Mystery Shopper Regional Collaboration to Improve Fees?

Have people considered banding together, based on region, on this forum to try to "bring up" job fees/reimbursements/bonuses?

It's often said that fees are low, because we accept them at low rates. I've heard it said that some of these mystery shopping company execs are very rich millionaires (not all), who could pay more, but don't (again, at least, in part because we accept such low fees).

If workers all refused to take those super low-ball offers, then the management would have to raise fees. Yet, we're all scattered and not in contact with each other. But, what if people posted their regions and worked to "wait out" those low-ball offers in everyone's respective regions? Would that collective solidarity help bring up some fees? Sure, some might still take them at low rates. But they can't take them all.

I've been reading recently how independent contractor status is often used by corporations/companies to exploit workers, because they don't have to pay us minimum wage. You can Google: "exploitation + independent contractors" and find articles related to this (although, be careful or random weird sites - you might get malware!).

An interest fact I didn't know was that employers providing training to workers would disqualify workers from independent contractor status. Mystery shopping companies can provide only very basic guidelines and instructions. But, having actual training is not allowed by law, as it would classify us as wage earners. I really found that interesting, because I have written in the past how it was weird that we don't get any training oftentimes - nothing beyond very basic stuff - and when problems arise our shops can be rejected. I think training would have helped me a lot when first starting. All the risk is on us and we have to essentially "train" ourselves.

But, yeah, just some random thoughts tonight. I feel like mystery shopping is very similar to Uber in how we're independent contracts with unstable work schedules and can often make less than minimum wage. Many Uber drivers make $2/hour after factoring costs.

It's Dickensian! Inflation just hit recently, so I'm already feeling the pinch!

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You're suggesting price fixing which is illegal.

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.
Also, you assume all mystery shoppers are banded together anywhere. I am sure the majority of the workers in this industry do not rely on any forum or organization for help, because it is simply not needed. We are here because we enjoy the friendships, or were trying to find a company, or something, not because it is required of this work.

I shopped for over 10 years with no connections to any other mystery shoppers. I only came here to hear others stories when I returned after a long absence.

Orlando - lightly shopping NC


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/06/2018 03:04PM by oteixeira.
I think if shoppers think long and hard about the actual time it takes to drive to/from, reading instructions before and work after a shop, people would not take low payment shops as often. I think that is the best way, if people just decline shops where you are not doing well.

I don't see a need for a collaborative on that purpose. Now if people decide to take shops at low payment or total value, there is not much else anyone can do.
Over the years, I have introduced shopping to five people. One, a bank teller, was completing several grocery jobs a month for, what I considered, grossly unacceptable pay. When I queried her, she explained she was raising a child without any assistance and the money that was far too low for me, greatly helped their lives. As long as there are workers willing to toil for little to no compensation, there will be a plethora of MSCs to accommodate them; that's business!
Agreed with Bob. One person's trash is another persons treasure.

Trying to organize shoppers would be like to trying to herd ants. Well...ants work together as a group better than shoppers. Perhaps like trying to heard bears, only if they were more plentiful and located everywhere.
@shopperbob wrote:

Over the years, I have introduced shopping to five people. One, a bank teller, was completing several grocery jobs a month for, what I considered, grossly unacceptable pay. When I queried her, she explained she was raising a child without any assistance and the money that was far too low for me, greatly helped their lives. As long as there are workers willing to toil for little to no compensation, there will be a plethora of MSCs to accommodate them; that's business!

I have to say that I actually think grocery store shops are A-Okay by me. I don't do Market Force's, because of the super low rates, but I do do them for three other MSCs. i know people have written very bifurcated responses on them - love or hate - but I guess I'm just in the love category, lol. Mainly, I see them as valuable, because everyone needs food to survive and they provide an essential in life. Are the shops tedious? Yes! Are they worth it to me personally? Yeah. I feel like I don't lose much in the way of gas money and time, because I'd have to shop for groceries anyways (spending the gas money and time). I use it as a chance to push a cart around and get exercise and snoop around to see what's available in shops. I enjoy the "exploring" aspect of grocery shopping much the same as I would enjoy exploring a city's shopping district or downtown/tourist/historic areas. I like going to random places locally and just walking (provided it's a safe area) and exploring. It's relaxing.

