The PI Wears Prada: One Woman's Midlife Career Change

When her job in real estate soured and her kids got older, Jeanene Weiner followed a dream: she started her own detective agency. Now this female private eye is living her dream.

By Paige Williams
Photograph: iStock Photo

Just as many men as women hire Busted, and they phone at all times, even Christmas Day. "I’ll be helping Brandon with his homework, and somebody will call and ask, ‘Where is my wife? Check the GPS,’" Weiner says. "I’m lucky because my children are patient, but the work and family balancing act is not always easy." Nor predictable, it seems. "Women between 38 and 46? They cheat like crazy," she says. "They’re making more money, they’re more independent, and they want to know that they are still attractive." Weiner finds the trend so alarming that she’s planning to write a book for women her age. "There’s a self-help guide for everything else: how to get over an eating disorder, how to deal with a father who isn’t nice to you," she says. "Why not something on alternatives to having an affair at midlife?"

The private eye hired to follow these women doesn’t drive a standard station wagon. For surveillance, the Mercedes Weiner drives is a CLK55 sedan. And she may be the only private investigator in Georgia who goes to work in Prada sandals. Weiner declines to discuss her annual income, but she will say that she works 15 to 20 cases at a time — at $75 per hour — which can take only a few hours or many months to complete. PI magazine reports that the average annual income for a private investigator without a law enforcement background starts at $40,000 and can top $120,000.

Weiner has actually let many a hard-earned hour go unbilled. She can afford it. Bruce sold his company, Dubble Bubble, to Tootsie Roll Industries in September 2004, so the couple has a nice nest egg. But even if they didn’t have the financial safety net, she wouldn’t trade her dream job. "This is 100 percent it for me," she says. "I wish I had thought of it when I was 20, so I could have done this longer.

Weiner’s clients tend to linger, even after she closes a case. The Atlanta doctor with the cheating wife? Weiner believes the affair is over, but the doctor isn’t convinced. Three years later, he still has Busted on retainer.

Running the Numbers

24-7: In office by 8:30 a.m.; out by 5:00 p.m. — but always on call. Often works nights and weekends because "that’s when people cheat."

3: investigators on all-woman staff (also uses independent computer-forensics contractors)

$75: rate per hour

$3,800: average client bill

$2,000: amount spent monthly on work clothes (from designer jeans to $1.98 flip-flops from Wal-Mart)

$100,000+: total amount spent on surveillance equipment and electronics

0: number of bathroom breaks on a long stakeout

Originally published in MORE magazine, November 2006.

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