Mystery Shopping: Part 1 – Traditional

Welcome to part one of my mystery shopping theme. Over a three posts I will introduce you to the main ways to earn money via mystery shopping; traditional, online and app.

mystery shopping

What is mystery shopping?

Mystery shopping is the way a company/business/brand can monitor how the staff/store are managing their product. In a store they want to know how polite and efficient the staff working for them are, how well trained they are, how clean the place is and are they providing the quality of service expected. A company or brand may want to know whether the products are being displayed properly. To do this they “employ” the services of the general public to carry out tasks and evaluate what they are looking for. Some companies will pay a fee for this, some will reimburse you the cost of any products purchased and others will generously give both.

Over the years, mystery shopping has changed a lot especially with the introduction of online purchases and mobile phone apps; making it available to a lot more people.

What is traditional mystery shopping

Traditional mystery shopping has been around for many, many years; I remember working in a cinema at 18 and having to keep an eye out for mystery shoppers. A company will request their shopper to visit a store during a specific time and carry out a certain task or set of tasks. This might be to buy a product, interact with the staff or  inspect the store. They then need to return to their home or a venue outside of the recently visited store and write a report about the visit giving all the details requested. They submit the report, along with receipts to a) prove they completed the task and b) receive their reimbursement.

Still not clear? I’ll give you an example.

I used to work for McDonald’s where a mystery shopper was called a “Gap Buster” as this is the company used to evaluate the fast food company. They could visit three times a day either 8-10am, 12-2pm or 5-7pm; known in the world of McDonald’s as “Gap Time” – That’ll explain why the store is suddenly inundated with staff and managers. A store would receive two visits a month; one in the store and one on the drive thru (unless it didn’t have one, then it was two in store). The “Gap Buster” had to enter the store or drive thru queue and start timing their visit. The company want to know how quickly the service was from entering the store to sitting down with their meal. They had to order a specific meal, nothing special and take note of the staff member serving them; their appearance and serving manner as well as their speed. They had to make sure they got a receipt. They would then eat their meal and have to make a note of the taste, the temperature and quality. A visit to the toilets was a must, again making note of everything they saw. Finally making note of the general appearance of the store, including it’s exterior and whether there was any dining area staff on duty interacting with customers.

The “Gap Buster” then left the store to make note of their visit and submit their report to GapBuster who informed the company of it’s results; normally within 24 hours. The shopper is then reimbursed for their meal and given a fee for their time.

Many companies make use of mystery shoppers not just fast food restaurants, there are 5* hotels who require their services to be evaluated, holiday resorts, michelin starred restaurants and car dealerships. Even if they don’t pay a fee it gives the average Joe a chance to experience these places knowing that they’ll be reimbursed.

How can I get into mystery shopping?

There are plenty of companies in the UK that are on the look out for mystery shoppers but they do require an application to be filled in, it’s basically like applying for a job. They want to know why they should select you to carry out their work. Certain places won’t allow you to work for them if you have any history with the companies they represent; for example, I cannot accept work for McDonald’s having worked there within the past 5 years. There is a fantastic thread on The Money Shed‘s forum about all aspects of mystery shopping, including traditional work and which companies are worth applying to. Due to NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) I cannot state which I work for but I will list a few to take a look at.

GapBuster

Mystery Dining Company

Market Force

Retail Active

How much can you earn mystery shopping?

How long is a piece of string? There was a brilliant blog I read the other week about a mystery shopper who does it full-time and brings in (on average) £1000-£2500 a month BUT she had been doing it years and the amount of preparation it takes, means it is literally her full-time job. How much you can earn really does depend on the area you live, how far you are willing to travel and what you have to offer the company conducting the mystery shopping; whether you meet their needs. Like I said, some will only reimburse you for your purchases and others will pay you a fee for going. It is a case of signing up to the companies and seeing what is available.

I don’t do much in the way of traditional mystery shopping at the moment because I live on the outskirts of a major city and the cost of getting to the places that need evaluating outweighs the fee that’ll get reimbursed but I am looking to increase this over the coming months so I will report back. I do however do pretty well when it comes to online mystery shopping which is what I will be covering in next week’s post.

