Monday, October 13, 2008

How to Budget Mystery Shopping Income

I have two mystery shopping assignments this month. One, that I completed on Friday, was for a visit to a bar. I will be reimbursed $15 for the appetizer and two drinks my companion and I had and paid $10. The other one that I have next week will reimburse me for lunch only.

One of the things that I am trying to work out in my budget is how to account for this kind of work. My budget goes month to month from the 1st to the 30th. I get paid from those jobs on the 15th of the following month. This means it doesn't neatly fit into my budget line items, I don't have a "money owed" column. What I have decided to do for the time being is just treat the initial Mystery Shopping costs (the food at the restaurants) as part of my dining out budget. So far on all my mystery shopping trips I have brought a friend who has helped me gather all the information, time servers and get employee's names, but who I also got to spend some time hanging out with. So even though we are working, there is a fair amount of social time. When the check/reimbursement comes in, I'll add those to my budget like income. I can't really think of a better way to do it, can you?

My trip this weekend was pretty fun and I thought the establishment overall did a good job on service. I did have one complaint though, I didn't think the food was very good. This was standard bar, I wasn't expecting haute cuisine, but I was expecting my burgers to taste, well, like a burger.

Here's something I noticed - no matter how good service is, if the food is lousy I am not tempted to return. However, if the food is exceptional, I will put up with a lot of bad service before complaining. For example, this was a standard every day American bar - good waitstaff, clean restaurant, fast and helpful. As far as atmosphere and service I was exceptionally pleased. The burger though - it was so unimpressive. It wasn't like there was anything horribly wrong with it, it was hot and cooked through, but my companion and I both agreed that the buns were stale, the meat was exceptionally dry and the bacon was a cross between cardboard and shoe leather. Everything looked good on the plate - but were lacking in flavor.

Contrast that with a restaurant this same companion and I went to for my birthday - a little Indian restaurant on the other side of the state. The food was amazing - it absolutely blew me away. The minute we got there the the host sat us on benches surrounded by huge invasive fake ficus plants - you couldn't turn your head without a plastic branch getting in your eye. We waited there forever for a table. Then when we were finally seated our server was very inattentive. It was pretty spicy food and we had a hard time getting our water glasses refilled. The place was moderately clean, but not exceptionally so. Much of the decor was faded or a bit old, yet the food was so unbelievably good that I would go back there in a heartbeat - I'm even willing to risk an eye to the fake plants!

In my humble opinion, if you are going to have a restaurant and you have to choose between the quality of your service or the food - make the food stand out.

... your best bet though is to have excellence in both!

Love Mysteries? Here's more:

Mystery Shopping as NonPassive Income

Mystery Shopping Feedback

My Experiences Being a Mystery Shopper, pt 2

This fabulous photo of a mystery pumpkin shopper by: doeth

No comments: