Whether you are a rural mystery shopper or you do your mystery shopping in one of the larger metropolitan areas in the country, you are likely tempted to tackle an assignment or two that may be a bit outside the area you normally mystery shop in. Yet you’ve struggled with the idea that those shops are too far away to be worth your time. This begs the question – how far should you drive to complete a mystery shopping assignment?
Do The Math. You have your address and the address of the store you are considering mystery shopping at. Thanks to online technology, you can use any number of online mapping tools to quickly and easily check the driving distance of the assignment. Be sure to double the mileage for your return trip home.
Keep in mind the cost of gas in your area and the approximate gas mileage your car gets. Then do a quick calculation and run the numbers. For instance, assume your car gets 20 miles per gallon of gas, and gas in your area costs $2 per gallon. A 40 mile round trip mystery shopping assignment will take approximately 2 gallons of gas and will cost you approximately $4 in gas.
What’s Your Profit? First, look at all of the income associated with the assignment, including bonus pay, travel reimbursement (if any), and expense reimbursement. Then look at all of the expenses associated with the assignment, including an estimated cost of your required purchases and your travel costs. When you net the income and expenses out, you will have your total net profit (or loss).
Keep in mind that just because a net figure may be low or even negative does not necessarily mean you should pass on the assignment. First, you can write off the mileage expense on your tax return as a business-related expense. The IRS currently allows you to write off $0.55 per mile. Also, if the assignment requires the purchase of an item you were already planning on purchasing, such as gas or groceries, you may actually come out ahead.
Or, if you were planning on making a trip to that area anyway, the assignment may be a great way to write off that mileage and pick up some extra cash on a trip you were going to make regardless.
Pick Up Other Shops. If the assignment you are considering is borderline in terms of profitability to you, you can consider picking up some other shop assignments en route. Then do the math on both shop assignments together, running all income and expense figures together. Often you can find another assignment or two that will make your time and effort more worth your while.
With the economy taking a downturn, many mystery shoppers are looking for new ways to make some extra money by mystery shopping. Spend a few minutes doing the math on some of the shops outside your normal shopping perimeter to find where you can make some additional cash as a mystery shopper.