I have been shopping for almost two years and, even in that short time, I've seen a lot of changes; primarily, fees going down, delays in reimbursement, and certification requirements. In addition to mystery shopping, I do a lot of business verification and photo verifications for several companies.
In the past, I've always instituted what I refer to as "my 20 mile rule," that is charge for gas for any BV/photo assignment over 20 miles rt from home. All the companies allow me to request additional pay, but I may not get assigned the job. That's OK with me. I've had schedulers call and tell me that I "might" get the job if they can't get anyone else. They usually call back and give me the job.
Well, the times they are a changin' and I am changing with them. I have now decided to request the IRS rate of 50.5 cents per mile (rounded up to the nearest dollar) for round trips exceeding 30 miles. Still requesting just gas money for 20 - 30 mi rt. If someone else gets the job because they didn't charge, I'm ok with that. My acceptable range is about 100 miles.
Will see how it goes. I may have to reduce the mileage rate (slightly). The IRS rate seems reasonable when I calculate car payment, gas, ties, maintenance, and wear and tear (repair fund).
If MSC's can change their policies, then I can, too, as long as I'm willing to accept the consequences. Any thoughts, comments, suggestions. What do others charge for BV/photo verifications far from home? Or, if not, why not?
Your policy has been mine for a few yrs., but with a slight modification. If the SINGLE shop requires more than a 20 ml. round trip, I charge $.40 per mile and $15 per hr. of drive time. Understandably I shop less than before, but that's acceptable to me. This industry is based upon shoppers helping MSCs, helping schedulers and helping clients; I help Bob.
Once we get completely out of this recession (we hope!), it will go back to "normal". It seems people got a bit desperate and took anything and everything for a while. Also, the clients dried up or at least lowered their budgets, so those should also increase and trickle down (again, we hope!).
I agree with what ShopperBob wrote. I charge the same for a single shop, or if a company has one or two others "on the way" I don't charge the whole amount for each shop, just the most feasible route. This has happened, but rarely. Usually, I have a 2 - 3 day window to schedule and I have to work around both my commitments and the availability of a contact at the business.
I've only asked for an increased fee on two occations and would do it again. The first was when I asked for gas and was told no, we'll find someone else. It sat open for a week before I was called back and said, we'll pay gas. I also asked for double the fee and it was accepted. The second time, I did a photo shoot for which I was called and offered 3x fee plus mileage. I did EXACTLY what was required. As I was shooting the franchise shown in the photos, it was pretty easy. I did the brief report and uploaded the photos. I got a "nastygram" tha one pic was "wrong." I called and the scheduler told me what they wanted. I referred the scheduler to the manual and the picture example. I was told it was "a little bit vague and the manual was being redone." The scheduler went on to say, "I know what they wanted." I, very very politely pointed out it would have been a help if I had been told there was a "vagueness" and so I could have provided the shot they wanted. I was told I "HAD" to go back for the one picture and I agreed .. for the same pay as the first shoot. My offer was accepted.
But, you are so right. I have a very good working relationship with the schedulers and if they call I accept 99.9% of the time or work out a time I can do it. Under similar circumstances as described above, I would ask for an increased fee. Normally, I do not.
I am definitely NOT looking to make money off mileage, simply covering the expenses of doing the job. If an MSC says I am a business then they surely understand that, just like them, I have expenses. Some are direct billeable and some are covered in the fee I accept for the work. They operate the same way.
When I get a call to do an orphan shop a long way from home, I look at hours driving, gasoline costs, and opportunity costs. For example, this morning I had a call on a job 232 miles round trip, 4 1/2 to 5 hours driving on back country paved roads. Nothing else was available to me in that town or on the direct route. I asked $125 and I didn't get the job, but here's how I figured it:
$10.00 basic shop
$50.00 driving fee
$35.00 (or about 15 cents a mile) car wear and tear
Fortunately for me, they couldn't pay that much. If they had agreed to $125.00, I figure $60.00, the driving fee and the shop fee, would have been mine with the rest covering gasoline and wear and tear expenses (hopefully but not likely).
So, if I drove 5 hours, shopped for 30 minutes, and reported for 30 minutes, I would make $10.00 an hour. WOOHOO!!! I need a bigger truck so I can drive faster farther, haul more, and work longer to make less. I have never never never really made money on one of these one shot jobs.
The only thing that works for me is to stack them up and knock out a bunch in one day on a route. I can do that and make money and I don't have to ask for anything extra. The MSC is happy and I'm happy so win win.
I don't see the MSCs going for charging them the IRS mileage rate. I am a firm believer that will not happen on a regular basis. I understand that many of you will not work for less, but I am working for money and not getting any is not part of the plan. There will always be someone who will work for less than you are willing to work for, me for example. Also, there will always be someone who will work for less than I will. So, everything will reach its level. Each job will be done at the lowest price anyone is willing to book.
Mary Davis Nowell. Based close to Fort Worth. Shopping Interstate 20 east and west, Interstate 35 north and south.
