A Needle in a Haystack? How to Get Your Target

Most apartment mystery shopping jobs require you to complete a telephone call before the visit. Some mystery shop jobs allow any person to be shopped, but others ask that you target a specific leasing agent. This means you’ll need to complete both the telephone call and the visit with this person, but clients usually prefer that you not ask for the target person by name. So how do you manage to get a specific person on the phone without asking for them by name? It sounds about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack, but it’s not that hard! Here are a few ideas to help you find that needle without compromising your identity as a mystery shopper.

1. Make 3 to 5 calls each day and space those calls about an hour apart. – You’ll have a much better chance of reaching the right person if you’re making more than one or two calls per day. Further, if you’re spacing those calls an hour or so apart, you’ll cover more of the workday, in case that person comes in later in the day or leaves earlier. Plus, it will help make sure your voice does not become familiar.

2. Don’t just hang up; ask a simple question. – When you call and you reach someone other than your target, don’t just hang up! Instead, ask or say something simple that will allow you to end the call without having to give your information. Things like “What time does the office open/close?”, “I’m sorry, I’m afraid I reached the wrong number.” or “Does your community have breed restrictions for dogs?” are great ways to get off the call without having to begin a sales call.

3. Use a second phone for an “assist”. – Sometimes you’ll make several calls per day, but you keep reaching the same person, who ISN’T your target, every time. In these cases, a trick you can try is to enlist a friend or use a second phone. Make a call with one phone so that person will answer and will be tied up with that call and then call on the second phone at the same time, in the hopes the call will roll over to someone else.

4. Reach out to EPMS for help. – Don’t forget, EPMS is always happy to help. If you’ve made calls for a couple of days and still can’t catch the target, use the white envelope icon next to your shop to send a message to your EPMS follow-up person. Let them know you’ve made numerous calls and are still having trouble. They can either offer other suggestions or reach out to the client for additional help or schedule information.

The more practice you get with completing target shops, the easier it will become. You’ll find you even devise your own hacks that work best for you!

Effective Shop Schedule Planning

When you have multiple shops to complete, you will need to do some planning to get them all done on time. After all, mystery shopping is probably not the only thing you do on any given day. You can build a good reputation for yourself as a shopper with EPMS when you consistently meet your deadlines.  This will give you access to more and better shops!

Most apartment shops have a completion window of a few days. Therefore, it’s important to take note of the days and times each shop can be completed. Some can only be shopped on weekdays, some may include weekends and others may have specific days or times they are limited to. In order to make sure you compete the shops you are assigned, you should also make a note of the times the locations are open.

For shops that include a telephone call, you should begin making calls the day you are assigned the shop.  Some shops will take a couple of days of calling to reach a live person or the specific target (if one has been specified). After completing the calls, you will have a better idea of what order shops should completed based on due dates and distance. Obviously, you would want to complete the shops that have the soonest due dates first.

In the event you need more time, you can always reach out to the team at EPMS to see if it will be possible to have the shop date extended. However, keep in mind some shops are especially time sensitive and may not be eligible for due date extensions. In those cases, someone at EPMS can help with advice on how to make contact or get in touch with the client for more information.

Three Tips to Write the Best Shop Report

Your apartment mystery shop assignment includes writing a report to share your observations with EPMS and the apartment management company. This is your time to shine and show how awesome your mystery shopping skills are! Here are three tips to help you write the most effective report and ensure you will be awarded as many shops as you want. Continue reading “Three Tips to Write the Best Shop Report”

Finals, Projects and Reports

May is a busy time of year!  The school year is drawing to a close and there are finals and papers to think about, in addition to the shops you have picked up to earn that extra summer cash. It can be tough to juggle all the responsibilities. Here is some advice to help you process your shops in a timely fashion so you can be sure to get your paycheck in time for summer. Continue reading “Finals, Projects and Reports”

Show Some Love

The main purpose of an apartment mystery shop is to evaluate the leasing agent’s performance and ensure he or she is following the training provided by their employer. They should work to move the interaction forward toward the end goal of securing a lease, but occasionally you will encounter an agent who seems nervous or shy. Here are a few suggestions for creating an environment to give the leasing agent the greatest opportunity for success.
Continue reading “Show Some Love”

Comeback from Complacency: Get Back Your Mojo!

Complacency can hinder your efforts to develop as a mystery shopper. Are you ready to come back from complacency and get back your mojo!

Once you tackle and learn the job of mystery shopping, it is easy to become complacent on just filling out the evaluation report and submitting it for payment without pursuing a desire to improve your skills.  Working at a satisfactory level for a regular paycheck may suffice for a while, but to ensure higher-pay job opportunities, you should set aside a small amount of time to focus on your job proficiency.


