How To Mystery Shop Your Own Dealership For Free!


No gimmicks and no tricks. In this article I am going to give you the step-by-step instructions you need to start mystery shopping your dealership’s internet sales team (and your competitors’ teams) without spending a dime (or by spending very little). automotive mystery shopping

In the interest of full disclosure, my company completes a comprehensive mystery shop for our clients and it’s incredibly labor intensive. In all honesty, we net basically nothing from these shops. That’s why I’m going to show you how to do it all yourself.

Because, we truly do not want to shop your dealership’s internet team for you. We really don’t.

First, Decide on a Fake Name

You might think this is not so important, but knowing what name you will use before you start shopping will keep you from choosing something silly like John Smith. For the purposes of this post, let’s choose Jeff Chumway. (Yes, I just made that up on the fly; though sometimes we use names of people we know just to keep the shops interesting.)

Next, Get a Throwaway Email Address

The best place to start is At you can get a throwaway email address for free. (In fact, you can get up to ten different email addresses for free.) I like best for this part of the process, because I can choose among scores of email extensions, for example, I could choose (yes, it’s available as of this writing) or or even There really are an almost endless supply of domains to choose from at

Again, this is 100% free.

Now, once you have a throwaway email address, be sure to create a new folder in so that you can store the emails for each individual shop in its own directory. If I was shopping just my store, I would probably name my folder with the date of the shop and the fake first name I chose. So, for this shop, my folder would be named “161104 Jeff” (November 4, 2016 and Jeff) – this allows me to store the emails in the correct folders as they arrive.

Finally, Secure a Phone Number

Now, this is where you might have to spend a couple of bucks… but at least not the first time you mystery shop. If you don’t already have one, get a Google Voice number. They’re free and they will record and even transcribe all incoming voicemails.

The trick to mystery shopping your internet team is to NOT answer the phone in the first week. This way, you can see how many calls they’re really making, if they’re leaving voicemails, and what they’re saying in those voicemail. (To get a Google Voice number, follow the directions on this page: If you want to answer their calls after the first week just to see how they are at setting appointments with you, that can be a lot of fun.

The downside to the Google Voice number is that it’s essentially good for a single shop, since the dealerships you shop will already have that number on file the second time you shop them. If you plan to shop more than once, you’ll want to use an inexpensive service like Sonetel ( We use Sonetel to manage the local numbers we use for shopping our clients and just change the previously used numbers each month. This gives us a fresh number (that’s not already in the CRM) for about $2.00 per active number per month. (That’s dirt cheap, given that you can change numbers as often as you’d like.)

We do not use the Sonetel voicemail service, so I cannot speak to that. Instead, we choose one name for all shops in a given month (like Jeff Chumway) and then create a single voicemail for Jeff Chumway on an existing Google Voice number. Sonetel makes it easy to forward all calls from all of our different numbers to one Google Voice mailbox.

Now, Shop the Store(s)

We like to keep all shops similar in a given month so that we have some relativity when we’re grading the clients. For example, if we’re shopping new cars this month, we might send every lead through each respective dealer’s New Car Specials Page, or a single New Car Vehicle Details Page (VDP) for each dealer.

If you plan to shop your store and your competitors at the same time, I strongly recommend having every shop use the same lead form and/or source. For example, you might want to see new car pricing across your market, so I would shop everyone from a New Car VDP or even a site like TrueCar.

Now, start filling out the quick quote forms online…

And That’s It?

Yep, that’s really all there is to setting up and conducting these shops.

But, Steve, you said this was labor intensive for your team. Are you guys just lazy?

Perhaps. But, the labor intensive part doesn’t come in until you start organizing and reading all those email and text responses, listening to those voicemails and charting the results. This is where mystery shopping loses its appeal (and its margin) for us… and just might lose its appeal for you, as well. Without that follow through, of course, mystery shops provide you no value. So, if you’re not willing to do it all, I don’t recommend you even start.

Good selling!