Are criteria for shops becoming too onerous?

I started doing shops 20 years ago. The instructions and reports were much simpler back then and I never had any rejected. Now when I look at the criteria and all of the details in the reports it is overwhelming and it makes it very difficult to do the shops discreetly. With questions about descriptions of various people, exact times at different stages, photos while at the location, you need a notepad or cheat sheet to take notes while performance the shop. It seems like the companies should pare down the details so that employees are less likely to notice that the customer is a secret shopper. Also you see so many complaints from shoppers about reports being rejected for minor technical issues; these complaints would not exist if the assignments had fewer criteria so there would be less room for errors. The companies should identity what major areas they want to get reviewed and design the shops accordingly. For example, a shop might focus on whether all parts of the location are clean, if staff are friendly and helpful (greeting, check back during meal), upsell (suggest beverage or appetizer), and presentation, taste and temperature of food. The receipt should be the only photo required with other photos only required if necessary to explain comments (bloody steak ordered well done, chipped glass, overflowing trash can,etc). Rather than require specifics and reject for technical flaws, why not guarantee payment so long as report gets 85% correct with bonuses at 90, 95 and 100%? Also, give priority scheduling to shoppers that consistently score 95% or higher? The stress of trying to recall every required detail and fear of spending time and money with risk that you won’t get paid no doubt creates a shortage of shoppers.

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I have noticed every year there are a few companies who increase the guidelines, but the pay stays the same or even decreases. As long as their profit margin falls in the accepted line they will continue to do so. It's difficult for a shopper to make a decent profit. The first two years I probably averaged minimum wage until I learned about bonuses, and built solid relationships, but it is still a struggle and takes a huge amount of planning to make it worthwhile. I got my video training in Vegas, I will be getting the equipment after tax season, and hope to see a difference.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away
@kimmiemae wrote:

So if you hired a painter to paint a room for you and he only painted 85% of it, you would be happy?

Show me a painter who will buy all the materials needed for the job, drive to your house, paint your room to your exact specifications, and also report on what time your husband got home, what time he left, what he was wearing, what your neighbor's kids were doing in their backyard, how long they were there, and the names of your gardeners and if they finished trimming your shrubs -

And, if the painter gets any of that wrong, he doesnt get reimbursed for the paint and supplies he purchased.

Keep in mind, the pay for the painter, is only his reimbursement for his supplies.

If you can find a painter who accepts those terms, and manages to paint 85% of your room, that's a deal!
Even if the painter did contract for all those things, unless the room was 100% painted they would not be entitled to pay.

It doesn't matter you could never find a painter to agree to those terms because just like them we have the option to pick and choose our work. If the requirements are onerous, don't take the job. If the full scope of the assignment is not revealed until after it is assigned, cancel right away.

Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It's not pie.
Never try to teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of your time and it really annoys the pig.
It’s all just business.

If a company puts a shop out there and nobody wants it because the requirements aren’t worth the pay, the market will even things out. They can raise the pay, work deals with shoppers to get them done, re-evaluate the shop and make changes, etc.

If companies aren’t getting the info they need, they will make changes. If shops are getting done, it’s working for somebody.
Example: I had a cleaning crew and it seemed they did a great job, even doing the fridge. Later I dusted the door top and it was dusty, overlooked, yes, but would I not pay them for the 3 hours they worked, of course not. Next time I'l make a point to show them where to dust as there are places easily overseen. We have instructions, did they smile, eye contact and so on, it is our responsibility to tell the story, as we are told....however, with my crew, for everything I ask, she charges me more, it is her time...but for MS'ing they nickel and dime you to death.
Not in MFJ's case...smiling smiley

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there
Will Rogers


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/10/2018 02:03AM by Irene_L.A..
There are some shops I just won't do at base pay because the expectations and work required to meet them are worth more than that pay. Sometimes it's taken me just once to figure that out with a particular shop, sometimes two or even three. But I figure it out eventually.

