Do You Have Airport Security Clearance?

Photo courtesy of TSA.gov.

Photo courtesy of TSA.gov.

A mystery shopper recently asked:

I was signing up with a mystery shopping site and one of the questions asked on the application was, “Do you have airport security clearance?” My first thought was, “What do they want me to take on a plane that would require my having personal security clearance?”

Is this question typical? Why would a mystery shopping company want to know if I have airport security clearance? Should I just ignore that site and go on to the next?

The question is not on every application, but some mystery shopping companies have a legitimate reason for asking. No, they are not going to have you take anything on a plane. In fact, you don’t have to get on a plane to handle the assignments. The reason they ask is simple:

The mystery shopping company has clients with locations behind the security checkpoint at airports.

You may know that in every airport there are restaurants, coffee shops, newsstands, gift shops, and other stores including those selling watches and jewelry, cosmetics and perfume, clothing, electronics, golf equipment and more. Many of those places get mystery shopped, and in order to get the shops done they need shoppers who can pass through security. These days, about the only ways you get into the gate area would be that you are a ticketed traveler or you work at the airport or for an airline and have a badge that gets you through security.

When a mystery shopping company has shoppers on their roster who are badged and able to pass through security it makes it easier to get these shops done. That is why they ask.

If they do not have a badged shopper available, companies may look for shoppers who are traveling and can do the shop while they are in the airport. Even if you don’t have airport security clearance, if a company asks the question and you travel often let them know that you would be interested in doing airport shops during your trips.

In some cases, companies have been able to get a shopper badged so they can do shops. It is not easy, but it has been done in extreme cases. If that is not a possibility, they may be able to have a shopper accompanied by an escort to do shops on the other side of the security line.

Some shoppers have been willing to purchase refundable tickets in order to be able to access the gate area. They buy a ticket (making sure that it is fully refundable), then use it to go through security. Once they have completed the shops, they get a refund on the ticket. If you do this make sure you completely understand the terms under which you may obtain a refund. For example, if you try to get a refund after the flight has departed, you may be out of luck. You do not want to get stuck with an expensive ticket that you can not get refunded.

The bottom line is that the mystery shopping companies who ask this question are not going to ask you to do anything dangerous or inappropriate. If you have security clearance and can answer yes, it may help you to get more assignments.

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