I know lots who hate grocery shops and I can understand why. There's a lot of acting, waiting around, asking questions, etc. But, I'm okay with them. smiling smiley

On LOTS of other shops, I'd say HELL NO! There are tons of what I consider to be rip-off, time-consuming shops where I get nothing...maybe a few dollars after time/expenses or a free meal, which isn't worth much to me.

I totally agree with your other comments. I feel we need a political revolution. I feel sorry for those who have to take these shops at low-ball rates, because they're desperate and have no other choice.

Also, just because a company CAN pay you less (because there are NO other options), doesn't make it right. Try to negotiate via a union? You'll get crushed and fired. It started with Reagan firing the striking air traffic controllers and setting a precedent for corporations, who were emboldened by the corporate friendly Presidents and lawmaker policies we've had since. *ahem, please vote Bernie in 2020*

Here is a direct correlation between union-busting and membership decline and American middle-class wages:

[www.theguardian.com]

Scary, right? Look at how much difference our wages were when unions were strong.

I think on an organic level, people can collectively petition for higher wages or agree to not take shops for low-ball fees. The effect it could have may be minuscule (or maybe even very good in some areas - maybe wealthier areas with few mystery shoppers, as someone wrote about?), but it's a start.
@SteveSoCal wrote:

Agreed with Bob. One person's trash is another persons treasure.

Trying to organize shoppers would be like to trying to herd ants. Well...ants work together as a group better than shoppers. Perhaps like trying to heard bears, only if they were more plentiful and located everywhere.

Not sure I agree entirely (although, I agree partially), SSC.

One thing we CAN do is educate people on the value of shops, though. You have to factor in mileage and taxes. A lot of people may not realize they may be losing money or making MUCH less than they think after factoring in costs.

People may need to be careful to not get trapped into a kind of payday lender loan (or low-wage work) trap. If you take a lot of low-wage mystery shops and only make $2/hour (like many Uber drivers after expenses), then you have to keep coming back to do these same jobs to survive. You could be trapped for years.

I think teaching people how to calculate the value of shops, learning how to route, learning bonus cycles, etc. will improve their profitability and not have them get stuck so easily into a desperate "loan-like trap."

Although, if one is truly desperate, they just may have no choice.
Steve, I say it would be like herding cats. Good luck with that!

Lady Marius
Canadian Mystery Shopper
^^ What Bob and Steve said. ^^

We're worth what we're willing to work for. And often the companies will get what they pay for. More and more I'm finding that jobs "on the board" are generally no longer worth it. They're to hook the newbies.

Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.

(Yes, I stole Hoju's tagline.)


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/06/2018 06:12PM by iShop123.
Steve,

The animal I like to use in this case is cats. It's like trying to herd cats. Good luck with that.

@SteveSoCal wrote:

Agreed with Bob. One person's trash is another persons treasure.

Trying to organize shoppers would be like to trying to herd ants. Well...ants work together as a group better than shoppers. Perhaps like trying to heard bears, only if they were more plentiful and located everywhere.

Orlando - lightly shopping NC
Cats are more like a guest on a mystery shop that the shopper. They are willing to come along if there's food involved...but don't want to do any of the work or obey the rules.
@SteveSoCal wrote:

Cats are more like a guest on a mystery shop that the shopper. They are willing to come along if there's food involved...but don't want to do any of the work or obey the rules.


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
It is true that we are worthy and our lives and work are unique. We are allowed to value gigs, careers, possessions, time, and eveything else in our own ways. We do not have to align with, band together with, join, support, or otherwise give up freedom, uniqueness, individuality, or anything else for the sake of someone else's preference. In this case,we are called cats who ought to be herded so thst someone else can get money.

Absurd. Meow. Woof. Ruaaaar. Etc.
People who make less than minimum wage doing this are not doing it right.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
Although some fees are low, I can't agree with the concept of banding together to form a quasi-union.

