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How to Become a Secret Shopper

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Secret Shopper: A Fun and Exciting Job

Do you love to shop until you drop? How would you like to earn money for doing something that you love on your own time? Then, a mystery, or secret, shopper job may be just what you’re looking for. Mystery shopping is a part-time position that allows busy moms plenty of time to spend with their children. As a mystery shopper, you’ll evaluate different companies to ensure they are up to customer expectations and report on your findings.

Job Description

A secret shopper job makes you feel almost as if you are an undercover detective, because, in essence, you are. You pose as a regular customer at a business to find out information for your assignment and make a report to a marketing research company.

You may need to take photos or videos to document your visit to a location. Most secret shopper jobs are at a physical location, but some assignments can be completed online or over the phone.

Store visits usually take between 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the assignment. You basically make a visit and gather information, then submit it.

Assignments vary greatly. They can include making a purchase or comparing two salespersons at two different stores to inquire about a specific product. This information shows which store employees are the most knowledgeable in a specific area. You might evaluate the store associates who greet you, how long it takes to be served, the sales team’s knowledge or the availability of merchandise for customers.

Education Requirements

Becoming a mystery shopper doesn’t require a specific education. You can get certified through the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA) to gain job preference and higher paying assignments. Two levels of certification are offered.

Register through the MSPA for silver certification and complete the lessons and quizzes for the online program. It takes only about an hour to complete, and you can do it at your own convenience. You immediately receive a certification code after you complete the program.

Then, you can register for the gold certification program. You’ll use a workbook and watch two DVDs that last about four hours. Then you can take an online exam that includes multiple-choice tests, a written narrative and an observation exercise. You’ll receive your results within a few days. You can take the exam up to three times if necessary, though most people pass on their first attempt.

To get started as a secret shopper, check the MSPA’s website to find companies, sign up and start shopping.

Industry Trends

One of the thrilling parts of this type of work is that your tasks vary. An assignment might involve going to a restaurant and ordering a meal that you may be reimbursed for. Alternatively, you may receive merchandise in lieu of compensation. Signing up with multiple companies provides variety in what you do and the type of businesses you evaluate. Some assignment areas include retail stores of all types, grocery and convenience stores, restaurants, gas stations, and even nursing homes.

Years of Experience

The amount of money you make varies greatly depending on how long the assignment takes. The average amount you can expect to earn is $5 to $20 per trip. That doesn’t sound like much, but $20 an hour is not so bad. Salary Expert reports the following annual average salaries for the United States based on experience:

  • 1‒3 years: $31,317
  • 4‒8 years: $42,939
  • Over 8 years: $50,772

You can expect to earn a decent living doing this type of job if you sign up with many companies, as it takes several companies to make money.

Job Growth Trend

More and more companies are using secret shoppers to evaluate different areas of their establishments. It’s an ideal way to get the information they desire without the need to hire a full-time employee and pay travel expenses for the same information.


Mary Lougee has been writing for over 10 years. She holds a Bachelor's Degree with a major in Management and a double minor in accounting and computer science. She loves writing about careers for busy families as well as family oriented planning, meals and activities for all ages.

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