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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 124
    • M Thomson
    • By M Thomson 3rd Jul 17, 6:22 PM
    • 1,572 Posts
    • 496 Thanks
    M Thomson
    The website starting with G and ending in W has stopped doing assignments for the world’s most popular burger joint. Anyone know if another company is now doing mystery shops for them?
    • Chomeur
    • By Chomeur 6th Jul 17, 2:55 PM
    • 1,693 Posts
    • 376 Thanks
    Marketforce sandwich shop assignments just got a few more questions added. I think the only reason I do them is that assignments are something to check for on the Internet when I have an idle moment. But really for what they're paying I should stop.
    • Doc N
    • By Doc N 7th Jul 17, 6:51 AM
    • 6,654 Posts
    • 19,536 Thanks
    Doc N
    Who's doing Prezzo these days, now that HGEM/Mystery Diner has lost them?
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 7th Jul 17, 2:08 PM
    • 1,811 Posts
    • 2,203 Thanks
    The website starting with G and ending in W has stopped doing assignments for the world’s most popular burger joint. Anyone know if another company is now doing mystery shops for them?
    Originally posted by M Thomson

    Interesting. If the same happens as did in the US then MF seem a likely destination
    • Hydra101
    • By Hydra101 9th Jul 17, 4:28 PM
    • 13 Posts
    • 1 Thanks
    The website starting with G and ending in W has stopped doing assignments for the world’s most popular burger joint. Anyone know if another company is now doing mystery shops for them?
    Originally posted by M Thomson
    Was wondering why I hadn't received any phone calls for a few weeks, what a pain, I used to get huge bonuses for doing they're jobs. Shall have to hunt around/sign up to more MS companies to find out whose got the contract now
    • neurosurgeon
    • By neurosurgeon 9th Jul 17, 6:55 PM
    • 11 Posts
    • 0 Thanks
    Yes they were always calling me from Malaysia, they were so desperate at times but 45 quid to eat there is easy work!
    • superliss
    • By superliss 10th Jul 17, 10:31 AM
    • 863 Posts
    • 1,281 Thanks
    neurosurgeon Can you remove the fee from your post please?

    Don't think Gap Burgers have gone anywhere, likely just using receipt surveys to get feedback in the same way The chicken and pizza places did a few years back.
    Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
    I'm a woman's man: no time to talk
    • so very confused
    • By so very confused 10th Jul 17, 10:55 AM
    • 930 Posts
    • 3,025 Thanks
    so very confused
    Good to know that they have gone.......I thought I had been culled! Given I did some of there more difficult ones and again endless TCs from Malaysia was quite surprised.
    I agree, they are probably using the receipt feedback.
    Shame, it was regular income.
    SCP # 034
    The £1000 emergency fund #59
    • Hydra101
    • By Hydra101 10th Jul 17, 8:34 PM
    • 13 Posts
    • 1 Thanks
    neurosurgeon Can you remove the fee from your post please?

    Don't think Gap Burgers have gone anywhere, likely just using receipt surveys to get feedback in the same way The chicken and pizza places did a few years back.
    Originally posted by superliss
    But isn't the big thing about them that they get bonuses if they're timings are good? They won't know the timings from receipt feedback. I hope that's not how they're getting their customer service information cause ever since the chicken place used that they have gone majorly downhill. I'm still holding out hope that they'll pop up on another MS company soon enough
    • Buzby
    • By Buzby 15th Jul 17, 9:39 AM
    • 8,159 Posts
    • 2,991 Thanks
    There used to be a good number of tasks from Starbucks, Shell, KFC that kept me busy along with the burgers, but one by one they fell by the wayside with nothing substantial replacing them. Their switch to Adobe Flash reporting forms was the last straw, as my iPad could no longer be used to send in the results. Then, the 'incorrect Flash version' using Safari and Edge was never fixed - so I was reduced to an old laptop just for them. Enquiries went unanswered online, and the decent premium uplifts became harder to achieve.

