The Appeal of Mystery Shopping

Interview with a Successful Secret Shopper

Cathy Stucker has been a professional mystery shopper since 1995.

In fact, she wrote the book on mystery shopping.

Her book,The Mystery Shopper’s Manual, is a best seller that has helped thousands of people become successful mystery shoppers, and she has personally trained thousands of shoppers through her classes and the Mystery Shopping Providers Association’s Gold Certification program.

Cathy has appeared on television and radio programs from coast to coast, and has been featured in publications such as Woman’s Day, Woman’s World, Black Enterprise, the New York Times and many others.

What made you decide to become a mystery shopper?

I had always been curious about it, but when I got started (1995) there wasn’t a lot of information out there about mystery shopping. I discovered a lot of other people also wanted to know how to become professional shoppers, so I researched it so that I could become a shopper and then teach others to do so.

Do you specialize in one particular type of industry or do you take a variety of assignments?

I enjoy mystery shopping restaurants (I love to get my meals paid for!) but I have shopped a wide variety of clients, including stores, banks, optical providers, dry cleaners, and many others – even a hypnotist!

Can you explain what a typical day in the life of a mystery shopper is like? What information are you given before you do a “shop” and how do you report to your client afterward?

One of the great things about being a mystery shopper is that there is no such thing as a “typical day.” Most of us do this part-time or spare-time, so it is something we work in around other things such as a job or business, raising kids, going to school or other responsibilities.

Shoppers get detailed guidelines explaining the shop, as well as the report form to be completed, well before the shop.That makes it easy to prepare so we can remember the details the client wants to see. After the shop, we log in to the mystery shopping company’s website and complete the report form. Completing the form can take anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour, depending on the type of shop and the amount of information the client needs.

What do you like best about mystery shopping?

It is flexible. The shopper decides what kinds of shops he or she will do, where they are willing to shop, and how often. There is usually a range of days and times when an assignment can be completed, so it can be worked in to a busy schedule.

What do you like least about it?

Many people think of mystery shopping as “easy money,” but it is not. It is enjoyable (even fun sometimes) but it is work. And some assignments do not pay well, so I find myself passing up some secret shopper assignments I might otherwise do in order to take better paying jobs.

Do you have an advice for people who are considering becoming mystery shoppers?

Just do it. Sign up with a number of companies and start looking for assignments.

Never pay to register with any company. Legitimate mystery shopping companies will not charge you.

Make your application great. Answer every question and use proper spelling, grammar and punctuation.

Do not expect that your first assignment will be to evaluate the Presidential Suite at the Ritz. Those types of assignments are out there, but they go to the most experienced and reliable shoppers. New shoppers have to pay their dues by completing the less desirable shops at first.

There are much more advice for both new and experienced mystery shoppers at


Learn More: Qualities of a Good Secret Shopper