Profit Vs Free food

So initially when I started MS it was to make money to pay down some debt. I use to $700 a month in profit plus another $200 in reimbursements. That was almost a year ago. (I actually started MS in 2014 but took a long hiatus and just started back again). Anyways, I've been looking at my last few months and my out of pocket expenses to money I get back the following month is essentially the same with MAYBE $50 of profit total for the month. I'll admit its because lately I've been doing mostly food shops which are usually little to no fee so this could be why, but I couldn't believe it. I guess I really haven't been paying attention. I think also its because there hasn't been many shops available to me aside from food that I'm interested in.

Don't get me wrong saving money on food is great. If I have a sit down mystery shop, I usually take the rest to work tomorrow for lunch so it definitely has helped me cut spending in that area but I really would like to get back to making a profit again. I need to cut down my debt and that was the purpose of me starting back MS again. I know the obvious suggestion would be to just go back to the shops I was doing before but I no longer see them. The client must have stopped working for the company or something.

Any suggestions on how I can maximize my profit or even lower my out of pocket expenses? Do you all make more profit or just get free items? Looking forward to hearing from you all smiling smiley

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You will not achieve that goal by sticking to shops that are mostly reimbursement with small fee. Those will help, by lowering your expenses, but obviously, not enough. And, remember that if you have been doing restaurant shops that have a lot of timings and detailed narratives, some of the shops that I am suggesting will actually be easier and many will have LESS narrative.

When it comes to any new type of shops, you will need to walk before you can run. So, I suggest that you start with bank teller shops, then move up to bank platform shops and then, if you are comfortable, account opening shops. At $35 to $50 each, I few bank compliance and/or platform shops per month, plus financial manger interactions that pay in the same range, will probably get you 33-50% to you goal.

Parking/valet shops may LOOK like relatively low fee shops BUT I use them to be able to park within am easy walk of other shops (banks, retail) that I can get because many who work in the city would not be close enough to fit those into their lunch hour or after work times.
Then, try some apartment shops that may pay $35-$50 for non-video shops. You can then decide whether or not to try the better paid video ones.

Although I do not do them, many forum members make good money by doing routes of fuel/convenience store shops.

Add in oil change and car wash shops to lower those expenses. Some include reimbursement for tire rotation as well. Most pay a modest fee, which gets "inflated" if you use a coupon (available online.)

Of course, the first step is to sign up with FAR more MSCs. And realize that with many of these new MSCs you will not see the better fees until you have proven yourself with lower fee 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.
You need to change the types of shops you are doing. Car shops, for example, can pay between $50-$100 depending on how much they need a location shopped. When I was off from work, I visited three dealers and made $150 in one day. Last week, I went to a car dealer for $65, and will be doing another for the same. But, car shops are kind of "one and done." You can't really reshop them unless you wait a long time (opinions will vary on this, of course).

As already said in this thread, apartments and bank visits will pay more.
@walesmaven thank you this is some good information!

I won’t lie there are a lot of good shops that are available to me for example the apartment shops but the thought of doing them make me so uncomfortable. (I’m an introvert). Or even the account opening shops. Any shops that I have to talk to an associate and interact with them makes me nervous. But I guess if I wanna make some money I’m gonna have to step out of my comfort zone.

Thanks for the tips!
@Niner Yes understood. I’m doing the wrong type of shops. Well I wouldn’t say wrong. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with free food but I probably should be doing less of those and more of those that will earn me profit. Definitely going to try some other types of shops for sure.
Don’t think of it as “free food.” It’s food you’re purchasing with your time... which you could also be using on $$$ making shops. Reducing food cost is always good, but if cash is what you truly need, try and focus on some money maker shops and see what you think.
We were ALL terribly nervous with the first one or two of each kind of shop that we did. Confidence is a muscle that need some gentle exercise in order to become stronger. You can do this. Just think, when you go to your bank you interact with a teller, yes? When you get an oil change, you interact with the cashier and probably one other person. Each scenario is very likely to spell out the question that the client wants you to pose, so you are halfway home just reading the guidelines. You probably have to ask at least one question for any food shop. So this is already familiar territory.

Your real life and to-date shopping experiences will get more than half of the new shops figured out in advance.

