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What Kind of Notes should You Take when Mystery Shopping?


If you are new to mystery shopping, you may be feeling overwhelmed. You've landed your first assignment and want to do a good job. One key to being a successful mystery shopper is to become a pro at taking notes. Here are some keys for taking notes effectively:

Read your Assignment

It can't be overemphasized enough that you should go over the instructions for each assignment carefully. One aspect of mystery shopping is that each shop is truly unique. The notes you will need to take for a fast food shop will likely differ greatly from the notes you will need to take for a hotel shop. Even if you do 2 shops at the same restaurant a month apart, sometimes the job's instructions will change from one month to the next, so it's vital to read those instructions before each and every shop. This will ensure that you are looking for the correct things.

Make a "Cheat Sheet"

While you are reading your mystery shopping assignment instructions, it's helpful to make a "cheat sheet" to take along in your vehicle. This sheet should list the "must do" aspects of your shop, and could include:

  • Get name of employee assisting you
  • Get name of employee ringing up your purchase
  • Get names of businesses on each side of the store
  • Get an itemized receipt
  • Stay in the store for a minimum of 15 min.
  • Note greetings given by employees greeting you

And so forth. You can see that this brief form doesn't list all the details that the instructions would, but it's a quick way to quickly see the specifics that you must document during your shop. It's best not to bring this form into the store, unless you can be sure to do so in a way that will not give you away as a shopper. Instead, fill out your notes on the form immediately after returning to your vehicle.

Details, Details ...

While the "cheat sheet" discussed above works well for many shops, what about those that require more detail? For instance, some dining shops require times when the waiter first comes to your table, when he brings you water, when he takes your order, when he delivers your appetizer ... and the list goes on. Obviously, this is more information than you can remember until you get to the car. How can you take notes effectively for a shop like this?

One tactic is to keep a piece of paper on your seat, slid somewhat beneath your leg. Each time the waiter leaves your table, look down and make a notation of the time and the event that just occurred ("5:46, brings entree" etc). When you get home, you will have a running commentary of the meal's events.

Taking notes while mystery shopping can seem like a lot of work at first, but in no time taking notes will become almost second nature. You may even begin noticing names of employees when you are not doing a mystery shop!


Susan Braun is a freelance writer living with her husband, three daughters, 2 rabbits, 2 gerbils and hedgehog in Indiana.  She writes at and Associated Content.

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