What I Don't Like About Mystery Shopping and Merchandising
- Low Fees. If you want to see supply and demand in action, take up shopping. Not all companies work on the "quantity over quality" philosophy, but plenty of them do. One company I do a lot of work through starts each month with a ridiculously low fee, and raises it through the month until the job is taken. This makes it difficult to plan efficient routes because I may be going to an area for one company and want to pick up shops in that area. Since I have principles (such as, generally, refusing to work for less than $10 per hour), I'm often not taking jobs for this company that I would like to take. The jobs end up being commissioned for more than the minimum I would have taken had they offered a fair commission to begin with.
- Poorly Designed Data Entry Screens. Many of the jobs I take are based on earning money through volume. If I can shop 12 gas stations (same brand) and use an Excel template to mark off my responses as I do them, I get a lot more done... as long as the form I have to enter online is user-friendly. On the other hand, some companies use annoying pop-ups or just structure the flow of the report in a bad way. For example, if the report requires 5 photos, sprinkling the upload areas over 5 separate places takes much more time than if they can all be uploaded in the same area of the report.
- Extra Work Caused by Negative Reports. My favorite mystery shop is one where I have a great experience: the location is clean, service is legendary, and the sun is shining. Unfortunately, that's not always the case. Inevitably, I'll be in some Podunk town, population 650, where the cash register runs off a hand crank and every purchase is rung up as "fuel", even a loaf of bread. Then I have to convince the editing staff that I really did spend $5 in gas and $1.38 on that loaf of bread.
- Bad Addresses. A lot of my work is in small towns along a route I have created. Unfortunately, these small towns tend to be the places with street names my GPS cannot locate. For example, one community redid its entire address layout a few years ago. I have no idea why, but many locations still list the old street number on the mailbox or storefront, while others have the current information but my GPS is locating addresses based on the old system.