If you have questions or comments about mystery shopping then please feel free to ask. I hope this has given you a little more insight into mystery shopping.

Things I’ve Learnt Since Becoming A Vegan

Almost 2 months ago my husband and I decided to become Vegan – you can read more about that in my Becoming A Vegan post. I thought it was about time I checked in and share with you what I’ve learnt since becoming a vegan.

I've learnt since becoming a vegan

  1. I don’t miss anything – I honestly thought I’d be craving things like cheese or milk but I really haven’t. We’ve managed to find some amazing replacements such as rice milk (which is lush on cereal) and some pretty tasty yoghurts that are made with soya.
  2. Toileting – Oh M Gee, I never knew going to the loo could get any easier and I’m sorry if you don’t want to hear this but pooing is fabulous! TMI ALERT!!! Most of the time if I needed to go I could be in the loo 10 minutes, struggling but now I’m in and out within a minute – it just flows.
  3. It’s cheaper – Our monthly shop costs have already gone down and that’s even with buying some of the meat replacement products (which we hope to reduce over the next month). I did a chilli the other day and worked out that it was almost £4 cheaper to do just because I left the meat out and still tasted amazing (with all the same nutrients minus the massive saturated fat content as meat!!!).
  4. Eating out isn’t that bad – I worried about this, even though there are now over half a million vegans in the UK many places still don’t offer vegan options but I’ve only struggled in one place – the local Fayre and Square pub but that was a disaster all the way through. We’ve eaten in Las Iguanas who are AMAZING for vegans, we’ve had Toby Carvery, Handmade Burger Company and we’re trying to find the time to get to Zizzi as well as a local place called Twisted Burger Company. There are plenty of options.
  5. Milk and milk powder is hidden everywhere – We’ve had to really check labels because even things you wouldn’t expect milk to be in has it in. Things like wine, yes we’ve seen milk listed on wine (ARGH!). I’m so glad for the app “Is It Vegan?” – it makes life a little easier.
  6. I feel great – Within a week I was feeling fantastic, within two weeks I was no longer bloated and by week four I felt like a different person. I’ve lost weight, my eyes are brighter, my skin is clearer and my body seems to be functioning fantastic – I’ve even got the energy to go to the gym.
  7. The longer you’re a vegan the better people react towards you – When we first switched friends and family almost mocked us, didn’t understand and were kinda ignorant. Now they ask questions, understand why we did it and can see the changes in us. I’ve had a few people talk to me about how to go about making the switch which feels great.
  8. New foods – We have discovered many new foods since doing this that we probably wouldn’t have thought about trying unless we had made the change. I was always put off tofu but when prepared right it is a wonderful thing. Seitan is amazing – I made a lovely kebab with it several weeks back. This morning we had chia pudding (check out the recipe HERE from The Minimalist Baker) for breakfast which was delicious.
  9. The world is backwards – Did you know that if the world went vegan that we could end world hunger? Yup! The crops we currently grow to feed the animals that we then kill to feed ourselves could be used to, well you know – FEED US! We pump the animals full of things like antibiotics to stop them infecting us and making us ill BUT that’s making us immune to those antibiotics so when we are ill there is nothing we can do. I actually watched a documentary the other day about a woman who was fighting for her life and the antibiotic that could of helped her no longer can because she’s become immune to it through animal product consumption. It’s bonkers.
  10. The animals – Becoming vegan was never about the animal welfare to begin with, that has become a part of the reason through research into becoming vegan. Some of the stuff I’ve seen and read is heartbreaking and disgusting. The manufactured meat and dairy industry are just as bad as each other, and I think the dairy and egg industry is actually worse than the meat industry. I’m not here to preach or guilt trip so if you’re interested in what really happens for your meat, dairy and eggs then drop me a message and I’ll fill you in – it’s a real tear-jerker.

It’s quite good that I planned this post for today which is World Meat Free Day, so today is a great way to make a difference. Even just having one day a week which is meat-free is making a difference – one day turns into two days, two days ends up half the week and so on.

I’d love to know what you’re having today – we’re having meat-free meatballs made with tempeh in a homemade marinara sauce and spaghetti. Also, if you have any questions about the things I’ve learnt since becoming a vegan then please feel free to ask – I’m all about helping.

