How to Become a Secret Shopper

As Seen In

logo of wsj
logo of wsj
logo of business-insider
logo of business-insider
logo of cnn
logo of cnn
logo of fatherly
logo of fatherly
logo of nbc
logo of nbc

Table Of Contents

You’ve likely heard of secret shopping, but how do you actually get started as a secret shopper? This article will break down all the details so you can get paid for shopping!

What Is Secret Shopping?

Secret shopping is a job where a company pays you to act like a regular customer and then provide insight and feedback to the company about your shopping experience. Often the company is looking for information on how clean the store is, or if the employees interacted with you. In exchange for your information and feedback, the company will pay you.

Secret shopping is also sometimes called mystery shopping.

How Can I Tell if I am Being Scammed?

If anyone asks you for money for a signup fee, run! Secret shoppers companies do not ask for money to complete an application. Mostly the scam will be that you will get jobs from them if you pay them for the leads, but the truth is you can get access to the same jobs, and even better jobs, directly from secret shopping companies for free.

Also, don’t respond to companies who are recruiting via classified ads. Be suspicious of wild claims of making $50 - $100 an hour, or that you can keep the designer clothes.

So, you may still be asking that question, “Are secret shoppers a scam?” The answer is no, and it is a legit way to make money. There are an estimated 2.5 million secret shoppers working for hundreds of mystery shopping companies. Still, you should use caution when you are interested in secret shopping and only choose to deal with companies you know are reputable.

If a company belongs to Mystery Shopping Providers Association, they have to go through an approval process and agree to uphold ethical standards. Go to and learn which companies you can trust. There are companies that are not members but are legitimate, so don’t assume that if they don’t belong they are not. However, if they are a member, then you can assume that they are legitimate.

How Much Do Secret Shoppers Make?

Join The Break Community

Typically you can expect to be paid by the job, not by the hour. Fees may vary based on knowledge or skill needed to evaluate a business or remote locations that require travel to complete.

Generally, if you are required to eat somewhere or spend a certain dollar amount, that would be reimbursed along with your fee. Obviously, if you review a bank or apartment complex there would be no purchase so the fee may be a little more because you wouldn’t have the benefit of services.

Restaurants typically reimburse for the secret shoppers meal and one guest. Some may only reimburse for the meal, while others may also give a fee in addition. Your reimbursement could be someplace between $50.00 to $150.00 or more.

Some retail stores do allow their secret shoppers to keep small purchases made, but generally it isn’t big ticket items. The best deals for secret shoppers are restaurants, massages, hair treatments, dry cleaning, service work, or other repairs. These companies give you the services for free and usually a fee for filling out the paperwork. There are also options like free hotel stays, admission to movies theaters, theme parks, and lots of other cool stuff.

Most secret shoppers work part-time and they are happy with the perks and a little extra cash. You can expect $10 an hour and up, plus your freebies. As you gain experience you will be hired for more high-end shops, and with your fees and services, you can do well.

What About Special Training?

There are several types of certifications and many companies require their shoppers to go through it before you receive an assignment. This is just to make you familiar with how to do the paperwork, follow guidelines, and understand the process you will be doing. There is a Silver and a Gold Certification that is obtained by attending a one-day workshop. Visit the website for information on this workshop. There is a charge for this certification and it’s not required by all companies. The most important thing is having good people skills, being reliable, and observant.

Does Race Matter?

Not for the reasons you may assume. Race only matters so that companies can see if any patron is being treated differently because of their race. Some companies do like to send several different races of people to the same location to see if there are differences in treatment.

What Would a Reputable Company Normally Ask When I Apply?

There may be questions about the car your drive, if you have pets, wear glasses, own a digital camera, and a few others that seem a little odd. Each question is on the application because that company’s clients need shoppers that match a certain profile.

In the U.S. you will also be asked for your Social Security number online. Just be sure to verify you are on a safe site. Look up for “https” at the beginning of the URL you’re on, and make sure there’s an image of a lock at the bottom of your browser window.

How Do I Find Secret Shopper Jobs Near me?

If you purchase “The Mystery Shopper’s Manual”, you will receive a bonus download with links of over 100 companies you can apply to. This way you don’t have to worry about being scammed. As you get more familiar with it you will be able to sniff out companies on your own as well.

Often times you may be asked to do other assignments other than shopping, like audits, demos, surveys, and other research of market products.