I am losing money shopping

Flyy1220 opines--This gig economy is such a rip off and people aren't realizing it right away.

Bob comments--Each person must be responsible for their decisions.

Flyy adds-Should be illegal really or have a huge disclaimer.

Bob disagrees--I repeat; it is a matter of personal responsibility.

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I hear ya. My bottom line for demos is $25 per hour. I think the normal rate is $15-$18. Some nutritional companies pay as high as $35 per hour. I don't stand still when I am on my feet for 3-4 hours doing a demo. Sometimes I take a tray and walk around within 10-20 feet of my demo table and talk to people, offering them samples. Oh, and I get all kinds of free stuff from the companies I am doing the demos for. The nutritional companies have some great products that have enhanced my health (and my husband's). I am also able to send samples from my demos to friends and family for my post office shops.

@Shop-et-al wrote:

Demos are out unless and until some of the rules are revised and include a larger number of workers.

1. When reasonable and possible during shifts, the worker can stand on their own approved, provided mat.

2. When reasonable and possible during shifts, the worker can sit on their own provided chair (or stool). I would need a chair. YMMV.
shop adds- It is a matter of personal choice and luck! All workers are unique. Some are clever but too young or too old for various gigs. Others cannot stand in place for long enough periods to earn good money in the demo field. Still others are far from assignments and cannot be bothered to travel to them. As long as each worker is getting what they need regarding their own work, all is well. It is not up to us to demand and engineer opportunities and outcomes for others. However, it is up to me to try to change demo world so that I can work in it. If that miraculously happens, a larger number of workers can at least try those jobs and find out if they like the work. OTOH, as stores close the demos might abate...

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. ― Leopold Stokowski
Many companies will not pay mileage for a commute to the office and home again. If you haven't been shopping very long, does that mean you haven't had to file taxes yet? You can claim your mileage as an IC. I always do.
The money is not coming out of my bottom line at all.

I tend to stick to a 25 mile radius from home, and if it's 25 miles each way, there needs to be at least one $100+ job on that route. Most of the time my drive distance is less. Today I am driving 20 miles round-trip to do 10 shops and 2 merchandising assignments. My first shop is 4 miles away. I will leave around 1 p.m. and be home in time to cook dinner and watch the stock channel news (CNBC).

@Flyy1220 wrote:

I haven't been mystery shopping for very long, but the one thing that I have realized that doesn't seem to make this worth it is the MILEAGE. When one works a regular job and travels, the company reimburses mileage. Right now that is $0.58/mile. If I do a 100 mile route as an independent contractor, that's $58.00 that I could have made if I was an employee. That money is coming out of my bottom line.

Unemployment might be down, but it's because there is so much contractor work out there right now. I doubt many people are factoring in the mileage rate when they calculate their hourly. The average Uber rate is $0.83/mile plus a few perks, but that's just one way. By the time you drive back from a far location you're losing money. This gig economy is such a rip off and people aren't realizing it right away. So they keep getting these newbies and they're working for $5/hour if they're lucky. Should be illegal really or have a huge disclaimer.
Bob - I guess you don't think there should be a federal minimum wage then?

Jas - The $0.58 is the estimate on the wear, tear ,and gas. I can deduct it, but it is still a cost that is being paid.
Flyy inquires of Bob-- I guess you don't think there should be a federal minimum wage then?

Bob's reply--Your query was one I had/have never considered. I will definitely address your question when I have an opinion.
@Flyy1220 wrote:

Jas - The $0.58 is the estimate on the wear, tear ,and gas. I can deduct it, but it is still a cost that is being paid.

With more than 35 years of self-employment, in which I've always been able to deduct mileage due to the nature of my businesses, I've found that in most years, the mileage deduction more than covers actual costs. Plus that is money on which I'm not paying taxes. Some years the difference between a profit and a break-even point has been my mileage deduction. I think it's well worth it.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
I am new to mystery shopping. I started back in the summer doing restaurant shops at $10 each. After doing several of them, I stopped. I started back up in October after learning about apartment shops. I've done 5 in the past month for $40 each. I'm waiting to get paid now. I can complete the shop, including the drive time and report, within about 90 minutes. So, $40 is fine for me. I had one shop they wanted to pay me $15, but I negotiated for $40.

