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 Is being MSPA Silver or Gold Certified Worth It?
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Suzanne O.
Contributor

Long Beach, CA
USA
71 Posts

Posted - 06/25/2005 :  6:33:36 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Worth it? Not in my area.

Suzanne O.
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Paula E
Member

California
USA
34 Posts

Posted - 06/26/2005 :  11:20:32 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Suzanne, I am in your area and I would like to know why you don't think it's worth it.

~~*~~Silver Ceritfied 2/2005~~*~~
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.CTiefel
Inactive

Toledo, Ohio
USA
139 Posts

Posted - 06/26/2005 :  3:46:13 PM  Visit .CTiefel's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
This is Chris Tiefel; I am a scheduler with RitterAssociates. I find the certification process to be worth it for those who are serious about mystery shopping. If you are going to only be doing 1 or 2 shops a month as a hobby or as something to do I would say don't bother. However, if you are serious about mystery shopping and plan on doing a multitude of shops a month this will help you. If you don't see a difference in pay you should see a difference in your approach to the job. This is a serious business and requires those that do it to be knowledgeable in what they do. The certification shows that you are willing to go that extra step, which is something mystery shopping companies need and want.
I have recently attended the gold Certification Workshop in Cleveland, OH and found it to be educational. I have used several of the shoppers I met there. In short I believe that it is worth it.

Chris Tiefel
Ritter & Associates
877-284-9785 ext.120
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CynBar
Member

Naples, FL
USA
31 Posts

Posted - 06/27/2005 :  11:23:40 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I have only been shopping for one year and have found both the Silver and Gold certification well worth the investment. I received my Gold certification in January 2005. My income has gone from about $400-$500 to well over $1500 per month. I shop part time, because family obligations limit my ability to work full-time. I usually average $100 for 1/2 day when I shop, by organizing several shops in a given area, thereby eleminating too much travel time. The gold certification workshop provided some great time management tips as well the ability to network. I seldom have to search for work anymore; most assignments come through my email or schedulers calling me directly. Maybe part of it is luck, or the area where I live, but I credit the Gold Certification process for giving me the tools to make good money doing part time work.

MSPA Gold Certified Shopper happily shopping Southwest Florida
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Marnen
Valued Contributor

Somerville, MA
USA
196 Posts

Posted - 07/09/2005 :  9:11:39 PM  Visit Marnen's Homepage  Send Marnen an AOL message  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by CTiefel

This is Chris Tiefel; I am a scheduler with RitterAssociates. I find the certification process to be worth it for those who are serious about mystery shopping.

Worth it in what way? Please explain. As an uncertified shopper, I'm trying to do as much research as possible so I can decide whether the certification fee will be cost-effective for me.
quote:
However, if you are serious about mystery shopping and plan on doing a multitude of shops a month this will help you. If you don't see a difference in pay you should see a difference in your approach to the job.

What sort of difference in approach? This is very interesting.
quote:
This is a serious business and requires those that do it to be knowledgeable in what they do.

I agree completely. Unfortunately, I have seen many certified shoppers post information here (and elsewhere) that would imply that they are less knowledgeable than their certification level might suggest.
quote:
The certification shows that you are willing to go that extra step, which is something mystery shopping companies need and want.

And yet the company I do the most work for -- a charter member of the MSPA -- takes no account of certification or lack thereof. Obviously, Chris, I know you can't answer for another MSP, but I do think that fact bears consideration. I understand (please correct me if I am wrong) that the Silver test is so easy it's virtually impossible for anyone with any MS experience to fail it, and I have my doubts about the Gold given the number of times I've seen Gold shoppers post inaccurate information on Volition. So how much of an "extra step" is this really? (I'm not trying to be antagonistic, just thorough in my questions.)
quote:
I have recently attended the gold Certification Workshop in Cleveland, OH and found it to be educational. I have used several of the shoppers I met there. In short I believe that it is worth it.

