In some parts of the country gas is over $4 per gallon now, with rumors of it hitting over $5 per gallon soon. That really eats into a shopper’s profits! It really starts to make that $5 or $10 shop that’s ‘only’ 10 miles down the road look very unattractive. What can you do to make that sucker-punch at the gas pump a softer blow to your pocketbook?
Home At Last! The obvious answer is to take shops that are closer to your house. Less travel means less gas expense. Consider doing shops that you normally wouldn’t be interested in that are closer to your house. Who knows? You may end up enjoying doing a different type of shop.
For shops you like doing but that are located farther away, re-analyze if that shop is worth doing with gas prices what they are. You really need to look at all of the costs of each job. Gas prices have been rising weekly, so a shop you decided last month was OK to do may not be such a good idea this month. As gas prices continue to rise, that same shop from last month will be at a lower total profit to you today than it was previously.
Load ‘Em Up! There are times when you’ll see several shops for one mall or retail center pop up at the same time. If you’re able to load up several shops in or near the same location, this is a wonderful way to stretch your travel expense across several shops.
Or consider personal errands you need to run. If you see a shop assignment in an area where you have already planned to be for that day for personal errands, apply for that shop. This is a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
Write It Off! Don’t forget to keep track of your mileage for all shops. For all business-related trips, the IRS will allow you to write off $0.505 per mile in 2008. So over the course of a month, if you travel 100 miles for mystery shopping (to the stores and then back home again), you’ve got a $50.50 tax write-off that month. That’s worth almost a full tank of gas on a typical sedan at today’s gas prices!
Ask For More! If you want to do a shop that is located farther away than you’d like to go because of the travel expense, ask the scheduler for travel reimbursement. Now, if the shop was just posted and the shop is in a major metro area, chances are the scheduler will want to wait and see if other shoppers snatch it up. But if the shop is in a rural location or if it’s been sitting around waiting to be filled, it sure doesn’t hurt to ask for more money.
Mystery shopping is a business. With any business, you have income and you have expenses. Before you request a shop, spend a few minutes analyzing the travel cost to make sure you’ll really profit from doing it. You’re in this business at least partly to make money, not to lose money. So make sure that when all is said and done, you’re going to make a profit on the shop before you sign up for it.