I enjoy these apartment shops, but they can get a little annoying when having to shop a target who apparently hardly ever answers the phone, requiring for me to call a minimum of 6 times before I can reach the person. This is very hard as I am a teacher, and I don't have time between classes to call to schedule appointments.

Also, does anyone have any suggestions on what "excuse" I can use when I am calling for a particular target. I would welcome any other suggestions anyone can offer.

Thank you

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/13/2019 05:54PM by DMShopper.
I haven't done a lot of apartment shops in a long while, but I do remember reading some threads about getting targets on the phone.
For me, the worst category of targeted shops, is those requiring a recorded call. You phone the community, but are directed to voice mail. Per the guidelines, you leave a message, BUT, when the return ring arrives, as it must be recorded, you state a reason to call them right back. When you phone, though, it is another voice mail situation and the above is repeated. I add $20 to my fee for recorded calls.
That $0.58 applies differently if you live in South Carolina vs New York.

The point is that most people in this "gig" economy are making below minimum wage. More and more companies or industries are turning to contract workers and it's making it so that people are being exploited. Full time jobs with benefits are disappearing and companies are keeping the money they used to pay out.

It's not something that is being talked about on a big stage. People want to say that other's should be personally responsible for the exploitation. Until they see their jobs disappearing or their wages being cut in half.
@DMShopper wrote:


Also, does anyone have any suggestions on what "excuse" I can use when I am calling for a particular target. I would welcome any other suggestions anyone can offer.

Thank you

DM - I often say a friend recommended that I speak to the target or my boyfriend got a recommendation for the target from a coworker.
Minimum wage laws do not concern us. We are not employees. When I'm MSing, I aim for $25 an hour. I don't think that's even close to Federal Minimum Wage, which is $7.25 or $7.50.

Further, we deduct $0.58 a mile. Actual cost to run my car (yes, including oil changes, tires, maintenance) - less than $0.20 per mile.

The remainder shelters my income from taxes.

Anyone who does not understand this basic concept...oh, wow, I just think maybe they should get a job.

@Flyy1220 wrote:

Bob - I guess you don't think there should be a federal minimum wage then?

Jas - The $0.58 is the estimate on the wear, tear ,and gas. I can deduct it, but it is still a cost that is being paid.
And, some people live in one place and shop in multiple other places. The math may be fuzzy...

I do not know about "most" people in this gig economy. I know about myself and I read what others have posted about their businesses.

Sometimes, people enter this industry with the equivalent of entry level jobs. Some dislike it and leave. Others configure it to suit themselves. Weirdos like me try a lot of different things and then try to change a few things. And then there are the people who make it big. They have actual, successful entrepreneurial careers in this large industry. They get lots of preferential treatment and goodies based upon what they do and how they relate to tptb.

I think that eighty percent of the big bucks are going to twenty percent of the shoppers. Is this a close estimate? Are twenty percent of the shoppers completing eighty percent of the work? Is it far from the truth? ?

@Flyy1220 wrote:

That $0.58 applies differently if you live in South Carolina vs New York.

The point is that most people in this "gig" economy are making below minimum wage. More and more companies or industries are turning to contract workers and it's making it so that people are being exploited. Full time jobs with benefits are disappearing and companies are keeping the money they used to pay out.

It's not something that is being talked about on a big stage. People want to say that other's should be personally responsible for the exploitation. Until they see their jobs disappearing or their wages being cut in half.

