|Photo Credit: PicJumbo
Since I am a single mom, with no child support or assistance, I am always looking for ways to earn a little extra income without sacrificing time with my daughter. I had seen other bloggers say they had fun and made decent money doing mystery shopping. So I thought, “Hey, I’m always looking for ways to have more fun and it would be nice to have a little extra cash.” I decided to give mystery shopping a try. I spent hours signing up with various companies. Filling out form after form after form! After a few weekends of doing that I had about a half dozen sights I’d signed up with. All with different areas they needed shopping in. The only downfall is you need to constantly be signing in and checking for available assignments. I didn’t know that going in. And I really don’t have a ton of free time to spend checking numerous job boards. So I decided to focus on one company that seemed to have interesting shops. And after a few months I was chosen to shop a beauty supply store! It was great! I would be paid $25 for the shop but I was required to interact with a store employee, ask certain questions and purchase what she recommended, though I wouldn’t be reimbursed for it. That was a bummer! I was under the impression when you did a mystery shop you were paid for the items you had to buy plus your time. But I was wrong.
The day arrived to do my shop. I had read and reread my assignment and when I felt I knew exactly what was needed I headed to the store. I went in, found the employee and asked my questions. But when I went to buy what she had suggested I found out it was a $28 hair care item. Ouch! So I really lost money on this one. After I was done in the store I went home and completed the report. It took me about an hour. I was trying to be as detailed as possible. The company I worked with was great. They read the report the next day. Asked a few clarification questions and then sent my funds within a week. It went smooth. Now I was still on the fence about this mystery shopping. After all so far I was not making money but spending money. I decided I was going to be more selective next time around.
I waited about a year before doing another mystery shop. With a different company I had seen shops for the local amusement park. I thought, this would be fun! I would be able to shop it, take the pictures needed and spend time with my daughter. But that was where the fun ended. The company was extremely rude and difficult to work with. They would change things up at the last minute. Email me at 2 am in the morning. I was asked if I could do it in June with a two day notice. They said I needed to respond immediately. The email came in at 3 am! I responded at 5:30 am. I never heard anything back. So I went on with my week. The next week (4th of July week) I get another frantic email saying they need someone to complete the shop. I looked over my calendar and reluctantly agreed to the 5th of July. I really did not want to. But I thought this was the second time they had asked me and I didn’t want to be deleted from the database. I agreed on a Tuesday. There were 2 phone calls from them between then and Sunday. Not bad I thought. The scheduler seemed to be nice and seemed to really want to see me succeed. So I took her advice. I set up notes on my phone, made sure it was charged and reread the paperwork a few times.
The day of the shop arrived. I was a little nervous. It was a pretty big shop! I had to evaluate 5 rides, 2 eating places and several other employees. Lots and lots of things to keep track of. And all while trying to navigate a park I’m not familiar with. As we walked up to each ride I took a photo of it so I could get a timestamp and remember the order we rode them in. Then after the ride I would dictate a note as to who the operator was, their attitude and knowledge. That’s where the issues started. Majority of these workers are exchange students. They are not fluent in English! They do not try to engage you and trying to ask a question is like pulling teeth. Heck, most of them weren’t even smiling! But I did my best.
|Photo Credit: PicJumbo
I noted the way I never saw park management. Or maybe I did see them? I never knew because I did see some people dressed way too nice for a day at an amusement park, however, they never slowed down enough that I could see if they were wearing a nametag or not. And they sure didn’t talk to anyone. They just clutched clipboards to their chest and rushed to wherever they were heading weaving in and out of people. There were numerous pros and cons throughout the day. And we spent over 7 hours in the boiling sun and heat to make sure I collected all the information needed.
When we arrived home I had thought about starting the paperwork but I was exhausted. And it was a Sunday night so I needed to get my child ready for school. The next day, after work, I sat down and started writing up the report. Wow! It was more detailed than any report I have ever filled out. It was overwhelming. But it had to be turned in by midnight the night after the shop or you would get docked for it. So I kept pushing through. I worked on it for 5+ hours. Uploading photos, filing out screens and screens of data and documenting the time frame of the day. When I was finally finished I double checked and pressed send. I was so thankful to be done with it! I had already decided I would not be doing it again. For this secret shop they sent me 1 ticket to use the day of the shop and 1 to use another time. And if I did the work I would get 3 more after the report was submitted. That was it for pay. I had to pay out of pocket for a child’s ticket ($38), a meal ($16), a snack ($11) and a gift shop purchase ($20). None of that was reimbursed. And now I had spent 5+ hours writing the report.
I knew I had to be available for the next 7 days in case there were any questions on my report. And I was available. I kept checking on line. I kept my phone near by. And about 2 days after I submitted the report I got a call there were some errors. I stopped what I was doing and corrected it immediately. Like within 30 minutes of the phone call. Somehow all the times on my report changed to 11 am. So I fixed it. I elaborated on a few sections. And I had missed one box so I filled it in. Then a day or so later I get the grade of my report. 64%! And the grader claimed I put no effort into it! I was so ticked. I had spent over 6+ hours writing that report, 2 hours prepping for the shop and then 7 hours doing the shop not to mention the drive time of an hour each way. And then all the monies I had to pay out of pocket. I was ticked! For someone to say I put no effort forth really agitated me. So I responded to them and told them I felt their opinion was inaccurate and I had worked really hard. Well they did not like that! I had already decided I was never going to work with them again. But now because I spoke up about how rude they were it looks like I won’t be getting those 3 park tickets. Which I think is extremely shady and unethical.
|Photo Credit: Unsplash
So if you ask me if mystery shopping is a great way to make money I’d have to say no. Some companies are better to work for than others. But I would only do a shop if it was someplace I would have normally gone and spent money anyways. Then it may be worth it. But to go out of your way, shop a store or venue you may not typically shop and then put all that time in writing the report is not going to earn you much, if anything. I’ve worked with two different companies. One I love and will continue to work with them when I see opportunities that are a fit. The other I would not touch with a 10 foot pole. If you want to do this, really do your research. Ask other shoppers about their experiences. And if a company is always saying they need new shoppers RUN! That means they do not treat people well and cannot keep anyone working for them. That is the case with the amusement park company. They are constantly begging for new shoppers. RED FLAG! There’s a reason people will not work with them and I was lucky enough to experience it first hand.