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Man of Mystery – part 2 of 3: Does Mystery Shopping Pay? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Shiftless   
Monday, 05 March 2007

I have heard that more focused mystery shoppers – those who do it as their main work, or at least a more major source of income, have many tips and tricks to improve their productivity. For example, they might sign up to do the same “shop” in many locations on the same day. This means they only need to review the training once and then execute it over and over again while it is fresh in their minds. Then they plan their driving route to minimize the mileage and time spent between the assignments. This approach can maximize the effective pay per hour spent, however, the downside is that the goods that you buy might not be of value to you in quantity. Just imagine buying 20 fast-food drive-through meals in the same day (“Supersize me,” anyone?)


There are also large ticket shopping assignments, however. For example, I have taken an assignment to go shopping for cars. (No, I did not get reimbursed for buying one. In my dreams!). That particular assignment had me shop several dealerships and file separate reports for each. I figured at the time that I spent 4 hours on it in total and they paid me well over $100, a very nice hourly rate compared to pulling espresso shots.


Other medium to large ticket assignments can come up if you have particular skill. For example, I know someone who quite by chance came across a testing organization that I think of as the “sniff testers.” The sniff testers were flagging down shoppers in a shopping mall and asking them to take a survey and get paid a nominal amount to give their opinion on a new fragrance.


So the person I know gladly took their $5 for 5 minutes work, and then she found out that she could sign up for repeat work. As it turns out, the consumer aroma research company is in an out of the way, inconvenient industrial park. Since they do most of their testing during business hours, a lot of candidates are just not available when they need testing done. Because of the skimpy pool of sniffer talent, my smell-testing contact gets paid $25 per “nose job” as she puts it – and each time she can get there, do the sniff test, fill out any forms they require, get paid and get home in an hour. $25 an hour for a no-commitment, no-risk and minimal paperwork process.


In considering the financial value of doing mystery shopping jobs, be sure to keep really good thorough records. If you itemize on your taxes, then all of your auto mileage to and from a shopping job becomes a business expense and deductible. If you schedule your shopping jobs wisely, such as planning to do a shop near your work location just after or before a scheduled shift, then you can transform a commute that you had to do anyway into a deductible business expense. On top of that your home computer becomes a business tool too since you file shopper reports online.


Somehow, I have never found a mystery shopping company that ever invited me to do high end restaurant reviews, although I have signed up with over a dozen shopping firms and get opportunities from at least some of them every day. Too bad – I would love to get paid to have a $100 meal sometime. I have been invited to do hotel or casino mystery shops but did not do any – it would only make sense to do that if it was a trip that I wanted to take anyway. Otherwise it would take a whole day (or night) to complete the assignment and they weren’t paying enough for a day of my life.


All in all, then, Shiftless says – do the kind of mystery shopping that you want to do. Life is too short to go chasing a few bucks buying stuff you don’t need or shopping stores that don’t actually interest you in real life. If you can get paid to shop goods that you want anyway, then go for it. If you do too much of the same thing, it becomes rote and drives all the joy out of it.


You can also learn a lot about retail, or food service, or other businesses by looking at what the program asks you to measure. I have considered it a mini-education for me as I have seen just how many different businesses harp on things like conformity to the dress code, and maintaining very clean facilities, etc. Give it a try and you too can get paid to learn how to run a shop better.


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