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. ― Leopold Stokowski
The only question I have pertains to returning to locations, on my own dime, to make requested changes or corrections. Of course the mileage for the initial visits is deductible. But what about subsequent visits? Is that mileage deductible? The re-visits were requested, and I also believed it was a good idea to establish a second set of images for those locations. They might have helped, somehow, to identify or find the missing images from the first visits. At other locations I made requested changes. No additional money was paid to me, but i incurred mileage. So this is what tax guy can tell me about...

@ceasesmith wrote:

Minimum wage laws do not concern us. We are not employees. When I'm MSing, I aim for $25 an hour. I don't think that's even close to Federal Minimum Wage, which is $7.25 or $7.50.

Further, we deduct $0.58 a mile. Actual cost to run my car (yes, including oil changes, tires, maintenance) - less than $0.20 per mile.

The remainder shelters my income from taxes.

Anyone who does not understand this basic concept...oh, wow, I just think maybe they should get a job.

@Flyy1220 wrote:

Bob - I guess you don't think there should be a federal minimum wage then?

Jas - The $0.58 is the estimate on the wear, tear ,and gas. I can deduct it, but it is still a cost that is being paid.

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. ― Leopold Stokowski
@Book wrote:

@rothers27 wrote:

I don't see how anyone could possibly live off of mystery shopping as the sole source of income, and frankly, I don't believe anyone would be able to pay for health insurance, car, rent, food, utilities, gas etc., on shopping money. With the average shop pay about 10 bucks, you'd have to do 100 shops a week to make 50K a year. And give up any type of life and forgo sleep. You'd go bat @#$%& crazy.

I guess less than 0.001 percent of shoppers support themselves solely on the income from mystery shopping.

The professional full-time shoppers tend to have other income sources from rental apartments or pension payments or a spouse with a job for example.

That said, if someone works hard and is able to get decent coin from mystery shopping they deserve respect.
I have tons of respect for people that Mystery Shop. It takes a great deal of heart, patience, and integrity. But it would be really tough to make a living at it. For the tiny tiny few that do, they don't have kids at home. Mystery shopping requires an extremely flexible schedule. I just don't want young women to think that they can stay at home with their kids and support them through mystery shopping. It's not for someone trying to strike a work/life balance (for a living). A hobby and/or extra income? Sure thing.
Shop-et-al -- yes, that additional mileage IS deductible. It was a requirement to complete the assignment. That's the only thing you need to worry about, tax-wise.

However, in reality, you would check (quite earnestly) for other shops, so that the expenses of that 2nd trip are not totally out of pocket (i..e., unprofitable).
Oh, and the musicians are looking for a way to stay in the Gig economy in Calfornia with the new rules coming that they will have to be employees. There are lots of other "self employed" professionals who are considered part of the gig economy. Not one of them earns minimum wage. Most are way above that figure.


@Shop-et-al wrote:

And, some people live in one place and shop in multiple other places. The math may be fuzzy...

I do not know about "most" people in this gig economy. I know about myself and I read what others have posted about their businesses.

Sometimes, people enter this industry with the equivalent of entry level jobs. Some dislike it and leave. Others configure it to suit themselves. Weirdos like me try a lot of different things and then try to change a few things. And then there are the people who make it big. They have actual, successful entrepreneurial careers in this large industry. They get lots of preferential treatment and goodies based upon what they do and how they relate to tptb.

I think that eighty percent of the big bucks are going to twenty percent of the shoppers. Is this a close estimate? Are twenty percent of the shoppers completing eighty percent of the work? Is it far from the truth? ?

@Flyy1220 wrote:

That $0.58 applies differently if you live in South Carolina vs New York.

The point is that most people in this "gig" economy are making below minimum wage. More and more companies or industries are turning to contract workers and it's making it so that people are being exploited. Full time jobs with benefits are disappearing and companies are keeping the money they used to pay out.

