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 Is being MSPA Silver or Gold Certified Worth It?
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Sara D
Valued Contributor

South Hadley, MA
USA
163 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  05:16:10 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I'm feeling a little tired of posts suggesting that paying for the MSPA training is the same as 'paying for jobs.' (No, I'm not tired of any one particular poster saying that.. just in general.)

In reality, there are many, MANY circumstances in life where individuals pay for their own training, degrees, certifications and so on in order to become a more ATTRACTIVE employee or consultant. In MANY of those situations, it is also highly questionable how the educational value compares to the simple value of being able to list the training, degree or certification on one's resume and/or job applications.

However, in VERY FEW of those cases is there a DIRECT connect between a guarantee of a specific ongoing employment with a specific company. The logic behind equating this practice to paying for work is loose, at best. At the VERY least, by acting as if this is unique and strange within the shopper world, it ignores pretty much the entirety of how our culture has set up the job market. I mean, how different is it really from the fact that I'm more likely to be called back by a job in MANY fields simply because I have a Bachelors in Psychology than someone who has no Bachelors degree?

On the other hand, when companies (a la Satisfaction Services) begin to ask shoppers to pay to shop (or shop more) for them specifically, that's another story all together. It is NOT established practice within the work world. I would NEVER expect to have to pay a particular business for the pleasure of coming to work for them.

So, in summary, standard practice =

*WE PAY TRAINERS AND EDUCATORS* for their services to increase our value in the workplace.

*EMPLOYERS HIRE AND PAY US* based on our established value to them and their business.

Yes the training is (highly) questionable in terms of strict educational value (and even in terms of just how much more attractive it might make one in the general workplace), but I'm not sure how different that is from many of the Bachelors-level classes I've taken and at least the MSPA training is a heck of a lot cheaper.

-Sara


Sara A Davidow,
MSPA Gold Certified shopper #aziwc5
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ElizabethG
Valued Contributor

Chicago, IL
USA
166 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  05:17:10 AM  Send ElizabethG an AOL message  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Julie_WA_Writer

quote:

My reputation does not and will not get me emails about jobs that are only for or offered to "Gold shoppers."


Pam, if it's not about work and reputation, then isn't getting the Gold certification paying for shops?



Perhaps it would be, if it were only paying money and getting the certificate. The Gold workshop is more than that. It's meeting with other shoppers, hearing from Cathy Stucker or other presenters, and meeting representatives from some of the MS companies. That alone is valuable. Discussion in person with others in this business about how to do it best is also valuable. In a business that by its very nature is secret, and done alone, the chance to get others' perspective on the business is a learning experience. Even the best shopper is bound to come away with a new perspective.

Gold Certified yysqi1
Shopping Chicago and surrounding areas
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Sara D
Valued Contributor

South Hadley, MA
USA
163 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  05:23:43 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Elizabeth -

Unfortunately, they don't always have many (or even any) reps from companies at the Gold trainings. (There were 0 at mine.)

-Sara

Sara A Davidow,
MSPA Gold Certified shopper #aziwc5
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NatalieH
Contributor

USA
8291 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  06:08:10 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
In reality, there are many, MANY circumstances in life where individuals pay for their own training, degrees, certifications and so on in order to become a more ATTRACTIVE employee or consultant.


That's true; but the point that you are missing is that in those instances, the degree is obtained through independent, impartial and accredited institutions--not through some self-appointed conglomeration of employers who are the ones dangling the job prospects, while simultaneously collecting payment for this supposed "education."

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ElizabethG
Valued Contributor

Chicago, IL
USA
166 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  06:24:25 AM  Send ElizabethG an AOL message  Reply  Reply with Quote
People keep talking about the MSPA making money on these Gold conferences. Actually, they do not make a profit. The small fee paid by shoppers to attend the conference does not fully defray the costs of holding the conference,

Gold Certified yysqi1
Shopping Chicago and surrounding areas
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  06:30:44 AM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
I am not playing the cat and mouse game. I answered yes and that is that! Do what you want with the information. If you don't believe me, I don't care!

