Mystery Shopping Assignments


More Inside Info from Ann Michaels and Associates

What does a typical mystery shopping assignment involve?

A typical assignment involves visiting a business posing as a typical customer would. Mystery shoppers are provided with written guidelines before the shop, as well as the survey questions, so they can prepare and know what aspects they will be evaluating. Since this is different for each client, and can even be different for the same client each month, this is a vital step for mystery shoppers.

Once they have reviewed the training material and mystery shopper survey questions, they will go to the business or place a telephone call to make their evaluations. Shoppers need to pay special attention to timings, as well as employee names and descriptions during the shop. They will interact with one or more employees and sometimes make a purchase. All of this depends on the particular requirements for the shop.

Once the shop is complete, mystery shoppers need to complete the survey and submit it to the mystery shopping company for review. All of the questions need to be answered, and written details are also requested for any negative responses to document what exactly happened. In many cases, a narrative is required.

What kind of person would make a good mystery shopper?

A good mystery shopper is someone who has great attention to detail and strong observational skills. Since many reports include narrative writing, strong writing skills are also needed. To be a great mystery shopper, an individual will need to be able to review instructions to make sure they are performing the shop correctly, be able to make good observations, and write narratives in a detailed, objective manner so that the client feels like they were sitting right next to the shopper during the experience.

Mystery shoppers also need to be very objective – the mystery shopping reports serve as a tool to train and improve employee performance. They are not used to “catch” employees doing something wrong – the role of the mystery shopper is to objectively report their experience to allow clients to see what is going well, and what improvements need to be made.

What advice do you have for someone who would like to become a mystery shopper?

There are a couple pieces of advice that will make a new mystery shopper’s life easier. First, do not fall for any scams – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Unfortunately, there are many mystery shopping scams out there.

Starting in this industry can be overwhelming. I tell new shoppers to utilize the MSPA to seek out companies who may have work in their area. There is a great message board for mystery shoppers that can give good advice as well as tips and tricks. Also, Jobslinger ( is an excellent source of information as far as finding legitimate mystery shopping companies. You can register, which is free, and search for mystery shops in your area.

Once you determine which companies advertise work near you, you can register with them to receive information on shops as they become available. You can register with as many companies as you wish, since you are an independent contractor. Using a site such as Jobslinger will cut down the time spent finding and registering with the appropriate companies.

Our company started the Mystery Shopping Learning Center ( last year to assist mystery shoppers in becoming the best they can be. The site offers information on report writing, how to complete industry-specific shops, as well as online seminars.

A final piece of advice is to take good notes! While you cannot do this while you are actually in the store, many mystery shoppers will leave the store and drive a few blocks away. Once there, they will write down all of the pertinent information, including timings, employee names/descriptions, and other important information. This is a great help when preparing the report – the details are very fresh in your mind, and it allows you to recall all of the details that you will need when you return home.

The first shop is always the most nerve-wracking – once you get the hang of it and do that first shop, it will get easier! Jump into that first shop, read the message boards and forums, and most of all, have fun with it!


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