It's not something that is being talked about on a big stage. People want to say that other's should be personally responsible for the exploitation. Until they see their jobs disappearing or their wages being cut in half.
Thanks, cease. In reality, my world is busy and there is the daily uncertainty regarding when the early job is completed. If supplies arrive late, this sets into motion a domino effect. Everything else is late. It is impossible to plan and execute full work days that also have rigid reporting deadlines. (The exception is Mondays, which the hubby needs as the closest thing to a full day off each week. I do work on Mondays when necessary, but this does not give me any down days, Sabbath days, or rest.) Delaying reports is silly because they might be pushed into yet another late-start day. I was not and am not doing the available food shops because the doc has me on a rigid diet. The re-visits were a total loss The other days are just as good as I can make them, all things considered. Not surprisingly, I am cutting back on the gigs... It is tempting to repeat the Autumn assignments but with a better plan and entering it well-rested...

A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence. ― Leopold Stokowski
Flyy,

Concerning your question, with respect to my thinking as it applies to a federal minimum wage, I do believe there are Americans who do not possess an ability to become financially successful. Unfortunately, in assisting those folks, we also cater to people with little ambition or discipline. It is similar to providing welfare to the needy, realizing some cash, though, is funneled to the greedy. Therefore, I am in favor of a mandated minimum wage of $7+, but opposed to Seattle's $16 an hour for select employers.

On a related note, I do not believe any MSC has the slightest obligation to pay me a dime more than necessary to complete work. If, though, they choose to do so, I am appreciative. It has not often occurred, but there have been a few occasions of such reward. Beyond Hello, years before it was absorbed my another company, paid me an extra $50 I had not requested.
The recurring theme here is that it is wise to have multiple income streams. Anything can happen, and it will for sure if there's only one income for the family. For us, we have my ms income which makes a difference but is not enough to live on, a passive income that doesn't amount to a whole lot but is at least equal to the electric and phone bills each month (big house, all electric), my husband's work income (the lion's share) that also provides insurance, and a little DoorDash here and there when we have additional expenses or want some extra disposable income. The big benefit of gig work such as mystery shopping, food delivery and the like is that we can pick up more work if needed for whatever reason. Good record keeping is key to making it all work.
Sandy - I am interested in hearing your experiences of driving for Doordash if you could elaborate?

@Sandy Shopper wrote:

The recurring theme here is that it is wise to have multiple income streams. Anything can happen, and it will for sure if there's only one income for the family. For us, we have my ms income which makes a difference but is not enough to live on, a passive income that doesn't amount to a whole lot but is at least equal to the electric and phone bills each month (big house, all electric), my husband's work income (the lion's share) that also provides insurance, and a little DoorDash here and there when we have additional expenses or want some extra disposable income. The big benefit of gig work such as mystery shopping, food delivery and the like is that we can pick up more work if needed for whatever reason. Good record keeping is key to making it all work.
@Shop-et-al wrote:

I think that eighty percent of the big bucks are going to twenty percent of the shoppers. Is this a close estimate?

I think it's probably closer to 90/10%...which models many other businesses and my understanding of the basic distribution of wealth. Nobody is going to enter MSIng and be able to get the same assignments I get their first year, even if they are a better shopper than me...

@sandyf wrote:

Oh, and the musicians are looking for a way to stay in the Gig economy in Calfornia with the new rules coming that they will have to be employees. There are lots of other "self employed" professionals who are considered part of the gig economy. Not one of them earns minimum wage. Most are way above that figure.

Professional musicians can be hired as employees and scale wages for a contracted union musician are well over minimum wage, and over $100/hour, with a 3 hour guarantee, for sound recordings. Just like shoppers, musicians have a income breakpoint, but I'm guessing it's closer to 95/5% for musicians making money in the greater L.A. area.

I noticed when working as a scheduler that a large percentage of top-tier shoppers were musicians, and specifically professional musicians. My assumption was that if you can find a way to make $$ in music, mystery shopping seems like piece of cake!
"Sandy - I am interested in hearing your experiences of driving for Doordash if you could elaborate?"