Anyway, point being, as others have said, if you feel a shop's pay isn't worth the time and effort you put into it, don't do it. It's probably a good bet that many other shoppers won't, either. I agree than many shops are underpaid. At some point they'll get bonused up to make them worthwhile, or a shopper who's never done it will grab it at base pay (probably never to do so again!), or it'll stay it on the boards at base and linger and linger. Eventually MSCs will either have to up the pay on these shops, decrease the requirements, or go begging for shoppers.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
Yup. This is pure capitalism. If you do not like the compensation offered for the work, don't take the job. Folks who run the MSC's are smart: They will pay as little as possible to get the required work done. If they cannot fill jobs, they will be forced to raise payment. If another shopper is willing to take the work for less than you , it's time to seek other opportunities.

The internet makes this line of business accessible to everybody, which (I suspect) has increased the number of folks who try and/or simply dabble in mystery shopping. This allows the MSC's to pay less, ask more and still get the job done. The way I see it, the best way for us to demand higher pay/bonuses is to be extremely reliable and consistently do top notch work.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
@MFJohnston wrote:

Folks who run the MSC's are smart: They will pay as little as possible to get the required work done.

That's not smart. It is short-cited. An MSC which spends more in order to get sharper reporting can position itself to offer a better product than that initially requested by the client. Such a client after being impressed by the product may grow to be dependent upon it and become more than tolerant of increased cost demands from the MSC over time. It also serves the MSC's reputation and positions itself to attract more, and better, clients. The problem is so much of today's capitalism is short cited; managers and even entrepreneurs think in the short term rather than realizing that decisions today shape not just next quarter, but next year, and the years/decades to come.
It's true, you are right, there are MSC's that can require onerous Shops.

It is also true there are MSC's out there who offer jobs which are an insult, and in the end it is difficult to break even when completing a Shop for the MSC.

I live in an area where there are multiple MSC's who will "pay" you in the following manner:

1.) Base pay to complete the shop is: $0.00
2.) Reimbursement for the completed shop is up to: $5.00
3.) No bonus.
4.) No travel pay.

The Shopper gets a 19 page Guidelines & Questionnaire, but they don't tell the Shopper that narrative is required on each question, whether or not the Shopper's answers are a yes or a no. The client is requiring photos to back up the narrative, inside and outside of the location. The Shopper MUST spend a minimum of 30 minutes at the location. Furthermore, the G & Q states, the Shopper's purchase MUST be a full meal, they can't buy just one small item off the menu. The Shopper arrives at the location only to discover the minimum price for any meal at the Shop is: $9.13. In the end the Shopper is paying these MSC's, and the MSC's client, for the so called privelledge to complete their Shop for them, by this I mean:

YOUR paper and ink.
-plus-
YOUR time spent to get to the Shop location (and back)
-count-
YOUR time to do the shop, (anywhere from 30 minutes to 1-2 hours to fulfill the G & Qs.)
-then-
YOUR time to report the shop, (anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 hours.)
-add-
YOUR gas to get to the shop.
-and-
YOUR gas to get home from the shop.
-lastly-
YOUR $4.13 to purchase the meal.

HOWEVER, these MSC's are telling the Shoppers in their T & C's - the better the rating a Shopper gets with their company, the more and better Shops the Shopper will have as an opportunity in the future.

REALLY!?

Well then, let me just go right out and do your work for you, and pay you - the MSC - for the privilege of doing so. WHAT A JOKE! and these are "big name" MSC's handling huge corporeals! These MSC's and their clients are laughing all the way to the bank!!

I find it offensive and ludicrous, and it demonstrates an utter lack of respect on the part of these MSC's for their Shoppers. It shows their real view of what Mystery Shoppers are worth to them their eyes. If an MSC can't even offer what would work out in the end to be at least the minimum wage per hour for a Shop -
DON'T DO THE SHOP
DON'T SIGN UP FOR IT
DON'T SIGN UP TO DO ANY SHOPS FOR THE MSC.
-or- if you're already signed up with them, cancel and deactivate your account with the MSC.