Answer the question and move on is my new motto. If I was not certified, I could not answer this question.

There are always going to be those that take away from the true meaning of a thread, by putting others shoppers on the hot plate.

My suggestion is not to fall into their trap and use the energy helping new shoppers who really want and appreciate the certified shoppers answer, not a debate.

For those interested, I found the listing for all of the upcoming workshops. They are spread out around the country.

http://www.mysteryshop.org/shoppers/gold.php#dates

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

Western, Washington
USA
1889 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  12:18:06 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Yes the training is (highly) questionable in terms of strict educational value (and even in terms of just how much more attractive it might make one in the general workplace), but I'm not sure how different that is from many of the Bachelors-level classes I've taken and at least the MSPA training is a heck of a lot cheaper.



Sara, I think the difference is that when I worked in the corporate world and completed my degree, my salary jumped $4,000 per year at my next review. When I took their specialized training (which they paid for), it jumped another $2,000 immediately. When I went through the extensive background check (paid for by them), it jumped another $6,000.

If it's really about shoppers becoming better trained, I'd expect to see Gold shoppers getting $5 more per shop.

Thank you for being honest about the value you received. There are some who claim otherwise; I can only surmise that maybe they didn't know a lot about shopping before they went.

50,000 Silver shoppers at $15 apiece is a decent chunk of change.

“Great empires are not maintained by timidity.” Tacitus
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Sara D
Valued Contributor

South Hadley, MA
USA
163 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  12:18:43 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Natalie,

Unless I am to assume they're flat out lying, the MSPA took a significant loss on the Gold Conference that I attended which had less than 20 attendees but approximately equivalent costs for hotel space, catering, travel and instructor.

They do, however, acknowledge that they make money on the silver certification, though I suspect they're not exactly 'rolling in it' as a result of that $15 fee.




Sara A Davidow,
MSPA Gold Certified shopper #aziwc5
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NatalieH
Contributor

USA
8291 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  1:02:04 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Whether or not the MSPA is drowning in debt or making out like bandits over their certification program is entirely irrelevant; the fact that they are offering it at all in their position represents a clear conflict of interest.
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  1:05:01 PM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
What does that have to do with this topic?

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

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  5:59:45 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Sara D
They do, however, acknowledge that they make money on the silver certification, though I suspect they're exactly 'rolling in it' as a result.


Yup Sara they are rolling in it
You said it, not me

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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Nora
Star Contributor

PA
USA
6341 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  7:11:23 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:

What does that have to do with this topic?


Assuming this question is directed to the immediately preceding post, it is directly pertinent to the topic (assuming that the thread's title has not been edited to read "How has certification changed your life in glorious and mystical ways...only gold shoppers may elaborate"). Since a significant amount of wariness regarding the worth of the certification program hinges directly on the questionable propriety of the same entity simultaneously administering and aggressively marketing a "certification" program that has no third-party oversight. To be fair, though, the MSPA and its associates have been much less aggressive and low-key in pushing the program than some shoppers.

quote:
Yes the training is (highly) questionable in terms of strict educational value (and even in terms of just how much more attractive it might make one in the general workplace), but I'm not sure how different that is from many of the Bachelors-level classes I've taken and at least the MSPA training is a heck of a lot cheaper.

Sara, thanks so much for your well-balanced and straightforward view on this topic and your experiences. Regarding your example of Bachelor's-level classes, though, let me just add that even the most basic credit-earning college courses require a certain level of attendance over weeks or months,class participation, study, demonstration of comprehension and knowledge, and the ability to pass a reasonably standardized series of exams. Anybody remember the stress of Finals Week? Credits earned from accredited colleges are universally recognized and accepted for transfer and are necessary to take more difficult and specialized classes. I would be very hard pressed to be able to, on any level, correlate the current certification program with the mastery of knowledge that is the standard in college.

