Certain shops or types of shops are not money-makers. Oil change shops that provide reimbursement without a fee is one example. Restaurant shops with little to no fee providing some or whole reimbursement is another. Hotel shops that pay a $25-$100 fee plus reimbursement for about two full days of work for a one night stay is yet another. There are of course exceptions to these generalizations, but the common feature is that these types of shops usually provide fees that are well below minimum wage compensation for the time spent. Yet shoppers keep doing them. Why is this?
Things beyond the fee are part of the compensation for these shops. Oil change shops provide the chance to get a needed service. Restaurant shops often allow the shopper to enjoy a good meal and to share that experience with a guest. Hotel shops allow the shopper and companion to enjoy a getaway that can include luxurious amenities like spa treatments, fine dining, room service, and the like.
For these types of shops, especially hotel and resort shops, we are clearly discussing what shoppers sometimes refer to as ‘life enhancement shopping.’
Amusement Advantage is not the only company that offers these types of shops. Because it confines its offerings to ‘fun’ shops like amusement parks, which offer monetary compensation that is meant to only reimburse for necessary expenses, it often generates questions on the forum along the lines of, “Are their shops worth it?” This article will explore that question using real numbers to help answer that question.
Amusement Advantage offers services that include mystery shopping to what they call the ‘attractions’ industry. This includes amusement parks, water parks, zoos, aquariums, bowling centers, and more. As you can see, these are places that many people would take the family for an outing of fun and enjoyment. For mystery shops, their monetary compensation is about equal to the required expenses. They also offer a $5 early return bonus for shops submitted by 10 AM Arizona time the next day. For one of their shops I was paid $110 (including the $5 early return bonus) that had $106.50 in out of pocket expenses and $63 in mileage expenses for a total loss of $59.50. Really, you did a shop that cost you $59.50? Yes, I did. If all shops compensated in such a manner it would make no sense and would eventually get the IRS to reclassify each of our businesses as a hobby. However, let us look at that shop a little closer.
- Pre-shop time (includes preparation, pre-shop phone call and web site visit): 2 hours
- Drive time to and from shop 2 hours
- Onsite visit 4 hours
- Reporting time 2.5 hours
- Total: 10.5 hours
$ Spent & Earned
- Fee $110.00
- Necessary out of pocket expenses (tickets, parking, food, gift shop) $-106.50
- Mileage Expense (109 miles) $-63.00
- Total fee ($110.00 minus total expenses of $169.50) $-59.50
Some might say the mileage does not really count and say I made $3.50 for 10.5 hours of work. At best, I earned a whopping 33 cents an hour.
Another view would be to say I was going there anyway.
With that view, I spent 4.5 hours to prepare for and report the shop. That works out to an hourly wage of $24.44 ($110 fee divided by 4.5 hours).
What is the true value? I think it best to say there are different viewpoints of this type of shop.
There were also additional considerations. The first was the attraction itself. It was something my guest and I wanted to experience. We might have done it regardless of a mystery shop being available. I also got the tax benefits of applying that loss to my otherwise profitable business. On the down side I could have used the day for profitable shops. I also needed a companion that would go along with the game plan to make all the required observations.
For me, the true value of this shop was closer to making $24.44 an hour for 4.5 hours rather than losing $59.50 for the day. This is because we enjoyed it and were able to fit the required observations in with little diversion from the actual enjoyment of the attraction. However, this is a purely subjective conclusion. Personally, I do these shops once in a while to enjoy the attraction at a discounted price.
Are these shops worth it?
If you wanted to do these shops everyday to make a profit, the answer is clearly no. However, because each of us will place a value on the non-monetary compensation of the shop, I think the best answer is to say it largely depends on your desire to go to the attraction.