This is no exaggeration, there are actual Shops like this in my area. BTW, some of the MSC's are connected to other MSC's, so watch out for this also!

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/10/2018 02:47PM by WendyG10.
I had a ff shop denied because the cashier did not give me a napkin and I didn't notice it until after I drove away and thoroughly looked through the bag. (BTW, the company recently changed their guidelines so this won't lead to denial.)

The more details the shops require, the more likely at some point the MSP will be considered the shopper's employer rather than a contractor. One day a shopper (or group of shoppers) will get pissed at a MSP over shops denied over trivial matters and bring the situation to a legal test. Something MSPs might want to consider. The profession is already being pummeled by the consequences of fraudsters so much that the very term "mystery shopping" conjures fraud in the minds of the public.
I do not disagree with anyone on any point previously made. There is at least some truth in each thing mentioned. Each shopper is unique, so some points may be more true for some shoppers than for others.

I would like to add that due to apps, some detailed assignments include the details for the shopper/auditor/merchandiser to reference while on the job. The inclusion of details may make some assignments comparatively easy or easier.

For better or worse, it is becoming commonplace for people of all ages to go about with their phones. It may be becoming easier for shoppers who are using devices for details to blend in with people who are using their devices for other purposes.

Should shoppers be paid more for performing additional observations or incurring increased reporting time and complexity? Do all shoppers experience an equal increase in reporting time or difficulty? Or, do some shoppers become more efficient over time? Are there any other shoppers who, perhaps when in rural areas, have to work around available connections?

As America celebrates Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have given their lives in our nation's wars. - John M. McHugh
@kimmiemae wrote:

So if you hired a painter to paint a room for you and he only painted 85% of it, you would be happy?

I knew immediately upon reading this that LisaSTL would click like! Lisa this comparison about painting that I think you made first seems to have been picked up by others. You have coined a phrase, or an example or something.
YES! I remember hearing it on the forum, but couldn't remember who said it. And now that you said Lisa, I feel like I should have known that.

Kim
Um, need I remind you that we as Professional Shoppers are the Painters and the Cleaners in this case?

Cleaners and Painters are Contracted Professionals. The people who want to hire one of them will go to different Contractors to get bids. They then hire the Contractor who provides them with a bid that works for hirer. In this we totally agree.

The point here being...in order to figure out how much a Contracted Painter or Cleaner can and is willing to work for, they must first figure out how much it will cost them to do the jobs. From there they have to add on to that figure to make sure they can pay themselves, thus they receive a profit.

If they only do the job for the amount it costs them to do it, they lose. It's not worth them doing any jobs at all if they don't gain a profit. It is what Professional Cleaners and Painters do.

We are Professional Shoppers, we must figure out what we can and are willing to work for to make sure we gain a profit. ANY Shop we perform that doesn't gain us a profit COSTS us money in the end. Thereby making it not worth doing the Shop(s).
"Um, need I remind you that we as Professional Shoppers are the Painters and the Cleaners in this case?"

Considering that has been our point, no reminder is necessary.

Someone earlier in the thread was suggesting the companies hiring us pay according to the percentage of work completed. The part of the equation they ignored was the need for another contractor to finish the job. A shopper could complete 85% of a $10 shop and walk away with $8.50. How many fools are out there who would agree to the remaining 15% for $1.50?

Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It's not pie.
Never try to teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of your time and it really annoys the pig.
In some situations, shoppers are paid a reduced fee for closed locations. Presumably, those shoppers have completed 100% of the possible and available work for those assignments. But they did not perform as much work as shoppers who completed all tasks at similar locations that were open for business. Is this fair?

