Shops with only reimbursement or partial reimbursement

I'm curious what other shoppers think about shops that either only pay a reimbursement or that require a larger purchase than what they are willing to reimburse.

Some examples: a) I've gotten offers for a number of "Amusement" shops (hop-on hop-off bus tours, museums, aquariums, etc) that will reimburse you the ticket cost, but offer no additional payment. They typically require quite a bit of effort and have huge surveys to fill out

b) I've seen this mostly with grocery shops, but occasionally other retail shops. The shop will reimburse say $15, but in the rules say that the shop is invalid if you spend less than $15. Others might require a specific purchase that costs more than the reimbursement. One example that I completed was at a botanical garden, required purchasing an item from 3 different vendors, plus an item from the gift shop. Total reimbursement was $20, the cheapest item at the vendor carts was $5 for a bottle of water, cheapest item in the gift shop was $10, so no way to spend less than $25.

Personally, I find myself refusing/blacklisting all shops of this nature, but I do see them often getting picked up by other shoppers, so it seems like some people like them or find value in them (or maybe are new and don't understand exactly how much effort/work the shop will take)

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Many shoppers find value in this type of shop. People especially like me, who could not afford a museum, bowling and arcade games, amusement parks, etc.

Other shoppers who can well afford it take them as "life style" enhancement shops. They are aware that the generous reimbursement frees those funds for other purposes.

Plus, reimbursements are NOT taxable income.
They are hoping to attract shoppers who are looking to make such purchase anyhow. For instance, if you are planning to buy groceries and performing a shop will add an extra 15 minutes to your trip (including the report), the $15 reimbursement just might be very worthwhile. Car service shops can be a fantastic deal if your car needs work, too!

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
Shops with only reimbursement or partial reimbursement: I immediately put them on my "Do Not Shop" or 10-foot pole list. I work for cash, not items that the client requires me to purchase in order for the shop to be accepted and paid.
@MFJohnston wrote:

They are hoping to attract shoppers who are looking to make such purchase anyhow. For instance, if you are planning to buy groceries and performing a shop will add an extra 15 minutes to your trip (including the report), the $15 reimbursement just might be very worthwhile. Car service shops can be a fantastic deal if your car needs work, too!

That's true, I had forgotten about the car service shops (my current location doesn't have any of those) I did one of the grocery shops because I had to go grocery shopping anyway, but the amount of work added probably an hour and a half to my trip (you had to find an employee in every different zone, 10 zones total, and ask a specific question related to that zone) and for me at least that level of additional work and stress was just not worth it. If there are some that don't require that much extra work I could see them being worthwhile.

For the amusement shops, I could see them being a good value for people who were planning on going anyway, but again for me personally I feel like the amount of work some of them would require would ruin any enjoyment from the experience.
I do NOT accept any work where there is only a partial reimbursement. If, though, it is full and an item I either need or very much enjoy, that is an acceptable situation for me. As to grocery assignments, if it is not the chain I normally shop, I determine if it is competitive with my usual market and if the reimbursement is sufficient to warrant my efforts; if not, I have no interest.
Often the amusement shops will get bonused. They usually pay enough for two people, although there is at least one here that doesn't cover everything if it's not bonused. You can usually use a coupon of some sort for these. I'll usually take a few of the kids to have a great time while I'm working. Wouldn't be worth it to go for just me. As to the company I assume you're referencing, yes, the reports are HUGE and take seemingly forever. Service Scouts require less than half the time and fewer interactions, but they rarely get bonused. Still, some of the events are ones I'd like to attend, but wouldn't pay for.

Regarding companies that offer basically a coupon to shop, I wonder if they pay their employees with discounts for clothing, car repairs, high end grocery stores, or jewelry? I sort of doubt it.

