Analyzing The True Value Of A Mystery Shopping Assignment

For mystery shoppers, the decision of whether to request a specific assignment or kick that assignment to the curb lies in the true value of that assignment. The true value of an assignment can vary from person to person and goes far beyond the mere face value of the “shop pay”. An assignment that one mystery shopper may find to be a complete waste of time may indeed be very lucrative for another mystery shopper.

Mystery shoppers generally look at two aspects of an assignment before weighing more consideration on whether to request the job or not:

The Required Purchase. Some assignments have required purchases while others do not. For the assignments that have a required purchase, some require you to return the item while other assignments require you keep the item and still others don’t care what you do with the item after the job is over. The details surrounding the required purchase play a huge factor in the true value of an assignment for a mystery shopper. If the required purchase is for a necessity like groceries, gas, or even clothes for the kids or themselves, a mystery shopper my consider the full amount of the expense reimbursement as part of the compensation. The logic behind this is that the purchase is covering an expense the mystery shopper needed to make anyway.

On the other hand, of the required purchase is for something that is not a necessity, such as a meal at a restaurant, lingerie, books, or other novelties, the mystery shopper will place much more value in the actual cash profit the assignment provides. Sure, it may be nice to buy the newest best-seller, but if you hadn’t planned on purchasing it beforehand, the required purchase is causing  you to spend money that you otherwise had no intention of spending.

The Cash Profit. New mystery shoppers are often lured into accepting assignments based solely on the face value of the “shop pay”. However, there are many factors to consider when you weigh the actual amount of cash that an assignment will put in (or take out of) your pocket. The “shop pay” should be your starting point in your calculation. Then weigh in factors like the estimated cost of the required purchase, any reimbursement for required purchases, and travel costs. If you will be required to do a return visit, such as to return an item purchased, be sure to add travel costs for the return trip. With your travel, you should definitely consider the tax benefit for work miles traveled, which currently is a write-off of $0.50 per mile.

Once you have considered all of the financial pluses and minuses for completing the job, you will be left with an estimate of the actual cash profit you will see for completing the job. From here, consider how much time you think the assignment will take, and then look at your pay on an hourly basis. If you are going to end up with a net profit of $2/hour for that assignment, chances are you probably need to pass that assignment up for another one!

At first glance, analyzing all of these factors up-front just to see if you should request an assignment or not may seem daunting. However, after you get into the habit of running through these factors in your head, it will come as second nature to you, and you will find it doesn’t take much time at all!