Since I started this experiment, I have tried a handful of mystery shopping companies including Market Force. I’ve also done BestMark, Intelli-shop and Sinclair Customer Metrics.
First off, mystery shopping is pretty cool because it’s usually something you can do with your kids. There are a few shops that say, no kids, but for the most part, as long as they don’t interrupt the shop, they’re fair game.
How It Works
Mystery shopping works like this. You pick a location and date and are given a scenario for the “shop”. You’re offered set amount of money for the shop as well as a possible reimbursement if you have to buy something.
You show up to that location at the proper date and time and follow the scenario laid out for you. You keep track of things like the name of the person who helped you, what s/he looked like, and the condition of the store while you shopped. You may or may not be required to make a small purchase to prove that you actually did the shop.
Usually, you’re also asked to take a picture of the outside of the store. You then fill out a survey, describing what happened during your “shop” and how the store representative interacted with you. Once you’re done with that, you submit the “shop” as well as any receipts you may have.
I tried out Market Force first because it seemed to have a lot of shops in my area. Most of the shops are cell phone shops, meaning you have to pretend you’re switching your wireless plan and see how the customer service representative interacts with you. There are also fast food shops and small shopping shops. All of these are doable with a kid on my hip.
Where Things Went Wrong
Things with Market Force started out well. I did the cell phone shops and there were no problems. It was about a month into things that I started to get frustrated. Initially, I only did shops that required me to go in and inquire about a good or service. Simple enough. I wanted a little more though, so I started doing shops where I actually had to buy something, that’s where things got sketchy.
Since I started shopping for Market Force, about 50% of my shops requiring reimbursement have been rejected for one reason or another. That’s compared to a 0% rejection rate of the non-reimbursement shops. In one instance, I shopped the wrong location. I understand the problem, but I was told to shop through an app and the app only offered one location to choose from. I’m not sure how I could have done anything else. I emailed for help but never received a reply.
In another instance, I tried to do the shop report at around midnight, but the Market Force website was down. When I went back the next morning to try and complete my work, I was told the shop had been reassigned. When I asked for clarification, I was told if I was having a problem I should have emailed. Mind you, I was going back less than 24-hours after completing the shop.
In two of the instances where my reimbursable shops were rejected, I had completed and submitted the reports before they were rejected. I’ll never know if the company used those reports or not.
I also don’t like how the company interacts with its shoppers. I have received calls in the middle of the day asking me to schedule a shop and all of the calls seem to come at the most inopportune times. The times that I have agreed to a shop, the caller will then try to get me to agree to three or four more shops of the same variety. Some of the company’s customer service reps are rude and pushy, leaving me with an unpleasant feeling after the interaction.
Pay for non-reimbursed shops is anywhere from $7 – $25 (high-end jewelry stores). You get the same pay for the reimbursed shops, though you also get a free meal or small item from the store you’re asked to shop.
The Bottom Line
You’re getting paid to shop, though the same can be said for any mystery shopping company.
Some of the shops are quick, in and out the door in less than 20 minutes.
There are a number of shops in my area.
The pay is decent and as an “independent contractor”, I can deduct the mileage to and from the shop.
Sometimes I get free stuff like lunch!
That free lunch only happens sometimes. I haven’t been reimbursed for a lot of my shops.
There’s a line between contractor and indentured servant. More than once, I have felt pressured to do multiple shops of the same variety so the company can meet its deadline.
No communication. I haven’t talked to anyone over the phone and email response is limited at best.
You are paid on the 15th or 20th of the month following your shop, which means you could be waiting as many as 45 days for your money.
The website itself is difficult to navigate and while it looks prettier than other mystery shopping sites, it is also glitchier.
To sum up, I like mystery shopping and it’s certainly kid-friendly, but Market Force isn’t the company I would choose. The customer service reps are pushy. I feel like the company itself is taking advantage of its mystery shoppers by not reimbursing them.
If you do decide to use Market Force, I suggest you only do jobs that pay you straight out and avoid the ones that require reimbursement.