Featured Shopper: Walesmaven

Forum Alias: Walesmaven

How long have you been mystery shopping? Since 2005.

Where are you shopping? I regularly shop routes from Virginia to New York, occasionally getting into the Carolinas and Florida.

What got you started? I was planning to travel the country in my retirement years. No matter how I tweaked my anticipated budget, I came up about $400 shy of my minimum comfort level. I read a bit about mystery shopping and paid, I think, about $15.00 for a list of legitimate MSCs. Had I found either of the big MS forums, I would never have spent a dime for what I could have had for free. (Lesson # 1.)

Soon I was clearing about $200 per month, doing a lot of $8-12 shops, and not working very hard. MSPA offered a day long seminar for Gold Certification, just a mile from me. At that conference I met reps from a locally owned video shopping company and I have never looked back. (Lesson # 2: video shopping is not evaluating Blockbuster stores!)

My monthly net more than doubled just from beginning to video shop, and I added more income and reduced shop stress by 75% by using the many ideas that I got from networking with shoppers and schedulers. (Lesson # 3: Some folks learn fastest and best in a workshop setting.)

Fast forward to 2007. Enter the great recession. It definitely turned out to be the right time to jettison my second career in residential real estate. Well, I have started over several times in my life, so I had to let go of one dream and prepare to AIP (Age in Place) with as much grace as I could muster.

I redoubled my marketing efforts by signing up with at least 5-10 MSCs on any day when I did not have a shop scheduled. I began calling about ten schedulers (mostly video MS folks) on a regular basis, to ask about future shops and to share positive news related to the MS world. (Lesson # 4: network, network, network.)

I also got serious about following MS forums and contributing to them. Soon I was involved in the evolution of the first Independent Mystery Shopping Coalition (IMSC) conference in Las Vegas. My interactions with schedulers and MSC executives helped me to double my MS income in the following year. Moreover, I became passionate about shopper education, for and by shoppers.

What was your first assignment and how did it go?My first shop was a platform shop at Bank of America and my second was a fast food shop. I loved the bank shop, although I was quaking in my boots, and loathed the split second timing required for the FF shop. (Lesson #5, try almost anything once and don’t repeat experiences that you hate.)

What is your favorite type of assignment? About 80-90 percent of my shop income is from video. My favorite video shops are new homes and assisted living. I enjoy the challenges of developing characters and scenarios for these long format shops. I actually do not shop anywhere near full time due to physical limitations.

What kind of assignment haven’t you tried out yet? Ikea, funeral homes, merchandise audits.

What’s your biggest pet peeve with mystery shopping? Inconsistent/contradictory/ incomplete shop guidelines.

What’s your favorite MSC? In no particular order: Clear Evaluations, Instant Replays, A Closer Look, and Measure Consumer Perspectives.

MSPA Certification: Gold level.

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