MSC’s flooded with new shoppers

From a MSC email update today:

2. What things may be different upon resumption? The world we knew before the pandemic is gone and the world going forward will be new to us all. Here is a list of things which could possibly be different
• Opportunities will be taken very quickly. There is not going to be a full inventory of opportunities as programs will be resumed on a staggered basis. Therefore, demand will be high with limited supply. A lot of workers have been displaced and the number of sign-ups on our site has increased dramatically over the last 4 weeks.

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Stats don’t lie: the majority of signups do a shop or two, then gradually just drop out. It’s like college.

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 30 year old male and willing to travel! Badged for Denver International Airport.
There might be folks like me, who won't be doing outdoor shops at all (until vaccine). I'm guessing the same people who are voluntarily sheltering and being extra careful during COVID-19, who might happen to be secret shoppers too, won't be taking shops for a while.

Supply of shops being limited sounds right, given staggered business resumption and probably a very weak economy for a while. Many companies with ms programs may also want to cut back. "New demand" to do shops sounds right.

Which will be higher: the number of existing shoppers not doing outdoor shops until we get a vaccine or new shoppers needing income taking shops? Even if it's equal and on balance we have the same shopper base size, the number of available shops would still likely be lower.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/24/2020 04:27AM by shoptastic.
" A lot of workers have been displaced and the number of sign-ups on our site has increased dramatically over the last 4 weeks."
Cynical me thinks this is a ploy to get shoppers to grab shops at low rates.
@Rho* wrote:

" A lot of workers have been displaced and the number of sign-ups on our site has increased dramatically over the last 4 weeks."
Cynical me thinks this is a ploy to get shoppers to grab shops at low rates.

Heh. That may have flashed in my head as well for a second or two.

I think with 26 million people unemployed right now and many businesses likely to go under (I'm thinking LOTS of restaurants), they could be right. At the very least, I believe we're going to see a lot less shops.
@shoptastic wrote:

@Rho* wrote:

" A lot of workers have been displaced and the number of sign-ups on our site has increased dramatically over the last 4 weeks."
Cynical me thinks this is a ploy to get shoppers to grab shops at low rates.

Heh. That may have flashed in my head as well for a second or two.

I think with 26 million people unemployed right now and many businesses likely to go under (I'm thinking LOTS of restaurants), they could be right. At the very least, I believe we're going to see a lot less shops.

I'm with Rho that it seems more like them trying to set the stage for lower shop fees. Agreed there will be fewer shops at first, but imagine the workflow for MSC's if they just employed 50% new shoppers in the workforce?

New shoppers take 90% of MSC's time and generally deliver 10% of product in my experience, so smart companies will want experienced shoppers for reports that require detail. Ones that just need a body to show up somewhere and fill out few checkboxes will take advantage of the available workforce, though.

Next point; until August, most people from the shopper pool are going to make more money sitting at home than mystery shopping, so MSCs may have to offer a competitive fee to entice shoppers.

I'm willing to bet that for shops that I do (fine dining/travel) there may be a smaller shopper pool than before. I'm guessing soon you may need to show bloodwork with antibodies present to even enter another country without a 2-week quarantine for the remainder of the pandemic spread, which could be up to two years....and who wants those cruise shop shops now?
I just saw two cruise shops in my area that were already booked, dates were between June and September. Someone is willing to complete them.
@SteveSoCal wrote:

New shoppers take 90% of MSC's time and generally deliver 10% of product in my experience, so smart companies will want experienced shoppers for reports that require detail. Ones that just need a body to show up somewhere and fill out few checkboxes will take advantage of the available workforce, though.

That definitely fits my experience. I gave several MSCs massive headaches when starting out.

Will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Supply and demand only goes so far with labor when skilled-labor is a constraint.
All those newbies have the same restrictions as we do, at least for now. Will they like this more than their other jobs? They will find out what they like and do not like. That is their personal preference. I have no doubt that many of them have all the general skills and abilities. After all, many are educated, trained, and skilled in one or two things. Now, they need only find some confidence, muster up some courage, and package their stuff for good use in this industry. Should we be alarmed? No. We have direct experience. We might be free and available sooner than they are, depending upon where we live and when restrictions can be lifted based upon individual place differences. Should we be grateful? Maybe... if they are picking up gigs that clutter up the boards and that we complain about here...

