How do you find shops for particular restaurants/hotels/retail shops in your area?

I've done shops for 15 years now, and I live in the Los Angeles area ... so there are certainly opportunities. At the same time, there are some places here -- steakhouses, nice hotels, franchise shops in the malls, etc. -- where I'm reasonably certain that they are signed up for evals. Have any of you found a reasonably quick way to find the clients you want under these circumstances? I'm already signed up for gobs of mystery shopping companies, at least 40-50, but if you could point me in a more specific direction than signing up for 200-300 more and hoping to find what I'm looking for, I'd appreciate it. And don't worry L.A. shoppers, I won't overly compete with ya, lol. Chris Stanley

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@chrisstanley1 wrote:

signing up for 200-300 more

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
Here is the routine: on any day when you want a shop but do not have one, sign up with 5 more MSCs. That is pretty much how the successful shops have done it.

And, remember that with most MSCs, they want to see a few very well completed "starter" shops before the shopper ever sees their better paid or most in demand shops.

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.
There really isn't a shortcut. However... if you watch the forum, MSC's that do restaurants are frequently mentioned. Some will post jobs. If I were you, I'd sign up for every MSC mentioned as having restaurant shops in generally - whether in your area or not. This will greatly increase the odds of you finding restaurant shops each time you register with a new MSC.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
Keep reading the forum on a regular basis. You will not be able to easily link a particular restaurant to a msc but you will read a general description of a place that might sound like a place you want to eat or shop. The thread will usually mention the msc if they have not mentioned the client by name. You will get to know some of the posters who live in southern california by their forum name. Pay attention to which msc they mention. Those msc they mention probably have shops somewhere in so cal. In addition make sure you are signed up with the scheduling companies such as kern as they schedule for multiple mystery shop companies so they may send you a list of shops near you that includes msc's that you have not signed up for. Keep doing a good job and some of your schedulers who have connections with other companies or schedulers will send you notice of shops available too.
A particular restaurant that I enjoy going to is shopped by one MSC where I live and another MSC where my parents live in a different state. The guidelines are very similar, but the pay is different. I found it first while visiting my parents, but did not find it near me until many months later when I signed up with yet another MSC.

I took a few years away from shopping and some of my go-to places have changed who they are shopped by. Some MSCs have faded away, some merged with others, and there are also many new ones that have appeared. If you think you have signed up with them all......wait a week or two and you will find your favorite MSC is switching to a new platform and you need to register with them again to access the new job board.

This is not a business where you can get a cookie cutter answer from another shopper and it will get your business set up for you. Anyone who is successful at this has spend many hours searching for MSCs and filling out more applications and registrations than they can count.

This forum is a GREAT resource and the members are VERY generous with their help. I have learned more here than I could have ever on my own. For that I am thankful!!!!!

It annoys me to no end when someone comes on here and asks others to set up their business for them..... for free.....just because.
Job boards.

And for those companies who do not utilize the job boards, check their website.

And the other posters are all correct -- restaurants are often mentioned. Depends on if you're looking for fast casual, fast food, or a more "elevated" experience.
@walesmaven wrote:

Here is the routine: on any day when you want a shop but do not have one, sign up with 5 more MSCs. That is pretty much how the successful shops have done it.

And, remember that with most MSCs, they want to see a few very well completed "starter" shops before the shopper ever sees their better paid or most in demand shops.

My dilemma revolves around this whole "starter" shop situation. If I can not see potential shops, I see no benefit to test every MSCs system. For the 25 or so MSCs I have shopped for over the years, I have never seen additional clients pop up. A few use their scoring system, requiring a higher score to apply for the better shops. That gives me incentive to develop my reputation with them.

It is kind of discouraging to me thinking I would have to run around performing menial paying shops, hundreds of them across hundreds of MSCs, with no idea what shops are potentially hidden. Let alone not knowing how many one must perform to even see if there are hidden shops.

Good example. Someone stated that Consumer Insight has restaurant shops in MD. I have never seen them list a restaurant shop. I have no initiative to perform any of the shops they list.

My posts are solely based on my opinions and for my entertainment, contact a professional if you need real advice.

