I first started mystery shopping last summer. I retired in April at the age of 65 and decided that I would try to replace some of my lost income by working from home. Thanks to web sites like the money shed I have been dipping my toe in to the world of secret shopping.
My first surprise was that a lot of shopping could be done at home. So far jobs have included ordering groceries on line, phoning up to enquire about insurance, receiving letters and even a tweet to enquire about disabled access at a railway station. In fact so far mystery shopping has involved very little actual shopping. I am suprised at the variety of jobs offered and it is interesting to compare my findings about a brand with newspaper reports.My favourite jobs have involved visiting local stately homes.
What you need
Mystery shopping actually needs very little equipment. I bought myself a new mobile phone (a Samsung galaxy) and a new computer (which I needed anyway). The phone acts as my camera, voice recorder and stop watch and the computer is needed for writing the some times lengthy reports. I am lucky enough to have a bus pass so get free local travel. I also already had a printer needed for printing out a paper copy of the questionnaire. You also need internet access. Reports generally have to be written within 24 hours of a job.
You need to have a reasonable memory and a good standard of written and spoken English. You need to be able to remember what was said and what the team members looked like. I take a notebook with me so I can jot down details particularly if I have to ask for something like options for a train fare. I also try to find a nearby coffee shop or library so I can write up my notes while my memory is fresh.
Payment is usually about minimum wage for the jobs themselves but this does not include travel time nor time downloading instructions nor typing up the reports. Some jobs include the cost of purchases. A job last year included £5.00 to spend in any department of a local department store and £3.00 for a drink in the cafe.
Payment method varies between the companies you work for. A company like Red wigwam treats you as a casual employee and deducts tax. Other companies pay you a set fee and leave you to sort out your own tax. Payment is usually by BACS.
I am slowly getting to grips with terms like gondola end and shelf barker. Another useful distinction to understand is the difference between a shop audit where you have to check if a product or poster is present in a store and if goods are correctly priced and displayed and a mystery shop where you are expected to buy something and report on the service received.
A recent job wanted an audio recording detailing my experience which I could do on my phone.
Many mystery shopping companies seem to use Sassie software and once you are signed up to the Sassie system you are given log in details for Presto maps which shows you jobs in any part of England. You have to apply to the individual job agency for a particular job but you can see what is available locally.
Beware of scams you should never have to pay to join an agency and I have never been offered £100.00 to spend on a product of my choice.
Here are links to a couple of companies that are reliable and good for beginners. They are also happy to employ retired people.
There is a brand new Wallace and Gromit sculpture trail, Gromit unleashed 2 running in Bristol from 2 July to 2nd September with over sixty sculptures dotted around the city and surrounding areas to raise money for the Wallace and Gromit Grand appeal for Bristol Children’s hospital and the St. Michael’s hospital special care baby unit. Bristol children’s hospital treats more than 100,000 patients every year and cares for patients from Bristol and the South West of England.
Many of the figures have been painted by well known artists and represent famous Bristol characters like W.G. Grace, the cricketer in my photo. The Lego design team have created a model using over 30,000 bricks and the Paw patrol team have also painted a Gromit. Aardman animation which produced Morph, Creature Comforts, Shaun the sheep and Chicken run as well as the Wallace and Gromit films is based in Bristol and Nick Park , a founder of Aardman studios is a patron of this appeal.
New for 2018
For 2018 Wallace and Gromit are joined by their arch enemy Feathers McGraw and are positioned in iconic locations around Bristol and surrounding areas. The detect-o-gromit app is available to purchase from app stores for both iPhone and android for £1.99. It has both short and longer trail routes and includes a pedometer which rewards you for 10,000 steps and has more details about the work done by the children’s hospital. A trail map is also available from the Bristol tourist office and Bristol museums. More information can be found on the Gromit Unleashed facebook page.
The first Gromit unleashed trail and the Shaun the sheep trail raised £6 million for Bristol children’s hospital and this time they are hoping to do even better. Sculptures are auctioned off at the end of the season and many end up at well known locations.
If you live near Bristol I think it would make a grand day out for you and your family. It will also help you all to get fitter while having fun and discovering new parts of the city.
First bus have a day family ticket for £8.00 if purchased through their app which allows a family of five to travel throughout the Bristol Inner zone and includes a 10p donation to the charity.
I belong to a meetup group called “A walk in the past “. This combines two of my loves history which I studied at University and walking. Normally we meet in Bristol or surrounding areas but last week I ventured further afield to London in search of Roman Londinium. I was able to combine this with a visit to see my son who was happy to join me on the walk.
Our group met at a suitably classical location, Trajan’s statue by Tower Hill tube station. This is close to a surviving section of Roman town wall. Roman walls can often be spotted as they have a tile level every couple of feet. We were able to follow the wall for some distance and I was surprised by how much survives. We even found one section in a car park with the brown tile levels clearly visible.
Roman London is buried under modern London and much of it remained undiscovered for centuries. However during the second world war the blitz destroyed many buildings revealing Roman remains. One such building is the London Mithraem, the remains of a temple to Mithras. It has been lovingly preserved and is now in the basement of the Bloomberg building, the European headquarters of the American corporation. It is beautifully present with a sound and light show. It can be visited for free by prior arrangement. The London Mythraem They also have an interesting display of Roman artefacts found at the site including part of a collection of over 400 wax writing tablets. Another important building in any Roman town was the amphitheatre. The London amphitheatre remained hidden until 1988 when developers rebuilding the Guildhall discovered unusual curved walls. The remains can now be seen for free in the basement of the Guildhall.
Originally Colchester was the capital of Roman Britain but Londinium soon became more important. Boudica led the Iceni on a raid which resulted in many wooden building being destroyed and it was decided to build a fort and walls to strengthen the town. Londinium became more important under the emperor Hadrian who used his own money to build civic buildings. The Romans were able to build a bridge across the Thames near the site of the modern Tower Bridge and it became an important trading port. Lead from the Mendips and copper and tin from Cornwall were traded for olive oil , wine and other luxury goods. I was shown the site of the London arena, where soldiers would have trained which was discovered about forty years ago and the enormous forum basilica. which is now under Leadenhall market. We ended our walk by looking at Roman artefacts in the excellent museum of London. This is also free and is well worth a visit. I particularly liked the model of the original London bridge.