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    • shell_belle
    • By shell_belle 22nd Jan 15, 5:29 PM
    • 608Posts
    • 1,569Thanks
    Mystery shopping thread 26 *please read the op first**please no client names or fees
    • #1
    • 22nd Jan 15, 5:29 PM
    Mystery shopping thread 26 *please read the op first**please no client names or fees 22nd Jan 15 at 5:29 PM
    Official MSE Insert:

    This is a great Forum discussion full of Tips for Mystery Shopping. Read it in tandem with our Boost Your Income guide for more ways to make cash.

    Back to weeg's original post...


    For other ways to NOTICE TO FOLK WHO ARE THINKING ABOUT TAKING UP MYSTERY SHOPPING (MSing): Read the first few pages before asking Qs. We're happy to help, but a LOT of the answers are right here. There is no 'right' answer to 'Who should I sign up with first?' It's horses for courses. Read some of the comments on post 2 and make up your own mind.

    Now enjoy - and play nice!


    The vast majority of these opening few posts are advice copied from Timmne’s original compilation a while ago, with a few updates from Josie, ukmonkey and Becle’s previous threads, and other credits as mentioned.

    The old threads are linked to below - it's worth reading as many of them as you can to get a feel for what you might need to know.
    Part 1 (Thanks to nearlyrich for the OP)
    Part II (Thanks to leni for the OP)
    Part III , Part IV , Part V , Part VI , Part VII (Thanks to Timmne for the OP)
    Part VIII , Part IX (Thanks to ukmonkey for the OP)
    Part X (Thanks to Josie for the OP)
    Part XI,
    Part XII
    Part XIII
    Part XIV (Thanks to TractorGirl327 for the OP)
    Part XV (Thanks to TractorGirl327 for the OP)
    Part XVI (Thanks to Becles for the OP)
    Part XVII (Thanks to Becles for the OP)
    Part XVIII (Thanks to TractorGirl327 for the OP)
    Part XIX (Thanks to Becles for the OP)
    Part XX (Thanks to TractorGirl327 for the OP)
    Part 21 (Thanks Heaven'sDevil for the OP)
    Part 22
    Part 23
    Part 24
    Part 25

    Please also take the time to read these first few posts. They may be long but there is a lot of information in them and lots of your questions will be answered!

    An introduction to the mystery shopping thread
    The companies mentioned below are a good place to start. Don't worry if they ask you for bank details when you apply as this is only so you can get paid. Numbers of jobs offered seems to vary and very much depends on your location in the country so it's difficult to generalise. Lots of the companies have training materials and tests which help you to know exactly what to do and the standards they expect on their reports.

    Most of us have worked hard to get good at this job so whilst we are helpful we are not keen to hand on a plate information to people not willing to do the legwork too. Please also note that there is a finite pool of MS work so respect that people may not be willing to share all their knowledge with someone who in essence will be taking work away from them or causing a decrease in fees. Being able to read and digest information is a vital skill for mystery shoppers so the next stage is to read the rest of the thread and you should find people happy to answer specific queries you have.

    When you are ready pick a job: The first one is always nerve wracking. Possibly try one without timings or many complex stages as those give you just that bit much to think about on the first time. Go for one close to home so you aren't going out of your way as the fee will probably not be worth it otherwise. You can always go back into most places with an excuse if you miss something or if allowed take someone else who can keep an eye out too for details such as name badges.

    Basics you should know before you begin mystery shopping
    There are a few things you should know; these will help you hit the ground running, or alternatively, not bother with hitting the ground at all as mystery shopping isn't for everybody!

    Equipment - things you'll need to get a good start with most assignments
    Stopwatch (or a timer on your mobile can be useful)
    Notepad & pen (pocket sized!)
    Camera/camera phone

    A pretty long list of companies is listed below. I would say though (and I'm sure most MSers would too) that registering with as many companies as you can get your hands on is never a bad thing. My personal advice would be that GAPbuster's probably a good company to get started with due to the number of jobs available. They're not famous for high pay but the reports are great and not too laborious.

    Good and bad points of mystery shopping
    Mystery shopping will never make anyone rich - the pay is simply not high enough. If you're just looking for some free meals or clothes, be aware that it's not just a case of buying them and getting paid. You need a good memory, you need to be objective and have a great eye for detail. Missing the smallest bit of information from an assignment can mean that you don't get paid for a job - this can be a nightmare if you've had to spend your own money on buying something as part of doing it too!

