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Friday, April 23

Mystery Shopping the $3 Gas Station

Yesterday I listed some of my pet peeves. I can deal with making a wrong turn because of a bad address or having to answer an email from an editor who wants to know if I really meant it when I said the cashier asked me to watch the register while she used the bathroom (it's happened to me more than once!). What I really have trouble comprehending is how some shoppers will accept work for less than minimum wage.

Let's break this down based on an example from this morning:

Scenario: shopper accepts gas station shop for fee of $5.06. Includes $1.00 reimbursement for inside purchase.*
*This is quite common, but I've seen much worse. There really are $3 shops out there that someone agrees to complete.
Effort Required: This shop requires a minimum of 5 digital photos, taken covertly. Since there is no public transportation in the area, it also requires the shopper to drive to the location (based on the area and proximity to homes, I doubt the shopper is walking).
Data Entry Required: The photos must be uploaded to the report, and receipt must be scanned and uploaded. The form takes a minimum of ten minutes to complete if there are no negative conditions to report.

Since I am really familiar with the area, I also know that there are no other mystery shops in close proximity to this station that have been accepted for the same date. So, this shopper is driving at least a few miles to do this shop.

Let's say it takes the shopper 10 minutes each way to travel, 10 minutes to complete the shop, and 10 minutes to enter the data. That's 40 minutes of effort in time alone, not to mention the gas and wear and tear on the vehicle. Assuming this shop only requires 1/2 gallon of gas, you're looking at $1.36 in fuel cost plus let's estimate another $1.00 in wear and tear (to keep things simple, I won't break out my depreciation calculator).

Fee of $5.06 less $2.36 in vehicle cost leaves $2.70 for time. The hourly rate equivalent?

$4.05 an hour.

I didn't even consider the wear and tear on the computer or camera, or the electricity used to run the computer or batteries to power the camera. But, since the shopper gets $1 reimbursement, they can replenish their own energy with a cheap bag of potato chips.

To each his the way, that $5.06 shop started at $3.00. Yes, I have seen shoppers select them even at that crazy rate.

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