I have no trouble believing that the workshops are valuable occasions for networking. Perhaps I have been underestimating the value of this...but that would only apply to Gold. In that case, my questions still stand as far as Silver is concerned.

Please understand: I am not trying to discredit the certification process. I do not have a particular axe to grind. I am simply trying to get a better idea of what my $15 or $114 will get me if I take the plunge.

Marnen Laibow-Koser
Boston-area shopper
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Presley
Valued Contributor

Dallas, Texas
USA
121 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  08:07:08 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I have been MSing for six months and have all the shops I can handle at the present time each month, however, I plan to attend a gold workshop in November because I see it as a personal goal to prove to the Mystery Shopping industry that I am a serious and dedicated shopper. After all, they give shops to people they have never met, and know little or nothing about, so I feel that we should prove to them that we are worthy of receiving these assignments.

I don't see becoming gold certified as a should I situation but instead a I want to situation. I am looking forward to gaining additional knowledge and meeting other people in the industry. I think anyone who is serious about mystery shopping should be honored to be given the choice to gain knowledge and insight from the industry, and other shoppers who have proven themselves through the years. I hope to also be able to offer anything I can to help other people.

Have a great day!!

Presley, KH
Gold Certified
Shopping Dallas/Ft. Worth & Surrounding Areas
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NatalieH
Contributor

USA
8291 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  08:20:20 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Presley

After all, they give shops to people they have never met, and know little or nothing about, so I feel that we should prove to them that we are worthy of receiving these assignments.
Mystery shopping is not rocket science. Most clients simply want an account from the perspective of the average consumer. Individual companies can determine capability or "worthiness" through more comprehensive application procedures.

I took the silver test and found it to be nothing more than a disguised screening tool. I can't see any appreciable reason for becoming gold certified.
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ChristyM
Member

MA
USA
24 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  08:21:50 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
The fees are tax deductible as a business expense, so I don't know why you'd worry about that. You should be able to easily earn that in a week or two of shopping anyway. If you're worried about your time, the silver certification is pretty quick to do. I started out with my silver cert., and can't say that it has given me more assignments, but I have already (in 3 weeks or so) received several offers for silver or gold certified shoppers only. The gold obviously takes a bigger time commitment, but it seem that if you plan on shopping any reasonable amount it's worth getting the training. Almost all of the folks who have said it isn't worth it haven't done the training.

I'm just starting out and have a pre-existing commitment when the gold certification class is at all close (about a 2 hour drive), so I'm not going to make it this time. I probably would, though. I think it might help get some of the shops in new companies where I'm up against other shoppers.
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.CTiefel
Inactive

Toledo, Ohio
USA
139 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  08:29:33 AM  Visit .CTiefel's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
Marnen,

Wow! You have alot of questions. I will try to answer to the best of my ability.
I belive it is worth it because of the information passed on in the workshop. Not only do they reinforce things you know but it also gives you new information. It forces you to re-evaluate the way you do things to make sure you are doing the best possible job. Alot of people approach mystry shopping as something they do as a hobby and treat it accordingly. However, mystery shopping is a serious job and for many a career. Your approach should be one that you would take for any other job. Do your best and most of all do your research and make sure you know what your doing.
As I am sure many of you are aware mystery shopping certification is not required to do mystery shops. However, our company has had a project or two where we have used only gold and eventually silver certified people.
I am not saying that anyone who goes to a workshop is serious or will treat this job with the respect it deserves. The fact is if your a slacker before the workshop you'll be one after. It will give you all the information you need it just depends on how you apply it that makes you a better mystery shopper.
I hope this has answered some if not all of your questions. If I skipped one or wasn't to clear on one I apologize. We all have something new to learn all the time. I would say it is worth it, that is just this scheduler's opinion.

