Are You Losing Money by Working on Certain Mystery Shopping Assignments?

Most people don’t become mystery shoppers just for the fun of it, but rather because it is a convenient, flexible way to earn some money. So it only stands to reason that as a mystery shopper, you want to work on the assignments that make you money. Not all mystery shopping assignments are equally as profitable, and in fact you can even lose money on some assignments if you aren’t careful. Here are some things to look for to ensure you don’t lose money on your next mystery shopping assignments:

Time. Your time is valuable. Mystery shopping assignments don’t typically pay you by the hour, but rather upon completion of an assignment. Often it takes some experience to estimate how long a certain assignment will take you to complete simply by reading the job description posted on the job board. However, you should always make an earnings per hour estimation of not only the time it takes to perform the site visit, but also for travel and the time to complete the report. When you find that you would only be making $5 per hour on an assignment, the impulse may be to move on to other assignments on the job board and skip over that one. However, there are other factors to consider as well, which may add to or subtract from the profitability of the assignment.

Distance. There is a cost to driving to and from your site locations, and there are many different factors that go into your travel cost. These factors include the gas mileage of your car, the cost of gas at the time of your site visit, the mileage deduction offered by the IRS for business miles traveled, and the actual miles traveled to and from the site. You also want to factor in bonus pay you receive for traveling, if any. Some of these factors will fluctuate, such as the price of gas. Other items, such as bonus pay, are negotiable. So there is not necessarily a cut-off point for miles you should or should not travel to do an assignment. However, because distance plays such a major factor in the profitability of an assignment, it should be considered before you accept any assignment. In some cases, you may even find that distance may make a less than attractive assignment a little more attractive because sometimes travel costs actually add to the profitability of an assignment.

Required Purchase. Many assignments have a required purchase, and the requirements vary greatly between assignments. Some assignments will have you make a minimum purchase of $5 at a grocery store while others will require you to spend at least $20 at a retail clothing store. Still others will ask that you return the item later. You will want to pay attention not only to the required purchase, but also if that purchase can be made on something you intended to buy anyway, such as groceries, or if it will be on a frivolous purchase, such as a new purse you don’t really need. At first glance, a required $5 purchase on groceries that is not reimbursed along with shop pay of $5 may make you seem as they you are breaking even. However, since you can buy $5 worth of groceries you needed to buy anyway, this $5 actually can be looked at as coming from your personal budget yet with the ability to write off the purchase as a business expense.

You can see that there are many different factors involved in determining how profitable a mystery shopping assignment is. While the calculations seem a bit complicated at first, with some experience, you may find that you can quickly and easily determine the profitability of an assignment simply by eyeballing the job boards.