    The great thing about mystery shopping is that you can make a difference to shops' service standards and your comments are listened to! You do get a meal or two paid for and sometimes you're paid handsomely to do them. As long as you treat the job with respect, you'll be rewarded.

    The more you work for a company and the better your reports get, you will be given better paying and more rewarding jobs. Companies aren't big on giving new shoppers the best jobs; these come as a reward for your loyalty and hard work, later on.


    Registering for tax
    If you wish to start Mystery Shopping on a self employed basis, even just one job, you need to register with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) within 3 months or you could face a fine of £100. Please don’t think that because you’ll potentially only earn a few quid doing MSing that you needn’t register as self employed – it’s absolutely essential that you do as being caught out can be costly. The admin work involved in being self employed is so minimal that it’s not worth avoiding - and we're here to help you do it!

    It might be a myth but there's been word of mystery shopping companies passing names of their shoppers to HMRC before, which can spark investigations is said shoppers are not already registered as self employed.

    Forms and Guidelines you will need –
    To register as Self Employed you will need to either ring HMRC on 08459 15 45 15 or download and send back the form CWF1 ( )
    If you prefer to register online, see this link:

    You may also be required to pay class 2 National Insurance at the rate of £2.70 a week, but only if you earn more than £5,725(between 06/04/13 and 05/04/14) after expenses in any one year through Self Employment. This means earning more than £5725 in addition to your other sources of income.

    If you think you will earn less than £5,725 in the financial year, then you can apply for a “Certificate of Small Earnings Exception” which means you will not have to pay NI (National Insurance) Contributions. The Exception application can be found at the end of this document CF10 -

    IMPORTANT National Insurance point: (thanks to Becles for this!)
    If you earn less than £5,725, you don't have to apply for the Small Earnings Certificate and you can pay the £2.70 a week contributions.

    If you are not paying NI in any other jobs, it can be worthwhile to pay these NI contributions. It will count towards any benefits you may need in the future and contributes to your state pension record.

    For example, the self employed get one of two rates for Maternity Allowance, regardless of their actual earnings. If you have a Small Earnings Certificate, you get £27 a week. If you have paid enough NI contributions, you will get £136.78. It's a big difference!

    Bear in mind that HMRC generally seem to have very long delays on processing these forms so don’t worry too much if it’s a few weeks before you hear anything. It's usually better to just call them!

    Information on Self Assessment -


    Working out how much tax you’ll have to pay
    You will be taxed at your normal tax rates for your mystery shopping. This sounds desperately vague but means that your MSing income (profit) will be added to any other income you have (employment, generally) by HMRC and taxed at the following rates (between 06/04/13 and 05/04/14):

    If your total income is less than £9440, you’ll pay no tax. (for 2013-14)
    If your total income is more than this, up to £32,010 will be taxed at 20%.
    Any earnings higher than this will be taxed at 40%.

    Tax rates can seem confusing but following the above information logically will help you work out your tax.

    If you have any job paying more than £10,000 per year then your MSing income will most probably be taxed at 20%

    Unless you earn more than £7,755 by self employment, (for the majority just mystery shopping) National Insurance (self employment’s version of National insurance is known as Class 4) will not be applicable. If you earn more than this, it'll get figured out and paid along with your income tax on your self assessment return.


    “Tax doesn’t have to be taxing”
    Many people are put off MSing because of the tax registration work involved - but they needn’t be. Tax is actually quite easy to deal with and when you know what to do you’ll have no issues.

    There are a few accountancy trained MSers who regularly visit this board who might be able to help with a specific question that isn't answered here. Or just ring your local tax office!


    Record keeping
    Keeping records is something that’s vital with MSing. This is for two main reasons – one is that the MSing company may call you (potentially ages) after the job has been completed to query your report, and the other is for your tax return information at the end of the year.

    In terms of tax, the record keeping can prove invaluable on a month to month basis and it’s worth investing some time and possibly money in setting up a bookkeeping system.


