AboutFace - Ripped me off

I accepted a shop at a local drugstore to locate and purchase a certain item. Flat fee of $10 and full reimbursement of the required purchase. I spent over 45 minutes repeatedly searching the store for the item and it was never found. The employees could not even find it. I input my results and got a reply that because the store did not carry the item, I'd only be getting $5. I searched their job board and found the same shop and read the instructions again. There is nothing in their paperwork stating that the fee would be reduced to $5 if the store does not carry the item. I replied to the scheduler with this info and said that I expected $10. I never heard from them. My $5 appeared in PayPal today. I would not have taken the shop at all or even wasted my time entering the results had I known it would only net me $5. I will not shop for this shady company again.

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From what you describe, it does sound like you should receive the full $10. However, I have not done any shops for AboutFace and cannot pretend to know this particular shop. They are, however, a reputable company and not particularly shady. I can say that it is reasonably normal to only pay a shopper half a fee when, to no fault of his/her own, the shopper shows up at the location and is unable to successfully complete the shop. (We could argue all day as to whether or not this is ethical, but it is normal.)

The decision to only pay you half the fee was made by somebody other than the scheduler. If you can contact the project manager for the shop and voice your concern respectfully, you might be able to get a good explanation for the reduced fees. At the same time, it's only $5 and might not be worth the hassle. Whether or not you work for them again is certainly your prerogative.

A thought as you continue shopping: Was the required purchase item something you actively wanted or needed? Were you already going to be at or near this drugstore for some reason? If neither of these are the case, you should ask yourself if the shop was really worth your time - even for the full $10. I find that, if I am walking past a store anyhow and and not expecting it to be super crowded, a quick $10 shop with a ten minute visit and ten minute report is well worth the time. However, if I have to make a special trip to the store for that $10, the drive alone could well make the shop too much trouble for $10.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
AboutFace schedules their own shops, so I did reply to a company rep and included a second company rep on the email. Neither bothered to reply. I also evaluate the time vs. fee. Since I was near the store anyway, I took the shop. It is only $5, but $10 was the advertised fee. Their paperwork says nothing about $5 if the item isn't available. I've been mystery shopping since the 90's. In the hundreds of shops I've completed, I've not been paid maybe five times. AboutFace is shady and I don't think they're a reputable company anymore.
While I agree with you completely, I don't know if you will get the additional $5. It is indeed the principal of the matter, and it is up to you on whether or not you feel as if being persistent will get you results (being paid the additional $5). They are a pretty big company and I think they could afford it.
From everything you said, it does seem they owe you $5....

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
I’ll survive without the $5 but I just wanted to warn others about their underhanded behavior.
I shopped for them for about 3 years until they lost their great cosmetics shops, and never had a problem, I worked with Amber, who is fair and good to the shopper.
I haven't experienced your problem, however I work for another company and their rule is, if the shop is not done, or closed which has happened, we pay 1/2 of fee. I went there and was unable to do the job as the Agent didn't show up.... no report to write. I think you should get paid.

Live consciously....

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/28/2018 08:56PM by Irene_L.A..
Yeah, it's bad on the company to not put that in the guidelines. You have a copy of all guidelines? That's your point if you take a stance. I wish you the best.
There is also nothing in the ICA.....

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
Modified fees should be if the location is closed or inaccessible.

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've done this shop before but not every location carries the item. It is supposed to be on a separate wall near the hosiery. I don't remember if the guidelines said to confirm if item was in stock.

I hope you get your other $5.
You definitely deserve to be paid in full. You spent 45 minutes searching for the item, well above and beyond what is required. It's unacceptable not to get a reply from them. If it was me, i could never trust the company again.
Hi saruhhh1,

I am terribly sorry for your frustrations with the payment policy. In reviewing the guidelines for this assignment, we have it stated in the guidelines that the N/A pay for this assignment is, in fact, $5.00. If you review them, you will find it in the payment information section. I have listed that verbiage for you below.