    Of course, you were never kept in the loop with information and now it's just a few DIY stores - shame, when they were good it was fun being with them - but the switch to Malaysia was the beginning of the end.
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 16th Jul 17, 12:16 AM
    • 1,811 Posts
    • 2,203 Thanks
    Reading a US mystery shopping forum it seems that the gap burger client is no longer mystery shopped as it was. There are a much smaller number of shops to do with promotions it seems. That's a huge chunk of cash going from gap.
    • Buzby
    • By Buzby 16th Jul 17, 9:53 AM
    • 8,159 Posts
    • 2,991 Thanks
    To be fair, this is a global company - yes, clients come and go and it would be unreasonable to assume they would be financially precarious as a result. What I have found is that fees from the new clients are being squeezed to a level that puts me in the same position as the laughable fees offered by MF (which was never great to start with!). So it makes it easier to say no when the calls come in.
    • Buzby
    • By Buzby 24th Jul 17, 4:00 PM
    • 8,159 Posts
    • 2,991 Thanks
    I didn't know how prophetic my posting would be - Big Graeme will be laughing his head off! The Golden Arches are being mystery shopped again.... but by a different (and well-known) company. The difference? They want 6 pictures of the burger and the exterior of the burger palace, and want to pay less than 2 figures for your task! Confusingly, they also state your fee includes the burger cost which makes a mockery of the claim you get a 'free' burger.

    I'm not tempted as this now pays half what was paid previously. Still, it'll be easy for staff to see whose a mystery shopper - they'll be the ones taking Flash pictures of their food!
    • superliss
    • By superliss 25th Jul 17, 8:20 AM
    • 863 Posts
    • 1,281 Thanks
    Had a look at the new burger job. It's really specific at only a handful of stores and nothing to do with customer service. Doubt it will be a permanent thing...but stranger things have happened. They may want to pay some actual money for them though!
    Well, you can tell by the way I use my walk
    I'm a woman's man: no time to talk
    • bevcharlotte
    • By bevcharlotte 25th Jul 17, 10:33 PM
    • 1 Posts
    • 0 Thanks
    Yes MSL are. They have some on their open ops at the moment.
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 25th Jul 17, 11:49 PM
    • 1,811 Posts
    • 2,203 Thanks
    What you have to buy costs more as well so by the time you factor in tax etc you are losing money doing them if the fee includes the reimbursement!
    • Buzby
    • By Buzby 28th Jul 17, 9:05 AM
    • 8,159 Posts
    • 2,991 Thanks
    It does indeed become fully inclusive - there are hundreds of them, and I'm now getting begging chaser emails. They know these jobs are underpriced and I hope they fail until a proper fee is in place.
    • la-moi
    • By la-moi 28th Jul 17, 7:51 PM
    • 13 Posts
    • 0 Thanks
    Hi everyone,

    Fairly new to Mshopping..have signed up with a few companies and done a few fun shops. Recently signed up with a company who is asking me not only to upload a photo (which other companies have asked- fine) but also a copy of my ID? I find this very this a usual request?
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 29th Jul 17, 3:36 PM
    • 1,811 Posts
    • 2,203 Thanks
    Some do. Most probably to ensure they shoppers they have are entitled to work in this country.
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 1st Aug 17, 8:49 AM
    • 353 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    Anyone else getting fed up.

    I do have an everyday job but this is an extra for me.

    The pay for the shops is rubbish. Other day I did the bum slap supermarket for one company and although it was rubbish pay, it was only slightly less than the one that makes you ask stupid questions at customer service. In real life you would have something with you to enquire about. There were hardly any questions in the GR one, There are even more in the ESA one and I thought no not bothering at the moment.

    Another co offer a fee with no reimbursement then say buy x, y, z then something from kiosk so inevitably you spend all your fee and have loads of work to do for very little recompense.
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