A secret shopper is usually employed by a mystery shopper company. A business owner pays the company for the service of the mystery shopper, whose job is to evaluate the way the business is run, from the performance of the employees and managers to the overall organization of the business and cleanliness of the building. One of the secret shopper’s main objectives is to remain incognito, and make it appear that he is an everyday shopper interested in buying something. There are a few key signs that you’re dealing with a mystery shopper, although they’re sometimes difficult to spot.

Look for someone who is jotting down notes, speaking into a voice recorder or paying special attention to the details of your business. For example, if you are the manager of a pizza shop, look for customers who pay extra attention to your line of food, menu, signs and any other details that can make your business either extraordinary or inferior.

Listen for anyone who asks your name. Mystery shoppers need to write down who they dealt with in the store, so the shopper will often ask for your name and position. A secret shopper often asks for your name at the very end of the conversation, so the shopper won't forget.

Look for any customers who take pictures. Secret shoppers use cameras to help them remember the areas of your operation or the items in your store that they find to be either outstanding or sloppy.

Pay attention to a customer that asks several questions about a particular item. Many customers ask questions about potential purchases, but mystery shoppers tend to focus on one item in particular and then test your knowledge about that item. For example, if you work in an electronics store, the secret shopper may ask you three to five questions about a printer, and then go to another electronics store and ask the same questions. The mystery shopper will then compare your knowledge of the product with the know-how of the employee from the competing store and send in a report.


Secret shoppers are more difficult to identify in the food business. Instead of asking questions, the shopper will often wait for you to ask if he wants a side with his meal or if he prefers a combo meal. Failure to ask on your part, can result in a negative report of your performance.