First, if a shopper decides that a fee is too low there is always the option to pass on it. And if other shoppers are satisfied with what others feel is a low payment and accept the shop, so be it. Unless it is a low paying shop that I can negotiate higher fees on, I really don't care if disappears to another shopper.

Second, if the income of the MSC executives is in the millions, good for them. I am not a SJW and don't feel that I have an entitlement to their money because they are richer than me. If I want more income I have to have a clear business plan, negotiate better and perhaps work harder. None of which will make me a millionaire in this industry.

Third, I'm not sure that I want those "low ball' offers to be increased. It is my feeling that MSC's have a budget for shopper payments and the increase in base payment would have to come from somewhere. And that somewhere could very well be from the higher paying negotiated shops.

Fourth, being an IC is a choice, not a forced form of indenture, and something I have been doing for over 35 years. If I was struggling to earn minimum wage, I would choose another profession.

Finally, I not sure what Dickensian inflation is but I assume it has to do with the writings and philosophy of Charles Dickens. Fortunately, I am neither Tiny Tim and in need of charity from Ebeneezer Scrooge nor an exploited IC in need of a $15 per hour wage.
The problem is circumstances often dictate what a shop is worth. Even throwing out personal circumstances such as an unemployed person taking reimbursement shops at below minimum wage to help with food or whatever. In the "burger" thread someone mentioned how they did not understand how anyone could afford to do the burger shop at base rate. I gave a perfect example of how that shop works for me.

For me, that shop is often worth $70 an hour. But for some people, they might have to drive 10 miles each way and then spend money on a burger they wouldn't spend the money on otherwise. It takes them $10 in mileage to do a shop. They get a $6 fee which is $4 less than the mileage to the shop cost them. So now where I was up $18.50 in 15 minutes they're down $4 in 45 minutes. But according to the OP I should have held out for more money.

What most people here don't seem to understand is that you can often change your circumstances in order to make a shop work for you, instead of just complaining about fees.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
Not everyone who shops does it for the fees. There are many other advantages and reasons that some shop.
@shoptastic wrote:


One thing we CAN do is educate people on the value of shops, though. You have to factor in mileage and taxes. A lot of people may not realize they may be losing money or making MUCH less than they think after factoring in costs.

....I think teaching people how to calculate the value of shops, learning how to route, learning bonus cycles, etc. will improve their profitability and not have them get stuck so easily into a desperate "loan-like trap."

Although, if one is truly desperate, they just may have no choice.

I agree very much with most of this. I believe many people, perhaps those who are new to the field or some who aren't super analytical by nature, overestimate how much they're making and/or undervalue their work. Or both. When you factor in the extra self-employment tax, your overhead, and other fixed and variable expenses, AND the time it takes to prep for, travel to and from, actually perform, and then report, a shop, that's a LOT of resources. Most self-employed people have to figure on taking about 30% right off the top of gross income to cover that SE tax; overhead and other expenses; lack of vacation pay, sick pay, holiday pay, health insurance, etc. Obviously, not everybody would have all those benefits at a W-2 job, but chances are most people have some. Even if you have a "regular" job and shop for extra income, I think it's important to take those factors into consideration. That $7.50 or $9 cell-phone shop, even if you add it to a route, is more like $5 or $6.

In an ideal world, it would be great if shoppers were to be more united in not taking low-paying jobs that end up not even paying minimum wage. But there will always be shoppers who don't care and shoppers who, due to their own personal circumstances, aren't able to work at a regular job and need what they make as mystery shoppers. Some people don't want to work for others and can make the trade-off work for them monetarily. Some people are better off taking a low-paying part-time job because that $8/hour job may pay, in reality, more than the $9 to $12 mystery shops.

Probably the best thing regarding low fees that most of us can do is set your threshold and don't take shops that fall below it. In areas where there are few shoppers, that might eventually affect fees. Here, I've noticed a series of shops that are done monthly and have been for years that now always have a bonus attached to them, even at the beginning of the month. Seems they can't get shoppers to do these at base price anymore, so the fee has gone up.