    Working out your profit/loss
    There have been lots of people on the old MSing threads asking how to work out their taxable income. Below is a little example of how to do this for each job, with some suggestions of what you could include for each job you do:

    Income: (includes all fees and reimbursements): £30.00
    Job specific costs (anything you had to pay out as part of the job) (£20.00)
    10 miles @ 45p (HMRC’s agreed rate per mile) (£ 4.50)
    12 pages printed @ 6p (reasonable cost of printing a page) (£ 0.72)
    Profit (income less expenses) £ 4.78

    It’s important to remember though that you can’t take the cost per page for printing from your income AND replacement printer cartridges and paper – it’s one or the other.

    When the MS companies state that the fee includes all expenses, it is up to you to work out how much you have actually 'earned', and how much you have legitimately spent on expenses. And yes, it is even possible to make a loss, on paper, for the odd job!


    What expenses can I claim against my income?
    Claiming expenses other than the direct costs incurred in the job (meals etc) can be a bit of a minefield, and requires a bit of educated guestimating sometimes! with MSing, the usual, more obvious costs are:
    Paper & printer ink OR a cost per page (usually 6p for most people)
    Files, dividers, folders etc
    Mileage costs (anything up to 45p per mile is acceptable)
    You can also claim expenses against your income such as buying software or small equipment (calculator, diary etc) which aren’t necessarily related to one job. If you buy something expensive (like a laptop) you can only claim a portion.
    There are some other things you can claim for though - these are more indirect costs and things you would have paid for even without MSing in most cases. These are simply contributions your business is making to you, for providing certain things. Below are some examples:
    Broadband - you can claim a % of your monthly cost against your income. For example, if you estimate that you use your internet 25% of the time for MSing, then claim 25% of your broadband costs against your income
    Telephone - this is done in a similar way to broadband. Line rental is done similar to broadband; calls are done either on this basis if you can't easily work it out, or using the exact costs if you can.
    Use of home - this is something most small businesses charge against their income. It's a bit of a notional amount (usually set at £5/£10 per month) that's supposed to contribute towards the costs of keeping your business running at home, using the heat, light and a bit of the spare room as an office!
    The last one is definitely a guestimate one - it goes along the lines of using your common sense and making educated guesses. More info is available here from HMRC on allowable "other" expenses....
    __________________________________________________ _____________

    Originally Posted by misssarahleigh
    From the horses mouth (anthony and his department at HMRC)

    Taxable Expenses

    If the breif required you to purchase said products in order to be paid a fee, the products are 'incidental benifits' and can be classified as an allowable expense.

    Reimbursement only

    You cannot argue you have done the job for a fee. You have taken on the job and recieved goods for that job. Therefore payment in kind and is taxable.

    If you can argue and prove that this was only done in order to gain access to fee paying jobs or build a reputation with the company, this will more likley depend on the strength of your argument. No set right/wrong to this, but based on individual circumstances.

    Taking on reinbursment only jobs and classifying it as an expense is not allowed. If you do this purposly to lower your profit margin, he was clear in that it would be classified as Tax Evasion.

    This is the answer I have received but please note this is not set in stone and very much open to interpretation.

    I believe the difference in opinions is due to the fact there is no right or wrong answer for SOME of the situations we come across.

    As previously said, i think it depends on your interpretation. i.e. i order a pizza and right it off as a taxable expense to get a fee. If the fee was £10 its clear I was doing it for the money. If the fee was £1, common sense would say i wouldn't go to all that trouble for £1 fee. But I would for the benifit of the pizza.

    It's a grey area and in fairness i think it's down to the person who looks at your accounts if your ever audited.

    So long as you can justify what you have done, and feel that your happy explaining why you have done that, then consider the matter closed.

    __________________________________________________ ______

    CONFIDENTIALITY is something MSers really need to bear in mind. Please don't mention fees or client names (naming the Mystery shopping company itself is fine!!) on this thread as neither the MSing company nor the client being shopped will be very happy about their names being discussed on here.
    E.g: Don’t mention “B&Q”, or refer to it as “The orange DIY store with two initials”. Simply refer to it as “A DIY store” as there are more than one DIY stores!

    The fundamental issue with this is that MSing is a very competitive business and if an MSing company finds out which company shops a particular client (and even for how much) then it puts that contract in jeopardy. This, therefore means that the competition between companies will always mean lower fees for us, the shopper.


    Alerts thread
    Timmne had the brilliant idea of an Alert thread, and set the first 2 threads up, the 3rd was started by UKMonkey and the 4th by mamashaz. It is specifically to alert shoppers of new job releases - the link is here. This is a very handy thread and it ensures us shoppers keep each other in the know - so if you spot a release of jobs, please let everyone know by posting on the alerts thread!

