Mystery Shopping On the Road

A shopper asks:

I am getting ready to retire and my spouse and I want to hit the road and travel across the country. Is it possible to mystery shop while we are on the road? Anything we need to watch out for?

Sure, you can mystery shop on the road, whether you are on a one-week vacation, you regularly travel for your job, or you have become a permanent road warrior.

There are a few things you may have to do differently to make mystery shopping while traveling work for you. Here are some things to consider.

Finding jobs – Most mystery shopping companies send email notices about available assignments based on where you live (i.e., they use your zip code or area code to identify shops close to you). That means that when you are on the road, you will need to check job boards frequently to find assignments because you will probably be getting emails about jobs near your home base rather than where you are traveling. Companies that allow you to self-assign shops may be your best bet, because you can search for assignments anywhere and claim them immediately.

Working with schedulers – Schedulers are sometimes reluctant to assign shops outside of your home area. That is because they know that if your travel plans change the shop will not get done. Let schedulers know that you travel regularly and that you will be looking for shops in many areas, depending on where you are at the time. One way to do this is to add it as a note to your profile, but the scheduler may not read your profile each time they are assigning a shop. If you can, add a note to your request for the shop.

Shoppers who have been working with certain schedulers for a while may want to inform them ahead of time that they will be traveling and ask for assignments wherever they will be. The schedulers who know and trust you will try to assign shops to you when they can, and may even put the word out to other schedulers in their company.

Getting reports done – When you are on a short trip, such as a vacation or business trip, making the time to get reports done by the deadline can be a problem. When you are traveling for an extended period, such as crossing the country in an RV, finding the time to get reports done will usually be no more of a problem than it is for any secret shopper. You will be “home,” it is just that your home may change from month to month or even week to week.

One problem that anyone traveling may face is limited or poor quality internet access. If you have to upload a lot of files (e.g., photos of the location or receipt files) it can take a lot of extra time. When the internet coverage is spotty, you may lose your connection and your work. It would be smart to write comments and narratives offline, then paste them into your report form. And save the report often.

Internet security – Looking for WiFi while traveling can be challenging, and using public unsecure WiFi poses risks. Although it may be fine to use a public WiFi connection to enter a report, be careful about entering any personal data (such as banking, credit card or PayPal account information) when using an unsecure connection. It is easier than you may think for bad guys to intercept data.

One solution is to use a private hotspot (available from many mobile phone providers) for internet access. Another is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when you are using a public connection. A VPN encrypts your data before transmitting it. Neither of these solutions is perfect, but they will make it much harder to get to your data so they are about as safe as you can get.

Getting paid – Many mystery shopping companies pay via PayPal or direct deposit, so getting paid will not be a problem. However, there are still some that pay via check. If you plan to be on the road full time, you need a solution for receiving mail, including your mystery shopping checks.

Mystery shopping while traveling can pose challenges, but it can be a good way to earn money while on the road, and perhaps even make some of your travel expenses tax deductible.

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