Mystery Shoppers should NEVER....

What would you say is your number one rule for what NOT to do when mystery shopping?

I have two children and two parents that I care for. I've just found out that my special needs children are eligible for a private school that will change their lives. Starting in September, I'll need to make $20,000 annually to cover the cost of their tuition. I have mystery shopped over the past few years to make Christmas money and to get out of the house, but now, it will be my JOB. I have never been more motivated to accomplish something in my life. I will accept your advice, habits and challenges, and anything else you want to share with me.

I am so grateful for what I have already learned from your contributions on this forum.

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You don't really need to "make" $20,000 a year in fees. You need to make enough so that you have $20,000 at tuition time. By this I mean that if you replace money that you would have spent on essentials (gasoline, groceries, clothing, gifts, etc) you now have that money free to use for tuition.

So, if you normally spend $800/month on groceries, and you get $200 worth of groceries for free with shops a month, you are ahead. $200 x 12 = $2400 net/year.

Same thing with gasoline. So, if you normally spend $200/month on gasoline, and you get $100 worth of gasoline for free with shops a month, you are ahead. $100 x 12 = $1200 net/year.

$2400 grocery savings
$1600 grocery fees (estimate)
$1200 gasoline savings
$1200 gasoline fees (estimate)

That's $6400 right there.
You'll make more money doing gas station audits than mystery shops, but I prefer doing the mystery shops.

Beyond that, you'll need to make $1100 a month. So, around $275 a week. You can easily do that with cell phone shops, bank shops, car dealerships and apartments. Just substitute shops for these categories that appeal to you.

I've never made less than $20,000 a year shopping. You just have to hustle.
I save quite a bit of money on oil changes, car washes, etc. If you are making this a real "job," you might consider video, too.

As for your initial question: A shopper should *never* lie. Our word is everything in this industry, if we start to lie, MSC's will lose all trust in our word and our reports become useless to them.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
Oh yes to the above!!!! I have friends that say oh I don’t want to do grocery shops because I need money to pay bills. Duh! If you aren’t paying for groceries then THAT money can go somewhere else. And if you start now you can also have a good chunk of Christmas set aside (at least smaller items and stocking stuffers) from shops. Also integrate the shopping into all parts of your life. Take those receipts and plug them into some of the apps that take receipts. Shopkick while you are out. So I guess my answer would be never say never to a certain type of shop or way to save on everyday life. Liz
This is such great information! I understand now that 'mystery shop' means something very specific on this forum. I will do audits, body counts, and anything else that falls into the umbrella of this industry! Thank you for helping me think about it in such practical terms.
Thank you. If I thought I had to be deceptive or lie, I couldn't do this job at all! I want to do exactly what the client wants. My mom always said, "Take good care of your reputation, and it will take good care of you!"
Keep your word with the schedulers, and do your very best to never flake. I think this is one of the most important things in mystery shopping. If you make a mistake, own it, don't try to cover it up. If the shop calls for business attire, dress accordingly. Casual attire does not mean muscle shirts, hot pants, and shower flip flops. Always read your guidelines no matter how many times you have done the shop.

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away
Catregen, Good luck! I commend the shoppers who can do this. How can you do this and still take care of all your family. I could never make $20,000 a year Mystery Shopping.
Do you have friends that could help with a Go Fund Me sight?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/09/2019 10:14PM by shopper8.
You may be asked to role play the part of someone looking to buy a house, find assisted living for a loved one, buy a car, open a bank account. But, you will be role playing what real customers would do, except YOU are really not going to buy/rent, etc. . The clients want to find out how their real customers would be served/treated. I do not consider this deception or lying. You will NOT be asked to claim that your food was ill-prepared when it was not, or to complain in other ways to get the sales person in trouble !! We report objectively on what we observe, so even if we get frustrated or even angry, we keep that to ourselves and just use the report to report "just the facts." If something unpleasant is being reported, we explain what was unpleasant about it ("the associate never smiled or made eye contact" instead of "the associate acted like I didn't exist."winking smiley

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.
I just want to commend you on your work trying to make a better life for your children. I have one disabled child and I know the struggle, and could only imagine what it must be two fold. God Bless you.

Orlando - lightly shopping NC
Never lie. Never get sloppy with record keeping, both with mileage and earnings.
Never be afraid of getting someone fired if they simply do a poor job. (Look at it from the other perspective: a job opportunity may come available for someone who needs a job and would do the job better).
I wish you the best, have you applied for financial help. I know a few colleges that give it, and again, the very best in your brave life challenge. I literally get 80% of food by shopping the Trend Source (The Source) and have joined many rewards programs for restaurants, also oil changes help and dealerships, banks and Assisted living homes brings in dollars without spending your money. Shop smart, you can do it.

