Mystery Shopping Fakes and Finds

The times in my life where, for one reason or another, I was looking for a job, I always found the lure of work at home jobs tempting. The work at home jobs that were most readily available were either scams or they cost more to do than you could make. The best work at home jobs were hard to find or they required skills that I just did not have.

My true passion and calling is church ministry, which in my case has moved me across the country a couple of times. It also, until recently, did not pay at all. That meant I had to find some regular paying job that was flexible enough to let me do my church ministry.

My last move was from California back to my home state of Missouri. That left me in a position where I was not yet being paid by the church, and I still didn’t have a secular job. After a short time of filling out applications, I got tired of it and just looked up the city’s business directory and started calling. I didn’t get very far down the list before I was asked to come in for an interview. After the interview process I was hired. The job I landed was a hourly position at a mystery shopping company.

I have learned a lot about the mystery shopping industry and the problems they face with fake mystery shopping companies. These fake mystery shopping companies will often use the real mystery shopping companies name. They ofter refer to the real companies website to enhance their legitimacy. They sometimes even use the names of the employees at the real mystery shopping company.

This article’s purpose is to teach you how to avoid the fakes and take advantage of the finds by; showing you what to look for in the fakes, where to look for the finds, and the best way to make the real deal profitable. This article should give the person looking for a work at home job with flexible hours the information they need to make mystery shopping a profitable venture.

Beware of checks in the mail! If you receive checks in the mail from a mystery shopping company before you have done anything, chances are they are a fake. They may email you or even call, but if they send you money that has not yet been earned, be afraid. Be very afraid! Some unsuspecting people have called our office asking where their money is. They followed the instructions carefully. They deposited the checks and wired the money, but now their bank account is overdrawn and they are demanding answers. My only answer is they have been duped and we had nothing to do with it. It breaks my heart to tell them that they will probably never see any of that money again. If you have lost money due to one of these scams, you should contact any companies involved and the FBI as well as alert local authorities. Don’t expect any of them to be too reasuring though. Your money is probably in another country right now.

If the checks or money orders are fake, why doesn’t the bank catch them right away? The evil doers that make these fakes are really good at what they do. The only way the banks can know for sure that the checks or money order are real, is to run the transaction. That takes a couple days. Meanwhile your bank account if full of imaginary money. When you pay for something or use money out of your bank account, that money is real. If you wired money to these people or where ever they told you to wire it, that money was real as well. When the imaginary money disappears, the bank holds you responsible for the difference.

There are a plethora of other schemes out there designed to make money off anyone who might be a little to trusting. The general rule is, you don’t give or use money that you couldn’t afford to lose. If you are given money in the form of a check, money order, or even cash, give the bank time to verify it is real. Do not spend the money or send the money until it is verified. Open a separate account so as not to mix the potentially fake money with your real money. Be very careful about giving out personal information.

You might be thinking that you should just avoid everything that comes along with the words “mystery shopping” attached. Please don’t come to the conclusion that mystery shopping is always illegitimate. There are opportunities out there for those that want to shop businesses for money. Businesses rely on mystery shopping to make sure their front line employees are meeting their standard of customer service. Sometimes they do the shops internally, sending in upper management undercover. Sometimes they ask their regular customers to evaluate their service. The most common and most effective mystery shopping programs are done by third party businesses.

Mystery shopping by its very nature is secretive. Companies do not want people or other companies to know about their mystery shopping program and shoppers do not want people to know that they are mystery shoppers. Mystery shopping companies have to be very careful about how they promote their business. They can’t go around saying, “we have shops at McDonalds” to the whole world. They have to be somewhat generic. “We have fast food shops in this city” they might say. These generic advertisements rouse suspicion among those who mystery shopping companies would most like to reach. It is a catch 22.

People who are looking to become shoppers can find a few places where they can be sure the opportunities they are getting are real. One of those places in the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). The MSPA is like the Better Business Bureau, except they deal exclusively with mystery shoppers and mystery shopping companies. Their website is mysteryshop.org. They help connect shoppers with legitimate companies.

You can also find mystery shopping forums where shoppers talk to each other about what companies are the best and worse. Most mystery shopping companies will have somebody out there calling them a scam on these forums, but take those comments with a grain of salt. These shoppers probably did not complete the shop according to the client details specified before they accepted the opportunity. There are always bitter people out there who’s goal in life is to destroy the reputation of businesses they feel cheated them out of a couple dollars. Check and see if everybody is complaining or if it is just one voice in a thousand.

You can also check out the webpage of the company and any of their social media pages. Look specifically for others who have posted on the companies blog or Facebook page. You can tell a lot by how many friends a company has on their social media platforms and how active they are. Keep in mind that shoppers are pretty private people, so you won’t a whole lot of comments on public forums. You will see enough to verify there is some life though.

