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    • shell_belle
    • By shell_belle 22nd Jan 15, 4:29 PM
    • 608Posts
    • 1,569Thanks
    Mystery shopping thread 26 *please read the op first**please no client names or fees
    • #1
    • 22nd Jan 15, 4:29 PM
    Mystery shopping thread 26 *please read the op first**please no client names or fees 22nd Jan 15 at 4:29 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 130
    • vegasvisitor
    • By vegasvisitor 18th May 18, 9:04 PM
    • 2,184 Posts
    • 1,424 Thanks
    I've never worked for any of these MysteryMe, but a bit of online research tells me that Market Checker don't respond to emails, Checkout have stopped operating, and I can't find anything about Mintel.
    • saajan_12
    • By saajan_12 23rd May 18, 6:45 AM
    • 1,620 Posts
    • 1,248 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?
    Originally posted by Chomeur
    Just checking, is this the lunch place with the french name? Was wondering where they went!
    • saajan_12
    • By saajan_12 23rd May 18, 7:03 AM
    • 1,620 Posts
    • 1,248 Thanks
    There are loads of jobs on MF for restaurants and fragrance but I'm not prepared to do jobs for such a low reimbursement at the moment as you have to pay for another person and with the smell one you have to spend at least double the reimbursement and have the aggro of posting the receipt.
    Originally posted by missymouse
    I completely agree with the reimbursements costs being raised. One in particular that erks me is the pizza restaurant that only gives you £15 to spend but you can't go alone. £15 is about the cost of one pizza there!
    Originally posted by hannerrbabes
    Don't understand how they can justify the fragrance visit with a minimum spend £10 more than the reimbursement - how does spending more get them any more info on the customer service, seems like a way to generate sales.

    The pizza place too, if you want 2 people ordering 2 pizzas and a drink, you have to reimburse (the cheapest) 2 pizzas + drink.. My overspend alone is more than I'd spend paying myself but able to use vouchers for that place, so why would I bother with the report!

    Last one that irks me is the football stadium visits and feminine intimate clothing stores with massive spend, hours on the job with intricate detail, with tiny fee.. its a massive outlay to risk them finding a tiny issue and declining payment.

    Supply and demand are all well and good, but after realising you're at a net loss before considering time for the report etc, how does the demand keep returning!
    • vegasvisitor
    • By vegasvisitor 26th May 18, 7:32 AM
    • 2,184 Posts
    • 1,424 Thanks
    Not allowed to mention fees in here. Please edit them out.
    • SavvySpaniel
    • By SavvySpaniel 29th May 18, 2:36 PM
    • 20 Posts
    • 20 Thanks
    Hi there, I am looking for a summer job for my teenage son and have come across an advert for National Lottery mystery shoppers (Cosine).
    I just wondered if there is anyone on this board who has done this in the past and what your opinion of this work is? They are also looking for adult chaperones - so it would be a perfect summer job for me and him to do together!

    Any advice would be must appreciated.

    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 29th May 18, 6:48 PM
    • 2,145 Posts
    • 2,660 Thanks
    A few MSC undertake underage sales assignments. As I understand it your son would need to still be at an age where he could legally purchase the item so for the National Lottery 16 years old. It's to check retailers are asking for proof of ID.

    I know Tern also do such visits but think they are looking for 18 year olds
    • flatulantyounggoat
    • By flatulantyounggoat 31st May 18, 7:55 PM
    • 27 Posts
    • 4 Thanks
    Are there any better dining companies than MF/HGEM. Rewards / reimbs seem to be paltry (although MF has had some better visits)
    • MysteryMe
    • By MysteryMe 31st May 18, 9:22 PM
    • 2,145 Posts
    • 2,660 Thanks
    Not done any work for them but Silent Customer has those kind of assignments
    • Doc N
    • By Doc N 1st Jun 18, 12:09 PM
    • 6,882 Posts
    • 19,753 Thanks
    Doc N
    Are there any better dining companies than MF/HGEM. Rewards / reimbs seem to be paltry (although MF has had some better visits)
    Originally posted by flatulantyounggoat
    HGEM/Mystery Diner thread here if you want more detail:

    Mixed views - depending mainly on how prepared you are to spend potentially quite a lot of time reporting on a snack!
    • No-name
    • By No-name 16th Aug 18, 5:16 PM
    • 52 Posts
    • 82 Thanks
    Just to bring this thread back to life!

    Some interesting news GfK is selling it's worldwide (including UK) mystery shopping business to Ipsos, there is a press release (copy on
    • N6CNH
    • By N6CNH 18th Aug 18, 7:37 PM
    • 1,060 Posts
    • 10,954 Thanks
    Anyone familiar with the posh international mystery shopping site listed in the OP?

