An Idea to Help Gas Station Mystery Shoppers

A number of people have noticed, and commented on how pay has been going down on mystery shops in general. It has also often been said that as long as people accept the lowered pay, that’s what the MSCs will keep giving us. So I thought I would offer an idea that might help us both individually, and potentially as a group. Particularly any full time gas station mystery shoppers that are tired of this.

That idea would be to work for the MSCs less by replacing them with companies that pay more, like Door Dash. So let’s say you do a lot of Shell shops or Chevron shops. What you could do instead is stop working for them so much, and do just enough shops to fill up your gas tank. Then go work for a company like Door Dash, where not only could you get paid more, but you could use the fuel you got from your mystery shops to make that kind of work even more profitable since the largest on going expense would be gas. Then when you run low on gas, just repeat the process.

This could accomplish a number of things such as:
- A Lessened dependence on gas station mystery shops that puts you in a better position to avoid low pay shops
- Better overall pay by using mystery shop fuel reimbursements to pay for food delivery work, regardless of what the MSC does
- An opportunity to take advantage of high pay shops that could come around at the end of a round if you don’t do them at the low pay at the beginning of the round. This could result in it becoming temporarily more profitable to focus on mystery shops near their deadline before starting all over again repeating the process.

Now will this work for everyone? No, as mentioned in an article that I will post a link to, you need to live in the right kind of location, but for the people it does help, it could turn a shop that comes with a $5 fuel reimbursement, like the $12.50 Shell shops, and $6 Chevron shops, and make it so that it’s like a shop that pays $5 more. Because you would be using the fuel reimbursement to offset other work related expenses that would otherwise cost you money.

And does the MSCs want you to do this? Heck no! They want you to keep on working at low pay rates so they can keep lowering the pay. But for those that think they deserve better than to be taken advantage of like that, this idea may help. You don’t need a degree or any sort of special training to get into such work if you want to.

An article on how to make money with Door Dash

[thisonlineworld.com]

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Essentially what this is, is only doing gas station shops sparingly to offset fuel costs while primarily working for food delivery companies, or other companies where the biggest expense is fuel to make more money.

One thing I would add is that for this strategy to work best you would want to do the shops offering the greatest fuel reimbursements. So that would be ExxonMobils, Shells, and Chevrons since they offer $5.00 fuel reimbursements, and maybe the Valeros since they offer $4.00 fuel reimbursements. But the BP and Gulf shops would probably not be the best to use with this strategy since they only offer $2.00 fuel reimbursements.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/04/2021 01:02AM by Curious99.
I am impressed with the post that began this thread because it displays thinking and a degree of hustle. I only take exception to the "us against them" slant. Personally, the overwhelming number of individuals in this profession have always treated me with a courteous respect I both admire and appreciate. When that has not occurred, we separate; that is business. Lest we forget, we are NOT employees; we are contractors. As such, we are responsible for ourselves. Not the MSC and not the client.
@shopperbob wrote:

...I only take exception to the "us against them" slant...

Of course the MSCs are going to generally treat shoppers with respect and courtesy. Why wouldn't they? We make them rich.

I understand my predisposition towards the MSCs may come across as a bit uncouth, however, when communicating with my peers I feel less compelled to filter the things I say. Particularly when what is in their bests interests, and what is in our bests interests are often at odds with one another. The shoppers, and the MSCs are not on the same team (when it comes to pay). Each seeks to gain at the expense of the other.
Curious responds--The shoppers, and the MSCs are not on the same team (when it comes to pay). Each seeks to gain at the expense of the other.

Bob agrees--That is known as business.

Curious comments-I understand my predisposition towards the MSCs may come across as a bit uncouth.

Bob replies--I do not term it uncouth; more in the sound of an American union person.

Curious adds--when communicating with my peers I feel less compelled to filter the things I say.

