Secret, or mystery, shopping is a process that involves patronizing various types of retail and other establishments on behalf of a client. The object of this type of activity is to supply the client with an honest critique of the general operation and the quality of the goods and services offered at the establishment. There are mystery shopping jobs that focus on specific settings, such as restaurants, retail stores, hotels, and even business services such as telecommunications. Mystery shoppers are usually reimbursed for any purchases they make in course of an assignment, as well as a fee for their services.
In the case of restaurant mystery shopping jobs, a client supplies the mystery or secret shopper with the name and location of a particular restaurant, with instructions to evaluate specific aspects of the business. The shopper may be asked to order specific menu items and rate them for freshness, taste, and presentation. It is not unusual for the shopper to also evaluate the general cleanliness of the establishment along with the efficiency of the staff. Many fast food restaurant chains contract with mystery shoppers to make sure franchise owners are complying with company standards and projecting a proper image for the company.
There are also retail mystery shopping jobs. With this application, secret shoppers are charged with the task of shopping at different retail establishments. As with the restaurant, the shoppers are sometimes asked to buy specific items, or to ask employees specific questions. This can make it possible to gauge such important aspects as the efficiency and product knowledge of the staff, as well as determine if the prices charged for goods are competitive with other stores in the area.
Hotel or hospitality mystery shopping jobs are also common today. Shoppers are responsible for evaluating various aspects of a hotel, such as the ease of checking in, room service, the various amenities offered, and quality and cleanliness of the rooms as well as other areas of the hotel and grounds. Often, the shopper is responsible for proactively making use of different hotel services, providing the client with feedback on how well those services function.
There are even business service mystery shopping jobs in which shoppers try services and rate them on behalf of a client. One example is with teleconferencing services. The mystery shopper establishes an account with the conference call provider and proceeds to use each of the telecommunication tools offered as part of the service. The results can be relayed to the mystery shopping client, with a recommendation to either do business with a particular provider, or to avoid using a given service at all costs.
Many people confuse mystery shopping jobs with personal shopping jobs. There is one significant difference between the two professions. A personal shopper is focused on securing specific goods and services for a client, and has full authority to establish accounts in the name of that client, if the client desires to establish an account with a given vendor. Mystery shopping is different, in that the client’s name is never mentioned to a vendor, and the shopper has no authority to establish accounts for or make purchases that are billed directly to the client.