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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 123
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 12th May 17, 9:01 PM
    • 1,811 Posts
    • 2,203 Thanks
    They keep ringing me up about the phone jobs - I keep explaining to them that I can't do them as I work for the company that 'owns' them and would be bit like 'marking your own home work!. I think those awful TNS phone jobs that went on for years 'killed' my desire to do any phone shops.
    Originally posted by Larac

    Those TNS mobile shops have a lot of answer for

    They certainly put me off too.
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 12th May 17, 9:04 PM
    • 1,811 Posts
    • 2,203 Thanks
    Hi all,
    I have been reading this thread with great interest for a while. Everyone seems so helpful and friendly! I would be ever so grateful if someone could help me.
    I have been a member of edigital research for a while. Evaluating internet shopping websites is perfect for me, as I have multiple health issues that make it difficult for me to venture out frequently, much less whizz around town like something out of mission impossible! (However, seriously, that doesn't me I don't want to, I've done it few times and to say I was excited would be the understatement of the decade!) My question is, does anyone know of any other mystery shopping websites that offer internet shopping opportunities, or things like telephoning etc. I've signed up to ESA, MSL and GFK, but such opportunities are thin on the ground. I do sometimes manage MS in the ordinary manner, but not enough make more than about £10.
    I would be ever so grateful if anyone replies, everyone seems so kind. Thanking you so much in advance, (do I seem over enthusiastic to you?),
    Mxmas. xxx.
    Originally posted by mxmas2512
    Had a recent notification from Retail Active for a job that involves online contact and a telephone call. Usual low pay but might be worth registering. Also Bare have a fast food client where the odd assignment is for home delivery.
    • biscit
    • By biscit 13th May 17, 8:29 PM
    • 956 Posts
    • 791 Thanks
    When things go pear-shaped

    I did an afternoon's mystery shopping over in the next county. About the most unsuccessful ever.

    Visit 1: Franchise no longer sells the thing I was supposed to be mystery shopping.
    Visit 2: Kept waiting, paperwork
    Visit 3: Supermarket.... argggh.

    Now, I signed up for this because it was in the vicinity of visits 1 & 2.

    I took some photos of things that were wrong round the store. And was not as discrete as I could have been. I was spotted. And the staff caused a scene. It was horrible.

    So my cover was blown and the assignment aborted.

    Question is- what now? It's Saturday night and the office staff have gone home. Do I cancel the assignment now, send an email or wait until Monday until I can speak to a human being.
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 13th May 17, 10:13 PM
    • 353 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    Sorry to hear that. The jobs are getting silly, not the bum slapping one. Why do they need photos if it outs you. It can be difficult.

    I haven't done any shops this week as it is often such a hassle. The money is so minuscule for the aggro and the companies who recruit us, don't value us.
    • biscit
    • By biscit 14th May 17, 1:38 AM
    • 956 Posts
    • 791 Thanks
    I'm not clear on what my brief was on this matter, I did have to take photos in store of poor quality produce, but the brief may have changed from earlier rounds.

    Maybe the requirement to photograph obstructions was dropped because others were getting mistreated in the way I was.
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 14th May 17, 9:51 AM
    • 353 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    I've always managed it, is it the bum slapping supermarket?

    Perhaps we should join MI5, we'd be paid a lot more!!!55357;!!!56842;
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 14th May 17, 9:51 AM
    • 353 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    Meant to be a !!!128522;
    • Larac
    • By Larac 14th May 17, 10:51 AM
    • 805 Posts
    • 493 Thanks
    I've always managed it, is it the bum slapping supermarket?