Bob's opinion--You should not in any respect filter your verbiage; the forum is about candor. Early in my shopping days I was warned to temper my words, lest I end up on the wrong side of a scheduler; I completely ignored that advice. My position then, and now, is that my work speaks for itself.
What I am suggesting is several things:

1.) If a gas station mystery shopper wants to be paid more, they could better utilize fuel reimbursements. That would help make the work pay better regardless of what the current rate was presently set to. The Chevron shops for example, now pay $8.50, but I believe used to pay $6.00. And then there is the $6.00 fuel reimbursement that has always been. So what some people would do, is do the shop for $6.00 shop fee, and only pump $1.00 worth of gas so that they could do many of those shops without running out of space to in their gas tank to pump the required fuel purchase. Because especially if you drive a fuel efficient vehicle, you only really need but so much gas. (If you were to pump the full amount of the fuel reimbursement on each shop, you'd likely end up with a full tank within just a few shops.) But when shoppers would pump just $1.00 of gas to do many of these, they would be leaving almost half of their pay on the table. And percentage-wise, that's a lot of pay to be leaving on the table when the pay wasn't that great to start with.
2.) If a gas station shopper wants to quit mystery shop work, they can do that. There are other companies out there that pay better, and have little to no barrier to entry. That way if the MSCs want to take shop pay all the way down to $1, and in the process, make a lot of people upset, they can do that, and the person that moved onto greener pastures will be unaffected. They will be just fine. It will not matter what the MSCs do in that case. No need to work for someone that is not going to pay you what you are worth. You can change that.
3.) If a gas station shopper does not want to quit, but doesn't want low pay either. There are strategies that they can use. If low paying mystery shop work is not done early on, it eventually becomes higher paying mystery shop work. By having, and taking advantage of other work options, a person can eliminate the need for low paying mystery shop work, while still being open to higher paying mystery shop work. My guess is that this is what many of the Chevron mystery shoppers have done, and is why the base pay was increased from $6.00 to $8.50. Presumably, not enough Chevron shops were getting done soon enough at the $6.00 price point. And as a shopper, that's what you want. You want better pay, and the way you get it is by not working for lower pay. As simple as that. But I think people, in general, are either desperate, or don't know any better.

I have seen pay on gas station shops range from $4 to $150, and one of the things that affects where a shop's pay falls at on that spectrum is simply at what rates are people willing to work at. Most people are not willing to do gas station mystery shops for $4. So those shops only rarely get done at the $4 price point. More people will do them at $12, and even more people will do gas station shops at $30. But what many people probably don't know is that the sweet spot for gas station shops is probably around $40 to $50 in pay. If you can get that, then I'd say you got a good deal. If you got less than that, I'd say you left money on the table because the pay can go up that high if other people don't mess it up. If it doesn't go up that high, then often it is not because it couldn't go up that high, but because people were willing to do it for less. (For example, when a shop could go to $50 in pay, a lot of people might do it for $30 in pay, and that is what prevents it from getting to $50).

It is when you put all of these ideas together, you can go hmm... what would go well with this idea, and that idea, and so on to come up with something like what I mentioned in my original post. That is an idea where you could eliminate any sort of dependence upon the MSCs, utilize fuel reimbursements to support yourself in doing more profitable work, and increase the chances of being able to do higher paying mystery shop work (if you want to). If you don't want to, then obviously you wouldn't have to. So I'm not suggesting one specific thing as much as I am many different things, and what you choose to do is up to you.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 10/07/2021 01:28AM by Curious99.
I have to say that your post and idea is well thought out. I see where you are coming from on this topic. However, you are basically asking us to do the same as for example using the Mobee app to get some gift cards because probably at some point I will be buying a game off of the Playstation Network or I can exchange the points for a dunkin doughnuts coffee. While that is good for some people it does not ring well with what most people on the forums do here. You are assuming that these shops within a reasonable area get up to a fee worth doing. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. At the very least, going to work for Door Dash or Uber, or literally any app that is like that means that we all have to put even MORE miles on our cars to do that work. We may be able to make do with the $5 reimbursement of gas per station, but I bet that most people who take advantage of what you are saying will be stuck with more than an hours worth of work for that hour. Basically that person could skip the gas station audits and still make out better by getting a $5 tip or multiple in the same hour of delivering multiple orders, or driving multiple people. Which also can make up for the crappy fee they offer without having to upload literally anything. So I really would like to thank you for coming up with this post and it is room for thought, I would also like to say that this is hardly the way to handle this situation. It is quite simple and has been said how we all wish MSC's and shoppers would go about this.
What about people who have no need of more than a hobby? Why castigate them for, say, choosing to pick up quickie shops such as simple gas station shops (not audits) that might fit neatly into their commute time or lunch time?

