Yes, There Really Is a Free Lunch! Part I

We’ve all heard the saying, “There’s No Free Lunch!”  The implication is that you can’t get something for nothing.  Mystery shopping offers an abundance of opportunities to prove the naysayers wrong.  If you play your cards right, you can get your lunch and a guest’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, for free! 

currency-symbol-darkThere are many different ways that shoppers can eat for free, entertain guests, and be reimbursed for their expenses!  In some cases, you are not only reimbursed for the cost of the meal, but you are also paid a fee for evaluating your experience and submitting a report about it.  Let’s unlock some of the secrets that are waiting to be revealed when you open the door to mystery shopping for your supper! 

You’re in the driver’s seat when you sign on.  You can choose how many shops to take on, or how few, based on a variety of factors.  Your time is a primary factor.  You must be able to do a shop when you agree to do it.  The deadlines for most restaurant shops are strict and it does not bode well if you repeatedly cancel or reschedule shops.

Your ability to pay for your meal(s) and wait for reimbursement will also be a determining factor.  Whether you can afford to wait 30-60 days to be paid is an important consideration.  You must also consider the time to complete and submit your report when accepting a shop.  You should take into consideration that most reports are due within 24 hours and some companies will not grant extensions lightly.  Some will not tolerate cancellations, so consider the time required to prepare and submit your report on time carefully before choosing a date to complete a shop.

You may not know where to start if you haven’t done anything like this before.  One place to start is focus groups.  There are companies in most big cities that use focus groups in their arsenal of weapons to gather feedback for clients from people just like you and me about a product.  Several years ago, my roommate forwarded an e-mail to me from a research and development company.  I answered a few questions and qualified for the study.  My first paying gig was sampling different kinds of pizza!  I provided my feedback after tasting several different brands.  I was amazed and delighted to make $60 just for eating one of my favorite foods.  I was off and running with no turning back and lunch that day was, you guessed it, FREE!

I was introduced to apartment mystery shopping by a friend who worked in the apartment leasing industry.  I signed on to try to make some Christmas money.  That has turned into a long-term relationship that supplements my income nicely.  From there I began to get solicitations from other mystery shopping companies with opportunities to “shop” dining establishments.  This has opened up a new avenue with an income stream, but also an opportunity to try different food and different restaurants for free!

Some companies work primarily with fast food restaurants.  You might be asked to order and pick up your food at the drive-through window.  You could be asked to record menu prices accurately and discreetly.  Another scenario might be to use a timer to record how long each stage of the ordering  process takes from the time you arrive and join a line to the time you receive your food and drive away.               

service-check-listYou may also be asked to evaluate the friendliness and efficiency of the staff.  You could be charged with evaluating the lighting, menu boards, and other aspects of the cleanliness and curb appeal of the restaurant.  Other shops are done inside the restaurant while others evaluate take-out orders.

Next week we will venture into more ways shoppers can earn a free meal AND a fee to boot!  Tune in for more inside scoop.

 Sandra S.