Additionally, you can review your pay statement at any time within Shopmetrics to be able to see your payment and reimbursements for each assignment so please reach out to a company representative about payment concerns early and we can help assist with those before your payment date. As stated by another post, editors and schedulers, are not the decision makers on those items, but that information should be passed along. If you want to send your information in via a Rate My Service to that representative, I can review your communications with her. At this time, we are unable to pay the additional $5 fee, as the payment terms were listed in the guidelines. I am happy to revisit this request, and I will make sure to pass along your concerns with the N/A policy to our team.

Here is the verbiage from the guidelines for the evaluation:

If you are unable to successfully complete the assigned evaluation for reasons beyond our control,
such as the business is closed, you are not serviced, or the items are not in stock, you will receive
an N/A pay of $5.00.

I can assure you that AboutFace has been in business for well over twenty years, and we take pride in our relationships with evaluators like you, and in no way want anyone's impression of us to be "shady". I hope that you will reconsider working with us in the future.Please feel free to call our offices on Monday and speak to our Shopper Ambassador or me, if you would like to discuss this further.

Thank you for being an evaluator with us!

We shade ourselves when we have expectations that what is fair is what the outcome will be. We may read over the part of the guideline that talks about the N/A fee but mentally/emotionally we don't really 'see' it. Our brains don't register that, if the company is hiring us to go spot check an item then the item must be there. They are very good at the cya part of this business and we need to be also. Let's use our phones to take a minute to call and see if the item is in stock, if the store will be open, if the soda machine works etc. Make the consideration of payment, or lack of payment, if the shop is unsuccessful be a part of our decisions as to whether or not to take the assignment!
You are giving great advice Spicy. I did one for a prepaid Visa card once and wouldn't you know it was not in stock. Got a measly $5 or $7???? Can't recall but it was not worth it as I had to take pictures as well as have interactions with employees.
I'm guessing it would have been worth paying the shopper the $5 the one time, even if it was a misunderstanding. I know that early on a company paid me in full for a closed shop because the guidelines were not perfectly clear - I have repaid them many, many times over. Even though AF's guidelines *were* clear, is the shop being now put on the 10' pole list really worth $5?

"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
Yup, if I were the MSC, I think a shopper's worth is way more than $5 and they should just go ahead and pay.
I personally would think very hard before I would work for them again. They had a bonused debris removal shop and the email clearly stated that they would pay the minimum charge to have something removed including a fridge. The guidelines listed what they would pay in my area and stated they would pay the minimum charge to have the item removed. When I completed the shop, the minimum for a fridge removal was higher. Since the company would not give me a price over the phone when I made the appointment, I wasn't prepared for the extra. When I commented to AboutFace about the issue, they did not respond, only raised the reimbursement by $10. That $10 along with the fee covered the cost, so I ended up doing the shop for reimbursement only.
I will not do any shop that requires the location to have a certain level of performance (in this case, having an item), in order for me to get paid fully. A reduced fee for a closed location is at least acceptable. But to go there, look for an item, find its not in stock; you are giving the client valuable information in that. Therefore, the shopper did their part. I've never done a shop with AboutFace, and after reading this thread, I will not. Not impressed by the MSC's response here.
The MSC came back, wrote a professionally worded post, and apologized for the shopper's frustration. They quoted the part in the guidelines where it clearly states that the shopper will only be paid $5 if the item is not in stock. Guidelines that the client created and not the MSC. The MSC gave a great response. And another shopper gave great advice to avoid wasting time. Live and learn!

@Jessica525 wrote:

Not impressed by the MSC's response here.

I totally agree with you. A contract is a contract. The $5 reduced fee should have been posted.
My thoughts are if the item is not in stock, the report should not be written and then the fee of $5.00 given for going out. The client is just as much at fault for having us assigned to a product not available. I've been paid 1 /2 fee when an Agent doesn't show up, less report to write, but I still used my time and gas. I've also been paid when a place has been closed, and appreciated that to the point of taking last minutes jobs, because I respect that MSC. The question is not did you "protect" yourself by your tidy instructions, did you lose a shopper that threw no fault of hers, tried to do the job and was unable to? We all assume the product will be in stock if sent out to do job. I worked successfully for you for years when you had the cosmetics jobs and liked About Face, until the client's were lost. Could this in anyway be the shoppers fault? I'm not faulting oe over another, just that 5.00 verus a shopper seems silly being she did go out and do report.