The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. ~ Unknown
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I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
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Suggesting gas station shoppers use other work to maximize gas reimbursement is indeed smart thinking and could contribute to raised fees in the long term. I think most gas station shoppers already do this to a large extent, using the gas for other shops of for their regular job and other activities. But delivery apps are just one option, and probably a poor one for most. We read of people making hundreds a day, but when you dig down that doesn't include vehicle expenses, of which gas costs are only a minor part. And many of the most succesful delivery people actually use bicycles. Not to say it won't work for some people, depending on where you live, But with employers being forced to pay higher wages and jobs opening up to people who have been traditionally excluded from the labor market, a rugular part-time or full-time job might be a better fit, allowing shoppers to do the stations only to fill their tank, or when bonuses are too high to pass up.
@jrj76 wrote:

... You are basically asking us to do the same as for example using the Mobee app to get some gift cards because probably at some point I will be buying a game...

Oh, no I am not suggesting people work for MoBee by any means, haha. Their pay is often terrible in my opinion with missions for 200 points, but you are right, I am suggesting that people can use other opportunities as leverage against the MSCs, and their low pay though. For me personally, one of the forms of leverage I use, and find to be much better is trading on the stock market, and earning fantastic returns that way, but that’s just me.

(If you found a way to make MoBee work for you, then more power to you though.)

@jrj76 wrote:

You are assuming that these shops within a reasonable area get up to a fee worth doing. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.

No, I know that shops in some areas pay more than shops in other areas, and that is because of what people are willing to work for to do some areas vs. other areas. You do need to take into account location along with shop pay when considering profitability. Otherwise, it will throw the numbers off.

For example, if you could get a shop at $50, there is going to be a big difference in the profitability of doing it if it is 10 hours away from you round trip, versus if it were 30 minutes away from you round trip. If it were 10 hours away from you, I’d say it’s not worth doing for $50. But that $50 that the MSCs are willing to pay for that remote location should give people an idea of what MSCs are capable of paying if other people don’t do the work for less. And an idea of what is good pay if they don’t have to go too far for it.

That’s why I say if you are able to get the work for $40 to $50, you did well. That is assuming you don’t have to go too far out of your way to do it though. It is a rate of pay that the MSCs do not like to pay people at, but is not the highest pay I have ever seen a gas station shop go at either.

@jrj76 wrote:

At the very least, going to work for Door Dash or Uber, or literally any app that is like that means that we all have to put even MORE miles on our cars to do that work.

Not necessarily. It depends on a number of different factors, but the aim of my suggestions isn’t really to reduce mileage. It is to increase shopper profitability.

But for the sake of discussion, let’s say that it does indeed increase the number of miles you put on your car. If you make a greater profit putting more miles on your car doing that, than you do with less miles on mystery shop work, I’d say you came out ahead then. That again would depend on different factors though, and that’s one of the reasons why I had said that the Door Dash idea won’t work for everyone, but that it could for some.

@jrj76 wrote:

Basically that person could skip the gas station audits and still make out better by getting a $5 tip...