When you get in debt you become a slave. - Andrew Jackson
Well, everyone, thanks for your advice/ideas. I see a common theme ... spend more time here looking at and understanding the resources/communication offered on this website. So you will all be seeing me here, and participating, much more often. smiling smiley For what it's worth, I work full time as a teacher yet somehow manage to get anywhere between $1500-$2000 worth of mystery shopping pay/reimbursement work done every month. I just want to start to get into a few different areas of retail/restaurants -- with a heavy emphasis on ones that are near my home. I drove almost 24,000 miles around Los Angeles and vicinity last year and it's kind of tiring. So any ideas you have for getting to that goal are greatly appreciated. It's a great adventure overall, though it is work too, and I hope that all of you are feeling some version of the same. Thanks again for all of your help.
@isaiah58 wrote:


Good example. Someone stated that Consumer Insight has restaurant shops in MD. I have never seen them list a restaurant shop. I have no initiative to perform any of the shops they list.

I am not in the same area as you are but I find that where I live the better shops are snapped up fairly quickly. Lately however things seem to have changed in LA as I now do see better restaurants sometime sitting around. I am talking about 80-100 dollar places .I think the key is to either know when they will be advertised and check the board that day early or check the boards every day until you come across one. Some schedulers hold some of the better shops for their better shoppers who ask ahead of time and a c l seems to hold the better shops or what they perceive as better shops, to offer as a way to get shoppers to accept the ones that they cannot fill. . I like some of the shops they are pushing and have no interest in some of the shops they offer if you accept a shop they are trying to fill. The early bird gets the worm too. i do not get up early and I find some msc put the shops out in the middle of the night and by the time I drink my coffee and turn on my computer the good ones are gone.
@chrisstanley1 wrote:

I drove almost 24,000 miles around Los Angeles and vicinity last year and it's kind of tiring.

For me, they key to successful shopping in LA is targeting local assignments because most fees are structured nationally, and both living and travel cost more in time and financial resources here. While SandyF and I both live here, I think it would be extremely rare for us to be competing for assignments. Being signed up for virtually every MSC is going to be the best way to do that. While it may sound like a pain, it's a worthy time investment.

If you can, target multiple shops with 5-6 MSCs at a particular mall, and hopefully the parking lot gets shopped too! I've shopped a single hotel in LA for 3 different companies before. One for valet parking, another for a restaurant in the hotel and yet a third for a retail outlet at the hotel. The money you make from shopping may be spent in auto costs otherwise.

Since I live near a metro stop, I also tend to now take shops along that route. If I can get multiple assignments with no driving or parking for the price of a single day pass, that saves me a lot of time and money, and some MSCs have agreed to pay for my metro fare in lieu of parking.
If you drove 24,000 miles, then I hope you used the IRS mileage deduction Schedule C. At $0.545 per mile in 2018, that would amount to a reduction in fees of $13,080. At an average of $1750 per month of shops, you earned $21,000 (impressive!), so mileage alone represented almost 62% of your fees. Personally, I think that is too high to enable you to be making a reasonable amount per hour. I have learned that when my mileage fees exceed about 33%, then I am spending too much time driving and not enough time earning fees. You have to make your own decision, but don't forget to deduct mileage.

I suggest that when you are tempted to add yet another shop to a route, calculate the additional mileage and compare the cost of driving to the fee before you apply for the shop.
@chrisstanley1 wrote:

... I work full time as a teacher yet somehow manage to get anywhere between $1500-$2000 worth of mystery shopping pay/reimbursement work done every month. .., I drove almost 24,000 miles around Los Angeles and vicinity last year and it's kind of tiring.

Edited to change $5.45 to $0.545

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/06/2019 10:53PM by myst4au.
Chrisstanley1 And I would add that in LA Traffic I get an average on my car computer of 14 mph. That translates to 32 hours per week of just driving.Even if you can drive some of those miles away from congestion and average 30 mph that is still 15 hours just driving per week. And if that is the case you are living in a different LA than I am! Then add in the time shopping and reporting. Yes, look closer to home. I would worry that your mileage costs if you are reporting them to the IRS would outweigh your earnings in fees alone and may trigger an audit.
Sandy, using your estimates for driving speed, Chrissandley would net (after deducting the IRS mileage rate) $10.56 per hour if achieving 30 mph, and $5.28 per hour if averaging 15 mph for the time spent driving. And that assumes that prep time, actual shop time, and reporting time were all ZERO.
@sandyf wrote:

Chrisstanley1 And I would add that in LA Traffic I get an average on my car computer of 14 mph. That translates to 32 hours per week of just driving.Even if you can drive some of those miles away from congestion and average 30 mph that is still 15 hours just driving per week. And if that is the case you are living in a different LA than I am! Then add in the time shopping and reporting. Yes, look closer to home. I would worry that your mileage costs if you are reporting them to the IRS would outweigh your earnings in fees alone and may trigger an audit.

