Mystery shopping saw its start in the 1940s. When it began, it was used primarily in banks and retail stores to assess the integrity of the employees working there. Mystery Shoppers would pose as employees in an attempt to discover if any store employees were stealing or compromising the success of the company.
Today, mystery shoppers use materials that include questionnaires and audio/video recording equipment to document their experiences. Materials that are far more advanced than when mystery shopping began and evaluations were based on the word of the shopper.
As the industry grew into the 80's and 90's it expanded rapidly because of the presence of the Internet. Companies began cornering the market in terms of mystery shopping and businesses stopped hiring individuals to evaluate their businesses and instead turned to these mystery shopping/market research companies for the service. Now, most mystery shoppers can find work online via these companies who train, and provide work for them. Today mystery shoppers provide customer service information for any industry.
Today mystery shopping offers a much broader service to the company in which it investigates than it did years ago. It is used more as an indication of customer service and satisfaction rather than simply a method for policing bad employees. As such, mystery shopping has boomed into a $1.8 billion dollar industry that exists worldwide. Companies all over the world turn to mystery shoppers to help them evaluate how customers view their business and products. In today's world with so much mystery shopping being done via the Internet, the turnaround for assessments and information is quicker and more comprehensive, making mystery shopping an industry that is sure to continue growing.