What Is The Money Shed?

Until April 2014 I assumed that working for home either involved direct selling such as Avon or Ann Summers, both I tried and failed at, door-to-door sales or being very lucky and having a company that is willing to let you stay at home to work. I was proven very wrong when I was introduced to The Money Shed by it’s founder Jon.

The Money Shed

I had been trawling the forum of a popular parenting site when I came across a post about working from home, I commented and not long after Jon was there to tell us about opportunities that were available which weren’t any of those I have previously listed. One of the opportunities caught my eye more than the rest, 63336, the text answering service, I queried Jon about this job in which he pointed me over to The Money Shed. At first, like many I am sure, I was a little put off by a random link to a forum I had never heard of; slight warning bells rang but I made a leap of faith and found myself on a very new forum. It had only been running since January and you could still tell it was finding its feet but I looked passed that and started to interact with the members. Jon gave me the referral details for the 63336 job, he coached me through what to expect and before I knew it I was officially a Researcher for them. Jon did this for many people who signed up for the company as he had been with them a little while and before that worked for another similar company called ChaCha.

As I had found my feet on the forum I started paying attention to what the other members were doing to earn an income. Some were very into mystery shopping, others into surveys but not the kind you get paid pennies and spend half an hour completing one. Many though blogged. I had blogged in the past but nothing serious and certainly didn’t know there was any money in it. This is again where The Money Shed came in handy, all the members were more than willing to help; no question was too stupid. They still do, and even though I’ve been writing this blog for a year now (with a couple of others prior to that) I still find myself heading to TMS for advice and info about moving my blog forward.

What most people don’t realise unless they are already in this world is that there are so many ways to earn online or from home and you can bring in a full-time wage, the likes of Lionbridge or Leapforce who pay per hour (around $14 per hour) and you can basically choose your hours. Then there are people who just want that little extra spending money each month who choose to do things like Roamler/StreetSpotr/Click&Walk/Field Agent which are all mystery shopping apps; if you are in the right locations then these can bring in an excess of £100 per month. I have chosen at the moment to just top our household income up rather than diving into a full-time wage; I like to have my finger in many online pies so I never get bored of the same thing. Which is why I do Younique, Jamberry, Matched Betting, Mystery Shopping, Website Evaluation – to name but a few things.

I’ve now been a member of The Money Shed for over 2 years and play a very active role on the forum as a moderator and walking advertisement. With that I have discovered many of the opportunities I have listed on Working From Home and Online post as well as being given tasks by Jon that companies have approached him with. One of those was a sort of audio-transcription job, I had to say 100 phrases into my microphone which took less than an hour and if I remember rightly it paid £13. Another was a bit of a research job hunting down footballers alias and writing 3 clues about their identity; this took about 2 hours and paid £25.

I’m also in charge of the direct sellers/MLM board where representatives from different companies come along to talk about their opportunity in a non-spammy way. I’m very strict about that too, I know how it feels to want to build your team, to expand your business but I don’t stoop to spamming people so don’t allow others on the forum to either. So if you’re interested in a certain company, take a look at that board for honest information from people in that area.

With almost 80,000 posts and a member base of almost 3000 people, The Money Shed is now the largest UK forum dedicated to working from home; oh that’s another point, it is only available to UK residents. This ensures that every opportunity is available and relevant to the members.

Check out The Money shed Blog HERE and I highly recommend reading through the Working from home Toolkit to anyone looking to get started earning at home.

If you have any questions about The Money Shed or anything else in my blog then please feel free to ask. I hope this helps some of you find your feet in the confusing world of working from home.

Something Different For Teacher’s Gifts

Where has the last academic year gone? It seems like only yesterday we were settling Eban into his new school, with his new teachers and new friends. At the end of this week he’ll be spending a day with his year 3 teachers and on the 20th June he moves class permanently. He is a little upset about this because his current teachers have been amazing with him and he’s gone from hating school to actually wanting to be at school. So, I’ve decided I want to get his teachers a little something different and thought I’d show you some of the things I’ve come across while looking for teacher’s gifts.