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.
In a perfect world, you will find assignments that you enjoy and cobble together shopping experiences that enrich your wallet and your life. I hope that you do not have to shop according to a formula for too long, even though the formulaic advice works extremely well. The only thing I can add to the great responses above is to consider other jobs besides this IC work. I have a job that I reek at but pays infinitely more efficiently than mystery shopping. So, I shop far more than I sit at that desk. I have more fun, get to do more interesting things between shops, and enjoy life as a whole absurd ever-changing adventure. YMMV.

The most dangerous idea is silencing people. - Naval Ravikant
Great advice given above by the pro's...the answer is simple and you know it, Apt.'s, dealerships, banks, assisted living when available, staying away from the "fun" reimbursement jobs brings in the money, we have to do what we have to do...making money and having fun are two different birds, .good luck.

Live consciously....
One thing we do not know about the OP is where they live. If they are rural, as I am, then it might be efficient to combine mystery shopping and fun. If their version of fun is a hundred miles away from home, and the nearest string of shops is on the way to and from that form of fun, then the shopper can do the work and have their fun, too. The fun is not necessarily anything that is mystery shopped. It is whatever the OP would like to do. For me, shopping to and from my version of fun (which is not a mystery shop) is useful. For another shopper, it might not work so well. It is equally okay if shoppers approach their lives differently.

Depending upon the OP's existing work schedule, they might not be able to fit banking shops into their days. If they are free during banking hours and there are enough nearby banks, the shopper could make decent money by completing these shops. If the OP usually works during banking hours or there are not many banks nearby, the banking shops will not yield as much profit as they will for other shoppers who are near more brands and branches. I can make considerably more money by shopping banks between 70 and a hundred miles from home than I can near my home. I do not like to do this. The reports eat up all the time that I need for personal pursuits, which is my primary purpose for being so many miles away from home. But what will the OP be able to do with their unique circumstances?

The most dangerous idea is silencing people. - Naval Ravikant
Also depending on your location, there is a way to make reimbursement shops work for just have to target assignments that are items you would be spending money on anyway!

My target is actually the opposite of yours. I generally shoot for $200 in fees + at least $1,000 in reimbursements monthly, and there are a variety of shops outside of restaurants that could help you cut $500 from you monthly expenses depending on your lifestyle. For instance:

-Drycleaning shops
-Oil change shops
-Grocery Shops
-Carpet cleanings shops
-Hair Salon shops
-Veterinarian shops
-Pet food shops
-Clothing shops
-Food delivery shops
-Parking shops
-Gas station shops

Just from that list alone, I can pinpoint quite a few monthly expenses I incur on my own, and then try to target assignments that help offset the costs.
YES, oil changes are a good reimbursement, I find grocery shops don't take up much time, The Source has them all over and food was a big expense for me, so now getting reimbursed is great, and this company does it twice a month. I personally don't like to wait long for a reimbursement, one of the reasons I'm so in favor of above MSC. I was surprised at how an 8.00 restaurant adds up, excellent lunch/dinner, no cooking or shopping and I always make a little something, when those checks come rolling in, I got food and $. Cosmetics, getting free samples, it all adds up. Opening up an account brings in $55.00+ and doesn't take long. My secret is location, won't spend time traveling, concentrate 80% on my town, banks, dealerships are plentiful.
Quoting my daughter on Mothers Day, "Mom, just do it".....

Live consciously....
I find it is better to do food shops with at least 10-12 dollars in shoppers fee. Profit is my main incentive for most shops, I find it hard to take a shop in which I am not making more money overall. I do occasionally do my favorite burger spots low fees but then I feel like I'm being cheated cause I'm so stingy. I like to do the 5guys when they are scrabbling for those last minute shops. I was going to do a 30 dollar reimbursement shop but passed again cause I felt cheated. Since mystery shopping is a huge source of income I have little choice, for instance 3-4 times a month I can do a shop with almost no fees but in general hell no. If your goal is to profit then food shops mostly will get you next to no where. I do almost every time of shop: menu pictures, TV mystery shops, cell phone, fast food, clothing, make up, other electronics, bank, mortgages, purchase and return, grocery shops, phone shops etc.

