How you decide "what's worth it" when choosing shops?

For some people, this is tremendous! Many lifetimes ago, when I was not a mystery shopper, that could have been me. As a shopper, I could have saved thousands of dollars on products and services that I used. Now, I am happy without all that and I want something else-- which is not available via mystery shopping. Oh, well. I contribute to someone's beatiful good. Really. At least I am not taking up an appointment slot that they need for a mystery shop. grinning smiley

Don't allow yourself to be sidetracked by the computer. - FlyLady (this is somuch me! grinning smiley)

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@sestrahelena wrote:

Although lifestyle shopping is not my thing, when you think about it, it really equates to money as well. There are several lifestyle Shoppers here who have posted about saving many thousands of dollars per year doing things that they wanted to do as shops that they got paid and reimbursed for. So that is still money!
Doing oil changes for umpteen years has added up and all the food shops I do adds up, who says that's not money, getting a $52.00 manicure and all reimbursement shops are money in your pocket, who begs to differ.

Live consciously....
Example: yesterday's oil change shop
$42.99 (fully reimbursed even though I used an $8 coupon)
new tail light, not reimbursed BUT is was 9.99, so $1.99 after coupon
fee $5
Bonus: $28
Got coupon for free car wash next door to oil change (value $15)

rough taxable income: $33 (less mileage deduction)

actual value to my budget/bottom line: more than twice that.

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 think it is subjective and different for everyone. There's usually a furniture store shop near me that's only a 5-10 minute drive, but I will never do it again. It pays less than $20, but the time it takes to actually get waited on at this particular store is totally not worth it to me. I would rather find another way to make < $20 than to spend 1-2 hours of my time at a store I no longer shop in.
They always send coupons for our local car wash, and with an oil change, you get a free 16.00 car wash....
been doing it for years.

Live consciously....
I consider myself a professional, so don't do anything that will wind up paying me less than $30 an hour. That includes the round-trip drive, the shop and the time required to complete and submit the report. That eliminates a lot of unprofitable assignments. Also, I rarely do dining jobs - if I'm going out to eat, I don't want to have my meal's enjoyment ruined by needing to track my server's punctuality.
At least for the next year or two mystery shopping is my only form of income. So I do a LOT of gas station and grocery shops, I rarely buy gasoline just for driving and I get reimbursed for a significant amount of my groceries. I do leave my house to run out and do itty bitty shops, but not often. My son and I figured out that if we make $300 per week each we will be flush, and maybe even have a penny or two for something we need, like the beds that are being delivered today. I try not to drive more than 50 miles for less than $100, and if one of us has to drive to the other end of the state, then we need to get closer to $400 for the trip. We only do dine in restaurants if they are bonused, we don't do it just for reimbursement. Drive through and 35 mph food we do for about $10 plus reimbursement whenever we can, but we don't do them for less than $5 + reimbursement.

I'm kinda with socal on the shopping when you need money. Stopping when money is tight seems counter productive. But then again, this is my sole form of income until my pension kicks in when I turn 60.
I'm with you about spending out of pocket I don't mind paying out of pocket if I have it but I like shops that I go like I'm looking for a job lately I haven't been able to do any shops because a year ago I had surgery on my right eye and I can't see out of my right eye and I can't drive my son doesn't have driver license so he won't drive I Love doing shops
Its worth it to me, if I make at least 30 bucks an hour. Be that in reimbursement or straight cash.

On Sunday, I did a lunch shop. I could have up to 4 people. Reimbursement was 100.00. I brought my spouse and another couple. This was a shop for A- Closer Look and the write up was easy, compared to previous reports. There was not a lot of repeats on the questions. We went over the allotted amount, however, my couple friend had ordered an 18.00 appetizer( so not worth it) and they paid that and the tip.

