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What Is a Shadow Shopper?

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A shadow shopper, otherwise known as a mystery shopper or secret shopper, is a person hired to pose as a customer in order to evaluate business performance. More than 1 million people work as secret shoppers worldwide, according to Good Morning America.

Job Description

Many stores, restaurants and hotels hire shadow shoppers to anonymously evaluate the performance of employees, cleanliness of locations and availability of products. Shadow shoppers are usually ordinary people, not necessarily those trained in retail service.


While many shadow shopping jobs are legitimate, some offers are too good to be true. It is common for shadow-shopping scams to appear as classified ads, according to the Better Business Bureau. Scams tend to offer big paychecks, but require a non-refundable upfront fee.


Average pay for a shadow shopping assignment ranges from a comped restaurant meal to between $25 and $50, though shoppers can earn more for especially complex tasks, according to It’s rare to make a living from shadow shopping, since most shoppers are hired for sporadic, part-time hours. However, the schedule frequently appeals to people in need of flexible hours.


Sierra Rose is a California-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in several newspapers, the "Sierra Style" family of magazines and on numerous business websites. She previously worked as a business and finance reporter and has since branched out to cover news, home and garden topics. Rose has a Bachelor of Arts in economics from Sacramento State University.