    Perhaps we should join MI5, we'd be paid a lot more!!!65533;!!!65533;
    Originally posted by missymouse
    Reminds of the drinks audits I used to do, where you had to take a photo of the chiller cabinet with the drinks in situ. Alright in the large shops, but always a challenge in the 'one man and his dog convenience stores' I don't do much MS work now as the fees versus time and effort were not worth it and moved on to other things. Maybe its me but there does seem to be lots of work 'hanging' on the boards and seem to get loads of calls each week, asking to do work. If they increased the fees to something more viable the jobs would shift IMHO.
    • Doc N
    • By Doc N 14th May 17, 5:22 PM
    • 6,653 Posts
    • 19,534 Thanks
    Doc N
    Any HGEM Mystery Diners in here?
    • biscit
    • By biscit 15th May 17, 5:37 PM
    • 956 Posts
    • 791 Thanks
    I usually manage just fine Saturday was the first time there had been any incident with photos. I wonder if the staff in the vicinity of the obstruction weren't so much as sensitive for their privacy but didn't want head office to see them slacking off.
    • so very confused
    • By so very confused 15th May 17, 5:49 PM
    • 930 Posts
    • 3,025 Thanks
    so very confused
    i have not done any work for several weeks. The jobs are just getting ridiculous. I am at the point where I think this worth the hassle of filling a tax return in and the answer increasingly is
    SCP # 034
    The £1000 emergency fund #59
    • GlamourPuss1
    • By GlamourPuss1 16th May 17, 7:55 PM
    • 4 Posts
    • 3 Thanks
    Interesting to see the variation in the amount different MS companies are prepared to offer for charity fundraising assignments. I see that at the moment fees are ranging between £8 and £15 for what is the precisely the same scenario. They needn't bother asking me to do one for £8, otherwise I will be telling them straight to "do one".
    • GlamourPuss1
    • By GlamourPuss1 16th May 17, 8:01 PM
    • 4 Posts
    • 3 Thanks
    When things go pear-shaped ...
    OMG Biscit, that sounds awful. Glad I've never been in that situation. Had problems with audio devices in the past but nothing like your shopping day from hell. Hope they pay you something for your efforts.
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 17th May 17, 11:09 PM
    • 1,811 Posts
    • 2,203 Thanks
    Interesting to see the variation in the amount different MS companies are prepared to offer for charity fundraising assignments. I see that at the moment fees are ranging between £X and £X for what is the precisely the same scenario. They needn't bother asking me to do one for £X, otherwise I will be telling them straight to "do one".
    Originally posted by GlamourPuss1
    As per the thread title, don't post fees especially when making it pretty clear what the assignments are. All that will happen is we will end up with the higher paying MSC client bringing their fee down
    • em1979
    • By em1979 19th May 17, 2:05 PM
    • 87 Posts
    • 72 Thanks
    Hi all, does anyone have any experience of when Newlann process payments?
    • Steelercaz
    • By Steelercaz 22nd May 17, 3:01 AM
    • 1 Posts
    • 0 Thanks
    Hi all

    Not as new to the site as my profile would suggest, but I seem to have forgotten my login details from years ago! Needless to say I haven't posted in years. In that time I've only been doing the odd shop using apps like Field Agent and Spotr, but I lost my job 3 weeks ago so looking to add in some temporary income.

    As such I've re-registered at various sites, including Gapbuster. All going well, except on the certification test for a certain client at Gapbuster - I've failed twice, you get three attempts, but I have the manual and the test open side by side and there's literally no other options that could be possible for the 3 questions I'm getting wrong! Should i email them before trying (and clearly failing) again? Has anyone else struggled with any of their client certification tests, that just don't seem to make sense?

    Thanks in advance! Any guidance much appreciated

    (PS - edited to add - I've searched this and lots of the old threads on mystery shopping and not found anything, and neither has a Google site search for turned anything up.)
    Last edited by Steelercaz; 22-05-2017 at 3:02 AM. Reason: Extra detail
    • whmf00001
    • By whmf00001 22nd May 17, 10:13 AM
    • 210 Posts
    • 1,068 Thanks
    Doing the test
    I too have had problems in the past, printed off my answers so I could work through. I have emailed them in the past and they have helped but I have also thought blow this and not bothered. It is usually something sooo simple but have looked for the trick. Good luck
    • so very confused
    • By so very confused 22nd May 17, 10:22 AM
    • 930 Posts
    • 3,025 Thanks
    so very confused
    Email them if they need shoppers in your area they will give you the answer!
    SCP # 034
    The £1000 emergency fund #59
    • Nikkimc
    • By Nikkimc 24th May 17, 9:09 AM
    • 1 Posts
    • 1 Thanks

    This is my first ever post here and I was hoping someone would give me some advice.

    I've been mystery shopping on and off for around 2 years now but have just had my first ever job offer from Quest. (I'm in Northern Ireland so I'm assuming they don't have a lot of work here.)

    Can someone advise me of their reputation? Are they a big company, reliable at paying etc? I'm so conscious of getting scammed and this is a hotel stay etc so quite a large initial outlay.

    Would appreciate some advice.


    • genetic
    • By genetic 25th May 17, 12:17 PM
    • 119 Posts
    • 298 Thanks
    I like quest. They are reliable and pay when they say they do. (I can't remember the payment schedule off-hand, but I've never had a problem with them.) Their reports are also easy.
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