Unfortunately, the food( in my opinion) sucked. What should have been an hour long meal, maybe 90 minutes at most, took close to 2 hours because the service also sucked. I won't go back there on my own dime. I had a feeling it was not going to be good, but better someone else's dime than mine.
@HonnyBrown wrote:

I work for cash...period. The more, the better.

It's a rare instance that I do a reimbursement only or coupon shop.

I've seen those "coupon" shops. You make NO money, rather you have to spend money and then still report them. At least the Bed, Bath and Beyond shops that I've seen. No Thanks. I would do those Bed, Bath and Beyond shops and Buy, Buy Baby shops when it was pay plus reimbursement for another MSC. Those became very tedious because no matter how long and how much detail I included, I would still get numerous emails asking me for MORE info. I just gave up on those.
My vehicle doesn't move unless I net $1 per mile profit in combined shops. I often will accept a low paying shop to pay for gas to shop higher paying assignments. I always follow a route and only accept shops within it. Everyone is different and has to do what works for them.
I am in a rather isolated area with maybe 15-20 shops per month in my hometown.
I however have set up routes with my various MSPs that I can schedule like clockwork. They pay me well for my travels and competition is non existent. Although a would welcome some for some of my more distant excursions. I may travel 200 miles a day to complete 6-7 shops but if they average $40-50+ per shop it works out well and there's always tax breaks to consider.
Not getting rich but doubling my yearly salary.
Moderator Note:

Please use the job posting area of the forum for referrals to your company.

I can’t speak for everyone but if I am doing this as part time, I am only going to places I can enjoy as a customer, or the shop is on my way home.

For those who do this full time and drive / fly across the country to pickup jobs. I guess it works because people are doing it.
If anyone wouldn't mind answering, what MS companies do restaurant shops, bank shops or apartment shops?( i'm in South eastern PA if that helps smiling smiley) I would like to do mystery shopping leisurely but nervous because of scam companies. Thanks a lot smiling smiley
@Dnyarko29 wrote:

If anyone wouldn't mind answering, what MS companies do restaurant shops, bank shops or apartment shops?( i'm in South eastern PA if that helps smiling smiley) I would like to do mystery shopping leisurely but nervous because of scam companies. Thanks a lot smiling smiley

There is a LIST of companies in one of the areas of this site. Sign up with as many as you can. Thats what we all had to do. If you think a company is a "scam", then you can search the forum or ask about it.
It all depends on what I want or need at the time. If I am due for an oil change or tire rotation then I will look for shops that will reimburse me for the service plus a little extra, gas stations in the area if it is only buy gas and buy something inside, check the shelves and restroom and evaluate the service. If I have to take several exterior photos it depends on the pay. I usually do grocery stores and I'll pick up a pizza shop if the grandkids are coming over. Sometimes easy fast food shops like Arbys and Long John Silvers if I am going to the area anyway.
Like many have stated, what shops you do really does depend upon the reason you are shopping and what will help you with your regular day to day life. To just make money you can do phone shops, bank shops, electronics, audits, etc. If you like to get your nails done or have a wax job, those are usually reimbursement only - but that saves you money. Grocery shops pay a certain amount of money for can do as many as you can (you can always put food in the freezer and non perishables in the pantry or storage closet). Gas shops/audits gets you free gas and a couple of dollars for purchasing something (a bottle of water or even a low dollar gift card - which can be used on the next gas shop with the same brand). Clothing shops with reimbursement and small amount of pay. It truly is all about what works for you!