"Let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree? Well then tell me how much of what I earn belongs to you - and why?” ~Walter Williams
Other than grocery shops (which I don't often do these days because I am tired of asking dumb questions) I do not do partial reimbursement shops. There are other shops that I am willing to do for reimbursement if the value is worth my time. I'll do as many reimbursement-only hotel shops as I can get because I get a great return on the credit card and hotel points. I'm also using those hotel shops as training to move into better travel-related jobs. I wouldn't do a Pizza Hut shop for reimbursement only but will do high-end restaurants like Ruth's Chris. I'm never going to pay for a $200 dinner will trade for an hour of report writing. I have a regular 9-5 job and while I do want to make money mystery shopping I am also happy to (reasonably) trade time for an item/experience. Even better if those trades can be used down the road for an item of value.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/14/2020 09:23PM by callinectes.
I don't do reimbursement only shops. I'm happy to see them get taken as my competition can focus on that while I get paid for shops.
I can easily complete an amusement shop without taking away from having fun.
Pictures are the key to my personal shopping success for these shops. I don't have to remember what time/ location/ description of employee because myself or my husband snapped a photo quickly. I'll text myself a super quick note about the question asked/ answer and I'm done. My kids know not to touch their food before I snap a photo, but otherwise our behavior is the same as it would be if I were paying for the activity.

I personally complete shops like these as my family has a very small activity budget. My husband and I chose to pay for 5 kids to go to Catholic school and a week at Disney World every year vs bowling/ amusement parks/ etc throughout the year. I don't mind trading a few hours typing for whatever activity we enjoyed.

Servimer Regional Manager- Nevada, Illinois, Wisconsin & Minnesota
I don't mind the reimbursement only shops if they are not overly involved. For some clients, being reimbursement only can mean the difference between having a mystery shop program in place or not having one at all. They are already paying fees to cover the amount charged by the mystery shop company that covers their overhead and profits, plus the ms company's costs of the schedulers and editors. If they have to add on shopper payment on top of the reimbursement, it may become too expensive to be cost-effective. I like that there is a wide variety of shops available, and that is in part because some shops are reimbursement only.

Having said that, a reimbursed meal is nice, but a reimbursed meal plus money is nicer!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/14/2020 11:16PM by Sandy Shopper.
I love the amusement shops to a point. If they are going to reimburse me for at least 2 adult and 1 senior/child ticket, food and arcade type games and then give me up to 4 tickets for later use for a boardwalk amusement pier, I'm most definitely doing that shop every time I can. Unfortunately that's about once a year/season. Many years I did a wrestling event that I honestly don't even remember, but it's in my shop log so I guess I thought it was a good idea at the time. The bowling shops I wouldn't do because I can play like 6 frames before my shoulder displaces itself lol.

It's all about what works for you and what is worth it for you.

Shopping the South Jersey Shore
Many people utilize reimbursement only shops because of their financial situation. When receiving certain types of benefits like unemployment for example, any earnings could potentially cause full forfeiture of the benefits. Since most people want to be honest, the only way to enhance their situation legally is to NOT do anything that counts as income. In my state, Maryland, any work for any amount results in total forfeiture of that weeks benefit. The amount they expect reported is gross earnings, when earned, not necessarily when paid. There are other benefits that do a direct offest, again based on gross earnings.

Reimbursement is not income.

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
I am willing to take a job at full reimbursement/no pay when it is a restaurant that I either want to try or a restaurant that I love. I will not take a job that only partially reimburses and expects me to spend more than the pay/reimbursement.

However, if I am planning to take my family to some sort of recreational facility, then I may chose to get partially reimbursed if it means that I am saving a lot on the cost and if I find the reports and interactions reasonable.
I love reimbursement only grocery shops. I cook food. I need food. I am going to buy it, probably at the store I am shopping, whether or not it's a shop. Reimbursement only shops are not considered taxable income. I do lots of different kinds of shops, so having some I don't get taxed on is great.
I do the amusement advantage shops once or twice a year. These days my family that lives here is much smaller but I do sometimes take a friend. I have never gone over the amt they reimburse. . But I only go to places I or my family enjoy. These types of shops are not for making money. They are for exchanging a few hours of work for an expensive trip to one of their venues. I recently was reimbursed almost $500 for a report that took me three hours. Not bad and it was so much fun. Not really work at all. The key is to graze your way through the food shops. Make it a scavenger hunt for a full meal. Stop at one place and get a part of a meal, the next is the next part of the meal. It is a moving feast and you end up not spending big bucks but you have eaten enough by the time you go to all the food vendors at the shops with lots of those. Yes the gift carts are usually with nothing cheap but the gift shops usually have a cheap post card or pencil for sale. I would rather splurge on a pencil I do not need that costs $1.09 than buy a t shirt there for $29 that I do not need and could probably find elsewhere for much less $$, Often these places offer some good coupons. One shop in my area has a two fer in the Entertainment Book. If I shop that place I make back the cost of that book in one day. My local public radio station has a membership only coupon for one of the local museums. .
As for partial reimbursement those for me are a ten foot pole unless the reimbursement is substantial like 90 % of the cost. Most of the stores they have those for have sales and coupons you can get for free that are equivalent to what the msc makes you use and you do not have to write a report.
But for me each shop can be considered for value. If it has value for me then I do not care what type of shop it is as to full, partial reimbursement or fee, no fee, small fee. If I feel the time I put into it is worth what I get out of it than it is okay for me. Each person has their own value scale though.
This!