There are numerous areas a shopper could improve, but an important one is submitting better reports.  This can include better proofreading, increasing your vocabulary, or working on your typing skills. When you submit well-written, well-edited reports in a timely manner, it can improve your reputation as a shopper, making the mystery shopping company trust you with better or more frequent job opportunities.

Keep in mind, there are many free proofreading tools you can download which are far superior to the regular proofreading software that usually comes with your computer system.  A quick search on the Internet for free proofreading software can easily upgrade your available tools in a few minutes.  You could also consider investing in a small dictionary or thesaurus to help keep you out of a vocabulary rut.  There are even free online writing exercises to improve your sentence and grammar structure as well as typing skills.

You can set yourself up to earn great supplemental income through mystery shopping if you are able to stay on top of your game. Come back from complacency and get back your mojo today!

Get Your Ducks in a Row

You’ve made the wise decision to start earning money working from home as a mystery shopper and you are about to perform your very first apartment mystery shop! Follow these tips to help you do your best. After all, if the shop goes smoothly, you will feel better about accepting more jobs and making more money.


One of the first things you should do is get a good night’s sleep. You will need to be alert and observant on the shop, so try to get the rest you need. In the morning, have a bite to eat and then start making your calls to the apartment community. Most apartment communities start answering their phones around 9:00 AM, but this can vary a bit by location.

When you call, make sure you already have a timeline in mind for your move. Don’t hesitate when asked for that information! Doing so will make the agent will wonder why you don’t immediately know when you will be moving and that may compromise your identity as a shopper. Remember to also have a reason why you are moving. Most people move because of a job or because their lease ended. Just be sure your reason for moving is plausible.

After the call has been completed, you are ready to complete the on-site portion of your shop. Wear better clothes to make a good impression, but dress comfortably as well. You will likely have to walk to the model or empty apartment. Make note of the time you arrive at the shop and the time you leave.

Lastly, when you have finished your shop and return home, you will want to write the report ASAP, while the information is still fresh in your mind. If you took notes during your visit, you will be ahead of the game and your report will be accurate.

Once you’ve completed a few shops, you’ll find that most of these practices begin to come naturally!

Ace the Phone Portion of the Shop

The phone portion of the mystery shop is a vital first step. You typically cannot complete the onsite visit until you have made the phone call. The call allows the leasing agent to get to know you and your needs better and set up your visit. It also allows them the opportunity to give a sales preview of what their community has to offer, so it is an important tool in the overall performance evaluation.


Target Agent

If you have a target agent, make sure to pay close attention to the name of the person as you make your calls. Often, the leasing agent is so used to saying their opening greeting, they may say their name faster than you were prepared to hear.

If the person answering is not your target agent, find a reason to get off the phone quickly without raising suspicion.

No Target Agent (meaning Anyone)

If you do not have a target agent, you can begin the shop with whoever answers the phone. This is one of the easiest types of shops to complete.

The leasing agent should invite you for a tour during your phone conversation. Accept this invitation and be prepared to shop this same person onsite. If the call is nearing the end and you have not received an invitation, let them know you’d like to stop by that day to have a look and pick up information.

Anyone Except (Name)

This means that any leasing agent who answers the phone other than the person specified NOT to shop will become your target agent. If the person you are to avoid answers, make an excuse to get off the phone.

Overall, do not complete an onsite visit before you complete the phone call unless otherwise directed in the special instructions for the shop. It is important that the leasing agent exhibits a warm personality, inquire about your needs in a new apartment home and offer you the opportunity to tour their community. Making the telephone call is their first opportunity to do this!

It’s All in the Details

Since most shoppers want more work, we can unintentionally adopt a “quantity versus quality” mentality. A shopper can become overwhelmed by assigning themselves numerous jobs to make the most money each month and this can result in submitting incomplete or lower quality evaluations. Be careful not to take on more shops than you can reasonably devote your time to.


Remember, every time you submit a mystery shopping report, expect a review for accurate content and grammar from several customer service representatives before the evaluation is forwarded to the requested company. Be careful not to underestimate this fact. The quality control reviews by customer service representatives can affect the number of shops a shopper may have access to in the future.

If you are a regular shopper with a company, customer service representatives might record comments about your performance in your shopper file. If you want more and higher priced shops, remember to submit only accurate, grammatically correct reports. You should also be mindful to include pertinent details in your reporting. Adding a couple more sentences with details in your shopping narrative can distinguish you as a highly qualified and detail-oriented shopper versus an average or “quantity-driven” shopper.

Your final evaluation report reflects not only yourself, but also the reputation of the mystery shopping company. If you can take the extra time to make sure you are submitting a polished, accurate report, you can build your reputation with your mystery shopping company and be awarded better, higher paying shops. If you can remember the details, it can be a win for all!