How Long Will This Take?

scheduleRecently a shopper emailed to suggest to schedulers that they include an estimate of time – to prepare, to perform and to report – on the shop announcements in emails and on job boards.

This same concerned mystery shopper also requested that the complexity of completing the mystery shop be written in the assignment solicitations. What she was asking for was for the number of questions, length of narratives and type of pictures or documents needed to be obtained or uploaded. She wanted to see these detailed in the shop solicits.

All of her requests are valid appeals. After all, this type of information can help mystery shoppers make better choices about the shops they will choose to complete.

Certainly we can ask our schedulers to include more details about the reporting form. They can alert a shopper to know if there are primarily Yes/No or check off questions and how long of a narrative is required.  Schedulers can also note if receipts, pictures or any other documentation need to be uploaded.

Telling you how much time it will take, however, becomes a slippery slope. Because it’s personal!

If we tell you it is a ‘quick’ shop – what is your definition of quick? And as compared to what?

One person may think that a 15 minute visit to a retail store is a quick shop, but if they live half hour away, does this make it a 45 minute shop?

Then add in the time to write up the report. Some people are masters at the keyboard and expressing their thoughts in writing. For others, it is much more of an effort.

And if we say it’s going to take you three hours to prepare, perform and report – would you even take a second look?

As a novice mystery shopper, all steps of the process will likely take a bit longer. As you become more familiar with the process and expectations, you will become more proficient at understand what you need to look and listen for, the words you need to type to communicate your observations, and your ability to organize your thoughts.

Once you are a ‘seasoned’ shopper, you will know which shops you prefer to do, which you have more time to do in a given week, and which mystery shops you have no desire to ever do again.

We will spread the word to make sure you are armed with the information you need to make knowledgeable decisions. We ask you to keep focused on honing your skills to make the time spent on any shop work most effectively for you. That way you will know how much time a shop will take YOU!

Do you have a preference for the types of shops you like to do? If so, why? (No company names, please!) Please comment below.

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About Market Viewpoint

Market Viewpoint offers comprehensive mystery shopping services, complete customer service audits, employee and customer surveys, customer focused marketing strategies, and customer service training to help you improve your customer service and outshine your competition.
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16 Responses to How Long Will This Take?

  1. Shara says:

    I will do any shops that are worth minimum wage for me, which would include the taxes I pay, gas, travel time, time to do the shop and input time. As a human, I pay bills and have children. So with the flexibility of mystery shopping, I have only have an “At Least” minimum wage rule. On the other hand, even though some of the fast casual shops are lower paying, I do like their food and will do the shops for that fee since it is more of a reimbursement for something I like in exchange for my feedback.

    • Shara – thanks for sharing how you make mystery shopping work for you. It’s all about setting your goals and standards and just looking for those shops that meet them. We know every job is not going to work for every person – but we do encourage you to take those that work for you.

  2. Chris Baley says:

    Anything with photos required; that’s my “cup of tea!” Although I’ve found I really prefer merchandising (POG placement and straightening shelves), with before and after photos, it’s still nice to treat myself to a meal (be it fast food, casual dining or belly up to the bar) and a new trinket, gadget or garment. One of these days, I’m going to get outside my comfort zone and try fine dining or even luxury autos, especially if I start making more cash. Even though I’m a rich person already, when I become financially wealthy, it will be easier to pull off. A pocket full of cash goes a long way in convincing your mind that you can make these high end purchases. You don’t even need to be a actor/actress in a case like that. Also, one of these days I’m going to make an investment of the best video equipment. When I do make that decision, I will go all out in the endeavor, as I have with everything else in my life. My goal: to be the oldest person (over 100 years old) to ever have performed a mystery shop. Guinness, here I come!

  3. Chris! What a great goal. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on how you make the best of mystery shopping!

  4. I have done my share of mystery-shopping jobs where it is tricky to reconcile the time and energy needed with the paycheck offered. Sometimes, I find out that the money for that type of job is just too little. Sometimes, I need to learn how to read between the lines, so I can screen opportunities with more savvy. Sometimes a job forces me to figure out how to work more efficiently. … When first starting out with a new shopping company or category of businesses to look at – I don’t know what to expect. So I must have the mind-set of an entrepreneur. I must be willing to gamble on those “unknowns” and approach each situation with the minimum goal of learning from the experience for future reference. That way, regardless of the outcome, mystery-shopping jobs always give me something valuable in return for my effort.