Well, yeah that would be another way of looking at it. If you don’t care to do gas station shops, you could look at it as you don’t really need their $5 fuel reimbursements anyway when you are getting that much in tips.

@jrj76 wrote:

I would also like to say that this is hardly the way to handle this situation...

I just offer ideas with this post. I don’t claim to know any one person’s situation, or what would be necessarily best for them.

What I have often seen over the years when people complain about pay is that some snarky person on here would say that you don’t have to work for the MSCs, or “more for me, less for you”, or the MSCs don’t owe you anything, and blah, blah, blah. I just don’t think those kind of responses to the situation of declining shopper pay are helpful. People need money, and the MSCs don’t have to be so greedy.

Even the more conventional advice of just don’t work for low fees, and they’ll go up, could be improved upon. So that is one of things I was pushing for here. Better advice, or ideas for those that could use them.
@Shop-et-al wrote:

What about people who have no need of more than a hobby? Why castigate them for, say, choosing to pick up quickie shops such as simple gas station shops (not audits) that might fit neatly into their commute time or lunch time?

I don’t quite know where the defensiveness that I sense comes from, but I “castigate” no one. I do advocate for higher shopper pay because I think shoppers deserve it. That said:

My suggestions are NOT for the following people:
- MSCs, and those who represent their interests
- Shoppers who do not care about profitability
- Shoppers who might only work 1 or 2 hours a week

My suggestions are for the following people:
- Shoppers who care about profitability
- Shoppers who do gas station shops full-time, or at least spend what they would consider to be a significant amount of time doing them
@mystery2me wrote:

... But delivery apps are just one option, and probably a poor one for most....

I think that’s just going to depend on your location, and market, and what kind of vehicle do you drive. If it still isn’t a better option for you, then it’s just not a better option for you, but if it is, I don’t know how much easier it can get to make money than just picking up some food, and dropping it off.

@mystery2me wrote:

But with employers being forced to pay higher wages and jobs opening up to people who have been traditionally excluded from the labor market, a rugular part-time or full-time job might be a better fit, allowing shoppers to do the stations only to fill their tank, or when bonuses are too high to pass up.

Yeah, that could work too. I’m not saying anyone has to go work for Door Dash specifically. Just that food delivery companies offer one possible avenue to explore in looking for better opportunities than what the MSCs provide.
I have found the most profitable way to do gas stations is to do all brands. It seems crazy to me people will do a Shell but. It the Exxon right across the street. I try to average $25 a location. Some locations that have over 12 pumps I ask for more. I take some at $12 because it is on my route or across the street from where I am already going. A good day is having 4 different brands on the same street right by each other. It is rare I have to take them at that low of a pay. I also take on other shops on the route in remote areas that have a good bonus. Those pay for overnight stays and make me some extra cash. if I’m lucky I can get my hotel, food and gas paid for on each trip by doing a shop for each. Route planning software is imperative for this kind of shopping.
My compliments to all for excellent posting. I am known to love old adages and the one that currently calls out is that ONE PERSON'S MEAT, IS ANOTHER'S POISON."

When I either self-assign or apply for a shop, my first consideration is the fee. If it is acceptable, I move forward. If it is not, but the job will cover my non-shopping travels, that works for me. Finally if neither condition exists, but the reimbursement is, for whatever reason, attractive it is my shop.
I'll do a Texas Roadhouse shop for the prime rib on the weekends, but only sparingly. It's not really the kind of shop you do for the money. If I'm doing a bunch of gas station shops, on the other hand, my objective is to make a profit. Not to break-even, or to get a free sucker (through the c-store reimbursement). Definitely not in it for the suckers.

And although shop pay is not the sole determinant of hourly pay, I look at it closely as I believe shop pay and hourly pay are strongly correlated with each other in estimating hourly pay. If I am concerned that my estimate might not be accurate enough, I will run the locations in question through a route optimizer to get a more accurate estimate. If I estimate the hourly pay (in terms of profit) to be high enough, I will do it. If not, then I will not.