So, we are the painter, and we die. Fortunately, we made it all the way to 85% completion on the job before we croaked. Would our benefactors appreciate it if our estate received at least a partial payment for the work that we did before we died? Should our estate receive 85% of the agreed-upon payment because we completed that amount of work? Should the painter who finishes this job receive any portion of the payment that was designated for us even though they will perform only 15% of the job? Keep in mind that litigation will probably eat up thirty to forty thousand percent of our original fee for the painting task.

*eta*

I think we are talking about 'The Doctrine of Frustrated Contracts', among other things. This applies when circumstances change and render a contract unenforceable. This is not the same as a shopper who makes errors, forgets the assignment, or willfully declines to perform an assignment. These shoppers already are subjected to consequences, such as removal from shop types, deactivation, and reduced or withheld payment. If we really were a painter who died before completing a painting job, we would not be bound to the original contract. No one could force us to adhere to our painting contract when we are dead. The contract is frustrated. Did we include this contingency in the contract that we negotiated? Did we purchase some insurance for such situations? A lawyer could advise us while alive or assist our survivors after we die.

As America celebrates Memorial Day, we pay tribute to those who have given their lives in our nation's wars. - John M. McHugh


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/11/2018 02:29AM by Shop-et-al.
I read something funny today that ties back to many points in this thread. I was reading recent reviews on one of the mystery shopping/auditing apps in the google play store. A few days ago a user made a post that they personally had not had the chance to complete a mission, but her ex husband and children love the app. She was thanking the app company because its great for her kids, they pretend they are private investigators completing asignments and that is so much better than them sitting in front of a tv all day. So I guess thats what paying $3 bucks for an assignment gets you. Children completing your assignment. If your a brand hiring mystery shoppers/auditors, remember those completing the assignments often end up being the face of your company. LOL

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/11/2018 04:36AM by Want985.
@WendyG10 wrote:

HOWEVER, these MSC's are telling the Shoppers in their T & C's - the better the rating a Shopper gets with their company, the more and better Shops the Shopper will have as an opportunity in the future.
I think this is misleading. The lucrative shops I have done were based on the previous work I had completed -- BUT I had no idea Company A had the contract. Given the fact that many schedulers do not remember shoppers who do them favors, I think the bait method is dishonest. Unless they're willing to detail at what score level the better shops will be offered, I call BS.

There ARE schedulers who remember, and they are the ones for whom I will bend over backward. It seems that some would prefer I bend over forward.

Sorry for the book, but I felt perspective might be in order.

Back around the turn of the millennium, I worked for a market research firm. We did those annoying mall intercepts. Interviewers would stop by the office in the morning, pick up a stack of paper surveys, a couple clipboard and lots of pencils before heading out. At the end of the day/evening they would drop off the completed paper surveys. We then had a process called “cleaning” where were went through every survey, tossing the incomplete ones, deciding which answer was correct when both Yes and No were marked, circling the marked answer when the interviewer used a microscopic tick mark, etc. Then each survey would go through data entry and verification, which involved a second person entering the data in a verification file to be compared against the first. Once all that was done, I got to parse the data into SPSS, run some code, and start generating reports.

Then we began using tablets. I think it was a Blackberry model. Everything changed. No more cleaning paper surveys. No more data entry and verification. When an interviewer returned their tablet, I simply plugged it in and uploaded all the surveys right into SPSS. No missed questions. No more vague pencil marks. No more coffee stains. No more creases going right through some scribbled verbatim. Not only did we cut out almost 80% of the total hours required per project, survey production increased by almost 20%.

We also found that we no longer needed the same kind of interviewers. With paper surveys, you need people who can pay attention to detail, follow written instructions and write somewhat legibly and are physical able to haul around a backpack with 20+ pounds of paper. With tablets, the software followed the skip patterns and the interviewer just tapped the correct response. The key selection criteria for interviewers changed to people who were sociable and comfortable approaching strangers. Many of those we began hiring were not people we would have ever considered for paper surveys. Unfortunately, some interviewers who were extremely personable and did great with paper surveys, could not adjust to and understand how to use a tablet.

