Posted By Jacob Jans, Editor

5,000 Shops and Still Counting

By Diane Snyder

As I celebrate 10 years of mystery shopping, I can count 5,000 shops successfully completed. Of the over 5,000 shops I’ve done over this time, I’ve been ‘outed’ as a shopper twice, flaked once and had ‘technical difficulties’ that prevented me from a successful completion three times.

5,000 shops is not too many when you do the math. That was over a ten-year period, so averaged 500 shops per year. Nine or ten shops average per week. Some weeks more, some weeks less. Here’s how I did it…

When I first started to shop, professionally, I was unorganized and did my shops haphazardly. I dabbled. I’d pick and choose only those shops that were near where I thought I might go on an particular day. I might do 2-3 per day, 5 days/week or just one shop another week, but it was not consistent. It took me a while, but I found a routine that worked well for me.

Mondays, I would set up my week’s plan. I used Google calendar and blocked out each shop for the ‘location’ work. Tuesday through Thursday, I would usually work (shop). Then I could relax and have the weekends ‘off.’ Or, and sometimes it happened, that I bit off more than I could chew and had to make up a shop so I had Friday to finish.

I assigned colors to help me manage my time. At that time, I was also taking care of my disabled husband, so I blocked his doctor’s appointments off in blue, personal time/appointments for me in pink, self-assigned shops in dark green (money!) and those shops for which I had applied but was awaiting assignment were color-coded light green. Other colors were used as well, but those were the important ones. I liked Google Calendar because I had it on my husband’s computer at home, my phone and on my computer. No matter where I was or who made an appointment, we knew what the plan was.

I was not focused on a particular number of shops to do, rather on how much money I wanted to earn. My primary responsibility was to take care of my husband, he had many doctor appointments and I needed flexibility in my schedule which was what led me to mystery shopping in the first place. It was a “part-time” job where I was in charge of the hours I worked. My husband and I agreed how much I needed to make per month. Divided it by weeks and divided the weeks into days/shops. Voila!

A few key points there…mystery shopping is work. It isn’t just fun. I did not particularly like to shop for pleasure before, but after becoming a mystery shopper, I now hate shopping unless I’m getting paid to do it!

Organization, focus and mind-set is what it took to make it work.

Soon after I embarked on my professional shopping career, I met another shopper and asked her if it was possible to make any money shopping. She told me that she did not leave her house for less than $100/day. That became my goal. I looked for those shops that paid $15 or more and negotiated with the schedulers whenever possible.

I found that if I were willing to take on multiple locations it was much more productive and efficient, plus I could make the scheduler’s job easier and therefore it was often possible to negotiate a higher fee. I’ve read in the Forum and know from my own first-hand experience, that multiple shops are the way to go. The same survey and guidelines apply for all the shops, so you only need become familiar with them once.

On Mondays, when I was lining up the week, I would also start to review the guidelines, scenario and survey to know if any additional prep work was required, such as reviewing a web site or making a phone call. Prep work was also blocked off on my calendar.

I chose to do shops that did not require a purchase unless it was going to stretch my budget. For a while, I was doing grocery shops and carried a small spiral notebook. I did so many of the shops that I was familiar with knowing what information I was going to need and wrote a cheat sheet on one page and on the next my grocery list. It was natural to shop with a list and not unusual to cross things off (or make notes).

I would generally pick a direction for my shops when I started and was doing what I call ‘paper’ shops (meaning that I would take a printed survey with me and complete much of the survey in the car as soon after completing the shop as possible). Doing multiple shops/day meant there were many details to be recorded while they were still fresh. After doing three Staples shops in the same day, for example, it was hard to remember the names of each employee or the questions that were asked, unless I made my notes as soon after as possible.

Consistency was necessary for me because we were counting on my income and all shoppers know that in order to have that income, we have to keep the pipeline filled. Happy pipeline filling!

Your Comments:

  1. camilo gonzalez says:

    Which page are offering mystery shopper visits like a proposal jobs for people abroad who must to travel for doing it kind of job ?

    • Caroline says:

      Camilo ~

      I do believe you can find what you’re looking for in the Mystery Shopper Forum.

    • Tyran Parrish says:

      Could you please tell me how I sign up to become a mystery shopper? I have searched and searched without it being a scam.

  2. Caroline says:

    Awesome Sauce, Diane!
    Congratulations on your awesome organization skills!!
    In addition, I’d like to personally thank you for a well written synopsis of your success!! It helps those of us who wish to be as successful as you learn more on how to BE organized!! Phew!! Ha!!
    Organization really is the key and color coding should make it all that much easier. Wish I had thought of that…
    I once read where a Mystery Shopper said she was bringing in $4,000 per month!! That is my new goal…and… Hopefully, one day, all will be reading my success stories!

  3. Monica Williams says:

    Hello, Where do I sign up to become a mystery shopper?

  4. Patricia Krueger says:

    Sounds good.

  5. Tina says:

    I never counted them. I just do them
    The most I made in one month is 800. And that was with fluffing Christmas trees in October. But I live in a small town, and been caught, black listed because they found out I was a shopper.
    Money for the family bills is what I accomplish.
    You rock.

    • Sharon Lee says:

      Tina, If the company hires you to do the Secret Shopper, how can they black list you from a store? Can’t you put that on your survey report?

  6. Barbara Seligman says:

    I have been a shopper from everything from A to Z in the USA and Europe for over 50 years —— 5000 is nothing if I counted it, I pick and choose and go in a 100 mile radius from my home in Florida, have lived in 18 states, been in 30 countries and lived in some, and moved 34 times in 46 years and on the data base of maybe 300 companies, though most of them do not come to Florida. I love it.
    Plus I am an Artist of Coat of arms and family crests, have 5 children and I am 86 years old.

  7. Cynthia Koehler says:

    How do I get paid for mystery shops I did when the company finds a way not to pay you. It is preventing me from pursuing other opportunies.

  8. Carmen King says:

    Who can I contact to become a shopper. I did this years ago and really enjoyed myself .

  9. Deborah Wood says:

    How do I sign up

  10. Tyran Parrish says:

    I have been looking for months on how to become a secret shopper. Can someone give me how and where I go to sign up for this?

  11. Robert alan Emerson says:


  12. Patricia Milne says:

    I have a daughter with a special needs it would be easier instead of a real job cause I would have to call off when she sick

  13. Patricia Milne says:

    It would be easier due I have special needs child Pls sends me info

  14. Patricia Milne says:

    Pls send me to the right mystery shop to apply for free thanks