I work for cash, however, the $15 grocery reimbursement shops work for me.

@JASFLALMT wrote:

I love reimbursement only grocery shops. I cook food. I need food. I am going to buy it, probably at the store I am shopping, whether or not it's a shop. Reimbursement only shops are not considered taxable income. I do lots of different kinds of shops, so having some I don't get taxed on is great.

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
I do em all the time. The grocery shops supports my habit. I get a small fee plus reimbursement of $9, $15, or $20 depending on the store. For the past couple of years it has added up to several thousand dollars of groceries. I use these things all the time, if not daily. For example, I make smoothies everyday. They are made with strawberries, blueberries, almonds, kale, bananas, chia seeds, flax seeds, and stevia. I am fully stocked and have not been out of these items in a couple of years. Additionally, I am fully stocked with paper towels, paper plates, deodorant, soaps, and toilet paper. Occasionally, I include things like ice tea, diet coke, and popcorn. These shops work for me, and like someone said, the reimbursement is not taxable.
Exactly! While the shops are rarely bonused in this area, I can get several grocery staples or laundry detergent.

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
I have not paid for an oil change since 2005. For many years, my favorite place to get a hair cut was shopped. Again, a simple report and got something of value to me. Recently enjoying ding a very simple report for fuel and food reimbursement at Dash In. Their selection of pastry and sandwiches makes me glad to take those home to freeze. Last month's net fuel bill for me was $00. My freezer has a nice stock of fresh muffins and made to order quesadillas. I do 2-4 reimbursement-only hotel shops per month. The rewards points pay for a LOT of free nights to use for vacations each year. And those are very simple shops with simple reports. (I also do a few very high end hotel shops, but those have very nice fees.)

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.
Oh, those Mario Tricocci shops where you got TWO services for each shop and they were self-assign!! I'd do cut and color at one, mani/pedi at another and tanning/body polish at a third. I didn't care a bit that there was no payment, the reimbursement was good enough for me. My most missed shop. sad smiley

Shopping domestic and international locations since 2003.
I will happily do reimbursement (full) for several services like eating out, high end make-up or skin care, getting a wax, auto service shops, grocery, clothing, and even clearance fashion jewelry, handbags, wallets etc. What I will not do is the miserable tiny dollar amount for shops that require purchasing something that is significantly over the reimbursement: example - a shoe store where you get single digit dollar reimbursement, but you cannot buy anything on clearance (least expensive clearance item is about $15). and the pay for that shop is also in the single digits. Just not worth my time and not interested in purchasing things I do not want or need. I feel that if the client wants their stores shopped and a purchase is mandatory, then they should reimburse the average cost of one item (a pair of shoes that are not on clearance).

The company I got the amusement park, zoo, etc seemed to offer reasonable amounts; however, I am not aware of all the pricing at the many different carts, eateries, gift shops, etc to know if the reimbursed amount would cover the cost. It also seems like the report would be extremely long and so much information to keep track of. I don't think I would have a fun time with all the timing questions and getting to all the locations required. Same goes for the movie shops I saw with one MSC - pretty much have to watch the doors throughout the entire movie to see how many employees (and their full descriptions, plus what time in and out) came into the theater once the lights went dim. And yes, I know I am there to work - that is what I am being paid for. But I would rather wait for the movie to come out to stream and actually get to watch it. smiling smiley I can't help but wonder if the MSC is keeping a big chunk of the money the client is paying, rather than being fair to the shoppers. I know I have seen these shops sit from month to month to month.
@walesmaven wrote:

I have not paid for an oil change since 2005.
I have gotten paid to get most of the oil changes on my cars since 2008 smiling smiley
I also get a fee, as well as the oil change. And, if I use a coupon, that boosts the bottom line to me since I am reimbursed as if no coupon was used. Example: $10 coupon; $8.00 fee, $40 oil change. I paid $32 for the oil change but get still get a total of $50 pay and reimbursement. Super simple report.

