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 Is being MSPA Silver or Gold Certified Worth It?
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Nora
Star Contributor

PA
USA
6341 Posts

Posted - 11/30/2006 :  3:03:10 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Certification is not necessary (especially in rural areas) but it can help get better assignments.
Arguably so, perhaps, but the core issue that sparks well-earned skepticism is whythis is so, given that there is something approaching agreement that education or specialized training is neither necessary nor a component of the certification program.
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Sara D
Valued Contributor

South Hadley, MA
USA
163 Posts

Posted - 11/30/2006 :  4:40:30 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Nora et al,

Given that I agree with you and others that the MSPA trainings and resulting certifications do NOT mean better training or skills, I think the one arguable benefit to looking at the certification system is that it does show evidence of a higher level of commitment (the gold, anyway) to being a professional shopper. Yes, that can also be demonstrated by years of experience, but when it comes to a shopper that's relatively unknown to the company, I don't blame them for wanting to choose someone who has some tangible proof that they're really invested in this work.

-Sara

Sara A Davidow,
MSPA Gold Certified shopper #aziwc5
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 11/30/2006 :  6:18:58 PM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
That is great Sue. You will find that the longer you are certified, you will be offered higher paying shops, so you don't have to work as hard to make the same money.

PamInCa
Author of: "The Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping"
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Quinn
Star Contributor

Atlanta, GA
USA
50247 Posts

Posted - 12/01/2006 :  4:44:36 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
As Nora and many others have pointed out, the certification process is inherently flawed because little or no education, training or skills are acquired by becoming certified. While this may not apply to a brand new shopper, which many gold shoppers seem to be. Who would you rather do work for you, a newbie gold shopper or a non-certifed experienced shopper?

This leads me to surmise that certification, in its present state, is nothing more than paying to shop.
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EllenB
Member

Philadelphia, PA
USA
21 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  07:35:45 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Wouldnít it be nice if there were some form of recognition in this industry that would reward shoppers for outstanding effort (and not just by proving ourselves to one MS Company). Without a legitimate advocate for shoppers, such as an organization looking out for our benefit and protecting our rights, it seems rather grim. And it's sad, because the amount of work expected of shoppers far outweighs the "average" compensation rewarded. There also seems to be an increasing need for shoppers as more and more establishments recognize the need for good customer service. Obviously we are making a difference as so many establishments are catching on and taking advantage (literally ;-) of our services. Because the shops available are everywhere these days, we are forced to settle as long as there are shoppers (often inexperienced) willing to take shops for next to nothing. But what about quality? For those of us who take it seriously and seek out opportunities to better our performance (i.e. try Certification-although to date Iíve yet see a certification worthy of its title), it's frustrating because ultimately we are grouped in with people in it just for fun and some extra money and/or perks. Which is fine if that is what companies want, but what's the purpose then, of establishments investing in our services when unbeknownst to them, they risk the validity of a report by a shopper lacking experience and dedication to quality. And my intention is not to belittle people in it for fun, but what guarantees do companies have that they are consistently getting shoppers who are devoted to producing reports of the highest standards as long as there are no ways to distinguish one shopper from another? This goes back to the idea of creating a standard, or form of measuring shoppers who earn a title after proving their efforts. This way, establishments would have a choice: pay less and risk the possibility of a marginal report with minimal effort, or, pay more for a guaranteed report of the highest quality produced by a professional shopper.


Ellen B.
THIS FORUM stinks!
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  07:54:47 AM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
Oh, please don't mention companies paying less. I think companies need both the experienced shoppers and newer shoppers. Diversity is the key to true knowledge of what is going on in your store. If only one type of person were to enter the store, then yes, only one type of shopper is needed. Shoppers that do this for fun have a different approach when doing shops, thus a different style of reporting. Both can be appreciated for what they are.

As far as a shopper organization, it would be great if the MSPA could offer this, but I think we would be hard pressed to find an organization that could please the majority of shoppers. Again, too much diversity.

