Improving for 2023

Somewhat inspired by the thread on cutting back in 2023, I'm wondering who is looking to pick up or improve in 2023?

I tried to give myself a performance evaluation for 2022 and I felt like one of my main takeaways is that I need to try to be more efficient with time. On my best days, I was able to create routes and hit multiple stops. I also think I need get out of my comfort zone and look for some higher paying shops.

Anyone else hoping to expand this year? Did you reflect on your performance last year and come up with any areas for improvement?

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I have high hopes of improving this year. It should not be difficult as the past two to three years have been pretty hard hit for mystery shopping during the pandemic. Hoping more companies will resume their ms programs.
At the pay rates I'm seeing so far in 2023, I don't know if I'll strive to do more. I sort of unintentionally switched from doing actual mystery shopping to doing more merchandising type work, but I miss the variety of shops that I used to do, so that might be what I focus on in 2023.
I do have room for improvement when it comes to putting together routes. Most of the mileage on the job boards is inaccurate - something might say its 23 miles, but its really 31. Those extra miles can add up and throw you off when it comes to how long that route will take, how much gas you'll use, etc. I will try to map out the routes better this year.

@olympia tennenbaum wrote:

Somewhat inspired by the thread on cutting back in 2023, I'm wondering who is looking to pick up or improve in 2023?

I tried to give myself a performance evaluation for 2022 and I felt like one of my main takeaways is that I need to try to be more efficient with time. On my best days, I was able to create routes and hit multiple stops. I also think I need get out of my comfort zone and look for some higher paying shops.

Anyone else hoping to expand this year? Did you reflect on your performance last year and come up with any areas for improvement?
@joanna81 wrote:

At the pay rates I'm seeing so far in 2023, I don't know if I'll strive to do more. I sort of unintentionally switched from doing actual mystery shopping to doing more merchandising type work, but I miss the variety of shops that I used to do, so that might be what I focus on in 2023.

That makes sense. I do wish the pay would be consistently higher. I hate sitting on the fence, seeing jobs I'd like but waiting for them to be bonused. I'd like to learn more about merchandising. My completely dream world scenario involves me being able to work for a decent rate whenever I'm available. The work isn't usually too bad, it's just a shame how much time it can take to chase down the work.
@sandyf wrote:

I have high hopes of improving this year. It should not be difficult as the past two to three years have been pretty hard hit for mystery shopping during the pandemic. Hoping more companies will resume their ms programs.

That's a great point. I'm new(ish) to the field so I don't really have too much perspective. It dovetails nicely with other things I do; I just wish opportunites and pay were a bit more plentiful. I'm working on it and hoping for a better year ahead.
Great thread.

Two things I would definitely like to improve on is my time management and route planning across states.


I wake up before the rooster crows for my main job, so I try to sleep in on my off days as much as possible. But I know in my heart of hearts keeping my schedule the same or nearly the same would make MS shopping much easier for me. I would get my shops done, run my own personal errands and be home before traffic. The past few months I found myself running around and sitting in unnecessary traffic.

I would also love to plan my vacation time off better and pick up some more shops in several states. Last year I went to UT, TN, and FL and was so amazed at what MSCs had to offer versus where I’m at now. If I can plan quarterly vacations I think this would be a good MS year!
They are actually very accurate if you happen to be a bird. However, I am a human who drives a car on the roads. Therefore I use Google Maps for distances and times.
@joanna81 wrote:

Most of the mileage on the job boards is inaccurate - something might say its 23 miles, but its really 31. Those extra miles can add up and throw you off when it comes to how long that route will take, how much gas you'll use, etc. I will try to map out the routes better this year. ]

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
You have some great ideas. However, before you start doing mystery shops in multiple states make sure you do your tax homework.

Some states have reciprocal agreements, where you only pay state taxes where you live, not the state where you perform the work. Others don't, so you would have to fill out a state return in each and pay any taxes due. Depending on how many jobs you do in a given state it might be a lot of hassle for not much income.

@Luna126 wrote:

Great thread.

Two things I would definitely like to improve on is my time management and route planning across states.


I wake up before the rooster crows for my main job, so I try to sleep in on my off days as much as possible. But I know in my heart of hearts keeping my schedule the same or nearly the same would make MS shopping much easier for me. I would get my shops done, run my own personal errands and be home before traffic. The past few months I found myself running around and sitting in unnecessary traffic.

