I agree - when you are required to make a purchase - get something you need. I did an assignment in Dec. for a party supply store and had to make a $8 purchase. I also got a fee for the shop. I was able to get gift bags that were 50% off. I needed the bags for gifts so it worked out well. I recently did a Walgreens shop and was only going to be reimbursed $1 for my purchase - so I bought a box of tissue which I needed. If you think and plan - it all works out for the shoppers benefit. I don't mind doing shops where I get reimbursed for dinner for two in a nice restaurant because it's like having dinner on someone else. I get a nice evening out, which cost me nothing.
I just started mystery shopping last October. I'm retired and can't quite make ends meet on social security. I've done 14 shops for one company and I've had several convenience stores that require you to buy a coffee. They reimburse $1.00 -- but the coffee costs $1.38! Doesn't sound like much but it all adds up. My way around it: The stores offer refills at 59 cents, so I save my cup and get refills!
Another company that has fast food shops requires that you buy a hamburger, fries, and a drink. They reimburse $7.00, but the cheapest 'burger is $3.79! When you add the fries and soda, your bill is $8.00. Why can't they just reimburse for the amount spent, particularly when they specify what they want bought?
I like doing the work, but the pay is really pretty bad. Week before last I performed eight shops -- and made less than $100.00 (minus the cost of gas). Between reading the guidelines, doing the shop, and completing the report I figured I'd made less than $2.00 per hour! I'm willing to work hard (and do); why can't they pay properly?
I agree, having to wait to get reimbursed for what you spend to do their shop is not fun. And then some companies want to wait almost 2 months for reimbursment. I have started to only take on assignments from companies that will pay within a month. It is too much out of pocket otherwise.