Q. I’ve heard that video shopping is a good way to earn higher fees. How do I get started?
Answer: First, you need to establish yourself as a very reliable shopper with traditional (i.e., written report, only) shops. The next step is to expand to written shops for the industries that frequently use video recorded shops, like apartments, new homes and assisted living. This will give you the experience of doing the longer shop interactions that are common in video shopping. (30-90 minutes of interactions, using an alias, unique real phone number and email address, perhaps). Once you are comfortable with the longer scenarios, you will be ready to try doing video for similar shops.
Because a video rig that meets industry standards for picture and sound quality costs about $700, you would do well to start by testing the video waters by doing shops with a rig lent to you by one of the big video MSCs (Mystery Shopping Companies) that also provides training. At this time, these include EPMS (which has a separate video division), Clear Evaluations, Instant Replays and The Shadow Agency. Because they will be shipping such expensive equipment to you, don’t be surprised if they want serious background information and/or a credit card deposit on the equipment.
Video work is not for everyone; you will either be addicted after your third video shop or ready to leave it entirely to others. Making good money in video may also require a lot of travel, since the rotations (time between repeat shops at a given location) often are from one year to “never.”
If you decide that this is for you, you can also travel to hands-on training provided at IMSC conferences and other venues. For more information, you can check out the special forums set up by seven of the major video companies at [www.videoshoppingnetwork.org]
Q. I understand that it’s not legal to do video or audio recorded shops in some places. What do I need to know to be safe?
A. This is an issue that is very often misunderstood. There are 14 states, called “two party states” where recording another person without their prior consent is illegal, and may even carry criminal penalties. As you might imagine, news reporters have to keep up with these laws, so there is a special site that reports on audio recording laws. The site is maintained by a legal team, so many of us rely on it. It lists 13 two party states. Add Delaware to that list, out of caution. Notice that this only covers audio recording! [www.rcfp.org]
A similar site is at
I do not have further information about this site.
The video shops that we do include audio and are, obviously, covered under those state audio recording laws. I am not an attorney, but here is what I have been told by legal advisors about the “video” in video shops. That is, as long as video is not barred because of the nature of the expectation of privacy in such places as dressing rooms, locker rooms, toilets, and bedrooms, video (alone, without audio) is permitted. They cite a US Supreme Court ruling that states that there is no expectation of privacy in other sorts of public places. This is why all of those security cameras on the street and in stores, banks and model homes, restaurants and the public areas of hotels are legal. (And the two party state laws are why they do not include any audio, especially in two party states.)
If you are offered any shop that will include an audio portion, or if you even want to use a cell phone app or a digital voice recorder to record an interaction, be sure to first check to see if the site is in a two party state. If it is, and you are going to be assigned a recorded shop, it is up to you to ask the scheduler the following sort of question: “Can you verify that the client has obtained written consent from the employees for voice recording?” I suggest that you ask this question in writing.
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