No Fee Shops - ACL - A Closer Look

ACL never offer fees, just reimbursement. Their reports for groceries, restaurants and fast foods are not short either. It requires photos, lots of instructions to read and follow, and if you miss a small detail, you don't even get the reimbursement.

In lieu of FEES, they try to entice shoppers with lotteries of $50 - $500. This is ridiculous.
When the shop sits there for weeks and weeks, they inundate my email with big capital letters PAY or FEES, and it is only $5. Should I just mark it SPAM?

Why do shoppers take their shops when they can do burger and pizza shops with $15 reimbursement and another $15 in pay, total $30? The report is also much shorter. If I do not mind doing long reports and want fine food/restaurant, Coyle pays reimbursement close or over $100, and still pays $15.

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People who are not me take that kind of no fee shop for their various reasons. From what I gathered, it's either they want free lunch/dinner, they don't know the math, they are bored and this keeps them occupied, they have no sense of how supply and demand work, etc. It would take a lifetime learning to understand just a bit of justification and reasoning. I usually just quit trying to understand them smiling smiley.
ACL had quite a few reimbursement only shops, but they also have many shops that reimburse and pay or just pay-with no money paid out by the shopper. Widen your seach and you might be surprised.
Agreed! I don't mind doing a reimbursement only shop that has a decent value like $100 plus restaurant. Most of what I do though is fee-based. They have a whole bunch of phone shops and on-site shops that have a fee. I just did a very lucrative one with a $200 fee with no purchase requirement.
I just did an ACL shop with a $75 fee and would do more like that any time. (And yes, they DO regularly have quite a few at $75.) I also do a bunch of $25 shops for ACL with simple reports. Maybe one must first qualify by doing lower or no fee shops. I DO know that what a shopper sees on the ACL job board does depend on that shopper's shop history with them.

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.
As independent contractors, we choose which MSCs we work for and what assignments we take.

I work for cash. It's rare for me to do a reimbursement only shop. That's my choice.

I say all that to say, if you aren't happy with a $0 fee shop, move on.

"I told myself to quit you; but I don't listen to drunks." -Chris Stapleton
I on the other hand cannot understand the reasoning of some of you who will accept a small fee for a shop and no reimbursement. But if it works for you that is fine with me.
I recently did a no fee shop for ACL with a report that took me some time to do but was easy. It was not fine dining but I had 4 dinners at one of the new burger places that charge almost fine dining prices for their burgers. I could have done 4 fast food shops with equivalent flat pay and gotten a smallish fee plus quality and type of food that I am not interested in. That would have meant 4 trips somewhere, trying to take pics without being seen and a big chunk of my fee would go to the taxperson.
As an example of the challenges where I live...I was almost convinced by a scheduler to take a $35 bank fee job that she said only required me to inquire of the teller or banker what sort of credit cards they offer. In and out in 15 minutes was what she said...The bank is a few blocks from where i live. Then I read the have to actually do everything as if you are actively signing up for one of the credit cards offered and then right before you sign on the dotted line you back off. Well, I cannot imagine a teller in my city ever being able to sign you up for a credit card. That would require the teller telling me to sit in the lobby behind all the others with appts waiting for an opening to speak with the banker. When I have done that on my own for bank business the wait is generally at least a half hour to 45 minutes before you actually got to sit down with the banker, usually more. So there would be no reason to wait on the teller line. Maybe in other states tellers sign people up for credit cards but not here. On top of that the fee of $35 was for an overdue shop which had absolutely no bonus even though tomorrow is next month. And then there is the $7 shop at a UPS store now bonused to $10 with all sorts of requirements, a round trip of 6 miles that would take me 25 minutes in traffic, and a 15 minute wait in line before getting to the clerk and asking all sorts of strange questions. No, even with the bonus that job would get me about $5 per hour if all the stars were aligned that day. After taxes $3 an hour.
No give me a reimbursement for something I actually want to buy and you can keep the $3 fee. I would take it if offered but really it makes such a small difference to me after taxes.
If you have ever read any of my posts, you know I am quite fond of old adages, but not just because I am old; they,concisely address truth. For today, I submit one that is, in addition to being an adage, the title of a beautiful melody, "To Each His/Her Own." Adding a slight paraphrasing for the 21st century.
ACL also insults our intelligence by loudly advertising their so-called Lottery if you do more of their no fee shops.
I did a few restaurant shops somewhat regularly for ACL before Covid. They haven’t returned and I haven’t shopped with them since Covid. I liked the restaurants but that’s not the only reason I worked with ACL. You never know what’s coming down the pike. I also wanted to maintain self-assign status and I saw assignments for potential new clients.

It’s been so long since I shopped with them, so I don’t know if I’ll still be able to self assign. Just looked at their September shops and every one is wait list only. There are shops with fees, though not surprisingly, not any eateries. Irrelevant for me, as we’re still quite particular about dining in.
In my market they have mostly restaurant shops and many of them are either delivery or pick up. One of them no one ever takes. It is the same location as a ghost kitchen and run by the same restaurant client as the other burger restaurant I did but at least on yelp the burger one that is taken the first minute they appear on the website has a 4 star rating, the one that no one seems to want has a 1 star rating. It has been that way for a very long time. I think that particular chicken place should change their offerings or close down. I have never seen a bonus on the job but that place, at the end of August still had almost all of the job offerings still there. In this day and age of healthy eating, esp in a place like Los Angeles, this restaurant only has fried chicken. I think if they added some grilled chicken more people would want to eat their food. But who am I to tell them what to do?. I do not even want to take the job so I can comment thru the food ratings part of the report.
I Have done several shops for ACL for fees and fees and reimbursements. May just be your market. I NEVER do reimbursement only shops unless it is for something I was already going to purchase.