Shops that do not work for me: there are now a handful of MSC's that are requiring shoppers to shop in two different departments at the same store and make a "small purchase" and the pay is very small when considering you are actually doing two shops - but they post it on the job board as one shop. I pass on these as they are lowering the pay and requiring more info in the reports. By the time you factor in time, gas, doing two shops and the equivalent of two reports plus a purchase; one is basically shopping at a loss. I have a couple of MSC's that will call regularly asking me to do a shop that's only "20 miles" away and is bonused; yet when I go to their job board and put in my actual address and the shop address it is more like 50 miles (because they use zip codes) and the bonus is $1.00! HaHa. No thank you. So beware of these phone calls/emails and always ask the specific address of the shop. There is one MSC that does primarily banks in my area and this bank shop is to ask for information regarding their checking or savings accounts, which they make it sound quick and easy, it is not - it ends up being at least one hour with the banker because they are asking about who all your accounts are with (banking, credit cards, loans, mortgage, investments, 401K, IRA, etc) and they ask APR, dollar amount balances and monthly payments, etc. and then they added that now we (the shopper) have to give our cell to the banker so they can download their app and show us how to use it. And it is required that you sit through all this because it is on the report if the banker when through each of these and what they said. Won't do that, because the banker will see all my mystery shopping apps and quite honestly, I do not hand my phone over to just anyone. There is one MSC I would do more shops for because the shops are easy and so is the report - the scheduler is the problem, in that they have a different full time job, scheduling shops is a "whenever they can fit it into their life type of job" and they are very slow to respond as to if they assign the shop to you or not (usually during the night when the shop is due the next day) - I like to plan ahead and not wake up to an assignment that I requested many days ago and did not think to go in to remove my request (that only happened one time to me - but have heard it happens regularly to other shoppers). I have learned through my adventures that there are schedulers who are not honest about the requirements of the shop or they only offer a small amount of information when they send out the mass email; and it is not until it is assigned to you that you find out that this very simple, quick shop with a very easy and quick report is really something very different. And last but not least are the MSC's that are not consistent with when they pay - and they do not comply with their own agreement. There is one company (that recently bought another company out) that can run well into the 4th month after you have done the shop before you get paid and most of their shops require you to put out money to do the shops. I do not mind paying money for shopping like restaurants, valet parking and retail shopping - but I will only do these shops for companies who consistently pay on time and within a 2-4 weeks of the shop. Keep in mind that some shops require that the shop be submitted through their app as soon as you walk out of the shop (there are some areas where you may not get signal, wifi, etc) and other companies that require that the shop must be completed and submitted within 6 hours of leaving the shop (which can leave you with having a short shopping day or you could make sure that it is your last shop of the day during business hours).

I realize the above paragraph sounds very negative - but I am offering information that you might encounter when or if you start doing more shopping and adding more MSC's. And I don't mean to bash any MSC, I have learned to navigate my way with many of them and know who to avoid - that works for me and my life. I would offer the advice that if you haven't done a particular type of shop for a company, then only schedule one close to you or where you are doing other shops to see what the shop really entails and what the reporting requirements and time will be before you request many of them...same for when starting for a new company. You may want to do a search of each MSC you shop for on this forum to get up to date information, as some have changed their business model, shop requirements/guidelines and payment schedules since you last shopped for them.

So, in summary, make the best decision for yourself and your life as to what shops will work for you either by being a full paying job/audit or being reimbursed for gas, groceries, clothing/retail, restaurants, fast food, etc. or a combination of pay and reimbursement.

Much good luck to you in your shopping adventures.
I am retired and don't need the money. I have a lot of spare time to waste when I can not be in the woods or fishing.
I won't do shops that lose money. For example, shops paying less than $15, considering vehicle wear, fuel and maintenance are money and time wasters.
I don't do shops for companies that can take up to six weeks to pay. I wish no one else would either. We could get some changes made. That policy shows either incompetence or disrespect, neither of which I need.
I don't submit to unreasonable demands either. One company wanted narratives in personal hand writing in addition to the electronic report!!!! I actually wrote back and refused; and you know what, they still paid me.
If you think I am a persnickety old codger you are right. I just think that we shoppers fulfill an important need and are worthy of respect.
I'm retired and really enjoy "my" time. However, when deciding if a shop is "worth my time" or "cost-effective", I consider:
1) the time it takes to travel to and from the shop location
2) how much time it will take to actually do the shop
3) how much time it will take to enter the report

I also figure how much I think my time is worth per hour.