I would also love to plan my vacation time off better and pick up some more shops in several states. Last year I went to UT, TN, and FL and was so amazed at what MSCs had to offer versus where I’m at now. If I can plan quarterly vacations I think this would be a good MS year!

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. Eleanor Roosevelt
I learned years ago that when mileage is quoted on a website it is often calculated from one end of the zip code. I live on the end they do not count it from so I have to usually add at least 6 miles.

@myst4au wrote:

They are actually very accurate if you happen to be a bird. However, I am a human who drives a car on the roads. Therefore I use Google Maps for distances and times.
@joanna81 wrote:

Most of the mileage on the job boards is inaccurate - something might say its 23 miles, but its really 31. Those extra miles can add up and throw you off when it comes to how long that route will take, how much gas you'll use, etc. I will try to map out the routes better this year. ]
Yeah, the mileage is always off by a significant amount for me. Just as @myst4au stated, I was also told it was: "As the crow flies." Pfft!
We'll see how it goes. Intellishop lost 2 big customers in my area. They were both C- restaurants which meant that the demand was low (who wants to eat bad food?). This lead to what I would call insane bonuses relative to the starting fees. The Drive-In with the Red Button switched to another MSC who doesn't pay as well.

I may have to learn how to do these gas station audits. I've avoided them like the plague so far but it seems to be the only flag flying.
Very new here - I did (2) shops in December 2022 so...um.....yeah! I'd like to improve in 2023. So far in January I've done 3 shops, and I'm signed up with 4 companies. I don't know the business yet to where I can define what is good vis a vis income and profit level. But, as of now my goal is to make a profit of $200 per month

.My initial shops have been good in that the gas expense has been manageable. After awhile I'll get better at organizing things and more confident at doing multiple shops on same route. I almost did that yesterday----but it was my 1st shop with this MSC, which I think might have good restaurant shops down the road--- something' I'd like to be trusted with so on my initial non restaurant shops, I'd rather just to one - do it right, rinse and repeat.

Hopefully my $200 monthly profit goal is real. More would be better of course.

Also want to enjoy doing it. I like music in the car. I love a good drive-thru meal while doing laptop in my car whether that's investments, poker, whatever. Also - I dunno if anyone here is old enough to know the Rockford Files - but I loved how Jim Rockford used to take on a new identity - pretend he was this or that in order to gain information and access. I admit - this part of shopping is fun for me smiling smiley

I've taken a 2 year hiatus from my old business life so far. Maaaaaybe one day I want to get back into business - - and after 2 years of relaxing in my basement - I'm hoping that shopping will help me keep in tune with talking to people, seeing basic business practices, sort of keep me from getting stale should I want to one day start a new endeavor. Also giving me a bit of insight into how other industries train and monitor employees.

So yes, I'm looking to improve in 2023. Oh - yesterday's Storage Shop was brought to you by the letter P - I stopped at Popeye's after shopping and the chicken and Cole slaw was as sublime as the fountain soda smiling smiley
Not necessarily meet and improve overall income, but more so improving processes.

Major changes in my end to actively fill out my spreadsheet on my phone and on the cloud, rather than needing to open up my laptop to update it. It has been a major time saver overall.

I also cut out a lot of documentation I used to do just because of OCD for my shops (like filing shop guidelines, contract, report, etc.).

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 33 year old male and willing to travel!
Yes, this too! Now that I'm in a more rural area, a zip code can span 30 miles. lol
@sandyf wrote:

I learned years ago that when mileage is quoted on a website it is often calculated from one end of the zip code. I live on the end they do not count it from so I have to usually add at least 6 miles.

@myst4au wrote:

They are actually very accurate if you happen to be a bird. However, I am a human who drives a car on the roads. Therefore I use Google Maps for distances and times.
@joanna81 wrote:

Most of the mileage on the job boards is inaccurate - something might say its 23 miles, but its really 31. Those extra miles can add up and throw you off when it comes to how long that route will take, how much gas you'll use, etc. I will try to map out the routes better this year. ]
I just wanted to offer a few words of encouragement - my initial goal was $200-$300 per month. I wound up making about 7K this year. I did shops on about 130 days this year, so mostly weekend days. I must say, doing a few routes in the fall when the leaves were changing colors and some good tunes on the radio was like therapy for my soul.