PamInCa
Author of: "The Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping"
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EllenB
Member

Philadelphia, PA
USA
21 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  09:14:05 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Regardless of whether or not shoppers are experienced or newer shoppers, companies (or establishments hiring MS Companies) should be given the choice. Because the compensation for the amount of detail that is expected on many (not all) MS Companies forms, if done right, is in no way close to what it should be for the time and effort shoppers put into it. Itís the biggest gripe in the industry. My point is that the shoppers devoted to this industry, whether full-time or just passionate about it, should be compensated for their efforts if they are motivated to produce top-notch reports that take time and effort. And why shouldnít establishments have a say about the experience or level of competence of the shopper doing their evaluation? If they want a casual shopper, then fine, so be it. But given the amount of money that many establishments are pouring into this industry, it makes sense that many of them probably want very accurate, detailed information on their reports. And this is not to say that new or casual shoppers canít provide that, but if they are doing it for fun, I hardly think they plan to invest the time and energy required to produce a professional report if done well. Iím saying that there should be a way to distinguish different levels of commitment. Ambitious shoppers aspiring for better assignments and willing to do whatever work it takes should be rewarded. Because it is a lot of work to produce an outstanding report and it shows. There should be a way for MS Companies to know what they are getting in terms of dedication from their shoppers so they can apply it to the needs of the establishments they are hiring. There is such a need for good customer service right now and client expectations completely vary. Itís all bout choice -- choice for the shopper, the MS Company and the client. And like any other industry, quality work should be recognized and rewarded accordingly. Finally, I think most shoppers, whether shopping for fun or their livelihood would agree, that the compensation in this industry is in no way in sync with what is expected in return.


Ellen B.
THIS FORUM stinks!
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NatalieH
Contributor

USA
8291 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  09:32:53 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
"Commitment" is a nebulous, relative term that cannot be measured, nor does it logically follow that commitment equals quality or competence. The ability to follow instructions, make accurate observations and communicate intelligibly through the written word are concrete indicators of capability and quality, insofar as mystery shopping is concerned. Clients only care that they receive an accurate report that was submitted under the criteria they set. This can be provided just as accurately from someone who mystery shops for fun, as it can be from someone who attempts to shop for their livelihood.

Furthermore, while for some, the ability to write a check and attend a workshop may reflect their own personal level of commitment, this can never be substituted for demonstrated performance, which is really the bottom line.

Compensation is another issue entirely, and I agree that the bulk of mystery shopping jobs are vastly underpaid. The only way to impact that is to stop accepting jobs that require disproportionate time expenditures and absurd requirements.
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  10:35:08 AM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
Being willing to do whatever it takes can mean alot of things. There are jobs out there where the companies post for 4.00, 6.00 or 10.00. However, if you build a relationship with these companies, you can find these same companies will offer shops that you do not see posted and are more than worth the fees paid. Only you can choose the jobs you want, if you do not feel they are worth your time, simply don't take them.

I make good money doing this job and feel I have showed commitment by both being Gold and having strong work ethics.

PamInCa
Author of: "The Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping"
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SheilaW
Star Contributor

Fairfield, CA
USA
881 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  10:42:15 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Customers come in many "flavors" - articulate and detailed to brief and limited vocabulary, highly educated to non-high school graduates etc.
If I was a client I would want to see a true picture of my business through the eyes of many different customers and would hope to get that reflected through the reports of my shoppers.
I think there is a place in this business for all kinds of shoppers and that following directions, turning in a report on time and truthfulness are the most important traits. These traits are stressed at the Gold Certification workshops.

Sheila, NoCal
Proudly shopping Solano County including Travis AFB.
Gold Certified.
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Sara D
Valued Contributor

South Hadley, MA
USA
163 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  12:27:50 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Natalie et al,

I don't think 'commitment' is a nebulous term at all in this case, as it has a very clear definition - at least in the way that I utilized it. Commitment means actually doing the job. No one, and certainly not I, would ever suggest that certifications be held as more important than actual experience and skill. However, the truth of the matter is that most companies are scheduling contractors whom they've never met face-to-face, and particularly when they are scheudling them for the first time, there is an EXTREMELY high liklihood that the contractor simply wont do the job. And, frankly, I can fill out an application saying I have over eight years of experience, but again, the fact that this is all done on-line increases the liklihood that I could be portraying myself inaccurately.