Point being, technology changes how we do things. It also drives down prices. In my example, we weren’t the only company switching to tablets. Since we no longer needed to pay workers for the data entry, not to mention the costs of paper, printing and pencils (and disappearing clipboards), we were able to lower our bids to remain competitive. We didn’t make more money, we were simply able to continue earning revenue from intercepts.

Today, most businesses have dozens of channels for collecting data from customers about employee performance, service, impressions, preferences, etc. Data is available that can be used to predict when a customer is likely not satisfied and email them a coupon. The CSR you call to complain to is likely going to have on their computer the top three offers that have the highest probability of returning you to “Happy customer” status. Mystery shopping is one channel for gathering data, and it does not play as big of a role as it used to. Nor does it bring in as much revenue as it used to. To stay in business, MSC’s must be able to bid on jobs with more and more complex requirements. They can do this because technology enables shoppers to meet those requirements, but not with the same skill sets needed 20 years ago. Tech savvy shoppers today can use their smartphones to meet all the requirements for timing, note taking, pictures, audio, even lengthy, detailed narratives.

In closing, shop criteria are going to evolve. That does not necessarily mean they become more difficult. It usually means a newer set of skills are required and/or different technology is available. Back in the 80’s, if you had to do an audio recorded shop, you needed one of those little pocket tape recorders with the micro-cassette tapes. 20 years later, you needed a digital audio recorder. Today, any smartphone or smartwatch will do.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/11/2018 02:32PM by TroyHawkins.
What if the painter was asked to come into your house, paint a room without your knowledge,take photos from several angles, document the width of the first coat, sleep with your teenage daughter and have his report in by the end of the day. He will be paid 8.00!
That's when you creatively remember things. Companies hire mystery shop companies to confirm they are doing thing right, not to find out if they are doing things right.
Some painters would pay to sleep with someone's teenage daughter, not the other way around. That's a pretty disgusting analogy, BTW.

@Youllneverknow wrote:

What if the painter was asked to come into your house, paint a room without your knowledge,take photos from several angles, document the width of the first coat, sleep with your teenage daughter and have his report in by the end of the day. He will be paid 8.00!


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/11/2018 05:45PM by JASFLALMT.
Thank you for saying that about the analogy, it is absolutely gross and not fit for our forum of business professionals. Extremely poor judgement and very uncouth on Youllneverknow's part.
I suppose I shouldn't have commented on it at all. A painter who sleeps with someone's teenage daughter could end up with an untimely demise...but I am getting off topic, sorry.

I have noticed a few MSCs have added a couple of additional steps to shops that did not increase in pay over the years. If I found them to take too much additional time, I either waited it out for a bonus or just didn't bother with the shop. One MSC in particular added a curb appeal photo requirement but that really isn't any big deal for me.
@Troy, it does not *necessarily* mean more work, but it often does. Things like MobiAudit make a job easier and less time-consuming, but when the observations jump from 4 to 35, it is indeed more work even with the help of technology.

True, but over time the ability to complete that work becomes easier and less time consuming. Prices go down on the client/MSc side as competition increases. Complexity increases because it can. And technology improves. It’s a cycle. Wait ten years. We’ll be discussing how much more is required to complete a shop than today.

Don’t forget that this industry is designed around the concept of paying people to do something they would have done anyway. Some shoppers are able to earn a living being professional mystery shoppers, but that’s not the business model.
@TroyHawkins wrote:

Don’t forget that this industry is designed around the concept of paying people to do something they would have done anyway. Some shoppers are able to earn a living being professional mystery shoppers, but that’s not the business model.

This pretty much sums up my stance...

Wasn't intended to be a way to make a living. Some can do it, but for most, it's a side gig.
For the ones that keep bragging about how much they make, they also have a full time job, let them try and live on this without other income.....

"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there
Will Rogers
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