Regarding the issue of the MSPA incurring a loss or failing to make a profit, it's important to remember that, as a non-profit group, they literally can not make a profit and all funds not spent must be rolled over into programs or activities that directly relate to the group's purpose. Failure to do so results in loss of tax-exempt status.
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DebbiM
Contributor

Redondo Beach, CA
USA
88 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  7:11:44 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by NatalieH

Whether or not the MSPA is drowning in debt or making out like bandits over their certification program is entirely irrelevant; the fact that they are offering it at all in their position represents a clear conflict of interest.



Natalie if you are that concerned about the MSPA there are a number of agencies you can report those concerns to for investigation. I don't think the statement provides any benefit to this thread or the forum.

Debbi
MSPA Gold Certified
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EliseWeav
Star Contributor

Boston, MA
USA
528 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  9:17:56 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Julie_WA_Writer


...I'd expect to see Gold shoppers getting $5 more per shop.




Yes, yes, this is what all of us non-[gold]certified shoppers want to know! Are you [gold certified shoppers] making more money PER [same] SHOP simply because you are gold certified? I think that is probably not the case. Perhaps you are given first preference over the more desirable jobs, but are you really making more money on the *same* shops? Or, are you given different, "more lucrative shops" just because you are gold certified?

Either way, I may attend the next gold workshop in this area. For me, the $99.00 is the only fee I will incur. Of course, there is some gas, getting up early and a $3.00 toll. All of which I could have avoided by attending the gold workshop last year here in a nearby burb!

Elise
Boston area, especially North Shore. Silver certified and shopping since 2004.
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 04/03/2007 :  9:28:41 PM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
Elise, the Gold shoppers have responded and the thread keeps getting filled up with a prove it attitude. How many times and how many ways can people say yes?

If you get a chance to go, do it. I don't recall one person saying they wish they had not gone.


Chris, you are too funny!Good eye!

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

USA
8291 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  02:50:42 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by PamInCa

...the thread keeps getting filled up with a prove it attitude.



How many times have you posted in this thread, Pam?

Debbi, thank you for the suggestion.
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Sara D
Valued Contributor

South Hadley, MA
USA
163 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  05:07:42 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Nora,

Eh, I'm not so sure that's true about basic attendance and some courses certainly have very minimal expectations in terms of work to pass the course. However, you are right that the credits are universally recognizable, so let me offer this example:

My son's father is a Union Carpenter. Every year, for no pay, his union requires him to go take a couple of weeks of 'classes' at a little mini-school staffed by union carpenters. Yes, there are some attendance requirements. However, the 'classes' generally amount to them doing some free work for the school where their based or other various stuff. No measures are in place. They show up. They get the hours credited. Meanwhile, there's absolutely nothing they can do with the classes except continue to be a part of the union. (I.E., there's nothing accredited about it... they can't use their schooling toward a Bachelor's or any sort of degree. They can't use it toward being an electrician, plumber, or English teacher. etc.)

Now, on the other hand, if they work enough regular hours + do their schooling, they are pretty much guaranteed certain health benefits and pay raises, so *that* certainly makes it a more concrete, better deal than the simply MSPA certification...

But, ultimately, my point is NOT that the MSPA certification is such a great thing, but that I think it's really silly to make an argument that it represents 'paying to shop.' I'd still argue that this model is a real-world model that fits the 'You pay to increase your own value through tainings, certifications and degrees, while businesses pay to get the benefit of your value' approach that is so widely accepted.

Yes, the MSPA (though I don't know all the details of their history) was started by people from various shopper companies, but how does that really make it a conflict of interests? It's not as if the MSPA created a training that is not widely applicable, not did they simultaneously forbade the zillions of other shopper agencies from recognizing or asking shoppers about the certification...

Meanwhile, I think the people who are trying to make this argument should consider that it represents an attack on/accusation toward other shoppers to at least some degree... (Those of us who have been around a while certainly know how un-politically correct and frowned upon it is to 'pay to shop' in the Mystery Shopping world!) And just how productive is that?




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

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  05:44:05 AM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
Again, I am not playing the cat and mouse game.