@BabyBooey19 wrote:

Very new here - I did (2) shops in December 2022 so...um.....yeah! I'd like to improve in 2023. So far in January I've done 3 shops, and I'm signed up with 4 companies. I don't know the business yet to where I can define what is good vis a vis income and profit level. But, as of now my goal is to make a profit of $200 per month

.My initial shops have been good in that the gas expense has been manageable. After awhile I'll get better at organizing things and more confident at doing multiple shops on same route. I almost did that yesterday----but it was my 1st shop with this MSC, which I think might have good restaurant shops down the road--- something' I'd like to be trusted with so on my initial non restaurant shops, I'd rather just to one - do it right, rinse and repeat.

Hopefully my $200 monthly profit goal is real. More would be better of course.

Also want to enjoy doing it. I like music in the car. I love a good drive-thru meal while doing laptop in my car whether that's investments, poker, whatever. Also - I dunno if anyone here is old enough to know the Rockford Files - but I loved how Jim Rockford used to take on a new identity - pretend he was this or that in order to gain information and access. I admit - this part of shopping is fun for me smiling smiley

I've taken a 2 year hiatus from my old business life so far. Maaaaaybe one day I want to get back into business - - and after 2 years of relaxing in my basement - I'm hoping that shopping will help me keep in tune with talking to people, seeing basic business practices, sort of keep me from getting stale should I want to one day start a new endeavor. Also giving me a bit of insight into how other industries train and monitor employees.

So yes, I'm looking to improve in 2023. Oh - yesterday's Storage Shop was brought to you by the letter P - I stopped at Popeye's after shopping and the chicken and Cole slaw was as sublime as the fountain soda smiling smiley
I want to improve in 2023 as well. I had a few questions on this to improve: Do others keep a spreadsheet with shops phone numbers and business hours and I go back and forth between is it better to fill out surveys on site or wait until I get back home. Better from a time constraint and safety.

In reference to the spreadsheet, I know that with Chevron shops, the evaluation asks to get the store hours and the phone number. Business hours don't seem to be posted on the door as much. Rarely do you see a phone number anywhere. It seems that asking questions like this on a mystery shop would raise red flags. Am I wrong? I've been thinking about putting together a spreadsheet for shops that I've done so that I know the answer to these questions. It seems like it could add time in the beginning, but help avoid those odd queries in the future and perhaps save time.

On a related note, I know that I have put the corrected phone number in the survey and the next time I get the shop, they still have the wrong number. Do they not use the information that I send? If not, why ask it?

I fill out the surveys for instashops on site and for many other tasks. There are times when the pics upload slowly and I wait until I get back home. When I did a Marathon shop, it was rather easy and I probably spent 7 minutes on site doing the required walking the store, checking out the restroom, reveal, and taking pics of the site. I uploaded the pics and finished the survey 30 minutes after my check in time. This made me think the task was not worth it since it put me at a lower per hour rate than I strive for. There are some rougher neighborhoods that I do shops in, so I am concerned about safety, so that led me to think I should do those surveys when I get back.
@heywave wrote:

I want to improve in 2023 as well. I had a few questions on this to improve: Do others keep a spreadsheet with shops phone numbers and business hours and I go back and forth between is it better to fill out surveys on site or wait until I get back home. Better from a time constraint and safety.

In reference to the spreadsheet, I know that with Chevron shops, the evaluation asks to get the store hours and the phone number. Business hours don't seem to be posted on the door as much. Rarely do you see a phone number anywhere. It seems that asking questions like this on a mystery shop would raise red flags. Am I wrong? I've been thinking about putting together a spreadsheet for shops that I've done so that I know the answer to these questions. It seems like it could add time in the beginning, but help avoid those odd queries in the future and perhaps save time.

On a related note, I know that I have put the corrected phone number in the survey and the next time I get the shop, they still have the wrong number. Do they not use the information that I send? If not, why ask it?

I fill out the surveys for instashops on site and for many other tasks. There are times when the pics upload slowly and I wait until I get back home. When I did a Marathon shop, it was rather easy and I probably spent 7 minutes on site doing the required walking the store, checking out the restroom, reveal, and taking pics of the site. I uploaded the pics and finished the survey 30 minutes after my check in time. This made me think the task was not worth it since it put me at a lower per hour rate than I strive for. There are some rougher neighborhoods that I do shops in, so I am concerned about safety, so that led me to think I should do those surveys when I get back.