Firstly I want to say that I’m a huge fan of supporting local or smaller businesses, I love looking for new and unique ideas that no-one else will have thought about and isn’t you’re usual plant or box of chocolates. A few of the teacher’s gifts I have listed are made by friends or businesses I have bought from in the past so I highly recommend them.

Anthea’s Arts and Crafts

Teacher's gifts

All photos are courtesy of Anthea’s Arts and Crafts – I have permission to use them.

All Anthea’s work is handpainted to order, she does a large range of items including some fantastic Family Birthday Reminder Boards. For her teacher’s gifts she does these lovely plaques which just about sum up a lot of the really good teachers of this country. They are super cute and affordably priced. The Apple plaque is £4.50 while the other two are £6.50 each. Anthea offers 1st Class, 2nd Class or Special Delivery by 1pm for all the items (starting at £1.24). Please be aware that because Anthea makes these herself she needs notice for some of the items, especially if they require personalisation so don’t leave it until the last minute to order yours. You can contact her via her website www.antheasartsandcrafts.com or via her Facebook Page.

AB Military

Teacher's gifts

All photos are courtesy of Anthea’s Arts and Crafts – I have permission to use them.

Now don’t be put off by the name of AB Military, they are a small family run business who offer a range of personalised printed gifts. Anything from mugs and candles to jigsaws, cushions and calendars. They even do t-shirt printing. All prices are very affordable with mugs (for example) starting from £4.99. Drop them a message via the website www.abmilitary.co.uk or look them up on Facebook.

By Lisabellah

Teacher's Gifts

Photo credit to By Lisabellah – www.folksy.com/shops/LisasJewelleryAndGifts

I love By Lisabellah – I have previously bought gifts from her and they are absolutely gorgeous. By Lisabellah is handmade jewellery that is quirky and different. She has a full range of perfect teacher’s gifts but I personally like the idea above – I think it’s super cute and different. Her prices are very reasonable and so is her postage; the above gift is £7.50 with £250 shipping within the UK (25p per extra item). Check out her Folksy page www.folksy.com/shops/LisasJewelleryAndGifts or pop along to her Facebook Page if you have any questions.

Cham’s Jams

Teacher's Gifts

Ok, so yeah…this is me but I think Jamberry wraps make a great gift. With over 300 designs to choose from you are spoiled for choice. All wraps are £15 plus shipping but if you pop over to my Facebook Page and let me know you’re wanting a set of wraps for a teacher’s gift then I’ll do you something extra special for them. Check out my website for our full range www.chamsjams.co.uk.

 

Last Chance To Register To Vote

The time has almost come, the time to make the huge decision about whether we stay in the European Union or we leave. Now I’m not here to tell you how you should vote, I’m not here to tell you how I’m going to vote – there is enough guilt tripping about your choice on Facebook and I believe everyone has their own reasons for how and why they make their choices. Here’s the thing, if you don’t register to vote then you’re not making your choices known.

register to vote

You might think that there is no point, your vote won’t matter but if everyone who thought that actually took the 10 minutes to go and vote then imagine how different things can or could be. You’re not happy with the way things are? Then go and vote. You don’t want things to change? Then go and vote. At least then, no matter the outcome you tried. If you don’t bother trying then don’t bother complaining if you don’t get you’re own way.

This decision is the biggest choice we, the public have been given for YEARS! The outcome will affect everyone but obviously we don’t know those outcomes until they start taking effect. It’s not just for the people of Britain now but also for those in the future. If you’re waiting for more information about what is ahead for us as a country, our economics, our immigration, our working rights…then stop, we just don’t know. It doesn’t matter what figures are spouted by the stay or the leave campaign because they are just projections – they alter based on the way the different campaigns view things.

Register to vote NOW! then take the next couple of weeks to see what information arises from both parties. Do your research but remember that both parties are saying anything to get you to vote their way – the fact is we don’t know what will happen until it does. Their “facts” are just speculation, what their financial and economic experts think will happen.

The current polls are too close to say what will happen so your voice WILL count

The vote is on the 23rd June and you have until midnight on Thursday 9th June 2016 to register and you can do it here www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.

Edit: Deadline was extended to 9th June due to a glitch on the 7th.