Friday, June 27, 2008


Okay, so you've read all that came before and you're ready for a nutshell to decide: is this something you want to look more into? Here's a checklist I send to my friends, it's by no means complete, but is a pretty good "jumping off point" for further discussion and thought. The points are in no particular order.

What are your goals? Getting free merchandise? Having an occasional free meal out? Making enough for pocket change? Saving up for a vacation? Keep these goals in mind when choosing jobs.

Can you make enough and be diligent enough to set money aside to pay your tax liability? No kidding. You gotta do your homework on this one, the IRS doesn't accept "ignorance of tax law" or "I needed the money for gasoline" as good reasons for not getting their chunk.

Do you have money set aside for initial outlay? If not, you'll want to steer clear of shops that require purchases. Can you afford the required purchases and wait for reimbursement without breaking the bank?

What is your time availability, energy level and memory capacity? Are you better suited to one shop per day with two days off a week, or is it more your speed to do four shops in one day and only work one day a week? When calculating this, remember that you'll spend almost as much time online answering the after-shop survey as you do on the shop itself.

How much is your time worth? Calculate the cost of printing one page of a document, traveling one mile, spending five minutes in-store and one hour online. Use those figures to calculate each shop. If a shop pays $7, there is a 5 page form you need to print, the shop is 20 miles away, you have to spend 30 minutes in the store, interact with three employees, and has a long online report, are you sure you're making enough to make it worth your while? Are you going to have to stop and pick up dinner more often if you work in the afternoons? Will you have to pay a babysitter for times you aren't there to take care of the kids?

What do you LOVE and what do you not like? For example, some companies specialize in shopping apartment complexes. Do you just adore being in empty apartments, rearranging your furniture in your mind to fit the space, the smell of fresh paint and the look of newly cleaned carpet, or does the smell of fresh paint make you dizzy?

Are you reliable? Life sometimes happens, but the reputation you earn yourself will become known industry-wide. If you "flake" (accept assignments and not complete them) more than once or twice, you can be banned from doing business with certain companies.

Are you organized? There are records that must be kept daily, weekly and monthly. You will appreciate your efforts at tax-time, but are you willing and able to commit to it?

Can you follow instructions thoroughly without improvising, if needed? There are many shops that require you to follow a precise script. Others encourage improvising on a scenario, but you need to know the difference and be able to follow the instructions. If you do not follow the exact instructions on a shop, there is a great likelihood you will not be paid or reimbursed for purchases made. These instructions can include what to wear, what to say, when to go, who to talk to, what to purchase, what to look for, a veritable myriad of details. Consider yourself warned.

Can you set up a separate bank account, credit card and email address to be used strictly for mystery shopping? Although not a hard and fast rule, this will be very helpful, especially at tax-time, by keeping business and personal expenses separate.

How attentive are you to detail? Some shops I have performed required twenty yes or no questions, three stopwatch timings and a 300 word narrative (a paragraph telling the story of the interaction) on a thirty-second drive-through experience!

Can you write correctly? Correct spelling, grammar and punctuation are essential on shop forms. Spell check, while helpful, will not be sufficient for meeting the requirements of the industry.

Do you have the necessary equipment? Mystery shopping companies will usually provide specialized equipment like scales, thermometers or calipers if they are needed. But you need a digital camera, scanner and fax machine. Not all of these will be required for every job. A computer, cell phone, home phone and reliable email program are essential.

Next time, some surprising considerations.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi. I've been a Mystery Shopper in NYC for 8 years now.
I make 1700 a month and 300 in reimbursement...
But you are right; I have to be highly organized. I sometimes work 7 days a week.
I do love it because I can work while my 12 year old is in school and do reports on my laptop when he is home and in front of the house playing with his friends. I can listen to music; cook at the same time; while I enter reports.
And you are right; it does not cover my whole income; I have a tenant downstairs and another one that rents my garage; and I get good child support.
I also get Health Insurance through my ex-husband.
NYC is expensive.. any borough (and I'm not even in Manhattan).
Oh and 300 of the 1700 is not from Mystery Shopping .. actually it is from being a sale freelance rep for a harddrive company. (but still freelance work and reading and entering reports).
I love Mystery Shopping and I get all my clothes; including coats; shoes; (not good sneakers); on the sale racks.. the reduced racks; you are allowed to buy things on sale when doing jobs; and I get great items on very reduced prices.
I also wear a lot of Maternity clothes in Size Small (and get thongs and tights that way; and slippers); that no one thinks is Maternity clothing.. they make them so modern looking.

Sorry about bad grammar.. I save my good grammar for when I'm doing reports.. lol.
I do word check and grammar check too. (both).

this blog is GREAT... !!