    • Atara – thank you for your comments. Especially pointing out that at the start of any unknown, you need to have the mindset of an entrepreneur. If you find it is something that works for you – great! Continue to look for those types of shops. And if not – you’ve gained valuable insight on how you would prefer to work. We appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  5. Robert Greenberg says:

    I prefer on site inspections, gas stations, restaurant reviews, auditing

  6. Cathy Kramer says:

    I have found that most schedulers will tell you what is required to do the shop, types of surveys and how long the shop should take. The surveys will include the number of questions & narratives that must be done, if photos & receipts need to be uploaded with the reports.
    I have been a mystery shopper for 13 years. I have gotten very selective about the shops that I will do. It has to be of interest to me, worth my time & pay a decent fee. I will not do a shop for less than a 15.00 fee unless it’s a reimbursement for something I want. For instance, I have done fine dining shops for the last two years. I got to go with friends to some nice restaurants that I could not afford on my own. But the shops took three hours to do plus several more to write the reports. I have stopped doing them because the company was one of the most difficult that I have ever worked with. I also found many aspects of the reports to be repetitious.This increases amount of time to do the reports. I had once printed out just the narratives for one of my reports. I had over 12 pages of narratives. And that didn’t include the lengthy checklists that went with each section. So I would guess that I was filling out 30-35 pages of the survey. This doesn’t take 3-4 hours to do- even as a seasoned shopper. I would do it over a two day period & still meet my deadline.
    SO do not always think they are realistic in amount of time to do a shop or write a report.

    • Cathy – your longevity in the field brings with it insight that new people do not have. At Market Viewpoint we try to work with our clients to make them understand that at some point there is survey fatigue – so as much as they would like to know every single thing that happened during a visit (particularly dining shops) focusing on their primary concerns will typically reward them with an excellent report. However, some clients will still insist on lengthy lines of questioning. We do try to let shoppers know when the reports are longer. But again, it’s all in the perspective. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  7. Jeanmarie Willbee says:

    Regarding this question – I would like to see in the scheduler’s email to shoppers:
    Number of long narratives (over two sentences)
    Number of short narratives (under two sentences)
    Number of yes/no and multiple choice questions
    Required length of time to stay at the target location
    Average length of time prior shoppers have been at the location
    Number of interactions required (like a grocery store shop)
    Number of photos required

    Then shoppers could objectively decide if the shop is “quick and easy” for us or not.

    I also did a shop were the client designed the survey form on their own website. I got paid $50 to do a 90-minute visit, but using the client’s form on the client’s system was lots of duplicative redundant work and took me over 3 hours to do. Lesson learned – I won’t sign up for this shop again.

    • Jeanmarie – thank you for your comments. I think all shoppers learn as they go along – which is what another shopper commented about. If you have an entrepreneurs mindset – you try and then decide if that type of shop works for you or not. In terms of narratives. There are comment fields that only warrant a sentence or two, but in order to give a client a ‘fly on the wall experience’ we would expect at least 4 to 5 sentences – if not more. We will definitely take your list into consideration when we send out solicits. Thank you.

  8. I Love Chris’s post! Often I’ve thought that my shopping career could be just the ticket to a more comfortable retirement — and I’ll take on the challenge to become the oldest mystery shopper!
    With a few exceptions it seems to me that the shop fee offered is a good indicator of the time and effort required. Luxury dining, high-end cars and nice apartment building shops can offer lucrative fees, but you will work for that $75. This morning I did a grocery store shop where I do my shopping every week, and although there was no fee ($10.50 grocery reimbursement) the report literally took seven minutes with no photos, just a scan of the receipt. And I’ve done hotel overnight shops with a $50 fee and everything reimbursed, but the multiple required reports took at least three hours. Sure it’s nice to stay at a fancy hotel for free, but to me the grocery shop was more of a value.

  9. David Mayo says:

    For me being allowed to see the report and guidelines and decline the shop without penalty would tell me what I had to observe and would indicate if there are guidelines that scream, I AM THE MYSTERY SHOPPER

    If there are too many questions or the questions are ambiguous the client is trying to make you a patsy. and get a free report. One shop wants you to go to every department looking for specific items and used the same items in other departments as props. If you comment on the prop instead of in the department they want you to report on the shop is void. They get a free report.

    Pictures are in the eye of the beholder and they are never good quality or properly framed for some clients. You have to destroy the pizza and eat it cold and you are not reimbursed for the pizza or paid for the shop.

    .I was not on a shop, I was legitimately looking for a phone. Shops that are over shopped and have questions or guidelines that tip off the employee should be avoided. Employees (especially in mobile phone shops) will greet you at the door with the question, “Are you the mystery shopper?”, or they will know you are the shopper and not say a thing and change their normal poor performance cheating the client out of a mystery shop.evaluation.. Some car dealers will suspect you are a shopper when you are not. They will ask because they want to get back in rotation and get a real shopper. .

    If no employees are wearing name tags and do not have business cards and say their name is Joe and there is no Joe working there, the client should rely on their video tape and not ask for anything but a description of the employee..

  10. Pingback: So You Want to Be a Mystery Shopper? Read This Now! | Market Viewpoint

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