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
Also adding that the driving is generally not is not productive time. If you utilize other forms of transit you can at least have some productive time during it. It takes me an extra 30 minutes using public transit to get to LAX, but costs me $1.75 total and I can at least be sending emails and/or working online during that time.

As far as the milage deduction goes, I know it has been discussed ad nauseum here, but with the more restrictive new tax tax rules for home businesses, I wouldn't feel comfortable writing off mileage to/from all shops any more. One MSC that used to employ their shoppers would only reimburse milage between shops, but considered the initial drive to the first shop and the return from the last shop as commuting miles (per their attorney's advice), and another that paid 100% of travel expenses used to consider my drive to the airport as commuting, then reimburse all the expenses from the time I arrived at LAX to the time I returned there. That's how I got into taking the bus to the airport.

Since my shopping model is a bit different from most others, I took a conservative approach to travel expenses and didn't write off any milage last year. I had enough of a deduction from unreimbursed air and train fares that it worked out well using direct expenses for me. Plus, I am just not driving that often to shops anymore...
Chris didn't say the 24,000 miles were for shopping. If she (or he) lives just 5 miles from where they teach, that's 10 miles a day, 50 a week, about 2500 a year just to go back and forth to the regular job.

And I look at that in a different way, the "62% of your fees is going to mileage". I see: "62% of your fees are tax-sheltered, thus putting in excess of minimum wage as cash in your pocket".

I did an 800 mile route this week, and earned $520 in fees. A little over $400 of that is tax free, because of the mileage deduction. Had a chosen to stay a night in a hotel, rather than drive home the same day, the rest would be sheltered by travel expense (totally separate from mileage). By the above reasoning, I worked one horrible long day for about $100, but from my point of view, I worked one horribly long day for $520.

smiling smiley
Since I live near a metro stop, I also tend to now take shops along that route. If I can get multiple assignments with no driving or parking for the price of a single day pass, that saves me a lot of time and money, and some MSCs have agreed to pay for my metro fare in lieu of parking.[/quote]

I have tried this with one particular MSC that offers almsot $30 in parking reimbursement but won't let me instead have a $4.80 bus fare. I'm glad it has worked out for you!

Shopping the South Jersey Shore
I have to drive 3 miles just to get to the closest metro stop and I think I would have to travel all the way downtown from there to get to ms jobs. I live in urban LA but the metro does not yet go everywhere. Parking at the metro stop is a minimum of $3 if you can find a spot to park in the tiny lots that are left now that they started building huge living/retail structures on what used to be the metro lots. Back just a couple of years ago if I parked at a meter there was no way to get a receipt for reimbursement and many msc do not pay for parking anyway although I usually do not ask. I was happy to find out a restaurant shop I did in Westwood reimbursed up to $5 for parking. I parked in the 2 hour free lot and only went over the first 15 minutes so they are giving me back my $1.50.
For chrisstanley, I am aware that those 24,000 miles might not all be ms miles however it is not clear where he/she is driving. You could easily put that many miles on your car driving from shop to shop here. Many of the "shops near me" I get emailed are a 2-3 or more hour drive round trip. The income mentioned was a combo of fees and reimbursements so figuring in the tax and time consequences assuming half of it was fees and adding in the work hours for non driving it does not sound like a lot to report or earn per hour. Chrisstanley is looking for a change so it probably is not the best way to have a second job.
I disagree. I do not view the "62% of fees" as "cash in my pocket", but it is indeed a deduction from taxable income. The mileage rate represents the cost if operating your car. That includes gas, repairs, depreciation, etc. There are some on this Forum who say that they only want to recover "gas money". IMHO, they are fooling themselves. If you have a car, you are going to have to buy tires, have repairs done, etc. Where does that money come from? It comes from the mileage deduction. Ideally, I would sequester the portion of my income that is attributable to the mileage rate (what you call "cash in your pocket" ) and use that money to pay for gas, repairs, and eventually a new car. Am I really that good and disciplined? Well, I try to be.
@ceasesmith wrote:

And I look at that in a different way, the "62% of your fees is going to mileage". I see: "62% of your fees are tax-sheltered, thus putting in excess of the minimum wage as cash in your pocket".

