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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 129
    • biscit
    • By biscit 1st Dec 17, 5:41 PM
    • 956 Posts
    • 791 Thanks
    Do jks provide invoices when they pay you? I'm not sure if I've been paid right.
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 11th Dec 17, 9:34 AM
    • 353 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    Shame about MF sandwich shops. They were handy especially if going into London, inevitably one needed visiting in the vicinity of your appointment etc
    • sawanderer
    • By sawanderer 12th Dec 17, 9:55 PM
    • 108 Posts
    • 74 Thanks
    Does anyone have a template for a spreadsheet that they could share with me, to help me keep on top my jobs and visits... I'm getting in a bit of a muddle with what I've done where for who and for how much!

    Thank you!
    • Chomeur
    • By Chomeur 15th Dec 17, 9:15 AM
    • 1,693 Posts
    • 376 Thanks
    Shame about MF sandwich shops. They were handy especially if going into London, inevitably one needed visiting in the vicinity of your appointment etc
    Originally posted by missymouse
    They're now with HGEM. The amount you can get reimbursed for has gone up slightly, but there's no fee. They don't seem to let you see the questionnaire before you book a visit either. Can anyone comment on how the HGEM questionnaire compares to the MF one, i.e. does it take longer to complete?
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 15th Dec 17, 9:18 AM
    • 353 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    Who would do it for no fee, not I. Will you?

    I looked longingly at one yesterday.
    • Chomeur
    • By Chomeur 15th Dec 17, 11:24 AM
    • 1,693 Posts
    • 376 Thanks
    Who would do it for no fee, not I. Will you?
    Originally posted by missymouse
    No, maybe not. I signed up for HGEM on the basis of their statement:

    "Mystery Guests are volunteers offering their time to complete a detailed report of a restaurant, hotel or pub experience"

    but there are no restaurants or hotels listed, and very few pubs.
    • By CAPTAINBLONDECHICK 15th Dec 17, 2:31 PM
    • 937 Posts
    • 11,119 Thanks
    Are SM/Quest payments due in the bank today? Not done anything for them for a while and had thought it was due in on 15th of the month, but maybe I'm wrong. Due quite a bit reimbursed so could be doing with it for Christmas shopping this weekend! Thanks
    • Tolteca87
    • By Tolteca87 15th Dec 17, 5:56 PM
    • 1,077 Posts
    • 2,852 Thanks
    I don't work at a loss - especially if I have to travel, because travelling costs money. I don't eat unless I am paid to and if the fee gets ridiconculously pathetic I don't even eat then. The only things I will contemplate reimburement only if the reimb is full, a good size and is for something I want or can use as a gift to save me money.
    If I lay out cash I want to earn cash+.
    Doing anything else costs cash.
    And it all adds up.
    Last edited by Tolteca87; 15-12-2017 at 6:07 PM.
    • Doc N
    • By Doc N 16th Dec 17, 7:19 AM
    • 6,649 Posts
    • 19,533 Thanks
    Doc N
    No, maybe not. I signed up for HGEM on the basis of their statement:

    "Mystery Guests are volunteers offering their time to complete a detailed report of a restaurant, hotel or pub experience"

    but there are no restaurants or hotels listed, and very few pubs.
    Originally posted by Chomeur
    HGEM (specific thread here: has changed dramatically from its former Mystery Dining days.

    The policy now is to recruit vast numbers of diners (that's something of a misnomer in itself) and pay as little as they can get away with. Very few restaurants, and nearly all fast food. The reports take a long time to complete for a very small reimbursement. In reality it works out at considerably less than minimum wage, but people still do it - and the odd thing is that there's a strange 'gratitude' towards HGEM for allowing them their free sandwiches in return for more than an hour's work.

    Diners are treated in a condescending way by some of the people who check the reports. They have an oddly superior attitude, given that some of them seem to struggle to grasp the nuances of the English language. And they certainly don't like adverse comments - any hint of disagreement and you'll be very firmly stamped on.
    • vegasvisitor
    • By vegasvisitor 27th Dec 17, 5:56 PM
    • 2,148 Posts
    • 1,393 Thanks
    Service Measure are looking for new agents in Wales. There are some urgent pub meal visits in Cardiff, Carmarthen and Aberdovey. These need to be completed this week I believe.

