Being a shopper is one of the most interesting jobs that I have ever had in my employment career. But I have to keep in mind that it is a job, and I have to make sure that I am not just shopping for fun. My job has to show a profit.
The best parts of my being a shopper are that I have the opportunity to choose the type of assignments that I want to complete, interact with all kinds of people, write about it all, and get paid for it. Because I enjoy my work so much, I have to focus on the business aspect of it. Which means that I have to monitor my profit margin.
I have a formula that I use that helps me decide if a shop will be profitable for me. Based on this formula, I have designed a spreadsheet that is categorized with the names of the company, the rate of pay for the assignment, the distance involved, and the amount of time that it took for me to complete the report. I make sure include the time that it took for me to complete the report with the time that it actually took for me to complete the assignment as a way of helping me to compute my hourly rate.
When it comes to the fees for the assignments, there are times when I will accept a shop that has a smaller fee if there is also a large reimbursement, and the shop is at a place where there is something that I need or can use. Adding the fee and the reimbursement together has garnered some nice things for me. For example, if you accept an assignment to a department store, the fee is $10.00 but the reimbursement is $20.00 that turns a $10.00 shop into a $30.00 shop for me because there is a good chance that I will have a need for something in the store which means that I can take at least $20.00 off of the total on my purchase and still see a profit.
I try to stay away from shops that are geared toward things where I would be tempted to make a frivolous a purchase such as make up or perfume, because I once had a very embarrassing shopping experience at a makeup counter where I not only lost the profit for that shop, I also spent the profit for almost a week’s worth of work, I refuse to allow that to happen again. Since then I have a implemented a system that I use to make sure that I will not overspend on a shop, I purchase a Visa or American Express gift card that has a preset amount loaded onto the card that I use when I complete my shops.
I leave my wallet in the car so that temptation cannot claim me again, there will be no more impulse buying for me when I am working. Once the card is empty, I will not accept any more shops that require me to spend money.
I try to do shops that have a gift card purchase as a part of the assignment because this helps to defray the cost of the card as well as the activation fee. This is just one more way that I can keep my costs down and make sure that my shopping will be profitable for me.
Distance is the second factor that I take into consideration before I apply for a shop, now that gas prices are coming down I am willing to go a little further, but I keep the wear and tear on my car and my time traffic in mind. If I am going in a particular direction and I get an offer to do an additional shop, then distance is not a problem for me.
My favorite types of shops are those that do not require any cash outlay, this makes the shop pure profit. An example of this type of shop would be the phone shops, apartment shops, or the type of shop that I am not particularly fond of which are car shops. I always keep in mind that while I do not have to spend any money when I complete the apartment and car shops, the downfall for this type of shop is that they can sometime be narrative heavy and can end up being more work than some of the other types of shops.
The amount of narrative that is required in the report is an important factor in helping me to decide on a shop. In my opinion you are taking away from your profit margin if you have to work for hours on the narrative in a report. The problem with that is we do not always know just how much narrative there will be in any given assignment because we are not allowed to see the report before we accept the shop.
It is always my hope to not have a report that has more than four sections of narrative, but the only way that I am able to find out is if I accept the shop or if I have completed this type of shop before. I wish that they would allow shoppers to get a look at the report when we are applying for the shop, but no such luck right?
We are always going to see assignments that come up that seem like they will be perfect. After all, the email says that it’s going to be a ‘fun shop’ or that there is almost no narrative, so this has to be the shop for you right? You want to think about taking the shop, so you take a look at the guidelines but you actually can’t look too long because it’s almost like an auction, you have to hurry or the good ones will be gone.
The thing that I try to keep in mind when I accept a shop is that if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is too good to be true. My goal is to increase my bottom line, not to just have fun. Don’t worry though, even if you miss that ‘fun’ shop, another one will be coming along soon. Ultimately it is up to the individual to make the final decision on whether an assignment will be profitable not.
One last thing I would like to add. If I see a shop that I have never experienced before and I want to know if it is a bad risk or a good investment of my time, I just go over to my favorite website, Mystery Shop Forum, and ask other shoppers if they have had any experience with the type of shop that I am looking at. There is always a wealth of information on the board and the information is available with the click of the mouse.