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Copyright 2006 National Association of Mystery Shoppers

Chino Hills, CA

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Basic and Essentials

What is Mystery Shopping?

Mystery Shopping is a process of using everyday people, that possess above average awareness of their surrounding environment and strong memory skills to “secretly” evaluated and report on the procedures, operations and the quality of service they received at a business. 


To a business, Mystery Shopping is a valuable and important tool in obtaining a customers perspective on specific attributes within the business.  Almost every major industry in the USA and many abroad utilized mystery shoppers.


Mystery Shopping has been around for hundreds, possibly thousands of years in some form or fashion, but it wasn’t until the 1930’s that the term “Mystery Shoppers” was phrased.


The history of the industry in the United States, however, dates back nearly another century to Allan Pinkerton, who immigrated to this country in 1843. By 1850, he had founded the Chicago-based Pinkerton National Detective Agency, which would quickly become the industry's largest private security company. Among the Agency's main customers were the railroads, which had to contend with outlaws who robbed trains of cargo and passengers of personal possessions. In the mid-1800s, there were no federal authorities to track down outlaws across state and territorial lines, and local law enforcement were not well equipped to pursue fleeing gangs very far. Therefore, the job fell to crime victims and their hired agents. Pinkerton gained it’s reputation by the work they did for the railroads.

Much of this work diminished when federal and local agencies improved their law enforcement capabilities shortly after the turn of the 20th century. In addition to tracking down and apprehending criminals, the early private security industry performed many other duties now associated with mystery shopping.


Today the mystery shopping industry is thriving and is estimated to become a two billion dollar industry by 2009.


Over the years other names, such as Secret Shopper, Service Auditor, and Spotter,  have been used to describe Mystery Shopping. 





Mystery Shoppers visit a wide and diverse number of business to report on the quality of service they received.  Mystery Shoppers often go by different name:


Secret Shoppers


Service Evaluators

Performance auditors




Pinkerton’s National Detective Agency was a pioneering private detective agency.

The agency's logo, an eye embellished with the words "We Never Sleep" inspired the term "private eye.”




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