I have not been reading this thread until today...I know many of you drive long distances and I think the companies understand the cost of gas even if they do not agree to pay for it. I guess that is based on whether or not they can find someone closer or willing to lose money on a job. I live in an urban area where it can take forever to drive just a few miles and sometimes it is impossible to find free parking. At some locations the meters charge up to $4 per hour if you can find one or there is permit parking where you cannot park at all. The first company I worked for wanted me to drive to some unforsaken place at the other end of Los Angeles to do a $2 fee + very, very small reimbursement shop. I tried to explain to the scheduler that it would take me an hour just to get to the location. She finally offered her "best offer" to double the fee to $4! I did not want the job at all for any cost but she persisted. She had no idea of what it is like here. This particular place was not freeway close so it meant meandering on this street and that and actually driving many more miles than a bird would fly. Not to mention the possibility of getting mugged, or at least picking up a stray sharp object in your tire and getting a flat in that neighborhood. So I hope you win your bid for gas and expenses and after that we need to educate these companies on the cost of doing business in a large metropolitan area. Most importantly they need to learn that if the job is in L.A. it is not right around the corner and there are time interests as well as gas. It could be 50 miles away or more and still considered LA. It could be 10 miles and a round trip with parking and walking could be 3 hours.
Every area has it's challenges. In this area it is mountains. What looks like a quick 25 miles could be on a 2-lane mountain road with the top speed limit posted of 35. And, given the switchbacks, 35 might be too fast! What we all learn is our "price." What will we do for how much money. It really and truly is a business we are running.
My friend and partner LOVES to do reimbursement only restaurant shops. He gets a great meal for a little time submitting a report. I get a night I don't have to cook or buy groceries. Win win win. Personally, I wouldn't do them. But they make him happy!!
As for doing BV's and photo verifications, I put the offer on the table. If there is someone locally who will do the job for only the fee, they should get it. What if a company gave someone $50 in mileage to do a BV that was 2 miles from my house. I would not be a happy camper. OTH, if the job doesn't have any takers, they can consider my offer and either accept or reject it. It's an open market. They already know my work and are happy with it. It's just a matter of what they will pay vs. what I will accept.
You have to learn to say "no" if your price isn't met. Always, always, always be polite and professional and leave them wanting to call you back with another offer. It's your company: you are the CEO and head of PR, Marketing, and Sales and also the "hired help." Set goals and figure out how to reach them. I learn everyday from reading this forum and paying attention to how the "pros" make it work.
We do not pay mileage. You would be better off asking for a bonus. Since you are IC's you can take mileage as a deduction but you can't double dip asking a MSC to give you mileage and the IRS as well. DISCLAIMER: Check with your accountant/CPA.
I got the impression the OP was basing bonus on current mileage rates rather than asking specifically for mileage. It is certainly an easy way to create a quick estimate. Most of us probably have some type of quick formula we use, whether it based on miles driven, drive time or some combination.
Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It's not pie.
"I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps themselves up in the Constitution over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps themselves up in the flag." -Molly Ivins
Never try to teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of your time and it really annoys the pig.
On distance shops, I consider the IRS rate for mileage, 55.5 cents. If not offered, and the shop is at or near its due date, I'll ask for a bonus, factoring in the mileage deduction I get, and the time/expense I'll incur. Email the scheduler, stating when you can do it, and what you can do it for.
I've been around for 10 years and I've seen fees drop or at worst, stay the same. The only positive is many companies pay quicker than they used to as 90 was the standard, not the exception way back when. I'm sure there are others who've been around longer who can talk about the fees that dropped long before I came along. It's the nature of the business. Companies being shopped are cheap and don't want to pay a lot for it and there are enough vying for their business that they don't have to. So it hurts everyone.
As for the mileage, if you get paid for it by a MSC, you technically can't claim it with the IRS. If you ask for a bonus that is equivalent to the mileage rate, then that might be a loophole but if you specifically ask for mileage to be reimbursed, then the IRS is not going to knowingly reimburse you for your reimbursed reimbursement.
> I have been shopping for almost two years and,
> even in that short time, I've seen a lot of
> changes; primarily, fees going down, delays in
> reimbursement, and certification requirements.
> Well, the times they are a changin' and I am
> changing with them. I have now decided to request
> the IRS rate of 50.5 cents per mile (rounded up to
> the nearest dollar) for round trips exceeding 30
> miles. Still requesting just gas money for 20 - 30
> mi rt. If someone else gets the job because they
> didn't charge, I'm ok with that. My acceptable
> range is about 100 miles.
> Will see how it goes. I may have to reduce the
> mileage rate (slightly). The IRS rate seems
> reasonable when I calculate car payment, gas,
> ties, maintenance, and wear and tear (repair
> If MSC's can change their policies, then I can,
> too, as long as I'm willing to accept the
> consequences. Any thoughts, comments, suggestions.
> What do others charge for BV/photo verifications
> far from home? Or, if not, why not?
It has been my experience that in receiving 1099's the entire amount the company paid me for the year is listed. That includes fees, reimbursements, mileage, and other expenses I incurred that were reimbursed. That lump sum all looks like income to the IRS. I know there have been threads on this forum about how to deal with that issue.
Then, there are the companies where I don't make enough to receive a 1099. Some of those pay fees and reimbursements. I have no proof as to how much was for what. Only a deposit into my account and paperwork to show what the assignment was.
I think the best advice I consistently see on the forum when it comes to taxes is ask an accountant or a professional tax preparer. A far better approach than telling an IRS auditor, "it's how someone said to do it on the Forum."
Still doesn't change the fact that the IRS is not going to reimburse you for mileage that you were already reimbursed for. If that happens, that means you did your taxes wrong or you lied. Neither is excusable if they find out from the company what the payments included...and the MSCs DO know how much was for the fee, how much was reimbursement, how much was mileage, etc.
Forum advise or not, you'd be a fool to try to claim the mileage twice. Doesn't take specialized training to know understand that common sense. But do what you want. It's not my potential audit.