From the Mailbag

Last week’s e-book on route shopping brought in a few questions, so I’ll tackle them here.

DG wrote: I want to thank you for the Mystery Shopper Magazine that you send me and the book The Mystery Shopper Magazine Guide To Route Shopping For Mystery Shoppers. I have learned a lot and have used the information on the shops I perform. I do have two questions from the book. What equipment do you use on your shops? You mention some equipment for the video shops but what do you use on the road for the non video shops. I am sure one is a laptop. What do you use for the receipts and to print out the shops? The other question is, how do I learn about video shopping? I need to know what I need and how to perform them. Thank you again for the great help you have provided me. I appreciate it.

Thanks for the questions, DG. For non-video shops, assuming I am in a single party consent state [which is where 99%+ of my non-video shops occur], my equipment is the laptop, a digital voice recorder [mine is a Sony that has a USB cord to connect it to the computer. Some shoppers recommend voice recorders that have the USB connection on the unit itself as it’s one less thing to keep track of], and my Nikon D60 DSLR set on low resolution. I use the camera to take pictures of the receipts. I know there are shoppers who use their cell phone cameras, and I’ve done that in an emergency, but I have a difficult time holding the cell phone steady–it’s too lightweight. Having shot photos for over 40 years using everything from 35mm to 4×5, the “muscle memory” for holding a camera steady is well ingrained in my arms, so that is why a camera is my choice to copy receipts on the road. Neat [www.neat.com] also makes a portable scanner [$179.95 msrp] for receipt scanning. If I know that I’ll have full sheets of paper to scan, then I’ll bring my flatbed scanner along.

As far as printing out shops, I do that before I leave. I use my mapping software to get the shops into the most efficient order, then I sort the paperwork the same way. If I have more than 2-3 days, I’ll put each day [in order] into a 9×12 clasp envelope, and then transfer the envelope to my posse box for the day. At the end of the day, after shooting the receipts, everything goes back into the envelope. There have been a couple of shops where I’ve had some light days, i.e. I was limited by the MSC to three shops per day. In a case like that, I’ll bring my printer with me [HP1020] and look for additional shops when I’m checked in to the hotel or campground.

As far as video shopping, I’m working with several video shoppers on a “Complete Guide to Video Shopping e-book. Until that is ready for the light of day, let me offer this guidance. Never, ever, do a video shop until you have done a conventional shop of the same type. I had a route that included 8-10 video “senior living” shops. I took it, never having done a senior living shop before. I was so thankful that the scheduler was working with me on those shops…that made all the difference. Second, there are several MSCs that will loan equipment for the shops [EPMS, MeasureCP, and Sinclair come to mind]. Do 8-10 shops with borrowed equipment to make sure that video is right for you. I admit, I kinda dove into video and purchased my PV-500 after doing my third shop, but I also saw some advantages to having the undercover video capability for my photography business. Lastly, do a search on www.mysteryshopforum.com for “video shopping” and search “all dates” and you’ll come up with all relevant threads. I would also add that, if you’re asked to do a video shop in one of the two-party consent states, that your first question to the scheduler be, “Have the employees all signed consent forms to be recorded on the job?” That consent form effectively “overrides” the state law saying you can’t record someone without their permission.

KN asked: I enjoyed reading your article. You were very insightful and the article was informative. I’m new to mystery shopping and would like to get very serious about it. What is your yearly earnings? (Round park figure)

I’m earning 5 figures a year. Suffice to say that I’m earning enough to pay the bills and put something in the bank each month.

That wraps up the mailbag for this issue.

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