Live consciously....

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 01/29/2018 05:15PM by Irene_L.A..
I'd still have to side with the shopper to get full reimbursement. The shopper spent 45 minutes looking for the item. They could have called the store first but what if the store gave an incorrect answer. For the amount of effort and due diligence the shopper did, the pay should be in full. To top it off, it sounded like the msc did not respond to the shopper's emails to explain what happened.
I've been thinking on this a little bit and have started to look at it from a different perspective. First, operating under the assumption that the MSC's post was completely accurate, the $5 fee was clearly stated as the result of the item not being in stock. Therefore the $5 payment was correct. (The OP has not returned to either acknowledge or refute this, so there is not a reason, at this point, to doubt the MSC's word.)

However, the shopper certainly feels justified for being frustrated with a 45 minute visit resulting in a whopping $5 in pay. None of us would be doing this were that the norm. I don't know the details of this shop, but I do have parallels in different shops:

For one MSC, I used to visit apartments for $40. This would typically mean a 20 minute visit and a 30 minute write-up, amounting to an average payment of roughly $47/hr. (not including travel time). Not bad.
However, if the apartment manager no-showed the appointment, I waited for the required 15 minutes, had a ten minute report to do and was done. So, that's roughly $94/hr. That's a score.
Every once in a while, though, the manager got really excited bout showing me around and I could spend 90 minute on the property. Of course, the report would then also take 90 minutes, for a total of three hours of work at just over $13/hr. I felt screwed.

The point is that, going into a shop, we really never know what is and is not going to happen. Sometimes it works our really well for us and sometimes it does not - that's the nature of contract work. So, before I take a shop, I ask myself if I can live with the consequences if it were to go sideways. If not, I move on. If so, I take the job, so my best work, and see what happens. Of course, on a new job to me, I just don't know. I have to recognize that there is a risk involved.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
If we had to worry about risk with every job, would we be doing this? I don't think risk taking for a simple $10.00 job should be involved, the instructions are printed in small print not in your email..they are covering themselves.
When you lost the cosmetics jobs which paid nicely, the company went downhill...I'm sorry to say that, but what I see, no thanks...fighting for 5.00, yet accepting her report.....shame on you. I wouldn't return.

Live consciously....

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/28/2018 09:09PM by Irene_L.A..
I've been working on trying to figure out what she was doing in the store for 45 minutes. For $10 plus reimbursement a company will get 20 min in store and that is a maximum of 20 min. I reset Almay in an hour 15 minutes including finding the reset kit and having a manager walk-through.
I thought about this, too. However, I know that, once I get my teeth into something, I don't like to let go. I suspect that she really wanted to get the shop done correct and was determined to find the product. It sounds like she did not see the guideline about the possibility of the product not being in stock, which would have given her the heads-up to bail after a reasonable amount of time. (After all, if a customer can't find a product in a store, it might as well not be there at all.)

@spicy1 wrote:

I've been working on trying to figure out what she was doing in the store for 45 minutes. For $10 plus reimbursement a company will get 20 min in store and that is a maximum of 20 min. I reset Almay in an hour 15 minutes including finding the reset kit and having a manager walk-through.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
Your new name is Speedy Spicy....you know your fast. Many take more time and just aren't that quick, that shouldn't matter, they make 10.00 if they do it in 20 minutes or 45 minutes. There are different sides to this story,
About Face protected themselves, did they know the product may not be in, are they getting the report done for 5.00, just reeks of something unsavory, not blaming the schedulers, they are being protected....maybe the client's way of finding out if product is in and keeping fee low.....doubting minds want to know.

Live consciously....

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/28/2018 11:30PM by Irene_L.A..
Thought about this some more. I'm sorry but the shop shouldn't have taken 45 mins. The stores aren't even that big. It's a retail shoe store that sells discounted designers shoes, accessories and hosiery. After 10 mins of looking I would have asked for assistance and given the staff 5 minutes to find it.

A stock member or manager would have known if they carried the item. The MSC shouldn't be responsible for the shopper spending an unreasonable amount of time.
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