Improving efficiency includes completing any shops on the spot, and if you can, on your phone too.

As for efficiency on tracking, same thing. Have the spreadsheet accessible and editable on your phone. As soon as you’re done, you can quickly record expenses, mileage, etc.

As for what do the clients do with our information? Don’t know, and shouldn’t care. You did the job asked of you.

Shopping the Greater Denver Area, Colorado Springs and in-between in Colorado. 33 year old male and willing to travel!
I hope the clients see my information and are so impressed by it, they fly me to corporate headquarters and the hiring manager has a thing for a 47 year old overweight male wearing something sexy who was told by his Wife to turn the lights OFF or else he'll never ever become a Dad. And I get a Vice Presidency. If it happens, I promise to bump everyone's shop fees by $25 a crack if my new employer is a client so think good thoughts for my realistic plan ok?
@Tarantado I am not concerned with what the client does with the information. I am concerned why the MSC doesn't update the phone number from the previous time(s) that I updated it to the correct number or other information like the gas station offers hot food and I have indicated so 6 times in the last 6 months, but the MSC continues to indicate they do not offer hot food.
@heywave

You can google the hours of operation for the station before or after completing the shop. The MSC/client presumes we have called ahead to verify the hours so we can validate the tele #. But often the tele # can be found online too. Its not 100% but close.

IMO Chevron is the worst when it comes to updates. I have been noting as far back as the previous MSC that the name of 2 stations are incorrect -- the station by the name noted in the shop is actually located in a different city.

I have on occassion asked the hours. Or I'll say something like I'm new to the area are you open 24 hours? That prompts the CSR to state the hours.

The spreadsheet you mention could be helpful. For me personally, I dread the idea of creating another spreadsheet, but I do keep cheat sheets so I get your thinking. The plus is the only time it might need to be updated is if the station went under new management.


@heywave wrote:



In reference to the spreadsheet, I know that with Chevron shops, the evaluation asks to get the store hours and the phone number. Business hours don't seem to be posted on the door as much. Rarely do you see a phone number anywhere. It seems that asking questions like this on a mystery shop would raise red flags. Am I wrong? I've been thinking about putting together a spreadsheet for shops that I've done so that I know the answer to these questions. It seems like it could add time in the beginning, but help avoid those odd queries in the future and perhaps save time.

On a related note, I know that I have put the corrected phone number in the survey and the next time I get the shop, they still have the wrong number. Do they not use the information that I send? If not, why ask it?
@KathyG wrote:

You have some great ideas. However, before you start doing mystery shops in multiple states make sure you do your tax homework.

Some states have reciprocal agreements, where you only pay state taxes where you live, not the state where you perform the work. Others don't, so you would have to fill out a state return in each and pay any taxes due. Depending on how many jobs you do in a given state it might be a lot of hassle for not much income.

I have never heard of this logic, and I have been shopping on and off since 2003. I'm not trying to say that you are wrong, but I would like to know where you obtained this information. I shop in three states because I live in the northwest corner of a state. The money that I earn does not come from the state in which I shop nor the state in which I reside - I am paid by a MSC who is in an entirely different state than myself or than the location shopped. My business (we have to claim self-employment and pay a self-employment tax; we are considered a sole proprietorship) is located in the state where I reside. I owe taxes to the state of my residence only (to the best of my knowledge). I would like to know if you have other information - I'm always up for learning something new (especially since my surrounding states have lower tax rates than my state of residence). Thank you in advance. smiling smiley
I live in Missouri. A couple of years ago when I visited my son in California I completed a pizza shop, not thinking about tax implications. I came home and researched the topic and found out that because the states did not have reciprocal agreements California wanted me to file a state form and include payment.

After talking with my husband (who is also my tax guy) we derided that the hassle over a $12 shop fee wasn't worth all the effort. Unless my situation changes and I decide to go all in on shopping in California I currently don't do shops there.

@patman9760 wrote:

@KathyG wrote:

You have some great ideas. However, before you start doing mystery shops in multiple states make sure you do your tax homework.