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. - Leonard Bernstein
My guess is that the number of sign ups does not represent shoppers new to the industry, but are mostly established shoppers who are using this down-time to sign up with additional companies. As stated above, the vast majority of new shoppers do one or two shops, then never again. Most are not willing to wait for a month or more to get payment, when they are used to a weekly or semi-monthly paycheck. As always, those with the skills, good shopper history and scheduler relationships will get work ahead of unproven newbies (who still deserve a chance. We were all newbies once.)
To me this is just a flashback to 2008 and the following years when lots of people lost their jobs. We had finally in the past year or so gotten to a point in my big city where there were finally some bonuses, albeit small, on shops. Now we will be back to the scenario after the 2008 crash when many people were out of work. However this time around there will probably be less shops to fill for all the new competition from the newly unemployed who turn to mystery shopping.
The way that I look at it is that the new shoppers may very well really need the income. I primarily do gas station routes so I'll take a step back (except for my routes) and let things settle a bit. My thinking is that I'll wait to see the health results of reopening and then decide what to do. Maybe, after a few months, all of those new shoppers will be able to return to their old jobs (or will decide that it's not for them) and the shops will be back available for us more experienced folks. What I do is primarily you love it or you hate it and since so many people fall in the latter category I'm not too worried.
I don't find it hard to believe at all. Unemployed people hard up for cash go online looking for ideas and stumble upon shopping. Most of them will get discouraged by the lack of shops they see, or drop it when they go back to work, but any way you slice it you will likely see more competition and yes, lower fees for some shops.
I tried to get various relatives to mystery shop in the past and they all said: "HELL NO!" (in their own way). tongue sticking out smiley

It's definitely not for everyone. The biggest complaints?:

1.) too tedious
2.) too restrictive (i.e., you need to be at x-location and y-date/time...they'd rather do Uber Eats, Grubhub, etc. where you can do it anytime you desire)
3.) get paid months later

The only exception I found was easy food shops.
I really do not see people flocking to this type of work. Maybe when the $600 a week runs out they will gravitate toward this type of work but most will not do it or they will try it for a few shops and then quit. I did not get the extra money because I have not had a w2 job in a few years and the state has lost track of me.
Veteran shoppers for one of my very favorite MSCs got emails this morning telling us that when their clients are ready to restart MS, we will be first in line for assignments. THAT is a class act in such uncertain times !

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.
@Rho* wrote:

" A lot of workers have been displaced and the number of sign-ups on our site has increased dramatically over the last 4 weeks."
Cynical me thinks this is a ploy to get shoppers to grab shops at low rates.

Not true! Look at Instacart, DoorDash, Uber Eats, etc. They have been inundated with new "shoppers" and they are spreading as quickly as the CV.
@panama18 wrote:

I don't find it hard to believe at all. Unemployed people hard up for cash go online looking for ideas and stumble upon shopping. Most of them will get discouraged by the lack of shops they see, or drop it when they go back to work, but any way you slice it you will likely see more competition and yes, lower fees for some shops.

Just thought I would throw this out there - this is EXACTLY how I discovered mystery shopping back in 2006 and, except for a couple of years break due to family issues, have been happily and successfully doing it full-time ever since!
@Rho* wrote:

" A lot of workers have been displaced and the number of sign-ups on our site has increased dramatically over the last 4 weeks."
Cynical me thinks this is a ploy to get shoppers to grab shops at low rates.

haha yes! I agree. There are some alcohol compliance shops that have been sitting at $10 and I think the company is hoping someone will pick it up for super cheap. i had to make a 10 hour drive (sick family member) to go back home and I'm passing by a whole bunch of them but I'm not taking it at that rate (actually, the previous month it was $15 so i think they are experimenting with finding the lowest they can go)
The very small handful of takeout shops I've seen have been snatched up in minutes -- but these are likely appealing to the exsisting shopper base as they offer a free meal from a good restaurant for an easy report. I'm continually getting heavily bonused MarketForce fast food drive-through shops (four-five tmes the base) and constant offers for supermarket price checks (which are of dubious legality/ethics in my state) so I don't get the sense that demand for those shops has gone off the charts.
@NinS wrote:

The very small handful of takeout shops I've seen have been snatched up in minutes -- but these are likely appealing to the exsisting shopper base as they offer a free meal from a good restaurant for an easy report. I'm continually getting heavily bonused MarketForce fast food drive-through shops (four-five tmes the base) and constant offers for supermarket price checks (which are of dubious legality/ethics in my state) so I don't get the sense that demand for those shops has gone off the charts.

I think SteveSoCal could be right on this: We may see lots of bonused shops as people are still getting unemployment through end of July/early August.

The real test of whether shops dry up and fees go lower could be in August/September (or later this year). The CARES Act requires employers getting aid to keep their workers on and bring them back eventually in a few months as well. When things re-open, I think we could be in for a very rude awakening from:

a.) businesses realizing a precipitous decline in customer traffic
b.) a spike in new COVID-19 cases (leading to more/continued decline in business)

JAS's comments elsewhere about companies wanting to keep the lights on and pay staff vs. putting money into secret shopping programs could be true for a lot of industries/businesses. It's hard to tell. Curious what happened in 2008 on this front (although, that was a different type of recession)?

I think we haven't seen the worst of things for the economy yet, as we're early in the current recession/depression. Even 2008 took a couple of years to play out (from 2007 through 2009) as "things fell apart." We're still in the early stages where people may not realize or feel the economic damage yet.

Small businesses employ about half of America's private work force.