Legitimate mystery shopping companies will have some sort of sign up process. Some are long and somewhat laborsome. Other companies sign up process is as simple as using a Facebook automatic sign up button. A sample of your writing might be required and other information you. It is not unusual for a mystery shopping company to ask for your Social Security number or EIN. They need this for tax purposes. If you make over $599.00, the company will have to send you a 1099 form. They may also require a W9. If the company does direct deposits they will need some bank information. Asking for any of these thing should not make you think that the company is illigitament. All these things are a necessary part of doing business with you as a independent contractor.

In most cases, unless you are applying for editing, scheduling, sales or some other type of office job, you will not be hired by a mystery shopping company. What I mean is you will not become an employee of the mystery shopping company. If you do mystery shopping you will be doing it as a independent contractor. Congratulations! You are running your own at home business. Mystery shopping companies are how you connect to the clients who need shoppers. They also do all the scheduling and editing for the client. Basically, the mystery shopping company is a liaison between the mystery shopper and the business. Without all the tools that mystery shopping companies have, shoppers would not be able to deliver the kind of reporting that companies require. Without the mystery shopping companies, businesses would spend a lot more time and money on mystery shopping programs. Mystery shopping companies are a valuable asset, both to the businesses who need shoppers and to the shoppers who want to shop for businesses. The important thing to keep in mind for those looking to be shoppers is, you are not an employee. There are benefits to that and drawbacks. but you are your boss and your client is the business. You will probably never have any contact with the person who is really paying you. Strange but true. Mystery shopping is kind of a weird world.

Different mystery shopping companies have their own way of telling you what shops are available. Most mystery shopping companies will give you a login to their website where you can see all the available shops in your area. You accept the shops you want to do and after the shops are awarded, you are responsible to follow the client details for the shops you have accepted.

After completing the shop, you will normally fill out an online survey. When you have completed the survey, some mystery shopping companies will have editors review the survey, and if there are any problems, the editors will return the shop to you to correct those problems. If you fail to follow the client details or fail to complete the survey thoroughly, the editors may reject your shop all together and look for another shopper to complete it. You will not be compensated for time or money spent doing the shop. This is the risk of being an independent contractor. If your work does not meet the agreement when you accepted the project, the client does not have to reward you.

On the other hand, if the survey is filled out thoroughly and all client details were followed, you will receive the agree upon amount of money. You may also receive an agreed upon amount of reimbursement as well for purchases made. The business will pay the mystery shopping company for their services which includes the shopper pay. The mystery’s shopping company will disburse the money owed to the shoppers. The disbursements are made using pay services, paper checks, direct deposit, etc… The day of the disbursement also varies a great deal. It could take up to 90 days to receive the disbursement for your shop. It could be as quick as 15 days from the day of the shop.

There are shops that could earn you large amounts of money or reimbursement in one shot. Normally those shops require a lot of time, a large amount of money up front, and/or some risk. There are shops where you are earning a meal, product, vacation or service completely reimbursed. You will have pay for these things first, but if you do the shop correctly, they will be 100% reimbursed or up to the agreed amount in the client details.

On the other hand, a majority of shops available earn much less money. Shops can earn as little as $2, but most are in the range of $5 to $20. Some shoppers aren’t really doing it for the money and just shop for fun.

Other shoppers develop large routes so they can do as many shops as they can in one day. They can turn $10 each into $100 easily. Many shops are in close proximity and if planned well, can make the shopper a lot of money in one day. To do this they have to sign up for as many mystery shopping companies as possible.

Route shopping takes a lot of organization. You have to be able to work with the schedulers from the different mystery shopping companies and make sure the shops can all be done on the same day. You have to allow enough time to travel between locations and enough time to fill out all the surveys. Some companies require the surveys to be turned in the same day that the shop was completed. You also have to be thorough in your reports or they could be rejected. If you miss due dates or forget about shops, you could get black listed and not be able to do anymore shops for some companies. For those that can plan and organize routes, they have the most potential for making a significant amount of money.

Most locations can be done more than once by the same shopper, there are usually rotation times. Rotation times could be as little as 30 days all the way up to a year. Some shops will only be able to be done one time and will never be able to shop that location again. It just depends on what the client needs.

Mystery shopping companies may also have affiliate programs, where the affiliate is rewarded for referring shoppers to the company. These programs could pay for every person referred that signs up or even for every shop completed by the person who was referred. Some also pay for sub-affiliate activity as well.

Mystery shopping can be a viable, flexible and fun source of income. Even if you have heard horror storys of people being taken advantage of, you can confidently choose legitimate mystery shopping companies to shop for.

