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

Atlanta, GA
USA
50247 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  08:31:14 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I too am silver certified. I will admit it was a mistake but heck I thought it actually would be meaningful and teach me something. Alas, it did not, but I am only out $15.00.

The cost of gold certification, for many, is not just $99.00. There are shoppers all over the country and many of them are in rural areas that are not near the gold workshops. The cost for them would be considerably higher. Attending a gold workshop would necessitate either a long drive or flying into the location. So one would have to add in the cost of the flight or gas and hotel accomodations and meals, not to mention a very valuable commodity.....time. One of the arguments for certification is that it is a great "networking" opportunity, yet some have posted that there were few if any MSC's represented at some of the gold workshops.

As has also been mentioned numerous times, the "curriculum" offered at these gold workshops is all stuff any experienced shopper should surely already know. If one already knows what is being taught, is this not paying to play?
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Betsy E
Valued Contributor

Birmingham, AL
USA
170 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  08:37:05 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Summary:

Some people think certification is worth it.

Some people think it is not necessary.

There is an ethical element that has been discussed, but that doesn't answer the question of its worth.

Sounds like a personal decision that is based on:
-do you want to do this full time or part time?
-are there certain shops you feel you really want to do - (i.e. luxury resort, spas) that seem out of reach with new companies who don't know your fantastic writing abilities and reliable nature?
-are you in a shopper-saturated area?
-do you have the time and $$ to spend on the day-long gold certification event? Babysitters?
-do you want to network with schedulers and MSC owners in person?
-will this be a life-long, or at least several year, pursuit?
-hobby or job? Do you MS just for fun or money-making venture?

I'm not gold certified, only silver, and am not sure if I will go gold. Will continue to study this and perhaps attend a workshop in 2008 if I deem it necessary. So far, I haven't seen the need.
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  09:49:43 AM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
Quinn, you are right. You would think this.

"As has also been mentioned numerous times, the "curriculum" offered at these gold workshops is all stuff any experienced shopper should surely already know."

Unfortunately when the company owners tell their sides of the story, this is not the case. As a matter of fact, it is far from being even close to it.

I don't believe the silver is designed to teach, but to determine if you have at least a little sense.

I think that some may feel they know it all and would not learn anything, but from the standpoint of there being so many companies wanting different things, this is impossible. This is why I go as often as I can.

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

Atlanta, GA
USA
50247 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  10:40:01 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
The "curriculum" for the gold workshops has been listed by the MSPA and further commented on by other shoppers who have attended.

Many have posted that the "curriculum" is basic at best. It is unfortunate that the MSC's have such high regard for gold shoppers who have learned how to write a proper sentence or some other basic skill. I might add that many of the people who "go for the gold" are brand new shoppers whose hands-on mystery shopping skills are rudimentary at best. I will take the experienced non-certified shopper over them every time.
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Sara D
Valued Contributor

South Hadley, MA
USA
163 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  11:08:07 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Nora et al,

Although I appreciate that your post was thoughtfully written, I think you missed my point, at least in part.

I'm not terribly interested in debated the precise differences and nuances between MSPA certification, college degrees and union work. What I was originally trying to do was simply to illustrate how the *general* model of paying to take trainings, classes, etc. as a way to increase your own value within the workplace is pretty commonplace - though people had been talking in this thread as if it were particular to the shopping world.

Meanwhile, I think you also misunderstood my comments about what I feel is some degree of an 'attack' on other shoppers...

I could care less if people debated the merits and problems with the certification process until the end of time. I'm gold certified and I wouldn't feel attacked... Bored, maybe, but then I could just stop reading at some point.

However, this insistence by several shoppers on several different threads that paying to attend the MSPA certification is the same as 'paying to shop' (i.e., paying a some company to be able to work for them or paying some company for a list of companies that are already freely posted) does represent some degree of animosity or disapproval of shoppers who get certified. At least, that seems evident to me, even if it is not intentional on the part of all posters.

As far as I'm concerned, if 'paying to shop' is to be watered down in its meaning as to be applied to paying to become certified then a huge portion of the nation's population 'pays to work' on some level and the phrase becomes meaningless.

Anyway, I'm just repeating myself at this point, so I'm leaving it at that!

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

South Hadley, MA
USA
163 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  11:11:18 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Pam,

Yes, just one instructor and the attendees. Was it worth it? Eh, I learned absolutely nothing and since the class didn't offer any networking opportunities, I also didn't benefit in that way. So, the *class* was *not* worth it.

However, I'm glad to have the certification... It's hard to meausure how many additional jobs I have gotten from being certified, but it is an application builder and can't hurt.

-Sara

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

South Hadley, MA
USA
163 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  11:14:51 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Quinn,

While you're right that hands on experience and even other types of experience (such as an English degree or other things that people have mentioned) are much more likely indicators of actual skill, there's one big problem with what you are suggesting in your last post:

The MSPA reports (and again, I am assuming some trust that they are not flat out lying) an ENORMOUS difference in the percentage of 'flakes' between the certified and non-certified community.