    They do need agents on an ongoing basis in Wales though. Feel free to PM me if you hope to do the urgent visits, that way I can let the allocator know if you're a new signup as I don't know if it will be processed straight away.
    • Macadamia
    • By Macadamia 1st Jan 18, 11:26 AM
    • 308 Posts
    • 2,217 Thanks

    'Mystery Diner' became something of a misnomer when it became more to do with snacking that dining, but I suppose HGEM sounds rather better than 'Mystery Snacker'!
    Originally posted by Doc N
    Just had a little catch up - I rarely visit these days - and 'Mystery Snacker' made me laugh.

    'The company that doesn't like to be mentioned' has a new moniker for 2018.

    Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, zen 2018.
    • Macadamia
    • By Macadamia 1st Jan 18, 11:50 AM
    • 308 Posts
    • 2,217 Thanks
    Apologies for the lateness, and the seeming randomness of this. I had totally forgotten I was meant to post on here back in April to inform people, I only remembered when I was clearing through emails and spotted a PM email.

    Sadly my lovely husband, Graeme, died from cancer in April, hence his disappearance from your thread.

    He was terminally ill, but his death was very sudden & unexpected when it hit.

    Sorry to those who've asked him questions since then that have gone unanswered. It completely slipped my mind.

    Originally posted by Big Graeme
    BG was generous in sharing his experience, knowledge, advice and opinions. I valued his sometimes pithy but helpful contributions.

    Julie - if you come back this way - he continues to be missed here too. My sincere condolences.
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 21st Jan 18, 7:35 PM
    • 353 Posts
    • 322 Thanks
    I looked through my old MF paperwork. There used to be more companies to visit but now it is very limited.
    • whmf00001
    • By whmf00001 22nd Jan 18, 10:54 AM
    • 209 Posts
    • 1,063 Thanks
    Oh so true, especially in my area.
    • Elliesmum
    • By Elliesmum 28th Jan 18, 1:33 PM
    • 1,475 Posts
    • 1,781 Thanks
    Hi all you lovely mystery shoppers...

    I'm fairly new to mystery shopping and I am doing the assignments to boost my income, not as my only source of income. I understand that this is a living for some of you, but it would be lovely if this thread could be resurrected?

    The advice I have read so far has been amazing and really helped and I have enjoyed reading the posts, good or not so good.

    It appears that this used to be a very busy thread - just wondered where you have all gone?

    Thanks EM x
    You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.
    Plato Make £2018 in 2018 no. 37 - total = £1626.25/£2018
    • thedogsmum
    • By thedogsmum 28th Jan 18, 2:15 PM
    • 324 Posts
    • 554 Thanks
    Hi all you lovely mystery shoppers...

    I'm fairly new to mystery shopping and I am doing the assignments to boost my income, not as my only source of income. I understand that this is a living for some of you, but it would be lovely if this thread could be resurrected?

    The advice I have read so far has been amazing and really helped and I have enjoyed reading the posts, good or not so good.

    It appears that this used to be a very busy thread - just wondered where you have all gone?

    Thanks EM x
    Originally posted by Elliesmum
    Probably gone to the Facebook Mystery Shoppers page..
    • serendipity2706
    • By serendipity2706 28th Jan 18, 2:16 PM
    • 1,828 Posts
    • 2,842 Thanks
    Probably gone to the Facebook Mystery Shoppers page..
    Originally posted by thedogsmum
    Will you send a link please?
    Many thanks

    • Elliesmum
    • By Elliesmum 28th Jan 18, 5:20 PM
    • 1,475 Posts
    • 1,781 Thanks
    Probably gone to the Facebook Mystery Shoppers page..
    Originally posted by thedogsmum
    Thanks - but I'm not on Facebook.

    EM x
    You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.
    Plato Make £2018 in 2018 no. 37 - total = £1626.25/£2018
    • Lemoncurd
    • By Lemoncurd 5th Feb 18, 6:36 PM
    • 962 Posts
    • 567 Thanks
    Serendipity - these two are quite active:
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 11th May 18, 9:44 PM
    • 1,810 Posts
    • 2,203 Thanks
    I am trying to tidy up my MSC list.

    Does anyone know if these these MSC are still going please

    Market Checker

    Also, looked on the job board of the former burger MSC and notice that on one particular job they are paying a premium in the princely sum of 4p lol! It would have cost them more than that to update their website. Jokers.
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