A Dad shopping the Ark-LA-Tex and beyond.
I have worked for them for years.
I know for a fact I am I a large market with zero competition.
Zero fees. Reimbursement only.
I turn down most. Gave up when I did a sit down twice and both times editor said did you take give shop pics. Well jist so happened I did but they were NOT on the list, complained twice and her response twice well You should know we want that, no questions on form and no notes to take it, not sure how I should KNOW it

I Have done several shops for ACL for fees and fees and reimbursements. May just be your market. I NEVER do reimbursement only shops unless it is for something I was already going to purchase.[/quote]
I have not done an ACL shop the past five years or so, because they pay nearly nothing and expect lots of work. I'm not keen to have them keep my $75 restaurant shop expenditure for a month weeks while I wait for ACL reimbursement. Nor will I do a restaurant shop and write a report for a measly $8 pay. Their website is not user friendly at all. I do jobs for money, and I cannot make a decent wage with ACL, "Home of the $8 shops."
I have tried a few of these and have decided that I just don't enjoy myself. I spend so much time focused on the details that I can't enjoy the company and the meal. That makes it work, not a life benefit. In that idea, I look at the reimbursement differently. The actual cost to the restaurant is the 25% food cost, so even a $150 reimbursement is only a $40 cost to the restaurant. So, if a 2 hour shop and an hour for report, they get one heck of a deal. I would rather just enjoy my experience.
I think it must be a market thing, in my area ACL offers a lot of shops with pretty good fees (the kind I do for them do not usually involve purchases, so no reimbursements.) They are very particular and the questionnaires are long, but it can be worth it especially at the time of month when things are being bonused.
They send me a text once a week asking me to do a no-fee overnight hotel evaluation in a small town that is about 85 miles away from me. It is very remote and not on the way to anywhere. Other MSC's pay between $35 and $100 as PAYMENT to do much easier and faster evaluations in that area. Why would they think anyone would go there to do a hotel for free? They have lost their mind. It's been on the board for 4 months, so it's not going to get done unless they decide to pay. I send the same answer every single time that I'm not going to drive out there without any payment. They thank me and tell me they can't pay anything. They are out of touch with reality.
Four months? That's insane. They must have a reason as to why they aren't paying a fee for it.

"I told myself to quit you; but I don't listen to drunks." -Chris Stapleton
I have no idea. Every time they contact me, Itell them that I would consider doing it for $50 if they gave me a decent enough window to find some other shops to do in the area. Every time, they come back and tell me they can't pay anything. And it sits and it sits and it sits. Maybe they have a deal with the client where only a certain percentage of the locations have to be done, and that percentage has already been met. Who knows.

@HonnyBrown wrote:

Four months? That's insane. They must have a reason as to why they aren't paying a fee for it.
I use no-fee hotel overnights, paying with the credit card associated with that hotel chain's rewards program, and prefer ACL's reimbursement to having the charges reversed (resulting in no rewards points) by the hotel client. This provides me with several free overnight stays per year for personal/pleasure travel or even to use to support very profitable 2-3 day routes.

Remember, the value of my rewards points stays is non-taxable, unlike the fees for other hotel stays where the charges are reversed.

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.
The other issue with this location is that it is part of a chain that I never stay at. These points wouldn't be worth anything to me.
Fine, but that is not ACL's fault.

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.
It is not worth doing hotel shops for only 1 night. You will wind up doing inspections and reports all day and night. Some of those do not even pay for dinner or breakfast. It is ridiculous. Other MSC's like Coyle, it is always a minimum of 2 nights. I have done 3 nights, with generous reimbursements for meals, plural.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/03/2021 10:57PM by ShopperFun99.
This location would be about $109 a night, so I would end up getting 1090 points. There is a double points promotion going on, so I would get 2180 points. Free nights with this chain start at 10,000 points, but they are very hard to find. Most locations are 20,000 to 30,000 points. So, I would be getting enough points to pay for 7% to 20% of a future night. That's not nearly enough to make me want to drive 170 miles round trip with no pay. Even if I was active in this location's loyalty program, it still wouldn't come anywhere close to making the trip worth it for no pay. I can't even see it being worth it if it was next door to my house. I could just stay home and not have to worry about writing 10 paragraphs of narrative for no pay.

Obviously this is worth it to some people. I will never understand their motivations, but I've given up trying. I know there are hotels that are much more expensive that provide better point earning potential. I also know that there are hotels that are in much more exciting areas. Maybe those are worth it. But the idea that ACL thinks somebody is going to want to drive into the far northwestern corner of Oklahoma to do a narrative intensive hotel evaluation for no pay is insulting.

@walesmaven wrote:

Fine, but that is not ACL's fault.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/05/2021 09:20PM by thunderdeacon.
Now, ACL posts shops where it is impossible to do the shop for less than the reimbursement amount in addition to no fees. It is shady.
Yeah, I would not do them until they offer a fee, and it has to be higher than $5. $3 fee is a joke.
@JimmyP wrote:

Now, ACL posts shops where it is impossible to do the shop for less than the reimbursement amount in addition to no fees. It is shady.
It could be the result of desperation on their part. How to become desperate in 3 easy steps:
1. A MSC bids too low to get contracts.
2. That MSC now cannot afford to pay shoppers a realistic fee.
3. Said MSC becomes so desperate that it resorts to sneaky, shady tricks to get shops completed.
Unrelated but for some reason now I can not find the button to like posts anymore. Am I missing something?
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