Confessions of A First Year Shopper

Mystery shopping for me was great from the beginning. Football season is a big deal in our household and the Papa John’s pizza shops fit it well. For Saturdays, when I was out and about, there was always an MSC begging for a Sonic shopper. That was a year ago. Last month I shopped the Ritz Carlton with a requirement to order way too much food and alcohol. It was a good thing that I was required to spend the night!

I’ve come a long way from fast food shops, although they are still a part of my repertoire, especially when my grandchildren visit. We still do Papa Johns or maybe a fast food comparison shop. My 13 year old granddaughter has gotten so good at being my sidekick shopper that I have had to start paying her.

There are several factors that have gotten me where I am today. I started small. Before moving up to the higher paying shops, I learned the business. I learned what an MSC is, how to write short succinct reports (still working on that), how to put together a route, and what my limits are. I discovered and signed up with MSC’s, a tedious but valuable lesson.

I learned the hard way to memorize project guidelines. I think that every shopper has missed a critical point in the guidelines resulting in lost or reduced pay for the project, at one time or another. So I learned to read, re-read, then read the guidelines again. And for comfort, I take a digital copy of the guidelines with me so that I can read them once more before the shop. Understanding and hitting every point in the guidelines is paramount to getting paid.

It has helped that I am a project manager by training. This has made it easy for me to plan routes and especially time. Time is ultra-sensitive for me since I developed Multiple Sclerosis (the other MS) about 15 years ago. Extreme fatigue and brain fog can come on in a minute, sometimes causing me to forget my route. Planned and written routes have been the only way I could have completed several shops.

Another factor is my writing skill. I don’t mean spelling, because there are numerous spell checkers available for free. I mean the ability to put together coherent sentences and use correct grammar. Reports are sometimes difficult even with this skill. The yes/no reports are few, low paying, and far in-between.

Now I’m a numbers and computer person. I grew up with computers doing everything from programing mainframes to building and troubleshooting PC’s. Never messed with a mac J. So for me it was easy to be comfortable with computers and software. You may be able to upload the picture of a receipt from your smartphone to your email, but if you can’t upload the report, receipt, and perfectly sized pictures, in the MSC’s system, you can’t get paid. You must also be able to navigate different applications for different mystery shopping companies.

Over the past year I have worked to be known as dependable No scheduler wants to go through the process of reassigning a job and no editor wants to send emails back and forth trying to pull information from a shopper. I learned gradually how much information is too much or too little before getting it almost right. If I take a shop, I will make every effort to do it, even if lose money on it. If I am able, I will also take a twirky special request to help out a scheduler. Schedulers seem to remember me when the juicy shops come around.

My computer knowledge has helped me to develop and keep accurate records. While I believe that most people in our profession try to do their best, sometimes innocent mistakes can be made. I know that I’ve made maybe a half of one mistakeJ. A few payments have gone awry and not ended up in my bank account. Accurate records on my part have helped to put those funds where they should be.

Throughout the year I have developed relationships with others in the profession. I have developed relationships with schedulers and editors in an effort to help them help me. I communicate with other shoppers. My knowledge of mystery shopping has grown ten-fold by reading the forum and the Mystery Shopper Magazine. I have received help and advice from expert shoppers as I move forward with video shopping. It has been a great comfort over the year knowing where to go to get answers to questions that I have and also answers to questions I did not know that I had!

I learned to daydream, (even more). When I am at a bank in a small town 75 miles from where I live, I can daydream and say that I am shopping for a bank in the area where I am about to build my dream home, a place where I can retreat from the city. It could happen!

So for 2015 my goal is to make more and shop less. In a past Mystery Shopping Magazine I read an article where a “high income” shopper said that they steered away from “reimbursement heavy” shops and went mostly for the clear profit shops. I guess that means I have to let go of the “chocolate” shops!

Finally, in a nutshell here are the points from my first year of shopping.

  • Start small.
  • Memorize guidelines.
  • Plan time and routes.
  • Develop writing skills.
  • Become comfortable with computers and software.
  • Be dependable.
  • Develop and keep accurate records.
  • Develop relationships.

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