A Guide To Shop Insurance

Owning and running a shop can be hard enough work in itself, often seven days a week, without the additional worry of what might happen to your livelihood should the worst happen. Fortunately there are many different shop insurance policies available today covering all the risks that a retailer might face in running a business from a premises that sells goods and services to the public.

A shop insurance policy will contain a variety of covers, packaged up for the convenience of the shopkeeper.

These include shop buildings and contents cover, stock in trade cover, business interruption and loss of profits, money cover and staff fidelity insurance, legal protection, window & glass cover for shop fronts, goods in transit, public liability, employers liability, and various options to cover shop specific risks. Shop insurance packages will include as standard most of the above risks, whilst some insurers allow the prospective policyholder to select the covers that are appropriate for their particular type of shop.

Shop Insurers use various basic rating factors to decide premiums and postcode and annual turnover are major factors.

The location of your shop will largely determine the price you pay for cover, in particular for shop stock and contents. A shop located in a run down housing estate with known propensity for theft and vandalism will command a much higher premium than one located in a modern shopping centre with street security and CCTV. Annual turnover is used to calculate cover levels such as the impact of a loss on a shops ability to trade.

Shop buildings insurance covers the costs of rebuilding the shop and the costs of replacing the shop front, which is invariably made of glass. All buildings insurance covers permanent fixtures and fittings such as toilets and doors. This cover is available for both shop owners and those who lease the property.

Shop contents insurance covers all the additional shop fittings and equipment that is used in the daily running of the business. Most insurance companies will require a breakdown of the contents of the shop into sums insured fo business equipment, fixtures and fittings, electrical and computer equipment, tenants improvements, refrigerated stock and all other stock.

Shops that require protection for high risk goods held on the premises will usually need to declare the total values of each stock item. High risk shop stock and goods are those that attract thieves and are expensive to replace. Examples of high risk stock items are electronic equipment, cigarettes, and tobacco, designer clothing, computers and digital equipment, software, computer games and consoles, drugs pharmacy and medicines, watches and jewellery, mobile phones and radios, photographic equipment, power tools, TVs, DVDs, CDs and Wines and Spirits.

If your shop has high risk stock you can reduce the cost of your premiums by having adequate security in place. This includes an insurance company approved burglar and fire alarm, window grills, shutters and bars, CCTV and sprinklers. Many shop insurers will only offer stock cover if the minimum levels of security are in place for all shops, regardless of the stock contents held. A lot of insurers may offer further large discounts to the premium if the shop owner lives on or above the premises and is there at night.

Shops by their very nature deal with members of the public and a good insurance policy will usually contain liability cover as standard. This should include Public Liability of up to £2,000,000 for any one claim by a member of the public who may suffer loss or injury visiting the shop.

If you employ staff all policies will offer Employers Liability cover of up to £10,000,000 one event and because shops sell goods and services, Products Liability cover of £2,000,000 for any one period of insurance.

Other standard features of a shop insurance policy are various levels of cover for Legal expenses and Legal protection, Employers, Public and Products Liability, Loss of profits, Glass and Sanitary Ware, Money cover and staff Personal Accident assault, Business Interruption, Goods in Transit, Loss of Licence, Treatment Risks and Seasonal increases in stock contents value.

We Earn Money, Shop Till Our Souls Get Tired – The Never Ending Process

“Shopping and buying” in the layman’s perspective, “Purchasing” in the marketing parlance all means to give money for something we get. To be short, it is trade. Barter was one system those days to exchange goods against goods where no money and calculation came into action. For example a kg of rice was exchanged for a kg of wheat and so on. Those days have gone. Now it is all money. People started thinking big when they started earning more and more. The situation is like they purchase just because they have come to that status and sometimes just because it is possessed by their neighbors. I feel ownership of something is valued more than value of money. Books define market as, “A place where buyers and sellers meet and exchange their products and services”. Today, it has become a stage for earning money. People have become so much obsessed with shopping and exploring products. Well, it’s up to people how they look at it. Some buy just because they want to possess it, some do shopping as a hobby, relaxation, and some create a situation for them to shop and so on. It is endless.

Developing a craze towards shopping depends on the mindset as well as buying behavior of a person. Quality of goods, customer satisfaction, and seller’s attitude play a very important role in dragging customers to their shop. Generally discounts; good shopping environment, customer relationship management, value added services etc are some of the strategies/activities they perform to keep loyal customers. Well, product availability, services, variety of branded goods, assortment of products, store ambiance etc are considered very important.

