Telephone Target Tactics!

Telephone Target Tactics

We have your Telephone Target Tactics!
You’ve accepted a shop and are ready to get started. What’s the next step?  For most mystery shops for Ellis, the telephone shop comes first.  If you have a “shop anyone” (aka random) with no target leasing agent, you can call the community at the number given in your shop instructions and speak with whoever answers the phone. 

But what if you have a target agent?  Many shops require mystery shoppers to speak with a particular employee on the phone and in the community.   Sometimes the most challenging aspect of a shop is to reach that person on the phone to conduct the phone shop before visiting the community.   Here are some tips on how to reach your target leasing agent as painlessly as possible.

  • Read the client specifications (aka instructions) carefully to ensure you call on the best times to reach that person.  Ellis doesn’t always know the leasing agent’s schedule, but we will tell you if we know they only work certain days.  Some shops include notes that your target agent will be working alone on certain days.  Those are obviously the best times to call.
  • If your target agent answers the phone, you are in luck!  Proceed with the call without ever letting on that you were hoping to speak with that person.  Be prepared that it may not be your target leasing agent who answers. 

What should you do if someone other than your target agent answers the phone?

  • Don’t just hang up on multiple calls when the wrong person answers.  You may occasionally do so, but a bunch of hang-ups over a short period of time will be a red flag that someone is being shopped.  Try to use various methods to end the call without creating a suspicion that you are a mystery shopper.
  • You may very occasionally say you have reached the wrong number, but don’t do that too often or it too can create suspicion.
  • You may try asking a quick question and then end the conversation as if you have your answer. “What elementary school is closest to your community?” or “Do you have washers and dryers or just hookups?” 
  • You could try asking for an entirely different person (other than your target or someone who has been answering on your other call attempts.)  When they say they have no one by that name, you can say you must be thinking of the wrong community.
  • Try calling at different times of the day, 3-4 times a day, for a couple of days.  (Some clients want mystery shoppers to make fewer calls than this, so always refer back to those client specifications for your shop.)

If you have made a few attempts to reach your target leasing agent without success, Ellis’ team may be able to permit you to ask for your target agent by name.  If this is the case, you should ask for them by their first name only, as giving their last name would not come naturally to a prospect.  They may ask how you learned of them or of the community.  You can say you were referred by a friend who considered that community when looking for her home.  Just don’t offer too much detail or get caught in a story that may trip you up as a mystery shopper.

As with any aspect of your shop, keep Ellis posted on your progress by clicking on the envelope icon next to the property’s name on your mystery shopper dashboard.  If you have asked for your target leasing agent and been told they are out for a few days, using the envelope is the best way to let us know.  We will get back to you quickly if we have any tips or changes to the process. 

Reaching your target agent isn’t always difficult, and it doesn’t have to be scary.  All of our team has done phone shops of our own, and we’ve learned a lot of tricks along the way. Don’t panic; maintain your anonymity as a mystery shopper, and keep us posted!  We are right here to help you along the way.

Mystery Shopping Deep in the Heart of Texas

EPMS has apartment mystery shopping opportunities available in all 50 states, but our team makes our home deep in the heart of Texas. The Lone Star state is welcoming newcomers every day, which means the apartment industry is a lively one! For anyone interested in mystery shopping for EPMS, there is no better place to do it than in our home state.

The area roughly between Austin and San Antonio, TX is known as the Texas Hill Country. It is home to many state parks and outdoor recreation areas. In the summer, many Texans escape the heat by tubing in the Guadalupe or San Marcos River. Springtime in the Hill Country brings a world class show of our beloved Texas Bluebonnets and other native wildflowers. No matter the season, Texans will jump at any reason for a drive through this area.

Daytripping? How about doing some shops along the route?

If you are a fellow Texan, or are visiting our neck of the woods, why not take on a few shops to defray your travel costs? Picking up a shop or two in an area you’d like to visit will pay for the gasoline you’ll need for the adventure. Besides San Antonio and Austin, some of the surrounding towns include Schertz, New Braunfels, San Marcos, and Buda. Those towns usually have plenty of EPMS apartment mystery shops available.

When you need to refuel!

