opportunities to do mystery shopping that do not require the shopper to pay anything!) In some cases, the shopper may be expected to purchase an item (or a meal, theater ticket, etc.), in which cases the shopper is likely to also be reimbursed for that item, within the stipulations given by the shopping company when the shopper accepts an assignment. In every case, the shopper should strive to ensure he or she fully understands the scope of the shop, the anticipated time required, and the benefits, if any, that will result from doing the shop.

How do shoppers get assignments?

Shoppers are given assignments directly by the mystery shopping company's scheduling staff or contract scheduling company. The way in which shoppers are identified for assignments is for them to first contact the company and/or the scheduler and to complete the appropriate application process. In almost every case, the company will require the shopper to complete a separate application for that company. It is important to understand that mystery shoppers DO NOT GET ASSIGNMENTS DIRECTLY FROM MSPA. Rather, many shoppers review assignments posted on the MSPA web site ( by MSPA companies to see what is available, then reply directly to the company that posts the assignment. MSPA does not control the placement of those assignments, nor does MSPA get involved in which shoppers are assigned specific shops. All assignments are matters of interest ONLY to the mystery shopping company and the shopper and do not involve MSPA in any way.

How often can I do shops and how can I increase the frequency of doing shops?

The frequency with which you can conduct mystery shops depends, in large part, on your availability, the needs of the mystery shopping companies, the number of shops in your geographic area, and the number of shoppers that mystery shopping companies deal with in your area. To increase the likelihood that you will regularly receive assignments, sign up with several mystery shopping companies and accept shops as often as you can... but be sure that you do not accept shops that you cannot do. Reliability is a key factor in companies' selection of shoppers, so work to prove your reliability. If you cannot accept a shop, let the company know... it is better to decline a shop than to fail to deliver as you promise.

Can I count on doing mystery shopping on a full-time basis?

It is unlikely, though a few people do. More likely, you might find yourself able to do a few per month. To build up a large number of shops per month, it is likely to take quite some time... to prove your reliability and to convince the companies for which you do shops that you should be contacted before other shoppers. If you want to work full-time as a mystery shopper, understand that may be your goal, but it may not be achievable for a very long time, if ever.

How do I sign up to be a mystery shopper?

The best way to sign up is to visit the shopper area of and to visit the web sites of our member companies. Respond to shopper assignment listings, fill out applications on member company web sites, and... be persistent. It may take quite some time to be contacted about doing a shop, but once you start, you can expect to be contacted again periodically so long as you do a good job and are dependable.

Introducing "The MSPA Listening Post

It is our pleasure to share with you an exciting new MSPA development project called "The Listening Post." The Listening Post is an MSPA sponsored social network intended to allow constructive dialogue among the professionals in our industry.

Last year, the suffering economy left the MSPA with no recourse but to make very difficult but responsible decisions that created some hard feelings in the shopper community. After many long hours of dialogue and deliberation the MSPA Board elected to postpone holding a Shopper Conference in 2009 and to cancel live Gold Certification Workshops in 2010.

Feedback about our decisions from MSPA Certified Shoppers suggest our decisions caused us to lose credibility among some people in this very important audience. They expressed concern that our decisions made it impossible for shoppers to communicate directly with mystery shopping companies. The MSPA Board heard the concern and responded by creating this new resource: the Listening Post.

The MSPA Board is committed to promoting a direct and open dialogue with all industry professionals. The Listening Post is a first step, opening the doors to direct communications between MSPA Certified Shoppers and MSPA member companies.

Please, using the link provided to you in the email that led you to this page, go to the Listening Post and sign up. We look forward to your active participation in this new resource!

Thank You,
The MSPA Board