I also think it's important not to just look at the total dollar amount to be earned in profit, or at what hourly rate in profit by themselves, but at both together. Over time what I like to see is my total dollar amounts going up, hourly rates going up, and number of hours worked going down. This is not easy to do with mystery shopping, which is why it is good to being open to doing other types of work, as to not need the lower paying mystery shop work.

♫ I love meat, but not low pay. ♫

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/07/2021 08:03PM by Curious99.
Am I the only one that thought of One Man's Meat, the Deep Purple song? Now it's stuck in my head.

sestrahelena
@mmsackett wrote:

I have found the most profitable way to do gas stations is to do all brands. It seems crazy to me people will do a Shell but. It the Exxon right across the street. I try to average $25 a location. Some locations that have over 12 pumps I ask for more. I take some at $12 because it is on my route or across the street from where I am already going. A good day is having 4 different brands on the same street right by each other. It is rare I have to take them at that low of a pay. I also take on other shops on the route in remote areas that have a good bonus. Those pay for overnight stays and make me some extra cash. if I’m lucky I can get my hotel, food and gas paid for on each trip by doing a shop for each. Route planning software is imperative for this kind of shopping.

That's great it works out for you. My work is mostly rural, so I am the one ignoring that Exxon while I do the Shell across the street. If I pick them all before they are ripe, there won't be enough to get me through the winter. Many times I find myself driving almost the exact same route, but with different brands that I passed by the first time. Part of the reason is the fact I need enough in fees to cover hotel costs, and I can only do so many reports in a single day.
Let me see....I did four gas station shops last month; one for $93, one for $65, one for $125, and one for $150.

I enhanced my profitability by using them as "anchor" shops for routes.

The $93 one, I went 4 blocks and did a $75 fast food shop, and another 4 blocks and did a second fast food shop for $40.

The $65 one, I did a fast food on the way there for $50, another fast food on the way back for $60, and another gas station for $40.

The $125 was essentially a "loss leader". I was unable to find other shops to make it a profitable day. None of these shops are close to me; but I left home during daylight and returned home during daylight every day.

I guess you could say I used my gas reimbursement to get to my next shop....works for me!
Sometimes those loss leaders end up making my most profitable days. Other times, well, I just try to enjoy the drive and remember the law of averages.
Thank you so much for sharing this. These are the kind of ideas that I’m looking to expand upon. I’m about to sell my house, buy a camper and set out to fulfill my bucket list. All while doing shops. I’ve recently been diagnosed with cancer so I’m hitting the road before I get to sick to enjoy myself anymore.
When the old MSC that handled the Exxon/Mobil and Shell gas stations amongst others, the monthly E/M shops could be re-self assigned (per rotation rules) out to 3 weeks of the rotation's next month. If I remember correctly, the Shell shops had self assign shops out to weeks in the future.
Now, with the new MSC, I've noticed that not only do they only allow the E/M rotational shops to be self assigned to just 2 weeks, they are also putting on the Job Board, E/M and Shell shops only assignable to the first week of the month.
Then, as the first week of the new month passes, they begin bonusing and extending the dates allowed to perform those shops.
For the wise or seasoned shopper, the benefits of enhancing their routes are apparent.
I'm sure other shoppers use them.

I use a paper map and a pen and some paper.

That way, when I'm in a rural area with no "cellular network coverage" (which is 99% of the time, LOL), I can still access my information.

Pretty old school here (also, a tech-challenged dinosaur!)

smiling smiley

@Cme4prt wrote:

Can you give me some ideas on route planning software to look into please?
To get started, the Google maps or MapQuest websites work fine for 10 stops or so. For network coverage, I had to switch to one of the big carriers - a bit more expensive but worth it to me.
I use ZEO. It is free for a trial. I pay the $15 a month because it works for me. It earns its keep and it is a write off as a business expense.
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