13 Assignments that Mystery Shoppers Love to Hate

There are some “nightmare” mystery shopping assignments that most shoppers avoid like the plague. The Swedish Furniture Store shops are the classic example.

Many shoppers hate doing Purchase and Return Shops.

Oddly, these assignments continue to exist. Which means some shoppers don’t hate them after all.

Here is a list of 13 undesirable shopping assignments.

Are these shops on your 10-fooot-pole list? Or do you enjoy them?

  1. Purchase and Return Shops.

This is where the shopper does two shops for the price of one. You go inside the store, purchase the item and must return the item between 10 minutes and 2 days later, depending on the assignment. You do twice the work, for the same single pay (often low pay like $10) and then you have to try to save your receipt (copy or scan) before you go back inside, because oftentimes, the clerk takes the original receipt and does not return it to you, yet, you are required to have both the purchase and return receipts.


  1. Partial Reimbursement Shops/cost does not cover shop expense.

You purchase lunch, dinner, a pair of shoes, a clothing item, etc., and each are required purchases for your unique shop, but yet, your reimbursement does not cover what you just spent. You now are digging into your shop fee. Let’s say your shop fee was $10 and your reimbursement was $10. If your item cost $13.00, you have really only made $7 on the shop. Nobody is going to give you more than your set reimbursement. These shops, should you decide to them, need to have a bonus.


  1. Shops in Bad Neighborhoods.

You see yellow crime tape and bars on windows in the neighborhood that you are going to shop. You wonder what that white-chalk outline is on the street and then you realize it’s the form of a human body! What is that dark red stain flowing down into the gutter? Did someone get shot? You don’t know …but now, there are 4 thugs standing on the corner staring at you—and your relatively new car. You feel so uncomfortable! What should you do? Complete the shop or high-tail it out of there! Each shopper will gauge their bravery at this moment. But no shop is worth risking your life.


  1. Polls/Exit Audits.

You stand outside and chase each customer from the cell phone store (you want to ask them some questions about their experience inside) and they look so annoyed. You ask if they will answer a few questions? 90% say they don’t have time and they do mind talking to you….so they get inside their car and drive way. The other 10% go along with your survey, but there are so many questions, that they start looking around and trying to find their “exit out” of your survey. You need to stand outside in 109 degrees heat and are not allowed to go back in the store, for any reason. You tough it out and think about the $25 bucks you are earning. You wish you had the inside-store poll, like at the Big Box Electronics store. But you don’t. You picked this one. Some shoppers do these exit surveys over and over again because they DO get a bonus of up to $50. But still, it’s a tedious, kind of thankless, boring job standing outside for one hour.


  1. Bank Shops paying less than $15.

Bank jobs require lots of observations and requirements to have certain key-subjects covered, in addition to a business card, name-capture and full description of the associate. Some banking associates seem less than willing to help and sometimes they are very eager to help you. If you get a banker that looks bored and is not covering a lot of the areas, then you have a longer report to do because you have to answer all the “no’s” But then again, most banking assignments require extensive narrative and you need that banker to cover these areas, hopefully he/she does!


  1. High Pressure Health Club Shops.

You want to get healthy. Maybe you will consider this particular health club/gym for later consideration but for today, you are assigned to pretend like you are ready to join. You go inside, maybe you have a target, but they are not there. Where are they? You need to speak with them. The other associate says they will be there shortly. You wait. You wait some more. They never show. What do you do now? Call your scheduler, of course and hope she/he answers the phone. In any case, you follow the guidelines. You may be required to shop any other associate if your target is MIA. Is this going to be high pressure, with a trainer pushing you to sign up for a year’s worth of personal training? What are all these promises you are given by the gym? Will you really be able to walk way with no contract? You have quite a report to do, according to some shoppers.


  1. Car Shops paying less than $35

Most car shops are sadly under-paid for the amount of work you need to do. Some of the shops pay a paltry $17. You have a lot to capture at this dealership. After you get your salesperson (sometimes targeted) you have to walk the lot and go through different cars (unless you have a target car-like a Nissan Versa, as example). Then you find your car and usually they want to walk you back inside and spend a lot of time telling you about the car. You hope they take you back out and ask you for a test drive. They finally do take you back out to the car but still have not suggested a test drive. You get lucky. He does suggest a test drive! So, you go for a ride and the salesperson shows you all the features of the car. You finally get done with that and he wants to talk about your trade-in, financing, and a final price with discounts. He has to leave and get someone to look at your trade-in. He has to consult his sales manager about the deal he has offered you. You are then required to ask for the “THE BEST DEAL” The salesperson has to go back inside and ask for the lowest best deal price. They still have your car-keys and license. You wait and wait some more. Finally, he gives you the best price. You ask for your keys. He seems worried. Why the hurry? Well, maybe because you have a life and want to get to your next shops! You get your trade-in estimate, your license and your keys back. You are trying to get the heck out of there now!  He promises he will call you. BOY does he call you! This shop is not hours long, it feels like days!