Shopping is done by each one of us almost daily. We find some reason to buy something. Pens, pencils, groceries and so on. List is endless. I have seen people would write down a list do buy but when they get into the shop, they get carried away by the attractive displays, advertisements, and sometimes even the wrapper and buy the things which is not in their list. Finally they come home and say, “Oh my god, I have got this one. I forgot what I wanted. It is my mistake” and so on. In marketing parlance, it is impulse purchasing.

Well, shopping is always fun. Some plan to shop. To others, it just happens. There is one term “window shopping”. Defining it would be great. It is always cheapest way of obtaining satisfaction. It is the only shopping in which people do it with a lot of pleasure and happiness because no money gets out of the pocket. Window shopping is even more great if the shopping mall is air conditioned well perfumed with good fragrance and the store ambiance is colorful. Wow. I am sure everyone would have experienced this.

Festivals always begin with shopping. This is the only culture followed all over the world. What do we buy during festivals? Sweets, chocolates, gifts, clothes, stationeries, fruits, flowers, dress materials, junk foods etc. The list is surely endless. “Hey, come let us see what we find there, will this shop be okay for us?, where do we get branded clothes?”, are some of the questions we will be able to notice. Specialty stores earn a lot during this period. When I think of specialty stores, the word brand loyalty hits my mind. It is when a person uses only a particular brand. They do not compromise with other brands. “Somehow I want it” will be their attitude. In that case men have a lot of brands to stick on to whereas women don’t.

Basically I love shopping. I buy anything that is good and worth paying. People generally ask me, “Why did you take Retail management as an elective paper in your marketing” and this is my answer to them, “I love shopping and moreover retailing sector is coming up”. There is always one question that keeps coming in my mind. Why do people buy? The very true answer is because of the external appearance (packaging) and the considerable price. Packing plays a very important role in the sale of a product. The best example would be FMCG (Fast moving consumer goods) products. Shampoos, biscuits, chocolates, tooth pastes, cosmetics and many fall under the category. I feel impulse purchase is influenced by the packing.

I feel, targeting the kids would make any company successful. Kids are influencers in most of the families. Right from biscuits to clothes parents give them the choice. Those days the attitude towards shopping for a child was, “I have bought this for you”. Now it has changed entirely. It has now become, “see if this will suit you, if you don’t like it you choose”. Cartoons and animated wrapper does not matter. Pleasant color and good designs matter a lot.

As I mentioned earlier, I love shopping. I feel people should have the art of observing things that happen around them when they shop. Well, it is very interesting to see the product assortment, salesman’s way of responding, displays inside and outside the shop, promotion strategies followed to attract the customers, lights over the products, maintenance and so on. The joy of watching people enjoying and buying what they want cannot be expressed in short. Shopping itself is an endless topic. My idea of looking at shopping will not be the same as others. It need not be also.

I feel a salesman can create ‘n’ number of footfalls to his shop. Promotion, advertising, brand image and location contribute a lot externally but inside the shop, how the customer is treated matters a lot. In a shop, a section should not have too many salespersons. If the crowd is too much, it helps. If there are limited customers, then it irritates the customers. Clutters like repetition of requesting, delay in showing the products, lack of attention to one customer generally happen. I have seen people deciding if they should get back to the same shop or not in the billing counter itself. If they like it, they say, “This is the shop I was looking for, awesome service, great shopping experience and so on”. If they don’t like the service, even if everything is good there, “I have never had such a bad experience, they don’t have anything with them other than their salesmen and so on”. This reminds me of one saying, “One satisfied customer can bring ‘n’ number of customers”. This is “Word of mouth strategy”.

I wish to share what I enjoyed as a customer while shopping in points. I feel this is the best way I can express. Many may identify the shop itself. I list them in general.

• Advertisement according to the themes. If pink is the color of the day everything in that shop would be decorated in the same color.
• Customer relationship. They tend to send card wishing birthdays and wedding day.
• Informing us about their new collection arrived, discounts and so on through phone, sms or emails.
• Attractive displays, mainly in the jewel shops by way of inviting attention
• Lighting and display of products in to the category they belong.
• Appreciating the customers on their choice or suggesting the customers that it will suit them.
• Letting customers pick their needs.
• Entertainments inside the shop such as dressing some person like a cartoon character to amuse the kids so that their parents can shop without any trouble.
• In some shops customers are allowed to select a song of their choice by placing a pay juke box

Lots come to mind when I think of why I like a particular shopping complex or why I like shopping. As mentioned earlier, it is an endless topic. Well, thanks for reading this ‘long’ blog of mine. I started this topic long time back, but now only I have completed it. I know there are few marketing jargons which I have used in this blog. I am still not satisfied. I feel I am leaving it incomplete. I have to stop now or it will keep going. I hope to find time to write more in this area. Once again, thanks for reading. I have written what I feel with very little of marketing knowledge. Thanks once again for reading my blog…