Some states have reciprocal agreements, where you only pay state taxes where you live, not the state where you perform the work. Others don't, so you would have to fill out a state return in each and pay any taxes due. Depending on how many jobs you do in a given state it might be a lot of hassle for not much income.

I have never heard of this logic, and I have been shopping on and off since 2003. I'm not trying to say that you are wrong, but I would like to know where you obtained this information. I shop in three states because I live in the northwest corner of a state. The money that I earn does not come from the state in which I shop nor the state in which I reside - I am paid by a MSC who is in an entirely different state than myself or than the location shopped. My business (we have to claim self-employment and pay a self-employment tax; we are considered a sole proprietorship) is located in the state where I reside. I owe taxes to the state of my residence only (to the best of my knowledge). I would like to know if you have other information - I'm always up for learning something new (especially since my surrounding states have lower tax rates than my state of residence). Thank you in advance. smiling smiley

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. Eleanor Roosevelt
@patman9760 wrote:

@KathyG wrote:

You have some great ideas. However, before you start doing mystery shops in multiple states make sure you do your tax homework.

Some states have reciprocal agreements, where you only pay state taxes where you live, not the state where you perform the work. Others don't, so you would have to fill out a state return in each and pay any taxes due. Depending on how many jobs you do in a given state it might be a lot of hassle for not much income.

I have never heard of this logic, and I have been shopping on and off since 2003. I'm not trying to say that you are wrong, but I would like to know where you obtained this information. I shop in three states because I live in the northwest corner of a state. The money that I earn does not come from the state in which I shop nor the state in which I reside - I am paid by a MSC who is in an entirely different state than myself or than the location shopped. My business (we have to claim self-employment and pay a self-employment tax; we are considered a sole proprietorship) is located in the state where I reside. I owe taxes to the state of my residence only (to the best of my knowledge). I would like to know if you have other information - I'm always up for learning something new (especially since my surrounding states have lower tax rates than my state of residence). Thank you in advance. smiling smiley

My dad is a CPA. It's true that people who work in multiple states such as professional athletes and truck drivers are required to file in every state in which they earn income. Obviously, the more work and higher pay rates draw more attention from auditors, so a few shops in another state would be unlikely to trigger scrutiny, but legally, yes, if you earn income from work in another state a state return is required. I do not know the income threshold for state income tax, but knowing how states are it is likely different in each state. smiling smiley
From my research it apparently is the case many states require income tax for work in their state even if the contractor and client are both based in other states. There are reciprocal agreements and minimum thresholds, so not everything needs to be reported in very case. For all practical purposes, however, those states would have no way of knowing unless the information is broken down by state on the 1099s. When I did tax work I saw many W-2s broken down by state, but never a 1099.
I guess the last few entries prove that anything can be taken to the extreme - especially when taxes are involved. If I were to work in a town one hour southwest of where I currently live (same state), I would be required to pay a 1% local city tax in addition to state and federal taxes (I know because I worked there when I was in college). I did some shops in that town last year and I do not plan to file a return with the city. My business is currently located in my home. My income is only affiliated with my home address. I will continue to pay taxes as I have for the majority of my life - to my home state and to the federal government.
I am thinking some rules are made to be broken. I would include in this someone earning $15 on a infrequent mystery shop and having to fill out a second state income tax form. I also learned a few years ago that if you spent more than 15 days in another state California considers you a non resident as far as your car registration goes. So do not vacation anywhere else for over 2 weeks or you have to re register your car and get new license plates for the rest of your trip. I actually called and spoke to someone at the time as it sounded too ridiculous to me but they confirmed it was true.
How strange! Why would California want to classify someone as a non-resident when that means less money for the state?
@sandyf wrote:

I also learned a few years ago that if you spent more than 15 days in another state California considers you a non resident as far as your car registration goes. So do not vacation anywhere else for over 2 weeks or you have to re register your car and get new license plates for the rest of your trip. I actually called and spoke to someone at the time as it sounded too ridiculous to me but they confirmed it was true.
I plan to maximize my profits in 2023. I will stop doing some shops because they are not profitable enough. I will try doing more shops that have a higher profit margin. I am happy to say that the nightmarish scheduler for one of my most profitable projects will no longer be associated with that project. I plan to do what I can to make the new scheduler's job easier and build a good working relationship with her. I may finally start doing Presto shops. I will start checking certain MSCs' websites more frequently.
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