    An Important point on posting
    Please read the last few posts. Lots of people are 'Subscribed' so get an email for each new post, so check no-one has already posted. Check the jobs you are seeing are nationwide - a single job in Skegness does NOT merit a post! Also, remember to thank posters.
    The Alerts Thread


    Jobbingmusician's useful phrases thread
    So, once you've started shopping, you'll need to get typing those reports! Jobbingmusician has created a thread here which is designed to help you along with typing up those reports. As with the alerts thread, this is only as useful as we make it so PLEASE add to it if you think of anything.

    Useful Phrases Thread
    Survey Queen/Poundland Fanatic

Page 120
    • samtastic7
    • By samtastic7 17th Feb 17, 10:24 AM
    • 1,095 Posts
    • 820 Thanks
    Gfk visits available what the heck ?
    • serendipity2706
    • By serendipity2706 17th Feb 17, 11:19 AM
    • 1,828 Posts
    • 2,842 Thanks
    Gfk visits available what the heck ?
    Originally posted by samtastic7
    yeah!!!!!!!!!!!! wonder if it's a mistake

    • samtastic7
    • By samtastic7 23rd Feb 17, 9:56 AM
    • 1,095 Posts
    • 820 Thanks
    Anyone recommend a good printer/scanner
    Compatible with windows 10
    Doesn't guzzle ink and if possible let you print in blank and white without having to buy the colour ink too.
    • russetred
    • By russetred 23rd Feb 17, 12:10 PM
    • 1,213 Posts
    • 9,284 Thanks
    Got sent an email from GBW to let me know of an increased incentive fee for a rather involved local job. Checked to see and still hee hawing... 50p well be still my beating heart!
    "Sometimes life sucks....but the alternative is unacceptable."
    • Doc N
    • By Doc N 23rd Feb 17, 4:44 PM
    • 6,660 Posts
    • 19,540 Thanks
    Doc N
    Anyone recommend a good printer/scanner
    Compatible with windows 10
    Doesn't guzzle ink and if possible let you print in blank and white without having to buy the colour ink too.
    Originally posted by samtastic7
    Brother MFC-L8650CDW A4 Wireless Colour Multifunction Laser Printer

    Around the £230 mark, but £100 cashback if you're quick, bringing it down to £130.
    • square-pants
    • By square-pants 27th Feb 17, 9:52 PM
    • 132 Posts
    • 292 Thanks
    I cannot believe how ridiculous MS fees are now, used to be a regular MSer a few years back thanks to this site but the fees don't even cover minimum wage by the time you've factored in travel time and writing the report.

    Do Bare not do the charm bracelets anymore? Has another MS company pinched that client? Loved that job.
    • skivenov
    • By skivenov 28th Feb 17, 1:00 PM
    • 2,166 Posts
    • 2,435 Thanks
    Yeah, I've pretty much stopped altogether, report isn't worth it any more, and I don't really enjoy video, so I'm thinking about selling the cameras and cracking on with other stuff.
    Yes it's overwhelming, but what else can we do?
    Get jobs in offices and wake up for the morning commute?
    • darkblue
    • By darkblue 28th Feb 17, 3:50 PM
    • 656 Posts
    • 807 Thanks
    Sorry if this has been asked before, but is it worth doing the MSPA silver/gold accreditation? Also, is it worth forking out money for a mystery shopper approved camera (if so, which one?) Everyone seems to ask for it, but they're very pricey so I just want to know how long it'd take to see a return...

    I've had relatively good luck with 'the dining company who don't like to be named' and GBW. Marketforce pay pittance and the rest are hardly worth the sign up process...
    Last edited by darkblue; 28-02-2017 at 4:35 PM.
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 28th Feb 17, 5:33 PM
    • 1,813 Posts
    • 2,206 Thanks
    I think the MSPA thing is more for US based shoppers. I would not know how you go about getting accredited and I am not aware of it holding me back.