Until that ceases being true, why SHOULDN'T companies value the certification process?

-Sara

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

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  11:21:29 AM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
You say you are glad you got the certification, so does that mean for you, the money was well spent? Do you feel as if you got a good return on your money? That is what is important here.

I would have been disappointed if no company reps were there.

PamInCa
Author of: "The Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping"
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Sara D
Valued Contributor

South Hadley, MA
USA
163 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  11:58:08 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Pam,

Again, it's really impossible to measure what financial gain I've had from being certified since schedulers don't generally say, "We chose you over others because you're gold certified."

Yes, I've gotten things that clearly stated 'advanced notice because you're a gold shopper,' but more often than not, they weren't particularly exciting or lucrative jobs.

In any case, I would say that I feel confident that, at $99 (which is *3* tanks of gas for me... you must have a BIG car if it's closer to one for you!) + travel of about 1.5 hrs, it was a *reasonable* investment that, over time, is likely to pay for itself.

-S

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

PA
USA
6341 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  12:08:16 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Sara, the reason that I posted the differences between the programs, courses, etc., that you cited as having possibly significant corollaries to MSPA certification was simply to highlight, via your own examples, how this certification does fail, on almost every level, to stand up---even on the level of a general model---to the very much demonstrable benefits of those same examples. That it doesn't, doesn't mean that pointing out the distinctions between them should somehow be construed as attack on those shoppers who have obtained certification.

As I mentioned, I am silver certified; as such, I'd hardly feel moved to feel animosity or disapproval of myself based on my own decision to get silver certified and discover that it is completely devoid of anything that would be useful, both in terms of useful and practical education. That experience, along with the multiple acknowledgements on this and related threads---by gold shoppers, as well--- that convey the reality that practical education is not even a small component of certification, more than credibly suggests that "pay to play" is present. When you read these threads and come across shopper comments that bluntly acknowledge that the workshops, in particular, were essentially meet-and-greets with no educational content, but that attendance somehow coincidentally let them get their "foot in the door" there is little to suggest that an open wallet doesn't play the most significant factor. When we even see a poster bluntly acknowledge that it is not reputation that secures assignments, but their gold status, that is a pretty clear and troubling indication that something is amiss. The "pay to play" culture that you suggest is so prevalent in our workforce would surely have to be an extremely loose definition, if you mean to include college or trade school credits, apprenticeships, internships, etc., as merely tools to buy work, rather than the pracical tools and academic knowledge necessary for entry into a particular field.

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ChrisT
Star Contributor

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  12:54:53 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Sara D
The MSPA reports (and again, I am assuming some trust that they are not flat out lying) an ENORMOUS difference in the percentage of 'flakes' between the certified and non-certified community.
-Sara


That's like trusting the cigarette companies when they report second hand smoke doesn't kill.

Gold shoppers may get SOME better jobs or first dibs, so in this way it may be worth it; however, educational wise it may not be. Others point out the networking opportunities available---actually it is stressed as the MAJOR benefit/feature. However,as Sara just said, there was no networking opportunity for her. I believe the MSPA should have a money back guarantee or give you the chance to cancel and get your money back if no company reps show up(unless you still want to attend it).

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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Quinn
Star Contributor

Atlanta, GA
USA
50247 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  1:00:12 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
It would be in the MSPA's best interest to report that there is less flaking among certfied shoppers, whether it is true or not. I wonder what the flake rate is among silver shoppers since they are a dime a dozen. In talking to several schedulers that I know, I have been told that their biggest flake rate is among new shoppers regardless of their certification. They have always told me that their best shoppers are the ones that have established a track record with them and they come in all flavors: silver, gold and no certification at all. I have been told good and bad things about gold, silver and non-certified shoppers. If a person is unreliable, paying $99.00 for some certification isn't going to change that and conversely if they are reliable, certification will surely not change anything.

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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  2:20:05 PM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
Thanks for the information Sara. It is good to hear what shoppers who have attended ones that are smaller are like. Did you find meeting the other shoppers interesting? I was stunned when I saw the faces and bodies behind some of the names.

The ones in Ca. have always been large. I think location has alot to do with it. I think once it is online, this will help alot of shoppers who are not interested in or cannot afford to travel.

I hope they get Service Intelligence to do the test.

When I attended there were shoppers who had been doing this for 10,15 and 20 years.

My car holds 21 to 25 gallons, but at 3.22 to 3.49 a gallon, at the cheap places, that adds up fast.

Chris, you said;
"I believe the MSPA should have a money back guarantee or give you the chance to cancel and get your money back if no company reps show up(unless you still want to attend it)."

