Friday, September 26, 2008

Certification: Why?

Lila P. from Athens, GA asks,
"On the MSPA website, I saw stuff about certification. What is it and is it something I need to do?"
Certification is a step that can set you apart as a mystery shopper. The MSPA has two levels of certification: silver and gold. The silver test is done on their site online and takes about an hour. As of this entry, the cost of the silver certification is $15 and is tax-deductible as relevant business training. The silver certificate indicates that you know the basics of mystery shopping. The test is so simple and inexpensive, I recommend it to every shopper who has reached the point of making a profit from their shops.

Gold certification has just recently joined us in the 21st century. In past years, you would need to travel to a nearby large city and attend classes to prepare for the gold certification exam. Depending on where you live and if the travel and seminar dates were convenient for you, the $100 testing fee could be the smallest part of the expense involved. In 2008, MSPA released a DVD version of their gold certification seminar. It is easy to watch the DVD at your convenience in your own home, take notes and then use the provided link for gold certification testing. Once you purchase the DVDs, a link is sent to your email for testing. You must purchase the DVDs from MSPA to receive the link. As of this entry, the cost of the gold certification DVD program is $99 plus shipping.

The gold seminars are still being held, and many shoppers who have attended felt it was a valuable experience. You can't get to know other shoppers in your living room like you could at a seminar. Some seminars have representatives from mytery shopping companies, offering shoppers and companies the chance to meet face-to-face.

The gold seminar includes the nitty gritty details of mytery shopping that often mark the difference between a casual and a professional shopper. You'll learn important details about tax preparation, audio and video recording, and tips for writing a "perfect 10" narrative.

Do you need the gold certification, Lila? Yes and no. Often, shoppers holding gold certification will be preferred over those with no or silver certification, but then only by certain companies or only for certain jobs. It can put you in a group of shoppers considered for higher paying jobs. With other companies it will make no difference whatsoever. The $99 you'll put out for the DVDs can't be recouped by reselling the DVDs, but you can use it as a tax-deduction. You'll need to budget for this business expense, save up, and make the investment in your future only after you know you enjoy mystery shopping enough to continue with it.

Most mystery shopping companies have a place on their application for your certificate level and number. If you change your email address after receiving your certification, you will need to notify MSPA for a new certification number, then update any mystery shopping companies that have your certification number on file.

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