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.
These msc that offer oil changes should start taking into account the fact that most newer cars (and not so new too) these days use synthetic oil. For those of us needing synthetic oil the shop becomes a smallish coupon for an overpriced oil change. The amt I was charged on a shop was outrageous. Even more per qt than at the dealer.
They expect all of us to have up to date smart phones,decent cars etc.

@walesmaven wrote:

I also get a fee, as well as the oil change. And, if I use a coupon, that boosts the bottom line to me since I am reimbursed as if no coupon was used. Example: $10 coupon; $8.00 fee, $40 oil change. I paid $32 for the oil change but get still get a total of $50 pay and reimbursement. Super simple report.
sandy,
No one is suggesting that you should lose money by taking reimbursement shops that cost you more, net, than the alternatives available.

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.
Frosty: " I can't help but wonder if the MSC is keeping a big chunk of the money the client is paying, rather than being fair to the shoppers."

Of course they do! The MSC must make a profit to stay in business. That's their JOB.
Their motivation is to get the job done as cheaply as possible.

Several years ago, when golden arches was shopped (oh, my, how I miss those good old days of triple-digit fees!), I read an article in a business magazine about their mystery shopping program. It cost them $2,000,000 a year (peanuts, to them).

The salesman who CLOSED that deal earned a 30%commission. Yeppers, $600,000.

And every year that contract stayed in place, said salesman received an additional 10% commission. That's called a "residual".

Even if the 30% is incorrect (old age, you know; my eidetic memory sometimes falters. )

smiling smiley

(And, yes, eidetic is yet another word with which spell check is unfamiliar.)

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/17/2020 05:17PM by ceasesmith.
It really depends on the shop... I'll put it this way, the best way to maximize mystery shopping is taking advantage of multiple streams of revenue.

For me, if it's a decent reimbursement, but the report's long, sometimes I'm okay working for that.

If it's a low reimbursement, but the report's short, again, sometimes I'm okay working with that.

On top of that, I prefer to burn and churn my rewards I accrue across the board such as through my credit cards, as I often receive a higher redemption rate for them (1:1 for cash, but sometimes it's 1.2:1, 1.15:1, etc. for redeeming for gift cards). That alone adds up over time and sometimes maximizes the returns, depending on the shop. For example, if there's a high reimbursement steakhouse with a $200 reimbursement limit with no fee, but I'm able to great gift cards for it for a "15% discount," then I can easily make $30 on the back end wedge.

Same goes for hotels, especially hotel shops that reimburse vs. charge backs on your card. Some of the best combinations I had was when I redeemed a $60 credit for a hotel chain due to AMEX's offer, then stacked on an additional 6% back and utilize my $300 hotel credit to subsidize my card's annual fee... Plus pocketing the points and getting steps closer to lifetime status. Even though the shop had little or no fee, the back end incentives make shops like that worth it.

AND THEN, sometimes I travel for my full-time job and am given per diem. Sometimes if there's enough time, there's little to no hassle to put in extra hours on the side for the report, I'm able to double dip on reimbursements from the MSC, and then again with my company for food and/or lodging and/or transportation per diem.

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 31 year old male and willing to travel!
Did I say anyone was suggesting I take these shops? Sorry if I gave that impression. I was suggesting the oil change companies and the msc who handle these shops get with the times and provide enough reimbursement to cover a synthetic oil change, or at least come closer to covering them since most cars these days require that. I see the oil change shops at the msc's I am signed up for sitting on the boards forever. Most shops in LA are gone in a day or two evidently taken at base rate, but not those. I did take one a few years ago and the place refused to put regular oil in my car. The up charge for synthetic oil was $5 extra a quart and they did not allow the coupons to be used that the mystery shop company was suggesting we use to save some money. I did the shop as I did not want to flake on a job I had taken but it was pricey and I never did it again after that.

@walesmaven wrote:

sandy,
No one is suggesting that you should lose money by taking reimbursement shops that cost you more, net, than the alternatives available.
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