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping....
Without knowing your unique situation I wanted to let you know that I have known several people who have been able to get their school district to pay for private school when they could "prove" that their child could not get the education needed for their special situation in the public schools offered to them. It depends on the city you live in. So you might check into that where you live.
In addition I like to do jobs in places where I can stop in and do other things in my private life and thereby utilize the write off for some of the mileage. You may have a small tax bill but writing off some of my fees against mileage driven can be helpful. So think about small routes you might be able to take mileage for on your way back from dropping the kids if it is a distance, things like that.
I love that some already mentioned what you can save by mystery shopping - groceries, oil changes, car washes. I did an eyeglass shop last year that paid $25 and $175 for prescription glasses. I used it to buy sunglasses as my insurance will only pay for one pair and I used it to buy regular glasses. Yes, I only made $25 but I saved myself $175.

You can do it! Cultivating a good relationship with schedulers help. Driving a bit further, like at the end of the month when bonuses are attached may help too.

Kim
@Catregen ~ Don't overlook telephone shops! Individually, most of them do not pay much; collectively, however, they can contribute a nice little sum to your monthly bottom line. Intelli-shop has telephone shops nearly every month. Good luck to you!
This is an indirect input. It does not detract from or stand in opposition to the wonderful suggestions in the posts before and after mine. By how much can you reduce or eliminate your regular expenses in ways that do not involve mystery shopping? If there is any reduction or elimination, you might rely less on mystery shops. If necessary, you might have a little extra wiggle room in your schedule for your peeps, your shops, and you-- you are important, too. smiling smiley

That leads to my answer regarding what a mystery shopper should never do. A mystery shopper should never sacrifice their own self, their own needs, or those of persons for whom they are responsible.

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. - Potter Stewart


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/10/2019 07:20PM by Shop-et-al.
Time your shops. Go to restaurants at times of the day when you know they are not busy. Cell phone shops, go when they open.
If I was in your situation, I would get a part-time job with a guaranteed income in addition, to make sure you are clearing 20k. That's after tax, and I would not rely on hoping to make 20k plus the amount to cover taxes, so 30k mystery shopping in fees? It seems like too much of a risk. Maybe do some merchandising and demos?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/10/2019 09:14PM by Niner.
@Catregen wrote:

What would you say is your number one rule for what NOT to do when mystery shopping?

I have two children and two parents that I care for. I've just found out that my special needs children are eligible for a private school that will change their lives. Starting in September, I'll need to make $20,000 annually to cover the cost of their tuition. I have mystery shopped over the past few years to make Christmas money and to get out of the house, but now, it will be my JOB. I have never been more motivated to accomplish something in my life. I will accept your advice, habits and challenges, and anything else you want to share with me.

I agree with what everyone above has said about stretching dollars through mystery shopping but there might be a lot of variables. I don't want to sound negative, but I'm looking at this from a practical standpoint. You can probably greatly increase your mystery shopping income. But by how much? If you are caring for 2 parents and two special needs children, how many more hours can you spare to mystery shop? Do you have another income from someone else in your household? If yes, does this person's salary include benefits? Or are you also required to cover medical and insurance expenses? Are you eligible for a tax credit that will offset some of the 20K private school costs? Are you on public assistance to help you provide for the special needs children? If yes, there may be limits to the income you can make. If no one else in your household provides an income and benefits, you may be better off finding a job with guaranteed hourly/monthly income and benefits and continuing to mystery shop for extra money.
Do not try to do too many different types of shops in one day. I find that when I have to switch gears too often I can't "get into a groove" and can't move as quickly as I'd like or need to. For instance, I pretty much specialize in gas shops that I work around wherever I need to be. Since my teenager doesn't yet drive, I shoehorn in work instead of sitting waiting for her to finish whatever she is doing, picking her up from school, etc. In an 6 hour day, including drive time, I can do 14 site visits by doing two or three brands. I'd also evaluate the companies that use apps for reporting: some, like Market Force, don't pay a lot per shop but I find that the shops are fast and by using the app I can net more because I'm done within 10 minutes of leaving the site so no reporting time at night. Others, like Ipsos and Maritz, using the app can sometimes slow me down if I am in an area with poor data uploading time or if there are a lot of pictures involved. However, the reporting is pretty quick on their app in the evening so I make more doing it that way. I agree with everyone else - look at shops as a way to replace what you would spend on expenses or just as a stress reliever. I rarely pay for gas or oil changes any longer, the bookstore shop paid for the novels required for my daughter's English classes, some of the simple restaurant shops pay for meals while out or just allow me a treat, the pizza shops cover dinner on those nights when things are just too hectic, etc. and all these things free up cash for tuition (and allow you to be home on snow/ice days, breaks, etc.).
Niner, demos are a great idea to increase your income. That's a great suggestion. I've never done any but, there are some on gigspot for $66 for a few hours of work. You still control your schedule on when you want to work and make a few bucks on the side.

@Niner wrote:

If I was in your situation, I would get a part-time job with a guaranteed income in addition, to make sure you are clearing 20k. That's after tax, and I would not rely on hoping to make 20k plus the amount to cover taxes, so 30k mystery shopping in fees? It seems like too much of a risk. Maybe do some merchandising and demos?

Shopping Arkansas, Louisiana, & Mississippi.
@Niner wrote:

If I was in your situation, I would get a part-time job with a guaranteed income in addition, to make sure you are clearing 20k. That's after tax, and I would not rely on hoping to make 20k plus the amount to cover taxes, so 30k mystery shopping in fees? It seems like too much of a risk. Maybe do some merchandising and demos?