Refilling the gas tank is probably among your least favorite things to do these days. Unfortunately, it is still a required task. Texans have found a place that makes filling up a little less painful. Right between the cities of Austin and San Antonio on Interstate 35 in the town of New Braunfels, lies Buc-ees! Buc-ees is much more than a gas station and convenience store. It is a Texas sized travel stop that almost makes the road trip worthwhile on its own! Not only do they have the cleanest restrooms (and plenty of them!), but they also have some of the best food and treats in the Lone Star State! Their beautiful gift department is where many Texans begin their holiday shopping. There are now 35 Buc-ees locations in Texas (and 8 more in other states), but most Texans believe it is not a road trip until you stop at Buc-ees!

Why not make money while you travel?

With lots of shopping opportunities, great scenery and plenty to see along the way, the Texas Hill Country is a great place to shop. If you live in the San Antonio/Austin area or would like an excuse to visit, check out all the Ellis apartment mystery shops along the way.

I Object!

When conducting an onsite mystery shop for EPMS, shoppers are usually asked to raise an “objection” to something during the onsite presentation. For many of our clients, this is one of the most important questions in our report. Prospective residents have an idea in mind of what they are looking for in a home. They may feel that a community or a specific apartment is “missing something” that is important to them. Leasing consultants are trained to address such objections in a way that is respectful of the prospect’s wishes, but still confirms that the community would be a good fit. When done correctly, overcoming objections is an art form!

Objection Overruled! What is NOT a good objection to raise during a shop?

  • We aren’t trying to trip up the leasing agent. Don’t knowingly raise an objection that is beyond their control. If a community is all electric, don’t insist on gas appliances. Don’t object to something that would raise a fair housing concern, such as there being too many children living there. If the community does not have three-bedroom apartments, don’t say that a two bedroom is not large enough for you.
  • If a leasing consultant makes a reasonable attempt to address your objection and build value in the community, don’t give the impression that it is still a “deal breaker.” Remember that shoppers are not actually going to lease there, so don’t go overboard in appearing displeased.
  • Don’t state your objection in a negative tone as if what you’re asking for should be on everyone’s wish list and you should not even have to ask.
  • Don’t state in your discussion onsite or in your report that they “should have” more flowers out front or a laundry room in every building, etc. – in other words something the leasing agent has no control over.

Objection Sustained! What are some reasonable and believable objections to raise?

  • You may use a personal interest as a way of raising an objection. Do you need a place to dock your laptop or set up your sewing machine? The leasing agent may suggest a nook or corner of the apartment that would work well for that purpose. Do you have a large or awkward piece of furniture that you are concerned may not fit? She may suggest ways to arrange your furniture to maximize the space. Or he may be able to suggest where in the apartment he has seen other residents put their Christmas tree.
  • Listen for an attempt to create rapport with you, while addressing your objection. Perhaps you said you were concerned that the noise from the pool would be too loud. She may say that she once thought so as well but when she saw everyone having fun out there, she found that it made her go to the pool a lot more often.
  • If a situation arises the leasing professional cannot overcome, such as your request to move your personal appliances into the apartment, they may have to overcome that objection by offering something completely different. As an example, if you were hoping to bring your washer/dryer with you and there are no connections in the home, you might be offered a location right by a laundry facility, or told how new and awesome their onsite machines are, or maybe offered a few credits to use their laundry

Above all, remember that you should give the impression that what they do have to offer could work for you. Allow the leasing consultant to talk through your objections in a way that builds value in the apartment and the community. Give the appearance that you are able to be pleased and give credit for a reasonable attempt to accommodate your requests. You don’t have to really live there, but if they are trying to find a way to help solve for your problem that’s the ultimate goal.

I Love Being an Ellis Apartment Mystery Shopper!

My journey to becoming an Ellis apartment mystery shopper started when I decided I wanted to be a ‘stay at home mom’ when my kids were little. At first, I got a job at their elementary school as a teacher’s assistant. Later, I decided to find another way to make money and still be available at home. That’s when I found Mystery Shopping accidentally. Someone mentioned that they had done a few shops, I asked how to get started, and off I went.

I went to (unfortunately the site no longer exists), which had lists of all the shopping companies. Since I had no idea what I would like to do, I took almost every type of shop that was offered. I must have registered for a hundred companies. After a while, I found that I especially liked doing apartment mystery shops, and Ellis was the company that seemed to have the most shops, the nicest and most helpful staff, and paid the most.

I found that I enjoyed visiting communities, talking with leasing agents, and pretending that I was really looking for an apartment. After a while, I learned what a great presentation was, and what was not so great. Most of the times, the evaluations were very good. The leasing agents did everything right. And occasionally, something in the presentations was lacking. I was and still am glad to be part of a team that’s involved in helping leasing professionals hone their leasing skills while also celebrating their successes.