    You can basically use any camera / phone camera for report mystery shopping as long as the image is clear. It is only video mystery shopping that requires a set standard of equipment.
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 28th Feb 17, 5:49 PM
    • 353 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    Some have even reduced the payout for a job, Pharmacy, MF. Do you think we won't notice the reduction and then have to buy specific products.
    • SamDude
    • By SamDude 1st Mar 17, 2:01 PM
    • 212 Posts
    • 73 Thanks
    Have Bare stopped the automotive visits, have not seen any since April/May last year?
    (not the current French/Japanese circuits, the German ones)
    • Larac
    • By Larac 2nd Mar 17, 11:03 PM
    • 807 Posts
    • 494 Thanks
    Yeah, I've pretty much stopped altogether, report isn't worth it any more, and I don't really enjoy video, so I'm thinking about selling the cameras and cracking on with other stuff.
    Originally posted by skivenov
    Have to agree - I had to wind down quite a bit last year, due to a family illness. The fees have either remained static or gone south in the the 3/4 years I have been doing this. Do very little and moved onto to other things. By the time you have factored in the costs, a lot of these jobs are not viable and the taxman could question why an earth you are doing them.
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 3rd Mar 17, 8:13 AM
    • 353 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    Yes. Good point. The fees are rubbish and if you need to pay tax on them.....

    TBH I think it is very difficult to make a living out of it. mine is an extra and I think it keeps my brain sharp.

    Did a nice higher end one in half term.
    • samtastic7
    • By samtastic7 3rd Mar 17, 9:36 PM
    • 1,095 Posts
    • 820 Thanks
    can anyone tell me please if Assosia are SE or not please
    • square-pants
    • By square-pants 8th Mar 17, 12:37 PM
    • 132 Posts
    • 292 Thanks
    Do Abai have any clients left? I've been away from MSing for a few years and no jobs are coming up for any of their clients that I have.
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 8th Mar 17, 5:43 PM
    • 1,813 Posts
    • 2,206 Thanks
    They changed to the Sassie system. The only ones I see are cafe type assignments in upmarket department stores which don't pay a fee only reimbursement which may or may not cover the cost of what you have to buy. They may have other clients, I'll unlikely be working for them again based on what they offer me.
    • Huskeeee555
    • By Huskeeee555 11th Mar 17, 11:15 AM
    • 1 Posts
    • 0 Thanks
    Mystery dining/shopping in Hawaii

    My wife and I were lucky enough to book the holiday of a lifetime to Hawaii this spring. Unfortunately we booked a year ahead - and the FX rate is now somewhat different so we're thinking of ways to reduce our costs while there.

    We've been doing mystery dining in the UK (thanks for the tips!) - does anyone know if there are similar agencies covering Hawaii, that are open to British citizens to join?

    • Mr.E.Schoppa
    • By Mr.E.Schoppa 18th Mar 17, 7:25 PM
    • 6 Posts
    • 7 Thanks
    Hey everyone.

    Started mystery shopping in January and have been really enjoying it so far. I've found the fees to be generally good - with the exception of most jobs on Market Force, and the vast majority of companies are great to work for.

    I've signed up with GfK, React, ESA, Retail Active, PIP and Helion so far.

    I have to say, the staff at GfK and React are absolutely fantastic. If a problem ever arises, they are always polite and helpful over the phone and allow me to reschedule if need be.

    But I was just wondering, does anyone have similar experiences with ESA at all? I've found them extremely rude over the phone and via email, and when I ever ask if I can do a little job at another time their staff always seem to give me lectures about how rescheduling affects client deadlines etc. I know this may be the case, but their tone of voice and the tone of their emails is abhorrent. A certain person at ESA sent me a highly unprofessional email a few days ago which really put me off from ever work I for them again. I've never had anything like this from other companies.

    But anyway, I'm thoroughly enjoying the work so far, in particular the phone shops and postal places for GfK. But I really don't want to consider any work for ESA right now due to the disgusting attitude of their staff.
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 18th Mar 17, 7:48 PM
    • 353 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    Mr E, they are unpleasant. I also did a project for them with a team, never again. Like you say some very unprofessional practice. There are some nice staff though.
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 18th Mar 17, 11:04 PM
    • 1,813 Posts
    • 2,206 Thanks
    There is no excuse for rudeness, I am sorry you have experienced that from ESA.

    I have the exact opposite experience I have to say and in fact I had cause to ring the office recently and they were very accommodating.

    Stick with them and hopefully you will come across more agreeable staff members. They are part of a massive organisation and have lots of different projects. Some of the MS assignments are not worth the hassle but others are pretty straight forward and report form is generally easy to complete.
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