I have a figure for which I won't walk out my door, and one that I won't walk out the door for unless it can be easily added to a small route (I don't do large routes) or is within 5 minutes of where I need to be anyway, and is fast and easy to report. That's my personal stand against low fees.

OTOH, I will do no-fee and low-fee restaurant shops because in the long run, it saves me money because I eat out a few times a month anyway. So it's not always about earning money; it could be about saving money. Or just enjoying a nice meal out once in awhile that you wouldn't ordinarily do. .

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
^^ Sorry for the lengthy post! But this is something I feel very strongly about, and I tend to rant.... smiling smiley I just really hate to see people undervalue their own work.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
Please. If we are as good as we think we are, then there is not enough money in the world to pay us for what our work is worth (or whatever we think our work is worth).

On another track, it is ludicrous that a newbie with no experience can bargain for ten or more times the listed fee because they are available for the job. The elevated fee does not reflect skill, knowledge, insight, or anything of worth. That extremely high fee is paid for availability. Is availability the same as ability? Is ability the same as worth?
_____________________
And then there is the unique context for each shopper's money. Perhaps especially with sole proprietorships, multiple types of income, and/or multiple earners, there may be sound financial reasons for performing low-fee or reimbursement-only shops. How many other factors must be considered? Each shopper and/or their tax pro has their own answer to this question. This is a good thing. It gives us a reason to remain independent of each other and stay out of groupings that cannot adequately address the needs of the individual group members and/or their families or other contexts.
@shoptastic wrote:

Have people considered banding together, based on region, on this forum to try to "bring up" job fees/reimbursements/bonuse?

The biggest problem with that is that the forum makes up only a small percentage of shoppers. There are many who might find this forum in years to come and many more who never will. It's not going to change anything if forum members band together on anything regarding fees. And, sometimes it's convenient for many of us to do a particular shop for a low fee. That's not going to change.
@Shop-et-al wrote:

It is ludicrous that a newbie with no experience can bargain for ten or more times the listed fee because they are available for the job. The elevated fee does not reflect skill, knowledge, insight, or anything of worth. That extremely high fee is paid for availability. Is availability the same as ability? Is ability the same as worth?
It depends on the shop. Someone new to the game with a low-average IQ who is available could certainly do the postal shops. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a great deal of skill, knowledge, or insight for that particular shop. MSCs with higher end shops are actually willing to pay their better shops a premium because they DO require more than a warm body.

@Shop-et-al wrote:

Each shopper and/or their tax pro has their own answer to this question.
Exactly. A job that nets me a loss on paper might still be worth it if the mileage offsets income from other sources.

Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.

(Yes, I stole Hoju's tagline.)
As someone who has been there from the get-go I can tell you that IMSC was most certainly not formed for the purpose of getting shoppers to band together to demand higher fees. In fact, it was to encourage professionalism and professional growth among all shoppers AND to recognize that ALL shoppers who act professionally deserve mutual respect, regardless of what assignments they elect to take and why. They do, in fact have workshops that explain ways to negotiate with MSCs on an individual basis. But that is not aimed at demeaning shoppers who take fees as offered.

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
Let's not also forget that the low fee shops are usually the easy ones. Any shops that pay a lot of money - you know - require a lot of detail, a lot of narrative, negotiating, a lot of extra work, sometimes targeting a specific person, etc.

So there are days where I'll do a Few Brothers shop that I can get done in ten minutes on a route of other shops, or when I am in the area. If I'm really feeling bold, or have the time, then I'll sign up for something for much more pay - like apartment, or new car, etc.

I also "get" that there are shops that are not worth the effort for the pay. Gas shops, for example, I stay away from - typically too low of pay for what I am comfortable doing. So, I just don't do them.
I think having regional groups of shoppers would be great. What’s wrong with having threads for something like “Northern New England Shoppers” or “Southern Florida Shoppers”?

