The compensation for some mystery shops consists of a fee and reimbursement for a required purchase. Others, such as those without a required purchase (including banks, apartment complexes and car dealerships), will not include a reimbursement, but may have a higher fee.
But what about mystery shops where your only compensation is the reimbursement of a required purchase, with no fee? Some shoppers refuse to do reimbursement-only shops, and will only accept assignments that include a fee. They believe that they are most profitable by focusing on fee-only shops, or shops that include both a fee and reimbursement.
Although most of the shops I do include a fee, there are times when I do reimbursement-only shops. Usually, these are restaurant shops. My husband and I enjoy going out to dinner, so getting our dinner paid for in return for a mystery shop report can be, in my opinion, a good deal. Just for the record, we are not talking about fast food here, but nice restaurants involving servers and often alcohol. And definitely dessert.
Ultimately, decisions about which shops you will do are up to you. You decide how much compensation makes a shop worthwhile, and whether or not you are willing to do reimbursement-only shops.
Here are some factors to consider in making your decision.
What is the value of the reimbursement?
I have done shops (with or without a fee) that included reimbursements of $150 or more. When calculated over the time required to do the shop and report, that can be a great hourly rate.
What is the value of the reimbursement to you?
If you do not want or need the product or service for which you are reimbursed, it doesn’t matter how much the reimbursement is. A fine dining shop may not be enjoyable if you are on a diet and have to watch what you eat. A vision shop is not useful if you don’t need a new pair of glasses.
Even if the shop offers a large reimbursement, if it is not valuable to you it is not worthwhile. If the reimbursement is for something you would have purchased even if you weren’t doing a mystery shop, then it may be a good deal.
Is the reimbursement adequate to cover the required purchase?
This seems obvious: If you are doing a shop solely for reimbursement, the reimbursement ought to at least cover what you are required to buy. However, there are shops where the required purchase will always be greater than the maximum reimbursement. If you are not certain how much the typical purchase would be, ask your scheduler for more information.
Can you afford to front the cash required to do the shop?
Doing several reimbursement shops can mean putting purchases of hundreds of dollars on your credit cards, or laying out the cash. Do you have the cash or available credit to do this? And if you are not paid by the time your credit card bill is due, will you have the funds to pay the bill in full so you do not incur interest charges?
Choose your mystery shopper assignments wisely, to maximize the return on your time and effort. That may include doing at least some reimbursement-only shops, when the circumstances are right for you.