Harland Clarke

Many of us think of this company as a boutique MSP offering high paying bank and credit union shops. However, mystery shopping is only a small part of what Harland Clarke offers.

Originating more than 100 years ago, this $1.2 billion dollar company offers a wide range of services for the financial industry. More than 11,000 clients take advantage of consulting services such as marketing assistance, regulation compliance, and merger assistance. Those clients also have available additional services such as call centers, payment services involving debit and credit card service, and check printing services for both banks and consumers.

It employees more than 4,100 people in various locations around the country. Some of those employees handle more than 13 million calls at its call centers. The company’s main website is here http://www.harlandclarke.com.

The mystery shopping portion of the business is relatively small and is conducted in an unusual manner. There is no job board. Registered shoppers will receive emails announcing shops in their area.

Fees are higher than the norm. I have seen fees in the range of $15 to $60. Also, fees are supplemented by an on-time and to-standard bonus called an incentive that is also variable in amount. I have seen those in the range of $5 to $25 or more. These fees and incentives can rise as the shops get closer to the client’s deadline. Mileage of $.36 per mile is also often offered. Shops are a perse blend of smaller banks and credit unions around the United States. Interested shoppers may apply by responding to the email with a mileage estimate for conducting the shop(s) in the application.

Shoppers report schedulers will usually respond with either an award of shops or a notice they were awarded to another shopper. However, more recent posts state the latter notice was sometimes not received. The email awarding shops will be accompanied by relevant documents including the questionnaires. Shoppers also report that unannounced rotation preferences may result in shops being awarded to another shopper. Shoppers may apply here http://www.harlandclarke.com/solutions/marketing/mystery-shop/become-a-shopper.

The relatively high pay contributes to many shoppers singing this company’s praise. Many posts from long-time forum members call schedulers responsive and are great to work for. Narratives are longer than some as they are to tell a story reporting all the observations, not just the ‘no’ answers. One shopper called working for them like being a part of the team, not like a disposable number.

However, working for this company is not without some curiosities. As recently as 2008, a shopper tells us reporting was done by fax, or scan and email. Today, it is done by an on-line system that the same aforementioned shopper called, “clumsy and archaic.”

Feedback is minimal in that you hear from them only if they need further information. The website has no documentation about past shops or payment status. Shoppers state phone contact has better success than emails.

Payment is quick, coming two to three weeks after invoice submission, except when it is not. There are multiple reports of shoppers having to chase the payment. However, those same reports state that one reminder is enough to result in a payment two to three weeks later and are of the opinion that it is more of an oversight than a serious problem.

I applied in 2008 as a new shopper. The response was along the lines of we will contact you if needed. After being solicited by an MSPA email in 2013, I reapplied. That email stated a preference for MSPA certified shoppers or shoppers with experience shopping financial institutions. The second application from a then experienced shopper was accepted. The acceptance letter included a handbook with a sample shop report and a w9 form to submit. Emails have been received nearly monthly for shops in my area. Their weekday shops have not yet fit into this part-time shopper’s schedule. The materials in the acceptance letter are clear and detailed. I find the length and complexity of the sample narratives about average for bank shops in my experience. They sometimes post jobs on the forum.

In conclusion, I wish I could be more available for shops from this company, or their shops would better fit my schedule. The high pay and high praise by forum members are quite attractive. From the instructions, sample reports and comments from shoppers on the forum, the pay seems good for the work involved. That can compensate for the fact the website is not quite up to date. For those interested in bank and credit union shops, Harland Clarke is one to have in your repertoire.

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