I would find this disheartening and think shoppers should know in advance. However, if they gave the money back, they might keep the certification number too. That would mean you had to go again.


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

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  2:28:34 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Yup that's true Quinn, look at all the deceitful CEO's, politican's, etc. who pay a lot more to go to IVY league schools but end up later committing unethical actions.

That is not to disparage people who want to go Gold. More power to you if that's what you want, just don't try to make it out to more than it really is.

If I was head of a MSC and had a choice between offering a job to a shopper who has had 9's or 10's the past couple of years with no certification and a new shopper who has Gold certification and no history with my company, who do you think I'd chose?
More importantly who would you choose?

The 'REAL' world of MSPA and MSPA companies who push Gold obviously are different from what the reasonable and logical choice should be. So if you rely on getting enough jobs a month or are wanting to get some choice 'Gold' only assignments, then I say, yes, $99(+15=$114) is definitely worth it.

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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JanB27
Star Contributor

OH
USA
4831 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  5:09:34 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
If the MSCs keep track of 'rate of flaking' between those who are certified vs. those who are not, I think it would be interesting to look at other variables as well. For example, what is the 'flake rate' of college graduates vs. high school? Some college vs. Masters degree? Annual income levels (they do usually ask that question on the applications)? Perhaps if there was a statistical study based on other criteria there might be other pertinent information that pops up. Or perhaps not.

Jan
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.KimSVision
Star Contributor

Orange County, CA
USA
1383 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  6:48:03 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by JanB27

If the MSCs keep track of 'rate of flaking' between those who are certified vs. those who are not, I think it would be interesting to look at other variables as well. For example, what is the 'flake rate' of college graduates vs. high school? Some college vs. Masters degree? Annual income levels (they do usually ask that question on the applications)? Perhaps if there was a statistical study based on other criteria there might be other pertinent information that pops up. Or perhaps not.


How about the flake rate of the shops that pay well versus the shops that break even? I can practically guarantee that once shoppers figure that they are about to lose money (or break even), rather than make money, they may think about cancelling it. No matter whether they are certified, educated, or well off.
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ChrisT
Star Contributor

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  7:09:57 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Jan & Kim,

Both very good points. I never thought of those variables and I doubt the MSPA did either. Most likely it was just non-cert vs cert shoppers and how many cancelled shops.

This is why this widely held belief, and used to support Gold, is misleading. Statistics can be made to say anything.

It's (almost always) true that if you get a good bonus for a shop that usually pays very little, cert. or not you'll complete it.

Also I would think(but am not saying for certain) that someone with a HS diploma or college degree would be less likely to flake than someone without a HS diploma, cert or not. By getting your HS diploma or college degree, you've shown that you follow through on, and are more likely to stick to, your prior committments.

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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.KimSVision
Star Contributor

Orange County, CA
USA
1383 Posts

Posted - 04/04/2007 :  7:56:54 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Hi ChrisT~
I believe that no matter what your education level is ...... good pay (or a bonus) means more ................... and talks!
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Rachel M
Contributor

MI
USA
76 Posts

Posted - 04/05/2007 :  07:03:54 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ChrisT

I never thought of those variables and I doubt the MSPA did either. Most likely it was just non-cert vs cert shoppers and how many cancelled shops.

This is why this widely held belief, and used to support Gold, is misleading. Statistics can be made to say anything.

It's (almost always) true that if you get a good bonus for a shop that usually pays very little, cert. or not you'll complete it.

Also I would think(but am not saying for certain) that someone with a HS diploma or college degree would be less likely to flake than someone without a HS diploma, cert or not. By getting your HS diploma or college degree, you've shown that you follow through on, and are more likely to stick to, your prior committments.



Don't forget that correlation does not equal causation. Trying to uncover the real reason for "flaking" on a shop is really a pandora's box of sorts. Just think, even if one were able to definitively state that reliability increases with the level of degrees attained, there are a LOT of confounding variables that would relate to the reason people did/didn't complete those programs in the first place.

In grade school through grad school, there were people who:
- were satisfied with doing the bare minimum (i.e. C's = degrees),
- received preferential treatment while completing substandard work,
- busted their proverbial behinds and got excellent grades
- gave blood, sweat and tears but still dropped out of the program (think learning disabilities, financial/family issues, etc)

Quite frankly, there are some complete idiots out there that hold graduate/terminal degrees. And brilliant folks that don't even have a high school diploma. And in the same vein, there are some stellar shoppers that have no desire or need to become certified, and probably some golden flakes that can't put a sentence together.

And vice versa for all of the above.

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Mindot
Member

NJ
USA
42 Posts

Posted - 04/05/2007 :  07:24:42 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Rachel, I've been reading this post for days now. You have absolutely made such good sense about this topic. And, you obviously work a lot because you don't have time to post much! I always laugh about the people that claim to get all this work...and they're always on here posting! LOL!

Mindot
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