    I *think* I've booked some assignments but unsure if they've been approved or not. Not much information. Hopefully going to be trying it out on a hotel stay during our trip to Japan which is pretty cool!
    • whmf00001
    • By whmf00001 20th Aug 18, 9:35 AM
    • 373 Posts
    • 2,539 Thanks
    Have been out of commission for the last few weeks and will be for a few more weeks. I get plenty of emails but as I am unable to go out and about yet and until I am finished with the hospital drugs I am not too sure I would be brilliant at the phone jobs so best just to wait until back in full health again. I do read the forum though thank you all.
    • Mr Benn
    • By Mr Benn 5th Sep 18, 12:47 PM
    • 268 Posts
    • 136 Thanks
    Mr Benn
    Hi ..Newbie alert

    Ive read all the opening notes, but Im still unsure if I have to register as 'self employed', if Im already fully employed by a Company ?

    • Cairoxxx
    • By Cairoxxx 6th Sep 18, 7:46 AM
    • 11 Posts
    • 0 Thanks
    Do your company employ you to do mystery shopping? If not, you are self-employed for those earnings and need to register as such.
    • vegasvisitor
    • By vegasvisitor 7th Sep 18, 2:57 PM
    • 2,184 Posts
    • 1,424 Thanks
    Self employed
    Hi ..Newbie alert

    Ive read all the opening notes, but Im still unsure if I have to register as 'self employed', if Im already fully employed by a Company ?

    Originally posted by Mr Benn
    Yes, you should register as self-employed. Some of the companies will even ask for your UTR number (which you get when you register). Companies generally state in their terms that you must be registered as self employed.
    • Somerset La La La
    • By Somerset La La La 24th Oct 18, 7:44 PM
    • 685 Posts
    • 233 Thanks
    Somerset La La La
    Anyone know where the cinema assignments have moved to? They seem to have disappeared from where I used to do a lot!!
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 10th Nov 18, 4:00 PM
    • 356 Posts
    • 324 Thanks
    Hi haven’t been here for awhile but could anyone advise how to fill in the tax return because there only seems to be boxes for employers but nothing for self employed whereas I’m sure it was easier last year.

    • spendaholic
    • By spendaholic 14th Nov 18, 4:56 PM
    • 1,454 Posts
    • 7,664 Thanks
    I've just joined 2 mystery shopper organisations and one of them already seems to have 4 gigs for me next week. I'd be interested to see how others are getting along.

    Hi haven’t been here for awhile but could anyone advise how to fill in the tax return because there only seems to be boxes for employers but nothing for self employed whereas I’m sure it was easier last year.
    Originally posted by missymouse
    I'm already self-employed, so I'll just add this to my usual tax return. I will say, though, that I thought we had to ask our tax office to send us self-employment forms as well as employment forms. But I'm going back to the days of a massive, pages-long tax return that covered pretty much everything. I'm not sure if you have to ask for the self-employment forms now as I get mine automatically. But worth a go.
    Highest debt: £35k (2005); Current debt: £6k (2018)

    2 tickets to the Home Building & Renovation show; £50 to spend on chocolate; 2 tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters; designer cat food caddy; £2,500 cash; £36 cash; Jesus Christ Superstar tickets + 2 t-shirts; Creative Craft Show tickets; Birmingham City v Barnsley FC tickets; Marillion tickets; Beyond the Pole DVD; £1,000 cash; Legend of the Guardians goody bag; Dancing on Ice tickets; Barnsley FC v Millwall tickets
    • whitelabel
    • By whitelabel 14th Nov 18, 6:23 PM
    • 2,118 Posts
    • 1,537 Thanks
    I've just joined 2 mystery shopper organisations and one of them already seems to have 4 gigs for me next week. I'd be interested to see how others are getting along.

    I'm already self-employed, so I'll just add this to my usual tax return. I will say, though, that I thought we had to ask our tax office to send us self-employment forms as well as employment forms. But I'm going back to the days of a massive, pages-long tax return that covered pretty much everything. I'm not sure if you have to ask for the self-employment forms now as I get mine automatically. But worth a go.
    Originally posted by spendaholic
    I do all all mine online
    every little helps
    • missymouse
    • By missymouse 14th Nov 18, 7:53 PM
    • 356 Posts
    • 324 Thanks

    Yes I usually do mine online but this year it only seems to be interested if your turnover is over £1000 so what happens if you haven’t mate that match.

    I have done tax returns before online and I don’t remember this. Could anyone throw any light on this
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