A free mystery shopper, also known as a secret shopper, is an individual who covertly visits businesses, restaurants, and shops as an average customer in order to evaluate the specific standards, quality, cleanliness, and customer service practices of the business or corporation. Secret shoppers are generally chosen for their keen observation to detail as well as their ability to follow instructions. When a mystery shopper is given an assignment, there are specific instructions he or she is asked to follow as a part of the visit. The shopper is reimbursed for these visits generally by a set wage determined prior to the assignment, as well as the cost of any meals or food he or she may be asked to purchase during the visit. There are approximately two million individuals currently employed by marketing services and businesses specifically for the purpose of mystery shopping.
Contrary to popular belief, a free mystery shopper is not a random consumer who gets paid to merely elicit an opinion, but rather is hired as an actual contracted employee to specifically evaluate a wide variety of detail depending upon the business in question. More common details include cleanliness, the quality of goods and presentation, store displays, and other variables pertaining to business etiquette and expectations. There are several ways to embark upon a career as a mystery shopper including responding to local ads placed in newspapers, to fliers distributed in businesses, and online at certain websites. In the case of the Internet and online venues, care must be exercised when submitting sensitive information to unknown websites with regards to the risk of identity theft. Other risk factors include signing up for services which are neither wanted nor desired, including club memberships, a process that is not necessary to gain employment as a free mystery shopper.
Perhaps the best way to become a free mystery shopper is to solicit those companies whose business it is to hire mystery shoppers both locally and nationally, such as Gapbuster Worldwide. The Mystery Shoppers Providers Association (MSPA) is a good source for locating both shops and certification programs. It is important to note that fees and charges are never necessary to become a free mystery shopper, although the MSPA does elicit a minor charge to become certified. Additionally, companies exist for the sole purpose of testing and training individuals to become mystery shoppers, and joining elitist clubs, memberships, or paying websites to gain access to ads is not necessary in order to procure gainful employment. Check your local newspaper and trade magazines, and consider visiting forums that feature alternative employment opportunities to find out more information on who might be looking for a free mystery shopper in your area.