Thursday, November 30, 2006

News flash: Moving to new site!

Thanks to all of you who have visited Supplement Your Income, and great news. We are moving to a new site and a new format, with an easy to remember name:

The new site features:
- A new and attractive format
- Easy-to-use design
- Classic website (rather than blog) format

I'm still in progress of moving over all of the content. From now on, all new articles and reviews will be posted to the new site, so head on over and check it out!

Friday, November 10, 2006

Corporate Risk Solutions

Corporate Risk Solutions

Overall Rating: A-
  • Number of jobs/clients: Below average
  • Type of jobs: Retail / service evaluations, miscellaneous
  • Rate of pay: Above average, reimbursements offered
  • Speed and method of payment: PayPal, 2-5 weeks
  • Bonuses offered?: None known

Corporate Risk Solutions is a well-established, small mystery shopping company. Their fees are above average, they offer different and innovative shops. They pay promptly and reliably (generally on the 10th of the following month) by PayPal. The schedulers I have dealt with have been friendly and helpful.

Overall, this is one of the companies that is just a pleasure to work for, and I have heard few complaints about them.


Sadly, there are not many clients currently working with Corporate Risk Solutions, so shops are often few and far between. Also, some shops have been offered that require shoppers to give out personal information so that companies will check your credit, causing inquiries which can hurt your credit score. Being able to have a workaround for this would be welcome, but until then, you can still take some of their other shops.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Where do I find MSPs, where do they post jobs, where can I find forums?

One of the most important things, if not the most important thing, about being a successful mystery shopper is having information and resources available to you. Below is a list of the best mystery shopping provider lists to help you sign up for more companies, as well as some venues where schedulers post available mystery shopping jobs, and forums where you can network with shoppers and schedulers as well as get feedback and information.

Mystery Shopping / Merchandiser Company Lists

MSFreedom's MSP List (Must be registered on forum)

MSFreedom Merchandising Companies List (Must be registered)

Volition's MSP Lists (includes brief descriptions)
Mystique MSP Lists
Mystery Shopping / Merchandiser Company Postings

Volition Forums: All Job Postings

MSFreedom Mystery Shop Job Board

MSFreedom Merchandising Job Board

Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA)

The National Association for Retail Marketing Services (NARMS)
(mostly merchandising)

Mystery Shopping Forums

MSFreedom Forum

MSPA Forums

Volition Forums

Mystique Forums

Mystery Shop Resources

Moms Who Mystery Shop Forum

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Shadow Shopper: Is It Worth It? Is It A Scam?

As a free mystery shopping site, I am naturally a little biased against companies like ShadowShopper that charge you for information. Yet, it breaks my heart to see so many people posting to mystery shopping forums who've used Shadow Shopper and feel their money has been wasted, and I'd like to present a little information about why I don't like Shadow Shopper. First, let's take apart some of the things I've read on the pro- side of this argument.

"ShadowShopper helps new people into mystery shopping."

That may be true. But is it really helping? Most people I talk to who I tell I am a mystery shopper will answer one of two ways:

"Isn't that a scam?"


"Don't I have to pay to do that?"

Why does this perception exist? Because of companies like Shadow Shopper that have made mystery shopping synonymous with scams. The fact is that you don't need to pay to mystery shop. I'd have the same poor opinion of a site that required job seekers to pay. It is, in my opinion, predatory.

"Shadow Shopper allows me to get more shops than I would otherwise."

This may be true for some. Yet, Shadow Shopper overestimates the amount of shops available in order to sell you their product.

I did a little experiment. From Shadow Shopper's website, you can search for "How many jobs are in my area?" I did so, and it delivered line after line of mystery shops. Sounds great! If you try to click on one for information, they, of course, ask for money.

Yet, if you hover the mouse over one of the shops, you can get the first part of the company's ad. In some cases, this will include the name of the provider! I looked up one of these providers which I am already a member of. Hmm, interesting - no shops available. In fact, that particular site even offers email notification, and I have not been notified of this shop despite being a member for over six months. I check another site. Same thing! No shop is actually available. The list also includes a huge number of duplicate entries. I recognize one of the ads as one that was posted on various forums looking for shoppers - over a year ago!

There are advocates that will say they got a lot of shops. That's great, but I don't like to support companies like Shadow Shopper because there 'might' be a benefit. However, there is a real risk!

Of course, you risk that you will not return your investment. However, note that ShadowShopper is a subscription company. You must cancel or you will continue being charged. I have received many reports that people were charged after cancelling, or that they indicated they did not want to subscribe and were subscribed anyway.

If ShadowShopper is really, truly worth the investment - why do they have to rely on this sort of marketing? Shouldn't a great product at a reasonable price sell itself?

Why do they also have a "no refund" policy? Check out their Terms of Service for subscribing: "On the 7th day of your 7 day trial membership, your credit card on file will be charged for continuing membership for the time period you have specified...NO refunds, for any reason, will be issued after the renewal transaction has occurred." Satisfaction is most definitely not guaranteed!

So, even after all this, if you are still thinking of joining ShadowShopper, think about this. From their own Terms of Service:

" is only a venue. This Web Site acts as a venue for employers to post job opportunities and candidates to post biographies and does not screen or censor the listings offered."