There has been a lot written in the past few years about how employers keep wages down by encouraging and sometimes even requiring employees to keep their salary private. This is similar but we don’t even have employers intimidating us to stay quiet. We’re free to help each other track pay trends and encourage shoppers to hold out for fair rates. You don’t think companies track how much they need to pay shoppers based on competition in a particular area?

For myself, I’d love the opportunity to meet up online with shoppers in my area to compare notes (within the appropriate disclosure rules) on shops and yes, to informally agree not to do certain shops where the prices are just too low. It wouldn’t work in fast food, but for certain types of shops it appears to me that the MSC’s rely on a fairly small group of shoppers to rotate through all the locations for a particular client in a particular region. Maybe not in big cities, but certainly in less populated areas.
I agree that we all do it for different reasons. I have a job that pays the bills and 401K, etc, pretty darn well. I am blessed. Most of my shops I do for the following reasons:

1. I enjoy it and it gives me "play" money
2. Free restaurant meals
3. I am one of the group of "I have to shop for groceries anyway" and take those shops.

So basically, if you look at my year end pay you would think I am making not much at all. What you would miss is my restaurant reimbursements. To me that is found money, as my wife and I enjoy meals out a few times a month, and the shops are basically paying for that for me.

I am also the one that was on the other thread with @bgriffin, and I agree with the math. What is great for one does not work at all for another. Make it work for you, the rest of us will figure it out for ourselves. God Bless, and have a great day!

Orlando - lightly shopping NC
@BirdyC wrote:

^^ Sorry for the lengthy post! But this is something I feel very strongly about, and I tend to rant.... smiling smiley I just really hate to see people undervalue their own work.

I'm glad you posted this so I didn't have to go back and find which parts of that long post to quote lol.

This is where we have a fundamental disagreement. It is not my business, nor do I care, what value other people place on their work. I have no idea if a shop is next door to their work or somewhere they would be anyway, how long the shop takes, or (as many people here don't seem to understand) how much they got for a shop. Just because something is on the board for $7 and disappears doesn't mean they got it for $7.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
What else did the shopper get? What did Tillie get? If the shop were near Auntie Tillie (who otherwise would not be visited until next week when Mom and Dad would drive and pay for the gas) and the measly $7 paid for the gas to get to Tillie's house and home again with a couple of bucks left over, that $7 met a need and provided a spontaneous opportunity. During the few minutes or so when bgriffin and a scheduler were discussing a bgriffin sort of payment, young GiGi saw an opportunity, scooped up a shop, and found a way to make Tillie happy. After school, Gigi scurried off to see Tillie. Tillie was delighted! Gigi had enough time after her visit with Tillie to get ready for her date with the generous boyfriend. The boyfriend always pays for everything, so there was no need to negotiate for fees that would pay for the given shop as well as for the financial support of GiGi's dating life. (He insists. She doesn't care. We do not need to socially engineer, start a movement, or otherwise change their situation for them.They are happy as they are.)

Did GiGi do the right thing by using an easy shop to fund an extra visit to Tillie? Should GiGi have waited for a bonus to appear on the shop board? Should she have negotiated for a bgriffin style of payment?

If Tillie was happy, everyone should be happy. Two months ago, Tillie was told that she had as much as three months to live. It was always a pleasure to see GiGi. GiGi's bubbly personality and silly jokes brightened Tillie's world for a few moments. The moments were shorter and fewer now. Soon, morphine would extinguish them altogether.

Does anyone really want to band together and mess with the little bit of wonderfulness that the GiGis of the world can provide for the Tillie's of the world?


@bgriffin wrote:

@BirdyC wrote:

^^ Sorry for the lengthy post! But this is something I feel very strongly about, and I tend to rant.... smiling smiley I just really hate to see people undervalue their own work.

I'm glad you posted this so I didn't have to go back and find which parts of that long post to quote lol.

This is where we have a fundamental disagreement. It is not my business, nor do I care, what value other people place on their work. I have no idea if a shop is next door to their work or somewhere they would be anyway, how long the shop takes, or (as many people here don't seem to understand) how much they got for a shop. Just because something is on the board for $7 and disappears doesn't mean they got it for $7.
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