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
We can continue to disagree. I have the right to look at it any way I choose -- and so do you.

I also look at it as my driving time as PAID time. I route shop, and if I'm driving 10 hours, I guarantee you I'm earning far in excess of the minimum wage for each and every hour.

On my recent 18 hour day, the actual shops took less than 2 hours (considerably less; one took 6 minutes, one took less than 10 minutes, and so on). I feel adequately compensated for my drive time, because I count it as "work", and bid my routes appropriately.
I'm in an LA suburb( Santa Clarita for those who know LA) and I loathe driving in any sort of traffic. Its just not worth it to me to take a restaurant shop in Santa Monica, unless I'm going to be there. I schedule my shops based on my appointments in whatever city they might be in. I always try to get an airport shop if I'm flying out. I usually fly Alaska so I can always get the Habit in that terminal. I could always find a Blaze in whatever city I'll be in.( not that I want them, just saying). We just returned from vacation in S. Fl. I searched for my usual restaurant shops, grocery stores and airport shops and came up empty. It was actually nice not to worry about "working". I do this for fun, not necessarily for the money, although the extra is nice.
Has anyone had their identity stolen from registering with a mystery shopping company? Giving your personal information, including your Social Security Number, seems dangerous since some companies are fakes or take advantage of shoppers.
Several companies I have signed up with allow you to hold off on entering your SSN at the beginning. Until you make $600/year they don’t need it as they don’t file a form. If I wasn’t sure about any I would wait until I confirmed that they paid as expected and fell in line with what companies I knew were reputable did as far as how they operate. And if you are uncertain about a company and whether they’re legit, search them on here...
I done had two surgeries on my right out getting ready have another surgery for cararact and galcoma I can't see right now to drive to do any mystery shopping I will be glad when my eyes heal so I can do mystery shop I love doing them
This is what I have heard all the time. Sign up and then I get bombed with emails and phone calls. And when the companies change MSC it has to be done again. It's easier If someone could post the first letter of the MSC. For example I like the USPO and BP. Though I will not be doing any for a bit due to income limits. One of these was with the MSC that started with M.
I live in a small town that is 40 miles from the nearest good size town, I havn't done any jobs in over a month . If you live where there is lots of shops just be grateful. Everyone I do is a good distance and that cuts down on profit.
@calicakes wrote:

I searched for my usual restaurant shops, grocery stores and airport shops and came up empty.

Sorry, I usually don't fly out of that terminal but had a free ticket for a shop I'm heading to this week, and that Habit assignment was literally the difference between making a profit or taking a loss on this assignment. (The ticket itself was free but you have to pay taxes on international fees still)

For me, I just wanna come out of the travel assignments with a few $$ in my pocket. I had a $125 travel from the MSC, but the travel came to $158 and so I ended up taking airport lunch assignments on both ends of the trip.
@SteveSoCal wrote:

@calicakes wrote:

I searched for my usual restaurant shops, grocery stores and airport shops and came up empty.

Sorry, I usually don't fly out of that terminal but had a free ticket for a shop I'm heading to this week, and that Habit assignment was literally the difference between making a profit or taking a loss on this assignment. (The ticket itself was free but you have to pay taxes on international fees still)

I was wondering who was taking the Habit shops so quickly. Now I know...I did it once but it seems whenever I see them they are not for the right dates or Steve or someone else has already grabbed them. That shop to me is interesting. It is one of the reasons I signed up to do airport shops. The Habit shop used to pay a fee of $58 and I would see them go begging all the time but I did not have airport access. I even told the msc owner I thought he could get someone for less. But then around the same time I started doing shops at the airport that msc went with a scheduling company who greatly reduced the fees but also has access to lots of shoppers so now that I can get into the airport they are usually not available. The ever changing winds of mystery shopping hit me right in the solar plexus with that one.
It’s ok if you don’t mind the B health department rating that is posted by the beverage bar .....
There are some schedulers on this forum. If you ask for a particular type of shop, one of them might contact you and make you an offer. You never know! Networking like this is easier than signing up for everything on volition.com or one of the other sites that lists MSCs.
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