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Phone Shops: The Pros and Cons

Phone shops seem to be a love them or hate them shop among mystery shoppers. This discussion is dealing with shops that are exclusively a phone call, not a call with a follow-up visit. The chief complaint is they don’t pay much, and that’s true. It’s rare to see a phone shop paying more than $10 . But there are positives to consider, and I believe those positives make phone shops deserving of being approached with an open mind.

  1. You have no mileage to deduct. That may not sound like much but, if you’re trying to establish a profit, not having a mileage deduction for, let’s say 20 shops at $5 each is $100. If you did that each month, that’s an extra $1200 to your bottom line, which could make a difference for a marginal shopper.
  2. No mileage means no wear and tear on your car. Yes, you still have the amortized insurance and depreciation, but you’re not having to buy gas, wearing your tires and engine, etc.
  3. Being able to have your guidelines in front of you. I’m not saying that your guidelines should be a crutch, or not to review them before placing the call, but you can gain a little confidence knowing they are easily available if you need them.
  4. In a similar manner, the ease of taking notes. One MSC I do phone shops for even encourages shoppers to have a notebook available with a page for each shop. That way they are able to make detailed notes during the call.
  5. Shops are rarely longer than 10 minutes, with maybe another 10 minutes to enter the report. That’s three shops completed per hour, and four per hour is probably feasible for some of the calls that are involved. At an average of $5 each, that’s $15-20 per hour, without having to leave home.
  6. The ability to do them almost anywhere. Last year I had a week of jury duty. I was able to book about 40 phone shops to survey medical practices at an average of $8, so I still made $320. I explained what I did for a living to the judge and she was fine with my having my laptop and cell phone in the jury room and letting me work when I wasn’t on a jury. This was a county civil court. Your mileage may vary depending on the type of trial[s] and the judge.
  7. If you’re feeling lazy, you can do the shop in your jammies…okay, I was being a bit tongue in cheek there, but you can be more comfortably dressed than you can on some regular shops.

The cons:

  1. The low pay. But again, if you can do three or four in an hour, you’re getting above minimum wage.
  2. The type of shop. Experienced shoppers know I’m talking about the “infamous” funeral home shop. It’s not one many shoppers are comfortable doing because it deals with a subject we tend to not be comfortable discussing—death. At the same time, the MSC probably doesn’t want shoppers who are too comfortable with the subject. That could be a “dead” giveaway that they are being shopped.

As to what’s available…you might as well ask what kind of mystery shops are available. Yes, I’ve done the “dreaded funeral home shop.” But there are also hosptials, car dealers, Realtors, and many other shops. Seek and ye shall find.

The nice thing about mystery shopping is that it is such an individual occupation. It’s possible to draw generalizations, and to learn from each other, but it’s also nice to know that, what works for one shopper may not necessarily work for you. At the same time, we have the camaraderie that unites us.

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