Sunday, February 21, 2010


There has been a trend lately that more and more of the mystery shops are strictly reimbursement only. For those of you that don’t mystery shop yet this means you spend your time, fuel and yes money to go do a shop for a company. So how can this earn you money? It’s not going to pay your bills. So where’s the incentive.

Quite frankly it depends on the shop and you. A shop that requires you to make a special trip to do it and nets you only a hamburger meal is not going to be a money maker for you. However if you are in the area any way and need lunch or dinner then it’s a lunch or dinner you do not have to pack from your food stuffs at home.

Where you come out ahead on such shops are the bigger reimbursement shops. If you say truly NEED a pair of shoes, then a shoe shop that reimburses you $30 for a required purchase for a pair of shoes then you are $30 ahead. If you don’t need the shoes then it’s not a good deal. Despite what some may tell you, or you may think you cannot return the purchase for the cash back if the rules say you can’t. You will get caught returning them and you will lose your mystery shopping opportunities for that and maybe other companies.

For my family the better reimbursement only shops are the larger reimbursement dinner shops. Take the $70 reimbursement only dinner for two at a local restaurant my husband and I recently did. The meal was to include a minimum of one alcoholic beverage at the bar, either an appetizer or dessert, two different entrees, two additional beverages (no water) and tips up to 15% for both the bartender and the server.

Here’s what we had: my husband had a beer at the bar and I had a Pepsi. At this particular restaurant the designated driver gets soda pop for free. So our tab there showed the Pepsi as complimentary, but it did show I drank the soda pop so I had made my requirements in that section. We left the bartender a 15% tip.

For the appetizer we purchased chips, queso and salsa along with one ice tea and one Pepsi. This was a bottomless appetizer and we ate all we wanted until our meals came. When the meal arrived the server automatically refilled our appetizer completely, as well as our beverages.

My husband purchased a full rack of ribs with sides for his meal and I had ½ chicken and ½ rack ribs with sides. This was a tremendous amount of food. We knew we could not possibly eat that much food, but we had chosen meals we both like that when the tip was added in would come to almost exactly the remaining amount of the $70 we would be reimbursed.

We each ate our fill, eating all of the vegetables and little of the meat, then requested to go boxes for everything left on the table that we had purchased. That was a full order of the appetizer, nearly a rack of ribs and 99% of the chicken, plus our salads (we had ordered the dressing on the side), as well as the bones from the ribs we had eaten.

This we took home for future meals. From these leftovers I made the following meals for three:

1. Ribs, combined with macaroni and cheese and veggies.

2. Chicken salad sandwiches

3. Chicken and dumplings (twice so 3 x 2)

4. Taco salad

5. The salad items that had wilted went to feed our poultry.

6. The bones went to our dogs for a treat over a period of four days.

7. I used the single drumstick and wing for a lunch for just me one day.

8. The bones of the chicken were boiled after I deboned them to make broth.

9. After the chicken bones were boiled they were put in the maggot bucket to help feed the birds in the future.

So for that $70 investment I used the ingredients to combine with foods we had on hand to feed 18 meals to the humans (or an average of little less than $4 each for main meat meals) and three different treats for my animals. Plus left tips for two people working hard to pay their bills as well. Plus it was all reimbursed. So all of the above was eventually free.

Considering this shop was across the street from one that I was not out any extra fuel to go do it. In our book this shop was worth it. So it’s all in how you handle the reimbursement only shops.

I’ve turned down many such shops because they aren’t worth it. Some might even include a small fee as well in the reimbursement and I still turn them down. An example is a local carry out pizza shop and here is why.

First it pays $4 plus the reimbursement and there are none of this pizza company near my home, so it is generally a drive to do it, $4 will not even begin to cover my fuel costs. Even if it turns out near where I’ll be I will still turn them down because this is what you have to do.

1. Call in the order using a specific dialing system. This is no big deal except you are expected to record EXACTLY what is said and you are recorded while you do the shop. So if you don’t get it exact the company can refuse to pay you. I mean verbatim. Often the person on the other end of the phone speaks so fast or soft you cannot make it out exactly. So there is problem #1.

2. You are to arrive exactly on time. No big deal again, unless you get hung up in traffic. Be late, be disqualified. The few times I have done this job I made the call from a parking lot right next to the location to avoid being late.

3. Pick up the pizza exactly on time and remember a series of things exactly, including what is said at the register, again this is recorded and you can be disqualified. Not a problem, if you can listen that closely while also looking around for a series of other items you are suppose to check on in the less than five minutes you are in the pickup area.

4. Now for the fun part. As soon as you are out of sight of the pick-up area you are to stop and take photos of the pizza. The photos must be done exactly as the instructions show (they have photos to help you do it right) or you will be disqualified.

5. Then you let it cool 15 minutes—yep you don’t even get to eat the pizza hot. More photos, same rules.

6. Then you have to cut up the slices and take more photos. You must use a specific cutter that you must purchase to do this as well. You are NOT reimbursed for the cutter, but you can use it for more than one shop.

7. So now after you have photographed this more than a super model, handled it, butchered it and played with it you can eat it. If you still find it appetizing.

We seldom if ever do this shop. Especially since it is one of pizza places that is not one of our favorites and one family member doesn’t like his food handled in such a manner. The rules for their delivery are the same, only it arrives even colder and you have to tip the delivery person—hey they are working hard for a living they deserve a tip!

The company that hires you to do this job wonders why they have trouble getting them done each month. When asked I tell them it’s because the pay is too low for what is required. The few times I have done this job it has been with a bonus pay out because the company has needed it done and done NOW.

So as I said earlier it depends on the job and you. If you love that particular pizza brand, don’t mind it has to be cut and handled a lot, then reheated. This job would be fine, especially if you live next door to it.

You might not want to mess with meal leftovers the way I did on the sit down meal, so the $70 layout wouldn’t be for you. Don’t need a pair sneakers, then don’t do the shoe shop. It’s all in evaluating what all is involved.

Another BIG thing to consider is some of the companies take up to 90 days to send your reimbursement check. Can you afford to wait for that $70 to come back in 90 days? What if you don’t get the bartender’s name, or do the write up properly. Can you afford to be completely out the $70? There is much to be considered.

Jan who prefers straight up mystery shops and merchandising in OK

1 comment:

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