Ellis also has phone only shops, which I find extremely easy to do. And I don’t have to leave my comfy place! I am proud to say that I have completed more than 5,000 phone shops. Also, unbelievably, I have completed more than 1,000 in-person apartment mystery shops!

Amid all of this, the unexpected happened: Coronavirus. For some time I stopped all mystery shopping on-site and did only phone presentations and virtual tour shops. I learned how to record the videos of the virtual tours, compress them, and send them in with the report. After a year or so, Self-Guided Tour shops were the new thing.

Now we are almost back to normal, and hopefully it will stay that way. There is an almost unending flow of shops that Ellis puts online for shoppers to assign. I like that I can choose to have a busy mystery shopping schedule or can take it easy for a while.

When I contact the EPMS team through the envelop icon on my shop dashboard, they are always helpful, professional, friendly, and understanding. Even when I have had to cancel a shop (which is not often) they are always kind.

My most important advice to new shoppers is to always follow the client’s shop instructions exactly. There is a lot of typing required in most of the reports and it is important to double check your spelling and grammar. I have loved when I have gotten positive feedback from the editors, who have said that they looked forward to getting my shops because there wasn’t much left for them to do. That is a great ‘pat on the back’ for sure!

I have worked as a contract apartment mystery shopper with Ellis for 22 years. I have made a few friendly connections and I appreciate when schedulers reach out to me when they have a special type of shop.

Ellis is a great company and has a team who cares about their shopper. I plan to continue with my apartment mystery shopping for Ellis for many years to come. I encourage you to do so as well!

Contributed by Sherry W

Need a Side Hustle?

You don’t have to be a financial expert to look around and see that prices are rising on just about everything!  This may mean that the time is right to consider a Side Hustle to earn extra money. A bit of extra income can be a hedge against inflation, a help in paying off debt, or a way to fund a great vacation!  Not all side hustles are created equal!  What are some factors to consider?

  • Do you enjoy it?  Side hustles are generally done on “personal time” outside of normal working hours.  If you are going to give up your precious time off, make sure it is something you will enjoy.  If you don’t enjoy an activity when you’re not being paid for it, you probably won’t enjoy it as a side hustle.
  • What are the costs to set up your side hustle?  Does it require expensive equipment?  Advertising?  Registration fees?  How many jobs will it take you to recoup your start up fees?
  • Will it stand the test of time?  Some side hustles may be tied to a specific season.  Holidays or the start of a school year may offer unique opportunities, but if you are looking for continuous income, you may want something you can do year-round.

For all these reasons, Apartment Mystery Shopping for EPMS an ideal side hustle!

  • EPMS Apartment Mystery Shopping is enjoyable!  We all drive by apartment communities every day.  It is fun to peek inside at the amenities and see the floor plans and features of the apartments.  There may be a beautiful furnished model apartment offering ideas for your home décor.  Perhaps you’ll even find a community you shop to be a perfect fit for you.  Some of our shoppers have been paid to shop a community that becomes their new home.
  • EPMS Apartment Shopping is free!  There are no registration costs to shop for EPMS.  You don’t have to make a purchase and await reimbursement.  You won’t be applying for an apartment, nor paying any fee onsite.  There is no out of pocket expense required to shop for EPMS.
  • EPMS has been shopping apartment communities year-round for almost 40 years!  EPMS is a pioneer in the apartment mystery shopping industry.  We have been performing onsite shops for nearly 40 years.  We shop year-round!  If you find yourself with some extra free time, you may want to take on several shops.  As a shopper, you are free to accept shops that fit within your schedule.  Some shops must be done on specific dates or days of the week, but you will always know those requirements before you commit to the shop.  There is no pressure to accept a shop that won’t work for you!

Challenging economic times call for creative solutions!  Making a bit of extra money by developing a side hustle can be one of those solutions.  EPMS Apartment Mystery shopping is an enjoyable, affordable means of boosting your income in your free time. 

To apply as an EPMS shopper, please visit:

It’s 5 o’Clock Somewhere – Timezone Awareness

The mystery shopping landscape has experienced some pretty big changes over the past couple of years, particularly the addition of virtual shopping. Once everyone got the handle on the new technology, virtual shopping became a game-changer for service providers and consumers alike. It’s also given mystery shoppers the opportunity to perform shops from home at locations all over the country.