ShadowShopper offers a service where MSPs and potential shoppers can communicate. It's a free market and they're perfectly welcome to do so. Yet, there are so many of these venues that you don't need to risk anything! You can read yourself - on this site as well as others - about companies to join. If you want a long, comprehensive list of mystery shopping companies to sign up for, sign up over at MSFreedom and you can see hundreds of mystery shopping companies listed, all for free. On, schedulers post hundreds of mystery shopping openings every week! There are many other mystery shopping lists out there, too.

If has more MSPs advertising their shops -- at a cost -- when they could be advertising for free elsewhere, it's only because they have an audience. The audience only comes because of advertising, which in turn is paid for by both MSP and shopper alike. By not using ShadowShopper, you support free mystery shopping resources on the Web. Notwithstanding leaving you richer, this benefits everyone ... well, except ShadowShopper.

Sensors Quality Management (SQM)

Sensors Quality Management, Inc. (SQM)

Overall Rating: B+
  • Number of jobs/clients: Average (many shops, few clients)
  • Type of jobs: Restaurant, retail, miscellaneous
  • Rate of pay: Average, reimbursements offered
  • Speed and method of payment: Check or direct deposit, 4-8 weeks
  • Bonuses offered?: None known

SQM benefits from a website which makes it easy to check for all shops in your state, then drill down for each particular town. The schedulers I have dealt with have been friendly and flexible. They are also flexible with receipts: fax, scan, or mail methods are all accepted, and one major client does not require a receipt at all.

The report cards SQM provides are often very helpful with correcting errors or offering suggestions, though they do not have a real "grading" system. They also have a STEP training system; the tests are difficult, but the process, while recommended, is largely optional.

SQM also has questions on its form to allow spots to indicate anywhere the form did not work or where the multiple-choice options were not appropriate. This is a welcome addition!


You must invoice SQM online each month, though they have made it an easy process. Make sure to sign up for direct deposit as checks by mail are charged a fee. Pay is only processed the last week of the month following the shop, but SQM does pay reliably and without fuss.

Thursday, September 28, 2006 : How to avoid mystery shopping scams is one of my regular websites, and they have provided a lengthy article about how to avoid mystery shopping scams. Scammers are now using cashier check fraud and wire fraud - already prevalent in taking advantage of people - to specifically target potential mystery shoppers. It's very important to make sure you only give sensitive personal information to reputable, well-known companies, and use common sense! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Questions from the Mailbag #1

Tom writes, "Thanks for putting your information online. I just started reading this and have sent the link to my wife. It looks like the 15 Silver Certification is the first step and eventually Gold. I know this is subjective number, but what does a typical certified shopper make on a weekly basis and how much time is spent doing the shopping, reporting, etc?

I think you stated that you should never pay a fee to join a MS
company. Did I read that right?"

First of all, welcome to mystery shopping, Tom! I wish you and your wife the best of luck.

First of all, yes, getting Silver Certification should be one of your first steps. Many companies will give you a slight preference if you have it. However, it's not difficult to accept a few shops to try out mystery shopping first, before you spend the $15. After that, Gold certification may be an option depending on your area.

As for earnings -- unfortunately, it's an impossible question to answer. The amount of time and energy you spend getting certified, signing up for companies, actively looking for work, and developing a professional reputation with MSPs will be a huge variable. There are some, albeit a limited number, who do this full time. Most do this on a part time basis and it will depend a lot on what sort of shops you do. I'm limited to doing evening and weekend shops, and usually prefer no more than five to ten hours per week (though I have done twenty or thirty during peak times). Typically, shops won't be even throughout the month, but on a monthly basis as a relatively new shopper it's not difficult to make $500 per month with an average time investment of ten hours per week in looking for shops, applying, and actually completing them.

You'll find out awfully fast which shops are and aren't worth doing. There are a lot of problematic shops out there that, frankly, are a waste of your time and resources. I typically expect a return of at least $15 to $20 per hour (including time entering reports). I do a lot of ten minute shops, with short forms, for around $10 and think that's fair. A 45 minute to an hour shop, with a long form, for $5 -- not worth it! Don't hesitate to do one or two low paying shops to get in with a company, but after that, be skeptical.

And, yes, by all means, don't pay to join a particular provider! It is almost never worth it and most companies that charge fees are just middlemen who give information about where to get shops. Typically, this is not cost effective; you're better off learning the trade from free resources.

Best of luck and keep shopping!

Saturday, March 04, 2006


Overall Rating: B
  • Number of jobs/clients: Below average
  • Type of jobs: Restaurant (fine dining), entertainment, miscellaneous
  • Rate of pay: Reimbursement only
  • Speed and method of payment: PayPal, 1-4 weeks
  • Bonuses offered?: None known
Nsite offers fair reimbursement amounts for the venue, and often includes a guest. Schedulers are easy to contact and communicate with, and I have found them to be friendly and professional. Their pay is reliable and on the quick side.

The audit forms are clear and sample narratives are provided both in the e-mail invitation and on their website, so it's easy to look at what you're committing to beforehand. The sample narratives are extremely helpful and are specific to the shop, so you can have a good idea of what they are looking for.

Nsite advertises shops on Yahoo! Groups, and if a shop is not available when you request it, they will contact you again at your request with further invitations.


Nsite does require extensive narratives, and their forms are more time consuming than most. For a restaurant shop, this could take you an hour or more, with many specific timings, required names, and detailed information is required in every category. Compared to many other shop companies that have character limits, Nsite wants highly detailed information for their clients. Shops have specific dates and times to be completed.

Recruitment is by e-mail invitation only; no job board is available.