However, when a shopper has paid the $100 to actually go to a Gold workshop, sit through a presentation and then go home and take a test to become certified that does suggest that they aren't someone who simply is filling out applications and clicking buttons on their home computer on a whim. I.E., They've made a financial and time commitment that suggests that they are not involved in Mystery shopping entirely on a fleeting whim and logic and statistics (unless the MSPA is simply lying about the statistics which are pretty dramatic) suggest that it is FAR more likely that these shoppers will follow through on a job.

So, again, how can we blame a company for wanting to go for the groups of shoppers that statistics suggest are far more likely to not flake? Yes, shoppers can prove they wont flake over time without a certification, but these schedulers are trying to schedule hundreds of jobs and I imagine they want to take as few risks as possible.

Most companies will, of course, be best served by doing what they can to select shoppers who have the best mixture of reliability, experience and skill and I've seen a few who actually ask for Shopper references and I imagine that would be even more telling than the certification process... but imagine how much time it must take to check references on hundreds of shoppers.

This isn't an easy answer, and oversimplifying the certifications down to meaningless pieces of paper just isn't quite accurate.

-Sara

Sara A Davidow,
MSPA Gold Certified shopper #aziwc5
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EllenB
Member

Philadelphia, PA
USA
21 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  12:57:55 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
That was really rude what I wrote in my earlier post about people in it just for fun and some extra money and/or perks. Iím sorry .I didnít mean to offend anyone and I should have clarified that. Iím just so passionate about this industry and I just wish we had more respect. My guess is that the majority of shoppers who produce good reports are doing it on the side. I just donít like how there are so many shoppers out there who flake (seems like a high percentage) because they donít help our cause. So, for what itís worth, I apologize. Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb me Ömy bad!

Ellen B.
THIS FORUM stinks!
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NatalieH
Contributor

USA
8291 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  1:30:08 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Ellen, I didn't consider it rude at all, and I didn't take any offense. I understood what you meant; I just look at it a little bit differently.

Sara, I agree with you about the importance of commitment insofar as actually doing the job (and doing it correctly). That goes without saying. But to say that certification becomes a necessary tool in order to separate the committed from the non-committed is missing the point of certifications and why they exist. Certifications are established in most fields in order to set apart a group that can demonstrate superior achievement, skills or educational training; and this is just not how things play out with MSPA's certification.

There's also a bit of intellectual dishonesty in that the promoters of this particular certification continue to shift their arguments for supporting it. At first, it was promoted as "education", and shoppers were encouraged to become certified in order to gain a body of knowledge that was supposedly not accessible to their uncertified counterparts. When we all pretty much discovered there was no real educational element involved, then the supporters decided to say that the benefit was in the networking. When that was not widely accepted as a significant factor in being a successful mystery shopper or bringing a superior product to the client, then we're told, well, it's really about setting yourself apart in markets that are oversaturated. As some markets started to become oversaturated with gold shoppers themselves, that point was rendered moot. Now, the whole commitment argument is being thrown in; and personally, I don't find that argument to be convincing, either. You also have to ask yourself who is benefiting from showing this commitment. It's not the shopper--the shopper is out their time, in addition to the $100+ for the workshop. It's not the client--the client will receive an acceptable product regardless, due to the quality assurance measures that each report has to go through before it is submitted to them. So, the only one who is truly benefiting is the MS company...who, by the way, is also a member of the trade organization that is offering the certification.

There is definitely a need to ensure that those to whom jobs are assigned will actually do the job. But, just as everyday employers are taking a chance with people off the street who come in to fill out a job application, so are MS companies when they assign a job to someone they don't know. That's the risk of doing business, and most businesses understand that the onus is on *them* to devise a system of procedures to separate the wheat from the chaff--not the other way around.

*Edit: I forgot about that other on-going argument that asserts that becoming certified brings more jobs and higher-paying jobs. This has also been thrown out the window, for all practical purposes.
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  1:40:26 PM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
I would have to say I have benefited, so it is not just the MS companies that receive the reward. How can shoppers who do not have certification or shoppers who have not attempted to go Gold, offer concrete information on whether or not it is worth it?