One challenge shoppers can face when completing virtual (or telephone) shops for communities in a different part of the country is the difference in time zone. Many shops have specific instructions around the days and times you can call/visit and most communities are not open past 5 or 6 in the evening. This can become a problem if you forget to make calls according to the community’s time zone instead of your own. When you’re in California and you’re completing a virtual shop at a community in Virginia, there’s a significant time difference – the community is closing when it’s only 2 or 3 PM California time! The same is true on the flip side – even though it may be 10 AM on the East Coast, it’s only 7 AM on the West Coast. You’ll also need to keep this in mind when scheduling virtual tours so that you make sure to sign in at the right time.

It can be hard to remember what time it is when you’re doing multiple shops all over the place, so having a tool handy can be very helpful. Consider bookmarking a Timezone Map site for quick reference when you’re working on shops in other parts of the country. You can also use your phone/Alexa/Google what time it is in a particular city. Doing this will help you ensure you complete the shops in a time frame that will meet the contract specifications and ensure you are paid for the shop.

You Sure About That? Ensuring the Accuracy of Your Report

Submitting an accurate and informative report is crucial to ensure you have access to the most (and best) shops available. When shop reports are consistently inaccurate or incomplete, clients can choose not to allow a particular shopper to continue with their properties, which lowers the number of shops available to you. Beyond this, EPMS can lower the number of shops you are allowed to pick up at one time if reports are unreliable. Don’t freak out, though; we do have a team of editors who look over the report once more before sending it to the client in case anything was missed. So how can you make sure you’re submitting the best, most accurate reports? Here are some tips:

1. Look Over the Report Form Before Starting the Shop

You can open and look over the blank report form before you even start working on the shop! This will give you a good idea of the information you’ll be expected to provide so you’ll know what to look out for. You can find this when you log in, open your shop, and click the “Fill Out the Online Report” section. Don’t worry; you can look at the report and then back out of it without completing it without causing any issues. Just be sure not to mark that section complete until you’ve actually completed the report.

2. Listen to Your Recorded Call!

This is a big one – make sure to listen back to your recorded phone call (if the shop has a recorded call) as you complete the telephone section of the report. In this section, it’s very easy for the client to spot discrepancies since they are also able to listen to the call recording. Make sure your yes/no answers and comments match what actually happened in the call.

3. Jot Down Notes Right Away

As soon as a shop is finished and you leave the property, try to pull over somewhere to jot down notes about the onsite visit while they’re still fresh in your mind. Note: DO NOT jot down notes while you’re still in the property’s parking lot and definitely not during the shop as this can give you away as a shopper! Once you get home, the sooner you can complete the onsite portion of the report, the better. The more time that passes, the less info you’ll retain, especially if you’re working on more than one shop at a time!

When you make a habit of submitting great, accurate reports with just the right amount of information in the comment section, EPMS will notice! This will reflect positively on your profile and you’ll be one of the shoppers we reach out to when we have special or extra high-paying shops.

Are You the Next Spielberg? Tips for a Successful Video Shop

Video apartment mystery shops can be fun, once you get the hang of them! Not only that, but the video shops tend to have even better pay than the regular onsite shops. If you haven’t heard, you now have the option to use your phone to capture the recording, which means you’ll get an extra bonus on top of whatever the shop pay is! With these shops, your main goal is to get the leasing agent in the video frame at least 75% of the time. Here are some important video tips that will create a successful shop, each time!

Always Charge Your Equipment

You would be surprised how quickly a battery can drain during a video mystery shop. Sometimes a tour may go on longer than you expected, so it’s a good idea to make sure the equipment or your phone is fully charged as you head into the shop. If you run out of battery and are not able to capture all of the visit on video, the shop would need to be cancelled.

Check Your Memory Space

If you’re using EPMS equipment, this means making sure the SD card is in the device prior to going on the shop. These SD cards can generally hold the video for several shops, so you can use the same equipment to complete any video shops you have assigned at the time. If you’re using your phone, make sure you have enough available memory for a 30 to 45 minute video recording. This may mean deleting old, unneeded photos, videos or apps.

Be Sure to Check Your Camera Angle

Before heading out for a day of video shopping, shoot a quick test video for yourself so you can make sure the camera is positioned properly. If you’re using the EPMS button camera, make sure the camera isn’t pointed at the ceiling. The client will need a clear view of the agent and the surrounding area. If you’re using your phone, practice to find the best way to hold it so that you are inconspicuous, but still getting the best view. If you didn’t see it before, you can refer to our previous blog about the phone app, Mystery Media Pro.

