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Top Mystery Shopping Tips from the Pros

If you’re interested in mystery shopping, or have just started, you’ll start figuring out a few ways to maximize your time and make more money by taking the right kinds of shops and using a little bit of planning. Here are a few mystery shopping tips we’ve learned over the years that we’ve been doing it, and that we’ve learned from other professional shoppers.

Organize your shops by proximity.

When shoppers are first starting out, it’s not uncommon to see them take a scatter approach, doing as many shops in a day as they can. While it’s an admirable pursuit, it can really cut into your overall productivity. If you live in a bigger city like Louisville, Orlando, or Cincinnati, you could spend an hour driving from one side of town to the other to your next shop. Instead, keep your shops confined to sections of town, like the northeast side on Mondays, northwest on Tuesdays, and so on.

When you first start out, just do a couple of shops to make sure you get the hang of everything, rather than taking on a small handful of shops, only to find out you’re struggling and you didn’t get paid for any of them.

A map of Louisville with red lines dividing it up into 6 grids. Great for organizing mystery shopping trips.

You can divide your city up into grids or small areas and do all the shops in each area one day of the week. #1 on Monday, #2 on Tuesday, and so on.

Practice with your technology

If you can get audio or video shops on your schedule, those are worth more money because you’re doing extra work and providing extra services. You can do a lot of your audio and video recording with a smartphone. One thing I like to do is put my phone into a shirt pocket with a little bit of padding underneath it so the lens will peek out of the pocket. If I’m doing an audio-only recording, I put the phone upside down so the microphone is poking out.

Invest in spy technology

I have a pair of sunglasses that have a micro camera in the bridge between the eyes, but I’ve also seen regular glasses that offer the same feature. They can make a big difference in the quality of the video you shoot and audio you record, and that can make you more valuable and reliable to your mystery shopping agency.

I’ve also seen button cameras that you can wear in your shirt, sticking it through one of your button holes. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to do any sewing or removing the original button. Just don’t put the original button in the hole and put the camera through the hole instead.) You can do similar things with audio recording technology and special microphones. These are ideal for the audio-only shops you may be asked to do from time to time, and there are a wide variety of tools available.

Work with more than one mystery shopping agency

While we would love to have enough shops for every shopper in our agency, it doesn’t always work out that way. So some high-level mystery shoppers will work with more than one mystery shopping agency. They still follow the patterns of breaking up all their shops by region, and taking the video shops that pay more money.

The nice thing about working for mystery shopping agencies is that 1) you don’t have to live in the city where they’re located. We’re located in Louisville, Kentucky, but we have shoppers all over the country; and 2) if you’re already working for one agency, the others will know you have the experience when you apply, so you’re more likely to get picked up.

Edit your mystery shopping reports

Poorly-written shopping reports will not get paid for, no matter how much money you spent. Be sure you use a spell checker on your report — write it out in a word processor or on Google Drive first — and consider using a writing quality tool like Hemingway App to determine whether your sentences are very complicated, slightly complicated, or in passive voice. You can load your reports onto the Hemingway website or download an app directly to your computer.

I also recommend installing the Grammarly plugin on your web browser, whether it’s Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. And if you have a Mac laptop, you can even download a native Grammarly application for your computer.

If you would like to become a mystery shopper, you can sign up at our website,