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It’s Tax Season….. January 23, 2013

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.
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…and for mystery shoppers, that brings a whole new set of questions, especially if this year was your first in the industry.


You likely have many tax-related questions; to that end, I’ve looked through  past articles we’ve completed based on this very topic. We’d also be happy to answer any questions you may have, as long as they are general in nature, as we cannot provide specific tax advice. =)


Take a look at this article – An Interview with a CPA – to see some of the most frequently asked questions about taxes for mystery shoppers. If you have your own questions, feel free to ask in the comments section!

What types of shops are appropriate for you? January 21, 2013

Posted by Ann Michaels & Associates in Uncategorized.

Written by: Kristin Garvey, Independent Account Manager

My husband’s nephew used to work at a skate board shop. He was made aware by his Manager that the store would be shopped on a monthly basis. My husband’s nephew always knew when he had been shopped, not because he was made aware of when the shops would happen, but because the Mystery Shopper was clearly not a regular customer. When I asked him what he meant, he told me that when older women would come into the skate shop, he knew that more than likely, he was being shopped. Generally, older women did not shop at the store. I argued that someone could be shopping for a relative. He added that generally, the shoppers who are purchasing for someone else get a gift card or ask for help in finding something rather than requesting to try on a pair of shoes and then asking about the fit. The last thing you want to do is be flagged as a shopper, so how do you know if you are applying to the right types of shops?

Act Your Age

Some of our clients request certain age ranges for their shops. This is usually because they have a target market age group, and they want the opinion of that group. Many times, when there are client age requirements, the age or income parameters are clear in the shop offer. Please make sure that your profile information is accurate so that if you fit into the parameter, your profile information allows you to apply to the shop. Otherwise, you automatically won’t qualify for the shop. Also, please be honest regarding your age, height, income level, etc. If there are no age parameters and you are not familiar with the store, do a little online research to find out if you would fit in at the store.

You Should Fit the Mold

Years ago, I did a shop where there was a height requirement. The store carried clothing for taller women. I fit the height requirement, but I was the shortest you could be to apply to the shop. I’m 5’8” tall. I was assigned the shop and provided proof of my height via a copy of my driver’s license. When I got to the store, the associates towered over me. They questioned why I was in the store and if I was looking for a gift. I said no and proceeded with the shop. I told the associate that cotton casual pants were always too short for me or if they fit, once I washed them, they were too short. That is actually true, by the way. When I tried on the pants, I saw about eight inches of extra material pooled around my feet. No amount of shrinkage was going to help me there. While I fit the parameters of the shop, I probably was not the ideal candidate for the job. While it is not always avoidable, especially if you fit into the posted demographics, it might be best to check out the store and see if you would “fit in.” It might also be a good idea to make sure you don’t fall at the very top or bottom of the demographics to be on the safe side.

Don’t Be a Teetotaler

If you do not drink alcohol, do not apply to a shop where you are required to order an alcoholic beverage. Many times, shops offer an alternative where the shopper can bring a friend and the friend can then order the alcoholic beverage. Assuming the shop instructions state that it’s okay, that will work. However, if you do not bring a friend, or your friend won’t order an alcoholic drink either, then don’t apply to the shop. Part of the shop is the required purchase of alcohol. If you are not old enough to drink legally or you do not drink alcohol for whatever reason, don’t apply to the shop. There are many times shoppers have taken shops where the alcohol requirement is specifically stated, yet they complete the shop without ordering alcohol. Upon submitting the report and follow up, they share that they do not drink for various reasons and it should be okay. Those are unfortunate times where we cannot accept the shop and cannot pay the shopper for their efforts. This is painful for both sides; the Account Manager now has to reschedule the shop, and the shopper is out the money they spent.

Keep the Protests Out of the Store

If you do not believe in the practice of wearing animal products, do not apply to a leather store shop or a shop where the products are made from animal fur, unless you are certain you can be completely objective in your evaluation and report. I had a shopper apply to a shop, perform it and then submit a report about the horrors of using animals for their fur and/or skin. She would never wear anything from an animal and was completely offended by the retailer, etc. It was clear in the shop offer and the instructions that the products that the client sold were made with animal skin. If there was any doubt, one of the questions in the report was about sheepskin. If you do not believe in eating animals or wearing animal products, please do not apply to a steakhouse restaurant shop or a retailer that sells animal derived products. You certainly have the right to wear and eat what you like; however, if your views will prohibit you from being objective, don’t apply to the shop.

Gender Roles

If you are a woman, unless the shop says that you can bring a male with you or that your scenario is that you are shopping for a gift, please do not apply to a male clothing store shop. The same is true for men applying to women’s shops. I don’t know how many emails I get from male shoppers asking to perform some of my women’s shops where the shop offer clearly states that the shop is for female shoppers only and a women’s article of clothing must be tried on. Some of this can stem from not reading the posted information; sometimes shoppers know they need to be “quick on the draw” when applying for more popular shops, and don’t read the part where it has to be a specific gender.

Again, most of the time, mystery shopping providers are very clear regarding who can perform their shops. Just make sure to check that you fit the requirements. However, if there are no requirements, use common sense and a little research to find out if you would be an appropriate applicant for the shop. Please be aware that age, height, or weight parameters are not discriminations. You can’t sue anyone because you can’t apply to a shop. There are parameters because the market research that the client requires must be based on a certain focus group. It’s a marketing issue, not discrimination issue.

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