Isn’t It Illegal to Secretly Film Someone?

In this case, the answer is no. Video shops can only be ordered for communities where all of the employees have signed a waiver giving consent to be filmed.

If You Can’t Say Something Nice – Offering Constructive Criticism

You already know the point of apartment mystery shopping is to offer feedback on your apartment shopping experience. Most of the time, you’ll have a good experience with good service. However, once in a while, the experience will be…less than desirable. It is in these instances that you need to be especially thoughtful about how you deliver your feedback. Clients want to know the facts, but they expect to receive that information with courteous, professional language.

For starters, remember that you’re not really looking for an apartment – you’re only pretending! This will go a long way to help you remain neutral and not rely on emotions to evaluate the shop. Sure, the apartment you’re looking at may be way out of the price range you would spend in real life or maybe it doesn’t look at all like the type of apartment you would choose. Keep in mind that your primary objective is to rate the service performance of the agent, not rank the actual apartment in terms of which looks nicest or has the best price. This way, you won’t feel indignant if the apartment is “too expensive” or “not new enough”.

When you complete a shop and the agent isn’t very friendly or helpful, do your best to stick to the facts instead of fixating on one specific behavior or statement. It’s okay describe your experience in terms of how you felt (i.e. “I felt like I was interrupting”, “I was not offered any refreshments”, or “I did not feel like the agent was motivated to help me”), but try to avoid making assumptions about the agent’s intentions or reasons for behavior. To state, “I was not greeted when I entered the office and waited several minutes until I was noticed” versus, “The agents were all very rude and completely ignored me when I came in because they were too busy chatting” is a more professional, non-emotional way of telling the story. Keep this in mind when listing areas for improvement, as well. For example, try saying, “She could have taken more time to ask about my needs before ending the call” instead of “Next time she could try to actually do her job and find out what I wanted”.

One other area where it is important to exercise tact is when you are describing the actual community. If a particular community is older and possibly in need of updates, but is otherwise tidy and well-kept, avoid making derogatory statements like, “The community was old and outdated”. Instead, try being more specific, like “The community grounds were free of trash and the landscaping was well maintained. The buildings looked like they could use a fresh coat of paint.”

All in all, remember that this is a business interaction. You are essentially working for the apartment management companies on a contract basis, so when you write a report, think of it as writing an email to your boss. You can share your concerns, but do so in a polite, professional manner. Doing this will help you to be a 5-star shopper!

Open Sesame – What to Do When You Can’t Log In

The time has come; you have some space in your schedule and are ready to earn extra cash doing some apartment mystery shopping! You click on the EPMS website to log in and find the shops you want, but – ACCESS DENIED! You can’t log in! Now what? Your first step should be figuring out why. There are several reasons you may not be able to get logged in, so let’s take a look at what they are and how you can solve the problem:

1. You Forgot Your Password or Entered the Wrong One

This one is usually easy to address just by clicking “Forgot Your User ID or Password”. From there, you can enter the email address you used to set up your EPMS account and then a reset link will be emailed to you. From there, you can create a new password to get logged in. If that doesn’t work, you can always contact us at and we can help you take care of that password reset manually.

2. Your Account Was Inactivated

When you complete a shop, you are required to report on whether or not you receive follow-up from the person you shopped, either email, telephone or written note. The system will reach out to ask you to provide the follow-up details if you haven’t already. (If you did not receive any, you will still need to go into the shop and mark “No” for each type of follow-up.) If the answers to follow-up are not received within the time limit, the system will automatically inactivate your account, causing you to be unable to log in. In those cases, you can contact your follow-up person or scheduler for help. You can also email us at and we can reactivate your account. However, you’ll still need to go and take care of the follow-up info to prevent the account from being automatically inactivated again.

3. Your Account Still Needs to Be Activated

If you only recently set up your account, you may have missed a step or two required to activate your account. Typically, this involves checking the boxes acknowledging you understand you are an independent contractor. When you log in, make sure you complete the links at the top of the shopper homepage to activate the account and remember:

  • Enter your complete profile details – leaving parts of this blank will automatically disqualify you from some shops.
  • Enter your direct deposit details as this is the only method we use for payment.
  • View the “Best Shopper Practices” and the video equipment reference to ensure you’re fully prepared.

Once you have completed those steps, your account will automatically activate. Please note – this may still be the issue with your account, even if you opened it a long time ago, but never shopped before.

If none of these work and you still can’t get logged in, please email any one of us and we can help.