Written by jpgilham
I’m not from round these parts. I’m from a country called New Zealand where our closest neighbors are Australia and the Antartica. In fact, from my home in Timaru, New Zealand, I could look out my kitchen window onto the beach and see penguins. Pretty much everywhere in New Zealand is next to a beach.
I came to the USA in 2005 and had never heard of mystery shopping before. It was while I was working as a Corporate Comptroller for a data/voice communications company that I first heard of it and was quite intrigued. I resigned from that position to write a book (available on Amazon!) and continue an advanced degree and thought that it might be a good way to earn some money and help pay the bills while I was in College.
Like everything I do, I researched it thoroughly. That was how I found the mystery shopper forum and nearly tripled my income. I’ve heard people say on the forum that mystery shopping won’t pay the bills, well guess what, it can and does. It’s all up to you and how much time and energy you’re prepared to put into it.
I started off small with Corporate Research and was terrified the first few shops I did. I seem to recall they paid $1 with a $4 reimbursement and I thought that was fantastic in my gas guzzler Ford Explorer (yes I’m an accountant but I’m stupid sometimes). It didn’t take me too long (about 6 months) before I got wise to it and started doing them on my motorcycle! I have long since traded the Ford Explorer in and purchased an economical Chevy Cruze I had shopped many times at dealerships and I take much more profitable shops these days.
I guess my favorite companies are Harland Clarke and Maritiz. Harland Clarke because the commissions are generous, they get some great bonuses at times and also there are times you can claim for your mileage and Maritz because I like the nature of the assignments. Word to the wise with Maritz though, don’t ever flake because they’re not real forgiving of this. I no longer do a lot of work for Corporate Research (now Stericycle) because I find their commissions are just too low. Only once have I been burned on a shop and that was for Freeman who never paid me for a Hotel shop and subsequently went out of business.
Some good advice I can give, is never do a shop where you can’t afford to be out the reimbursement and it’s an item/product/service you don’t actually want. If the reimbursement is $100 and you mess up on the shop, then you’re out the $100. I also find there is enough work that I don’t take targeted assignments (except in the case of video shops where I can make an appointment with the target) and I don’t take assignments where the MSC takes over 2 months to pay.
Mostly I shop in Western North Carolina, although I do venture into Tennessee, South Carolina and Virginia, but not very often. I’ve never done a shop more than 5 hours away and if I do travel that far the shop needs to be enough to cover a hotel. Mostly I only travel these distances for video shops and I do a handful of them every month.
I do the best I can do. I’ve only flaked once and it was because of weather and I take the job seriously but I always remember that this is mystery shopping and not brain surgery. Relax, take it easy and enjoy what you’re doing.