Chris Tiefel
Ritter & Associates
877-284-9785 ext.120
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.DonnaMorehouse in CA
Inactive

Sacramento, CA
USA
287 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  09:45:26 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I think getting certified is worth it. Since getting silver certified I am hearing from companies that never contacted me before plus I am getting regular monthly work from some companies. Missed out on the Gold in Sacramento because I was finishing up school. But I am hoping ones comes close to me again. There is so many shoppers in my area this is a way for me to show I am serious about mystery shopping. I wish I could get to Anaheim to meet my fellow shoppers and mystery shopping companies. But I can't wait till the Gold comes through here again and I am signing up.
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Nora
Star Contributor

PA
USA
6341 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  09:47:29 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by CTiefel
It forces you to re-evaluate the way you do things to make sure you are doing the best possible job.
How so? Forgive me, but anyone already in this as a formal or even semi-formal career is certainly conscious of tangential issues such as taxes, accounting,etc. If these are covered in the workshops and some benefit from this newly acquired knowledge, that is great,but bear in mind that these facts can be acquired,in depth and on an individualized basis, through community small-business mentoring programs, at no fee. Networking? Wonderful but, again, how is this essential to the nuts-and-bolts of delivering a quality report?

These workshops are not being presented merely as some adjunct "extra-curricular" program,but as a requirement;witness those companies who flatly state that they will only use "certified" shoppers.This is neither an academic field nor a skilled trade where intensive study or apprenticeship is necessary, yet some companies place an unduly heavy regard for "certification".

I would reiterate that the Silver Certification was appallingly broad and impossible to fail and that I picked up not one iota of new information.
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NatalieH
Contributor

USA
8291 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  11:17:48 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
There is a core issue here that continues to perplex me and continues to be evaded in explanation:

The MSPA markets certification, and the gold workshop specifically, as "education." Yet, the overwhelming majority of shoppers who have attended the workshop sidestep the concept of education and continue to espouse the concepts of networking, receipt of exclusive job offers, or having earned back their money many times over. Why does this dichotomy exist?

If, in fact, the focus continues to be on the potential to receive more and better-paying opportunities as a result of certification, as opposed to clear-cut education, then this can only be looked at as another variation of "pay-to-play."
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KaySFbay
Star Contributor

Redwood City, California
USA
316 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  1:57:16 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by PamInCa

Proper spelling, grammar, punctuation and writing clear, concise reports is not something just anyone can do.
If you didn't ditch class regularly in your K-12 years, you darn well ought to be able to do all those things, and with ease.

So are you saying the Gold certification is really remedial grammar school?

Kay
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MechelleNga
Valued Contributor

GA
USA
199 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  4:10:36 PM  Visit MechelleNga's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
Well now, that I'm completely confused.

I'll just kept my little silver certification, until I see a reason to say:

~*^@ GOLD CERTIFIED..LOOKIE..RIGHT HERE @^*~

Mechelle
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Mimi
Star Contributor

USA
1691 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  5:06:14 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I don't look for shops anymore, they come to me every day through my email or by telephone. There is no way I can accept all the jobs I am offered, because there are not enough hours in the day, and I do have other responsibilities. My situation has developed to this point over the past 12 months, and I am not Gold Certified.

There are many of us who believe this is another form of pay-to-shop, and we are simply unwilling to do it. Why would we if we have more shops offered to us than we can possibly handle? The companies who require Gold Certification are missing out on some truely great shoppers, and that is their loss, not ours.

As far as networking with other shoppers and meeting MS Company owners, schedulers and editors; that is probably great fun, but I just don't have the time for that type of activity right now. I have a busy life just like the rest of you, and I concentrate on things I feel are important to my life the way it is now. If it was a requirement to travel to these types of Mystery Shopping convestions, certification workshops, networking, et al, I would have to retire from my MSing career.

The bottom line is, I know how to Mystery Shop. I know how to write the reports, and submit them prior to the deadline. I almost always make 10s, I take my assignments seriously and I enjoy what I do. Why would I want to spend money on a certification I don't feel is necessary?