PamInCa
Author of: "The Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping"
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Nora
Star Contributor

PA
USA
6341 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  2:08:59 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
How can shoppers who do not have certification or shoppers who have not attempted to go Gold, offer concrete information on whether or not it is worth it?
...possibly because the topic of the thread reads "Is being MSPA Silver OR Gold Certified Worth It?"? Without doing a precise tally, it is evident that most posters on this thread do indicate some level of certification; thus making them qualified to respond, on that point alone. Also, certified or not, the feedback within this thread is sufficient for the viewing shopper to form a personally relevant answer to this question.

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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  2:17:13 PM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
Absolutely, the title is asking if it is worth it? How can non certified shoppers answer this question? What are the answers based on? Hearsay? I would think the other posts, although valuable would be better suited on this thread.

SEE:
Is not being MSPA certified detrimental to you? (Assuming there was one in your area)
http://forum.volition.com/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=2390

PamInCa
Author of: "The Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping"
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Nora
Star Contributor

PA
USA
6341 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  3:26:31 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:

Absolutely, the title is asking if it is worth it? How can non certified shoppers answer this question?
...by formulating an opinion based on "hearsay", which is what ALL forum feedback is, be it pro or con. Comparably, one can formulate the opinion, without benefit of firsthand experience, that, say, war is horrible.

I agree that all opinions are valuable, regardless of where they are placed on this forum; that is at the administrator's or mod's discretion and I suggest that they be notified, if one is sufficiently bothered....whatever will steer this thread back to it's intended spirit and purpose.

So, to segue back to the topic. No, there has been no discernible worth to me.
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MichaelinNH
Star Contributor

New Hampshire
USA
488 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  3:32:03 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
When I sold Real Estate, I was licensed in 3 states and was a Realtor. I earned my GRI and CRS designations during that time period. I was a good salesperson and maybe did not need the designation, but amongst my peers and to some customers in showed a level of commitment to our business. Additionally, continuing education was required to maintain licenses and designations.

When I sold life insurance I was licensed in most of New England and belonged to several insurance groups that had similar designations and ongoing continiung education. Again peer recognition for the amount of work that went into getting the licenses and the designations was univseral.

When I sold securities and mutual funds the same principals applied.

All of these industries evolved over time into being regulated and self-regulated. As time goes on standards are established, codes of ethics are created and business becomes more professional. Will everyone play by the rules? NO, there will always be clients, customers and companies that are unethical. But the fact that some standards are evolving is great. There will be growing pains, 10 years from now it may not be MSPA, but something will continue to evolve to standardize and professionalize the industry more.

I guess I will pay the $100 or so and the day of my time to participate. I would rather pay and learn and not need it, then stay ignorant and maybe miss an opportunity to grow.

FWIW

MSPA Gold 8/9/2006 MSPA Silver 6/23/2007
Video Shopper Certified 6/9/2011 NV Workcard R-061144. Shopping 50 States, Puerto Rico & Canada.
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SheilaW
Star Contributor

Fairfield, CA
USA
881 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  3:37:14 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Just a response to 2 points in previous posts:

1. "most businesses understand that the onus is on *them* to devise a system of procedures to separate the wheat from the chaff"
Some businesses have chosen to do this by requiring or giving first preference to those with gold or silver certification. If it didn't work, I would imagine they would abandon the procedure.

2. " ....argument that asserts that becoming certified brings more jobs and higher-paying jobs. This has also been thrown out the window, for all practical purposes."
I guess my window was closed. Personally, I have definitely received more jobs and am paid at a higher rate now than before certification for some other jobs. Don't ask me to name companies and clients to prove it - we all know that would violate ICAs.



Sheila, NoCal
Proudly shopping Solano County including Travis AFB.
Gold Certified.
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.KimSVision
Star Contributor

Orange County, CA
USA
1383 Posts

Posted - 12/03/2006 :  4:03:12 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by MichaelinNH

I guess I will pay the $100 or so and the day of my time to participate. I would rather pay and learn and not need it, then stay ignorant and maybe miss an opportunity to grow.
I can't help but wonder if there isn't a massive income difference between the jobs you used to have, and Mystery shopping. What I'm trying to say is...... you would continue to pay for training because your income depended on it, isn't that true?

Please, anyone, don't jump on me, I'm just asking! ~ Kim
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