I divide the shopper pay by the number of hours it would take to do points 1, 2, and 3 above.

If that figure is at, or higher than my "dollar per hour", I'll usually take the shop. If it is slightly under, it would depend on what the shop is (ie. is it fun?) If it's considerably lower than my $$ per hour figure, I pass on the shop.

This method has served me well for 20+ years. Hope this helps just a little. ;o)
If I don't want to spend money, I do the banks, fitness, cellphones and apartment shops. Next month you have the money for the reimbursements shops.
I like restaurant shops because going out to dinner where I am from is very expensive. The only shops I don't do are retail. They just don't seem to pay enough for the time involved but that's just my interpretation. I don't do anything that pays $5. I try to have a $25 minimum. I haven't found any shops take less than an hour. Even some telephone shops. They record you but then they want you to fill out a report on top of it.
@Flash wrote:

@SoCalMama wrote:

This stood out to me as being illogical.

You should be shopping if you are on a tight budget. Most people here shop because they need/want more money. There are a few who are lifestyle shoppers, myself included.

There are so many situations where it is completely logical that I would not hazard to judge.

Shopping SoCal and Maui.
@SoCalMama wrote:

@Flash wrote:

@SoCalMama wrote:

This stood out to me as being illogical.

You should be shopping if you are on a tight budget. Most people here shop because they need/want more money. There are a few who are lifestyle shoppers, myself included.

There are so many situations where it is completely logical that I would not hazard to judge.

I'm not judging her, but pointing out the for the majority of shoppers, they shop for money.

If she is not shopping for money, something is wrong.

Shopping SoCal and Maui.
If you have to pay $75 out of pocket for the required meal it may be a hardship to wait 45-60 days for reimbursement.

Shopping SoCal and Maui.
Cecilia, yes doing restaurant shops allows you more date nights, etc. And you always have that available to you.

No one can really tell you what's worth it and what's not, we all have different expectations.

What I have found to be beneficial are the following tips I've picked up over the years:

1- You can negotiate. When there is no fee, or what u think is too low a fee. ASK for the cash. The worst the scheduler can do is say no. And if you're already getting nothing... NEXT. The scheduler WILL NOT fault you. More than likely they will point you in a direction where you will make money with the company on a different project.

2. Never be afraid to take the no paying or low paying when you 1st get with a company. Prove yourself to be trustworthy, and turn out great reports. You can then ask for more money, AND schedulers may actually begin to call on you.

3. Stress or confusion is NOT a part of any of your decision making. Keep in contact with your scheduler. They are people too, so ask them questions. Tell them how you feel, that you really enjoy shopping but... Usually, they will understand and even offer a deal to get you through something.... Just DO NOT voice your grievance when or After the shop is due.

5. Have fun no matter what.
My shopping has changed over time. When I first started I had no idea that there were so many companies- I was signed up with one and on average between reimbursing some food cost and my shop fee- I'd make about $50 a month and I was thrilled. As I realized there was a whole world of shopping out there, I signed on to a lot of companies. Since I live in a rural area with very few chain stores and most require 40-50 miles round trip I still don't do a ton of shops but each year I make enough money to buy all of my family's holiday presents. I prefer payments to reimbursements since I don't like spending money with a very small return. If it's somewhere I'd go anyway, maybe but I prefer hard, cold The only ones I don't like are the recorded phone call shops- I'm not comfortable with someone taping my conversations. Secret shopping has helped me boost my income in a way that's comfortable and very part time for me.
@PuaM wrote:

If you have to pay $75 out of pocket for the required meal it may be a hardship to wait 45-60 days for reimbursement.
I agree, but in most cases, the fee is $0-$15 on a $75 meal. That’s not the right shop if you need money.

Pick a bank or retail shop that pays $15-$50 and you aren’t out anything but your time.
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