I average about 700-1000 a month which greatly helps me: mind you I don't do 7-11 purchase type shops, gas station and god forbid those painful audit shops. I take MSC very seriously and if I'm only breaking even it isn't good enough for me, some people who have significantly extra income from me would be fine with that as it is a 'free meal' anyways. This month has been a slow shopping month but I still find shops to pick up. This is my first spring/summer shopping are there MORE or LESS shops for these months?

Good luck & happy shopping!
These are all such awesome answers! For the record, I live in a small city near Miami, FL. A lot of the shops are either there or in Fort Lauderdale so to travel there I would have to do a route. But like many of you said, it's all about what my goals are and its definitely more so profit at the moment. That was the reason for me taking up mystery shopping again. I know for a fact I'm going to need to step out of my comfort zone in order to begin making some profit.
Kristy, if you're "saving" the money you normally spend on lunch or dinner, then put that on the debt you want to pay down. I mean, really, you would have spent the money on lunch or dinner anyway, right?

I do LOTS of fast food shops. Marketforce and SeeLevel currently have enormous numbers of fast food shops. I LOOK for the ones with bonuses -- and if bonuses aren't OFFERED, I wait until it looks like they've been on the job board a while, then I ASK for a bonus.

I do believe that no one can make a dent in debt taking jobs off the job board at base pay plus reimbursement.

Depending on where you work and hours of your job, you might consider what someone else mentioned -- grocery store shops. The Source and Marketforce both have them. They don't pay much, but reimbursement can make a significant dent in your grocery bill -- and you can take the money you're not spending on groceries, and pay down that debt.

Best of luck.

(I, too, do gas stations -- the unrevealed ones are generally quick, easy, pay adequately, and have a reimbursement as well. And we all need gas! I do oil changes. Don't forget post office shops -- they are my favorite! Unless you're in a metro area with long lines at the PO, for the time spent, the pay is FAIR. I'm normally in the post office less than 10 minutes, and the report is a breeze -- lots of questions, but 90% of them are literally yes/no. Maybe 3 sentences, max. I do banks, big box stores, hardware stores, etc. I HATE purchase and return, they are all on my 10 foot pole list!)

Usually at the hardware store, I buy necessities -- cuts budget expenses. Last month I bought all the seeds I need to my garden, and the month before, I got light bulbs at 10 different hardware stores, LOL!!! Light bulbs are EXPENSIVE!
It seems your main goal is to focus on paying down your debt. You have lots of good suggestions above. I would try to keep to the shops with fees and away from even the food shops. You can sprinkle those in as a treat to yourself once in a while. But if you think about it, if you are trying to pay down debt than money is the object of your shopping. Yes, you can save money by doing oil change shops and carpet cleaning and vets but only if you need an oil change etc. If you do them every two months when you really don't need one yet than you are spending your time and effort for something (not money) you do not really need. I feel the same way about food shops. Of course it depends on how much debt you have. But if you substitute food shops for other shops with more $$ pay and you are paying down less debt with something you can prepare at home pretty cheaply. You can make a sandwich for lunch instead of eating out or cook something at home. The food shops should be a treat only which of course everyone needs once in a while.
As far as being shy or introverted is concerned you evidently do not feel you cannot interact with the restaurant staff and many of the fee only shops require those shorter type interactions. Choose the ones with shorter interactions first. Later you can move to longer interactions like apartment shops. I did an apartment shop once and once only. It took forever as it was a fairly large complex and they wanted to show me everything. Then the write up was lengthy. I could have done enough shorter interactions shops to make the same fees as that shop in the same amount of time. If there is something you feel uncomfortable with just drop by the same sort of store on your own one day and speak briefly with a salesperson about the topic of the shop. Then when it is time to take one of those shops you will remember the interaction was not so difficult after all..stick to things you know about at first. Things you have done over and over in your life already. Banks are all over. If you have not had much interaction with tellers other than to make a withdrawal of your own from the atm, next time you go to your bank use the teller and ask a simple question while you are there. You will see it is not so hard and feel more comfortable taking one of those shops. If you need to drive to Miami and it sounds fairly close, line up only a few shops the first time and do a fast food shop so you can sit and recoup between those shops. Work your way up to more small shops and eventually to the bigger ones. But always remember your debt and look often at your statement to see how much you are paying down is debt and how much is interest. It is the interest payments that are keeping you from having no pay down as much as you can to get rid of those interest payments where you are basically working for no gain but just to stay even.
AND, when driving into Miami, be sure to look for parking shops that you can then try to find other shops nearby. It can be a great high to manage logistics in such ways! HS Brands, Servimer and several other MSCs have parking shops in center city areas. AND those have far less interaction than a fast casual or table service food shop!