My husband and I are both signed up with them. It's independent contractor work, so we only choose hours and days that easily fit into our schedule and family life. We can make around $22-25 an hour, not including tips, before figuring in auto expenses (which are deductible.) This area is pretty safe, but we don't do late in the day deliveries anyway, just doesn't fit in with our lifestyle. Tips are usually good, and often quite generous. I have a friend in a larger city who works only 3 hours around lunch time and 3 hours at dinnertime. She works 4-5 days a week and usually earns around $600 a week, sometimes more with tips. One thing we like is that we can direct deposit our pay daily or wait until the weekly deposit that is done by them.
I've been secret shopping for about 10 years. I'm super educated, very available, have an impeccable record, and have never ever been offered a shop that has paid more than 20 bucks, and that was like once. The bonused shops go FAST. In my experience, people don't contact you requesting you to do a shop. It's posted online, you reply, and only one person gets it. Most likely A LOT of people, all of whom have relationships with the scheduler, request it. One person gets it. IMO, there are shoppers who will go the extra mile for a scheduler, so they help each other out. But I think it's rare and IMO, not a good use of time. I'm not going to put energy into building a relationship with some unknown random person in order to be prized the bonused shop. That's me.

Also, the theme I've noticed is that the people who brag about making money, make it through bonused shops. Bonused shops are also rare, bonused at about $5, and nothing to be too proud of. Again, IMO.

Reality folks. It's biting you.
I only worked a few days this month ( usually take most of November, December, and most of January off), but I've done 29 shops for total fees of $1251, or $43.14 per shop. Of those 29, only 8 were bonused. Those bonuses were not "offered to me" as you say, I asked for them.

I would suggest better shop selection and improving your ability to negotiate rates. Add in logistics and those are the 3 most important criteria to making money in this profession.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
@rothers27 wrote:

I've been secret shopping for about 10 years. I'm super educated, very available, have an impeccable record, and have never ever been offered a shop that has paid more than 20 bucks, and that was like once. The bonused shops go FAST. In my experience, people don't contact you requesting you to do a shop. It's posted online, you reply, and only one person gets it. Most likely A LOT of people, all of whom have relationships with the scheduler, request it. One person gets it. IMO, there are shoppers who will go the extra mile for a scheduler, so they help each other out. But I think it's rare and IMO, not a good use of time. I'm not going to put energy into building a relationship with some unknown random person in order to be prized the bonused shop. That's me.

Also, the theme I've noticed is that the people who brag about making money, make it through bonused shops. Bonused shops are also rare, bonused at about $5, and nothing to be too proud of. Again, IMO.

Reality folks. It's biting you.

This past weekend-
$70 fee for an easy shop, $100 reimbursement
$115 dinner
$55 phone (bonus)
$35 phone (no bonus)
$25 fee quick dining plus reimbursenent
$25 fee quick dining plus reimbusement
And a bunch of others that I did that included more free food, $24 in gas, and around another $100 cash. I negotiated the bonuses. Reality treats me just fine. I just totaled it, $633 in reimbursements and cash, about $250 in cash.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/14/2019 11:16PM by Niner.
Thanks for sharing that - how long do you find you have to wait at restaurants for the food or does doordash tell you to arrive when picking it up?

@Sandy Shopper wrote:

"Sandy - I am interested in hearing your experiences of driving for Doordash if you could elaborate?"

My husband and I are both signed up with them. It's independent contractor work, so we only choose hours and days that easily fit into our schedule and family life. We can make around $22-25 an hour, not including tips, before figuring in auto expenses (which are deductible.) This area is pretty safe, but we don't do late in the day deliveries anyway, just doesn't fit in with our lifestyle. Tips are usually good, and often quite generous. I have a friend in a larger city who works only 3 hours around lunch time and 3 hours at dinnertime. She works 4-5 days a week and usually earns around $600 a week, sometimes more with tips. One thing we like is that we can direct deposit our pay daily or wait until the weekly deposit that is done by them.
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