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Shopper Pay – Do You Get What You Pay For? June 21, 2012

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.

I may be opening a can of worms with this post, but I wanted to cover a topic that I recently discovered during a shopper conversation. Essentially, the topic was paying more for shops to get a better quality of shoppers. The discussion revolved around MSP’s rejecting shops at what seems to be an increasing rate, leading shoppers, schedulers, and editors alike to wonder what might be the cause of this – do people just not care anymore, do clients reject shops where they don’t like the score, or is it something else?

I, like many other MSP’s, want to assure shoppers that we do not enjoy rejecting shops; it is difficult to have to tell someone they cannot be paid, or worse, reimbursed for required purchases. It also makes more work for schedulers and editors, as they have to reschedule the shop. It was suggested that if the pay rate was higher for shops, there would be less rate of shops done incorrectly and/or rejected shops. While the “you get what you pay for” mentality may seem to make sense, it does not seem to be the case with mystery shopping.

This is an industry where you will not get rich, no matter what your role is, that’s for sure.  MSP’s certainly don’t try to keep shoppers from making money either  – no one is trying to pay as little as possible to get the most profit. It’s just not how the industry works. The fees are what they are, and each shopper can decide for themselves what they’re willing to do. Some prefer to take several lower paying shops that require less reporting while others prefer taking less shops that are higher paying but require more work in the observations and reporting.

A far as a correlation between shopper pay and rejected shops, there doesn’t seem to be a direct correlation. The most common reasons for rejecting a shop include:

1. Not making a required observation, using the correct scenario, or making the required purchase: this is the #1 reason shops are rejected. Even if you do shops for a particular client month after month, things may change. You need to be sure you are reviewing the guidelines, comments, and shop report prior to your shop so you are fully prepared. It may seem harsh to reject a shop if one or two required observations aren’t met, or if the correct scenario isn’t played out, but it is vital to the client’s program, and they will not pay for work that isn’t done correctly. Sometimes we will hear from shoppers whose reports are rejected saying that they weren’t aware of a particular requirement, only to find that it was in fact in three different places within the training guides and/or report.

2. Not submitting the report in a timely manner: this is another hot topic that we won’t dig into today, but making sure reports are submitted within the 12 to 24 hour time frame is vital. Why? This industry works quickly – clients need to see the reports within 2-3 business days for many reasons, most importantly if there is an issue that they need to address. Typically, if you need a bit more time, a quick email to the MSP will work well. While we have a little extra time to work with, it won’t help if we contact you asking about the status of the report and don’t hear back; in our mind, you haven’t done the shop and may not plan to, so we need to get it rescheduled as quickly as possible. Not submitting the shop for three days and expecting it to be used after no communication isn’t going to work.

3. New shoppers who aren’t serious about the business: new shoppers sometimes come from the reports they’ve heard of making $40,000 a year shopping, and are surprised to see the work involved for a shop. Rather than follow through with what they agreed to or cancel, they rush through the shop and turn in a report that makes it clear it cannot be used. While disappointing, it weeds out the shoppers who aren’t in it for the right reasons pretty quickly, even though it makes more work for the MSP.

4. Refusing to complete the assignment: there are times, most often when it comes to narrative based reports, where the shopper does the shop, submits the receipts, and submits a few lines where the detailed narrative should be. Or, as I’ve seen once or twice, writes a few sentences and, realizing that the word count hasn’t been met, writes “This was a great experience. I will return” over and over until the count is met. When the shopper is contacted for additional information, they will inform the editor that they have done $10.00 worth of work and will not be doing any more. When this happens, we have no choice but to reject it. This is sad because it is clear that the shopper went through the trouble of doing everything else, but cannot get paid for their efforts. It is clear in the guidelines that a narrative is required, and many times a sample narrative is included to give a sense of what is required, so there should be no surprises. This is the saddest of all of the situations where shops are rejected.

5. Shopper burnout: I take back what I said in the last point…THIS is the saddest scenario. I’ve seen this very few times in the last ten years (thank goodness), and when it happens it is a sad day. Sometimes shoppers experience burnout, or they try to do as little as possible to get paid. Unfortunately this can turn to faking shops, where they’ve potentially shopped for a certain client long enough that they don’t actually do the shop, but write up a report as though they did it. Doctoring past receipts to make them look current and reusing old business cards can come into play. One bad decision can lead to the end of your work, but if this is happening, maybe it’s time for you to step away from the industry. This scenario makes me feel the worst, because when it happened, it was with shoppers who have had a long history in the industry.

As I said earlier, I don’t think it’s a matter of pay – we’ve seen it with high and low paying shops, from both new and seasoned shoppers. Work is work, and we should all take pride in what we do. The beauty of being an independent contractor is that you can accept shops you’re interested in and ignore the ones you’re not.

We ARE all in this together, and we realize that we cannot do it without you as shoppers. We try to make things as simple as possible so you can be successful in your work. Our (collective) ultimate goal is to help clients measure the customer experience, one shop at  time, so providing the best, most accurate work possible makes everyone a success!