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 work for cash. I have food at home.

The food/gas shops that I do all have a fee. Certain shops I do as coupons, but they are few and far between. The popular burger joint that we all love is done for close to $20.


"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/12/2019 10:20PM by HonnyBrown.
There are a few cosmetics shops floating around. If the products aren't something I want or choose to gift, it gets sold off on eBay.
great idea. I had a few retail shops for department stores and I think I will start selling my purchases. Jeez why didn't I think about that! I already have some great gifts for others.
Wowww these are all such great suggestions. Especially what @sandyf said... I wouldn't mind practicing those simple interactions at all before doing it as a shop just to see that its really not a big deal at all. A food shop every once in a while might actually be the way to goal. As you and other people said I have food at home. Not only that but those shops take away from my time of doing shops with actual fees. I do have some food shops that pay fees of $15 or more (those I'll keep).. but the ones that are $5 of fees or just reimbursements.. it just eats up too much of my time. (I work a 9-5).

And to be completely honest, majority of the time I do food shops I go over the reimbursement anyways! So I'm actually losing money! So now I lost money (even if only $10), time (from doing another shop that would have given me profit), and gas (more money). Seems like I've actually been digging myself into more debt than I've realized while thinking I'm saving money on food. I'm definitely going to start treating these as just a treat from now on UNLESS there's at least $15 of profit or its a food item I really really want.

I just wish I knew which non-food shops are worth it. Would you guys say ALL of them as long as there is a profit?
Don't overlook telephone shops! Use the time zone difference to your advantage. Pick up a few telephone shops for locations on the west coast, and you can often conduct them in the early evening hours at your home on the east coast. Individually, they often don't pay very much, but, cumulatively, they begin to add up to a nice piece of change every month with NO OUTLAY of cash.
Kristy, I would not say "all of them" are worthwhile, as long as they have a profit. But try a few for things you have to do anyway. Non-reveal gas stations normally have an interaction that's limited to please and thank you. Many bank shops involve merely depositing cash into an already existing checking or savings account; again, that amounts to please and thank you.

I've been doing this for 10 years, and I STILL sweat bullets on every single "new to me" shop. So I would suggest just trying ONE new shop, master it and get comfy with it, before attempting a second new-to-you shop.

If you're not already signed up with the 15 "most discussed" companies, I would urge you to first sign up with them. Then check what shops they have, and attempt to branch out. I guarantee you eventually you will find a shop that fits you to a T!
@ceasesmith I will do that smiling smiley

I think I am already signed up with the 15 most discussed companies but I am going to double check. I like the idea of starting with ONE new shop and get comfortable with before attempting a second one. Such a great idea smiling smiley

You guys are all so helpful and kind! smiling smiley

Also, how do YOU differentiate between the ones that are worthwhile and the ones that are not?
ALL of the ones that I mentioned above are worthwhile to ME. YMMV we are all different.

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 am asked frequently to perform shops that pay $15 or less.

None of them are worth it to me.

However, I live in a rural area, and must drive at LEAST 45 miles to a shop. $15 just doesn't leave anything in my pocket after gas expense for a 90 mile round trip.

Each person's situation is unique -- you just have to decide for yourself which ones are worth it and which ones are not.

I used to do a route of 8-11 shops. The route was 800 miles long, and involved one night away from home. However, it paid over $1100, so well worth it. Now, the same route pays less than $600 -- and I'm debating whether it is still "worth it". (The MSC cut the pay per shop from $100-$125 to $70-$75, and dropped several of the shops altogether.)
@ceasesmith this is actually very true. Those $15 shops are probably 10 minutes away from my house. I would say that could be worth it. Especially if I can do other shops on the way there or in the area for close to the same pay!

Yikes! That sucks that you have to drive so far to perform shops. I have a good amount in my area (Miami, FL). But I get what you're saying about each person's situation.
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