Sara, who was at the Gold you attended? Just the speaker and shoppers? Did you leave feeling the money was well spent?

PamInCa
Author of: "The Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping"
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Rachel M
Contributor

MI
USA
76 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  06:33:53 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Sara D
But, ultimately, my point is NOT that the MSPA certification is such a great thing, but that I think it's really silly to make an argument that it represents 'paying to shop.' I'd still argue that this model is a real-world model that fits the 'You pay to increase your own value through tainings, certifications and degrees, while businesses pay to get the benefit of your value' approach that is so widely accepted.


Seeking certification would amount to paying to shop for me - but that's in reference to my personal situation, and not statement I can apply to the field in general.

One could easily make the argument that the money I spent on my Master's degree amounted to me "paying to work" - and there's probably some truth in that as well. Because honestly, I haven't really had an opportunity to apply all of my training to any of the jobs I've held since grad school - but I know that the degree still held a certain amount of weight when I received new positions or promotions.

If I shopped as a full-time job (or in an effort to produce a significant portion of my income) I'd probably have gone for the gold from jump - but when I'm fitting in a job here and there to make a little extra cash or get reimbursed for items I already buy, there's really no advantage in trying to make myself more attractive to certain MSCs or seek "hidden jobs". I have just enough time to keep up with the 8-15 jobs/month that I currently select, and complete those evaluations carefully and correctly.
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Nora
Star Contributor

PA
USA
6341 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  07:59:46 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Sara, because you initially used the comparison between certification and college-level courses, that is the example I was directly addressing and I still believe that any similarity between the two is negligible. Yes, some college courses may not be overly challenging, but even the bare necessities needed to pass the coursework would appear to be stringent in comparison to what is required to earn certification.

The case with trade and labor unions requiring certain "courses" is somewhat different, though. These unions have become an extremely powerful political lobby and are generous contributors to the campaigns of political parties and candidates; these elected officials who have benefited from these contributions, in turn find it counterproductive to their best political interests to investigate the "pay to play" aspect of union life.

Another important distinction is that these unions (which are not always organized under non-profit status)either independently or through negotiated efforts,offer access to insurance and health care, access to grievance resolution, as well as negotiating with employers on issues such as overtime pay and non-acceptable job duties, etc. So, for those union dues, members are guaranteed certain conditions and security. This is not the case with the MSPA and the shoppers who financially support the certification program; the MSPA is strictly a trade group that represents the interests of member companies only. Your dues, so to speak, offer no guarantees or rights of any sort; that condition alone is enough, rightly or wrongly, to suggest a shade of "pay to play" and a more direct suggestion of conflict of interest.

I'm sorry that you feel that those who do not support these circumstances are, by voicing that opinion, attacking other shoppers. I don't believe that this is so, as many expressing that opinion have been certified to some level. I am silver certified and I don't sense that I am in any way attacking myself by expressing doubt about certification's credibility and worth; to the contrary, it is those who have been critical to any degree of the current program that have occasionally been targeted ( by other shoppers) with snide innuendo and dark hints of being blacklisted or in some way penalized by those schedulers or company reps that may actually have the time to read these threads. Personally, I have not suffered any of the dire consequences so darkly hinted at, either by expressing my opinion of certification or by making the decision to not get a gold certificate.

I think that most, regardless of opinion and experience, have been realistic in conveying those opinions of or personal experiences with certification. Occasionally, the concern over expenses involved with certification have been made to appear negligible, with a sad inference that those who are concerned by the expense may not be paying their taxes and may be unable, therefore, to claim this as a deduction. The reality is that, many people are just a paycheck or two away from bankruptcy or homelessness (it's been estimated that roughly 90% of Americans, regardless of income level, fall into this possibility; I am not making a pointed statement about just mystery shoppers) and many, if not most, people who would find it reasonable to carefully consider how their dollars are used. It is important, I think, to balance those rare claims of grandiose results from certification with a more typical and realistic perspective. That's a helpful and productive way to assist those who are trying to understand the certification program and make some sense of it in their own minds.
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