1. Paul - July 7, 2012

From a currently open job from another company, “Your mission is to provide a highly detailed report of everything you are told to encourage you to purchase that xxxxxx. Therefore, it is crucial that you pay very close attention to the price quotes you receive, the phrases the rep uses, the anecdotes they may tell you, and information they give you.”

This shop pays $25, but seems to expect that the shopper has an eidetic memory. It looks to me like an opportunity not to get paid. Any comments?

Ann Michaels & Associates - July 7, 2012

Hi Paul,

Thanks for your comment! Without knowing the details of the shop itself outside of what you shared, it does sound like a very detailed shop. Some clients do request shops of this caliber, and can be tricky. However, there are things you can do to make it easier on yourself. The best suggestion would be to have a covert voice recorder to capture the conversation – this would allow you to play it back as you are writing the report for best accuracy. I know many shoppers do this with success. If you do not have the ability to record the conversation, it is also recommended that you visit the restroom after your visit (if it is a larger retailer where this would not be obvious) or leave the store, drive away from it so you are out of sight, and spend some time writing down everything you can recall at that time since your memory will be fresh at this time.

All shops are not for everyone either; while some may see this type of shop as too difficult, others may thrive on them. If it seems like a shop that you may not be able to capture all of the required information, it is probably best to pass it up.

Shoppers, do you have any suggestions to help Paul? You are a very creative bunch – I look forward to hearing your thoughts!

2. Bette C. - July 25, 2012

Shoppers pay is way less than the minimum wage. One coffee shop pays $11.50 including expenses since 2005. The fee has not gone up in 7 years. To do the shop, you have to spend $4.30 for the Freddo, $0.75 – $1 for parking, $1-2 for gas, that leaves you $4-5, and to top if off, you have to pay tax, that leaves you $3-4 and you have to wait 2 months to get paid. And god forbid, your report gets rejected, then you’re out of all the expenses. Yes, you get the drink, but I’m not one to pay $4.30 for a coffee drink.

3. Bette C. - July 25, 2012

In addition to my comments above: the evaluation report is so detailed with so many required narratives. They were required not just for No answers but they also want you to explain the Yes answers. I had 2 report turned backing asking for more details in the narratives, to clarify my Yes answers. It takes over an hour to complete one of these reports.

I wonder about the rejected report sometimes. Business owners refused to pay but they already got the benefit of the report. In it, I have called their attention to several issues with their store.

4. Paul - July 25, 2012

I’ve figured out this game. The account rep (aka scheduler) must be working on straight commission. He/She posts the job at a lowball price, hoping to get some sucker to take the job at $5 (or less). Then, as month-end approaches, the “bonus” magically appears, which must come out of the account rep’s commission. I had a rep call me on the phone, asking me if I could do 3 hot dog shops in town. I said I would look at the requirements. Instead of waiting for me to review them, she assigns them to me. I got home, reviewed the requirements, and declined them because (1) the shopper fee didn’t even cover my gas cost, much less my round-trip driving time, and (2) the food reimbursement didn’t include a drink, so I was expected to sit in the store eating my chili dog and fries w/o a drink or pay for the drink out of my shopper fee.

Ann Michaels & Associates - July 25, 2012

Hi Bette,

Rejected reports can be caused by several factors, and rarely do they get to the client before they are rejected. There are some instances in which clients refuse a shop, but it is not because they don’t like the results or it’s a low score. I realize some shops seem frustrating, but what may be an awful shop to one shopper may be right up another shopper’s alley. Personally, I much prefer shops with a full narrative rather than narrative boxes underneath each section of the report, but that’s just me. It’s good to try a variety of shops to see what works best for you.

Ann Michaels & Associates - July 25, 2012

Hi Paul,

There is no “game” being played. Most schedulers are paid a per scheduled shop fee (which is way lower than any shopper fees for the shops they’re scheduling). The shopper fee is set by the MSP, not the scheduler, and while I cannot speak for all companies, I can say that bonus money is not a result of “let’s see how low we can go before adding more money to it.” There are even times when bonus money comes out of the scheduler’s pay, making their per shop fee even lower. We are all in this together as companies and shoppers, trying to work toward a common goal.

5. Bette C. - July 25, 2012

Why are shoppers’ fees still stuck in the 1990’s value? This is 2012, everything is much more expensive, i.e. gas, parking, car maintenance, minimum wage, etc.

6. Bette C. - July 26, 2012

Yes, mine was rejected by the client, according to the reviewer. So I’m saying it’s not fair because the client gets the benefit of my review. I had pointed out some issues in his store to his attention. He turned around and not pay me for that. Maybe he prefers a review that just praise his store? I notice that in general, I get higher scores when the shop went well and I had nothing but good marks for the staffs and the facility. When I pointed out issues, I get lower marks and in some cases, the client refused to pay. What’s up? I thought they pay us to tell them what, if any, they can do to improve their business !!

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