I had a part-time job, and all I thought about was how I could be making $60 an hour shopping at my convenience. Besides, finding an employer who has the flexibility the OP needs is going to be nearly impossible.
If OP worked 20 hours a week, she'd need to make $30/hour at the part time job to gross $30,000 and net $20,000. (Perhaps $25 depending on the tax situation.)
And you think she can make this much mystery shopping? I am a bit skeptical about $60/hr mystery shopping.
Interesting about the steady part-time job versus mystery shops. I think the salient points do not involve money.

I have several jobs. I love the variety, and I have some flexibility in scheduling. My typical employer understands about weather and its impact upon distance shops and the domino effect on my time and availability. This allows me to work all work into a large (albeit sometimes odd) schedule. But I am not in the so-called sandwich generation of caregiving, with older and younger people who may need attention or service from me at times or in ways that could conflict with traditional employment or self-employment, such as mystery shopping.

If I had extensive caregiving duties as the OP states they do, I would first whack the budget and apply some of the shop-et-al or other 'frugal really is not painful-- it's just different' tips. Next, I would do the math. Exactly many dollars and cents (or other money) do I now need daily, weekly, and monthly, to fill the remaining gap? Finally, I would brainstorm. In addition to mystery shops, what other jobs can I do? When can I do them? When are the respite caregivers able to fill in for me? How much do they charge? Are any cost-free services available for me and my family? In short, will I incur more costs by mystery shopping or performing other work outside of the home than by staying at home and doing all the work there? The answer probably is different for every family.

Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do. - Potter Stewart


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/12/2019 03:36PM by Shop-et-al.
Starbucks doesn't pay a lot, but will give you hours needed and also, pay for your online education and after a certain time, you get stock options. I know someone at my SB that has been there for 15 years as a Barista and does well. They accomidate your hours, close to home and won't be spending so much time driving and online scheduling, also give health Ins.

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping....
@Niner wrote:

And you think she can make this much mystery shopping? I am a bit skeptical about $60/hr mystery shopping.
I make that much.
You can’t make it doing fine dining for Coyle though.
Your choice of shops should depend on what your goal is.

Is your goal to experience a different lifestyle? Then do high end restaurants for $15 fees and resorts for $150 fees.

Is your goal to make a lot of money? Then knock out 20 gas stations in a day paired up with whatever simple bonuses jobs you add to the route. Perhaps do a video and park your car in various parking garages all over the city or pretend to rent an apartment 5 times in a day? Working efficiently I can make $60 an hour on any given day. It’s not all glamorous work, but it has paid my bills for 20 years now.
@SoCalMama wrote:

@Niner wrote:

And you think she can make this much mystery shopping? I am a bit skeptical about $60/hr mystery shopping.
I make that much.
You can’t make it doing fine dining for Coyle though.
Your choice of shops should depend on what your goal is.

Is your goal to experience a different lifestyle? Then do high end restaurants for $15 fees and resorts for $150 fees.

Is your goal to make a lot of money? Then knock out 20 gas stations in a day paired up with whatever simple bonuses jobs you add to the route. Perhaps do a video and park your car in various parking garages all over the city or pretend to rent an apartment 5 times in a day? Working efficiently I can make $60 an hour on any given day. It’s not all glamorous work, but it has paid my bills for 20 years now.

Got it.

I did this when I was off for summer vacation and made about a thousand a month, and that was running around like crazy. Making a few hundred a day was a rarity. If you have figured out how to make $60/hr, that's wonderful. I have a full-time job and mostly do dining shops so I can spend time with my husband, and I enjoy writing, so it works out.
I like the "frugal" advice from Shop et al. I have been frugal all my life. It is a lifestyle choice i guess made long before anyone coined that phrase but I actually have fun finding inexpensive and free ways to do things. It is much easier in a large city since there are so many free entertainment opportunities but just going out in the world of outdoors with the kids is free and if they are not spoiled and jaded by having things that cost lots of money at their fingertips that is often the most fun for kids. We went for fast food as a treat, not as a meal option on a regular basis. I am always seeing families at restaurants with each 3-6 year old having a full plate meal and leaving behind 90% of the food. Check and see what you can cut back on.
@sandyf wrote:

I like the "frugal" advice from Shop et al. I have been frugal all my life. It is a lifestyle choice i guess made long before anyone coined that phrase but I actually have fun finding inexpensive and free ways to do things. It is much easier in a large city since there are so many free entertainment opportunities but just going out in the world of outdoors with the kids is free and if they are not spoiled and jaded by having things that cost lots of money at their fingertips that is often the most fun for kids. We went for fast food as a treat, not as a meal option on a regular basis. I am always seeing families at restaurants with each 3-6 year old having a full plate meal and leaving behind 90% of the food. Check and see what you can cut back on.
We're frugal where it doesn't matter, but don't mind spending money where it does. I'm with you on the kid thing. They don't really need a lot to be happy except for your time. Annual passes to places make great Christmas presents and they last the whole year through. Pair the purchase up with a mystery shop and it's even better.

Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.

(Yes, I stole Hoju's tagline.)
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