  1. Targeted Apartment Shops

You decide to take the Targeted Apartment Shop because it has a nice bonus. You must call and ask for Cindy–your target. Cindy is not there. You are asked to call again, a total of 3 more times. You call again later, Cindy is showing an apartment. You wait and call again. Cindy went to lunch. You have made your 3 calls. The client and scheduler want you to try for 2 more days. You call again. Cindy is off. You wait to the next day. Cindy has been terminated. You ask what to do next? They tell you to shop any agent. But what about all those calls you made? You won’t be reimbursed for any of the admin time you spent on making those calls. You go to the apartment shop and pick any agent. This agent is new and forgets to show you the pool, laundry facilities, mail box, club house, trash dumpster area and playground. You have a lot of “no’s” and this requires a more extensive report. This targeted shop is one of the shoppers least favorites. I believe we have all experienced the targeted shop at one time or another.


  1. Time Share Shops

Wow! This should be exciting! You get to go to a luxury vacation resort, have free lunch, listen to a long speech about the new property and take a tour of the facility. This should be fun. No! It’s a lot of monotony and high pressure sales, if you get through all of it and don’t end up purchasing one of the worst real estate investments ever, you wonder if you will get that free lunch? Does your timeshare require you to take it to the end, even signing sale papers? (client would void sale) even so, not worth all the managers that you get to pressure you on different levels and report ALL sales interactions. It would be just easier to go to one on your own, get a free tote bag and then walk away.


  1. Gas shops that pay $4 or less.

I think as newbies, we all might have taken the low paying gas shops. Some require pictures (overall station picture and main ID sign) and some require an in-store purchase, as well as gas. To give you an idea: You must purchase 2 gallons of gas. Let’s say gas is $3.00 a gallon. That is $6.00 for gas. (gas prices have climbed 50 cents here in 7 days) You are only reimbursed $5 total for gas and in-store purchase. Now, you are in the hole (unless your shop has a bonus). You have to find the cheapest thing in the store to buy, usually I buy a banana or a small box of to-go cereal. (both about the same price) as another shopper mentioned, office supplies like a pencil or pen. (good for requesting a receipt) Then you have to ask for an inside receipt. A receipt for a banana? I try to buy a couple of things like the cereal and banana. Always a loss-leader on that one. It is very hard to get 2 gallons of gas and something in the store and stay at $5 bucks. But thankfully, I have never had a weird stare for requesting a receipt. They actually have their hand on the receipt, ready to toss it and ask, “Would you like a receipt?” YES! The gas pump is not a problem because it prints out a receipt when you pay by credit card, (unless you have a problem, in which case, you have to go inside and ASK for your gas receipt). I won’t take a gas shop unless the fee is $10 or higher plus the reimbursement.


  1. “Single-Digit” Fee Shops.

Any single digit fee shop irks many shoppers. Like the $7.50 cell phone shop or the $4 grocery fee shop. I am mixed about this. I like the grocery shops if I am in the area and can get great produce. I might take the low paying cell phone shop if it works out but normally get a decent bonus, but I much prefer and make it a point, to not take too many single digit paying shops. With gas and time expended, you might as well just stay home. Some shoppers would not dream of taking any shop under $20. Every shopper is different and what they are trying to accomplish. I take a mix. I take them mostly if they have a bonus. Some shops are single digit and do NOT ever have a bonus like the Salsa picture/Trash Can picture-burrito shop.


  1. 100/200 item Clothing Audits.

I have not taken these only because the fee would need to be much higher for me to go in and count clothes. Or sizes. Or prices. These invariably seem to run at $12-17 and that fee is too low. There might be some shoppers out there who like these clothing audits and get through it fast. I felt that way about the Green Grocery Shops….once I got the hang of them, I took more and more …


  1. Full Store OOS (Out of Stock ) Grocery Audits.

I have done these and it takes a friendly relationship with the store manager to make this go quick. Of course, I had a bonus with it, but for me, after doing about 5 of these, I got burned out. I have not done one in over 2 years now. You go in and count all the OOS items in many departments and/or center store. This felt like too much work for me. I have not seen these in a while.


In closing, we all have our favorite shops. Some shoppers love the gas stations, some love the banks. I don’t love either one. Give me a good fast casual anytime! But, that is what makes us each different. Thank you shopper for liking bank shops! Someone needs to do those. I do them but it’s rare now. Having done over 100 banks for one client, I got a little burned out on banks. I’ll get back to them eventually. As I said earlier, what you may dislike, another shopper just absolutely loves!






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