50% of small businesses had only 1 month's worth of cash on hand going into COVID-19:
[www.businessinsider.com]

Some businesses like restaurants have even less with only 16 days worth of cash on hand on median average (from the article). What happens when they re-open with 25%...35%...or 50% less customers?



40% of Americans say they'd struggle with a $400 emergency:
[www.cnbc.com]

Even after lockdown restrictions are lifted, one thing I've seen brought up more and more is that NO ONE can re-open the economy. The meaning is that only when consumers feel safe will they really go out. So, you can lift restrictions all you want. Businesses can re-open. However, if 50% less people show up, then that could mean the end of your business. I think this will likely happen for a lot of businesses. The economic fallout hasn't really been felt yet.

And, without jobs, people's savings will probably rise and spending will go down. That, in turn, creates a doom loop for the economy. Less spending = more job losses...which = less spending. You cannot even apply for a mortgage usually without a job (unless you have like 90% on a down payment?). It took 6 years for jobs to recover after the 2008 financial crisis. Six years (to get back to pre-recession levels). And even then, these weren't a return to good-paying jobs. The so-called "jobless recovery" post-2008 saw most new job creation in low-wage service industries.

I could imagine a repeat of the same for the 2020 recession/depression. People may have to cobble together multiple income streams for years. Secret shopping could be used to plug holes in one's finances - assuming the programs even largely exist after this COVID-19 recession/depression.

Maybe most disturbing for me is that pre-COVID-19 people were already accepting shops at such low rates. What will they take them for if/when the shops return after potential once-in-a-century catastrophic economic damage?
@shoptastic wrote:

Maybe most disturbing for me is that pre-COVID-19 people were already accepting shops at such low rates. What will they take them for if/when the shops return after potential once-in-a-century catastrophic economic damage?

It's a very complex question. The driver for shop fees is not completely based on the state of the economy in my experience. While MSC's clearly utilized the economic crash to lower fee/reimbursement structures, the did not return in line with the economic fluctuations.

I could be wrong, but based on conversations I took part in here, I didn't see coming out of the recession with a desire to utilize mystery shopping to increase one's savings in better preparation for the next financial disaster to be a major contributor to people joining the industry.

Sure, they are some building a nest-egg with it, but the majority are either using it for basic survival, or lifestyle enhancement. I started in using it for survival after becoming unemployed, then moved to being a lifestyle shopper when my career was resurrected. I also started in MSing before the crash and had a VERY hard time making a living at it, back when it payed better and living expenses were lower.

I think anyone coming into this post COVID and seeing the feeding frenzy of existing shopping grabbing up shops would run for the hills...unless they were really built for MSing. I have long contended that it takes a certain rare personality type to make a good shopper, so perhaps the result of this crash will be a more qualified shopper base that helps the industry return to it's heyday. For the past decade, it's been utilizing the the underemployed in a growing job market. What happens when you introduce a massively overqualified workforce to the industry?
Just now, we all have a chance to reconsider what we have been doing. Do we want to continue in mystery shopping? Do we want to change the proportion of all jobs (if we have any)? Do we want to change the types of shops that we perform? Do we want to return to the way we used to mystery shop? Will we age out of some job types while the world's economies are calibrated and re-calibrated and be forced into different or less mystery shopping? Do we get antsy when we are not busy with mystery shopping, or are we relaxing and doing something else?

Everyone is unique, and we all want different types and amounts of mystery shopping. It would be tragic if the variety of shopping experiences evaporated.

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. - Leonard Bernstein
17.5% unemployment and that is for people that actually can file for it. I do not believe that we are counted in that.
But gig workers ARE now being allowed to file, so it's not really clear if the numbers are being inflated by that or not.
@SteveSoCal wrote:

But gig workers ARE now being allowed to file, so it's not really clear if the numbers are being inflated by that or not.

correct smiling smiley
And, some gig workers who now qualify for federal unemployment also have W-2 jobs which qualify them for state unemployment benefits.

This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before. - Leonard Bernstein
I am so not worried about this. The $1534 every two weeks checks started to hit accounts last week. I don't think many are going to jeopardize those for a mystery shop or two.

Twenty-two Jack in the Box shops in my immediate area (100s relatively local) hit the board yesterday and not a single one picked up. Same with those Presto shops for IPSOS. Eighty-seven in my immediate area and not a single one picked up. I considered it but we are close to 100 degrees right now. I prefer staying in AC.

When the postal shops and red-white-and-blue-customer-first shops hit too, I will hit the road on my routes. Until then, I will enjoy the time off.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2020 05:08PM by whiterosie.
@Shop-et-al wrote:

And, some gig workers who now qualify for federal unemployment also have W-2 jobs which qualify them for state unemployment benefits.

That doesn't make any sense. There is no federal unemployment to qualify for....

If you are unemployed in a way that your particular state will cover through unemployment, you can get additional federal benefits that are implemented by each state.

You either receive benefits or you don't. The fed stipend is lumped in if you do, and it doesn't matter if you are a gig-worker or W-2 employee in that case.
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