Mimi
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HeatherShops
Star Contributor

Lake Placid, NY
USA
277 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  6:09:37 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I think getting MSPA Silver Certified is worth it for sure. I get offers for shops from a couple of companies before these shops go to other shoppers that are not certified!! I will get the Gold someday.
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Marnen
Valued Contributor

Somerville, MA
USA
196 Posts

Posted - 07/10/2005 :  10:10:38 PM  Visit Marnen's Homepage  Send Marnen an AOL message  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Presley

I plan to attend a gold workshop in November because I see it as a personal goal to prove to the Mystery Shopping industry that I am a serious and dedicated shopper. After all, they give shops to people they have never met, and know little or nothing about,

If this is really an issue in schedulers' minds, then perhaps the MSPs' application processes should be more detailed. They tend to be pretty perfunctory as they stand, and I certainly don't think it would be unreasonable to ask for more info (some MSPs do this, but they appear to be a small minority).
quote:
so I feel that we should prove to them that we are worthy of receiving these assignments.

And so we should. But -- and this is the crux of the matter -- how will attending a Gold workshop prove that you're serious and dedicated? This is the $64,000 question, and I haven't seen it answered. As far as I am concerned, the best way -- perhaps the only way -- of proving that I'm a serious and dedicated shopper is being a serious and dedicated shopper: dealing professionally with schedulers, writing reports as well as possible, submitting materials in a timely fashion, and generally treating MS as the business it is. I do all these things already, simply as a matter of course; I'm sure you do too. It's a matter of personal honor and pride in a job well done.

Now, as far as I know, the only prerequisite for attending a Gold workshop is a Silver certification. And since everyone seems to agree that the Silver test is unflunkable, that means that realistically speaking, the only prerequisites for attending a Gold workshop are having the ability to read English and having paid $15 to the MSPA. I fail to see how either of these are proof of seriousness and dedication.

Or do you mean that you look forward to meeting schedulers at the Gold workshop and impressing them with your dedication to the point that they will give you more work? If so, this is certainly a good idea -- business networking is almost always a useful thing. But if the workshop is primarily a networking opportunity, then why should that translate into an additional level of certification, and why is a networking conference being marketed as primarily an educational program? Am I missing something here?

Marnen Laibow-Koser
Boston-area shopper
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CarmenBolin
Valued Contributor

Camarillo, CA
USA
199 Posts

Posted - 07/18/2005 :  3:28:11 PM  Send CarmenBolin an AOL message  Reply  Reply with Quote
I will say this, like any industry, there are seminars and conferences meant to teach, enlighten, or otherwise make better the employees of that industry. I took the Gold certification to be the same way. Does it mean that since I am now Gold I will get more jobs? I really don't know, it has been only a couple of days since I received it. What I do know, though, is after attending a workshop, I wholeheartedly agree that there needs to be more qualifying steps than Silver certification. Case in point, I met two people while I was there, who had never even done a single shop. (Oh, and for the record, I am shy and spoke with very few, so it is not 2 out of the 200 shoppers, just 2 out of the 10 or so I spoke with.) Both the people I spoke with started the conversation with how hard was it really to find a shop or do it? One went so far as to tell me she had used her daughter's computer to take the Silver test after she read about it in the newspaper! To her, paying the $99 wasn't a big deal, after all, she got a free meal out of it. (Her words, not mine.)

So, after seven hours at a conference, and a free meal, these two "newbies" got to run home and take the Gold certification test. Well, if all it takes is to be able to read English and a computer to pass Silver, I think Gold is just to invest the $99, spend a day at a conference, and read English and have a computer. I do not in any way want to diminish what I learned at the conference. I learned quite a bit...from Cathy Stucker, the schedulers/company reps and the other shoppers that were there. But does that make those two nice people I met more qualified to do a shop than say, Quinn, or Mimi, Nora, or any number of other shoppers who have posted? I can guess what their answer would be.

Now, in a couple of weeks, after three day spa shops, two cruise lines, and a couple of new home shops where I have to purchase the home but am reimbursed entirely, I may change my mind...

MSPA Gold Certified July 2005
Shopping & Merchandising Ventura, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles Counties
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.Sandy C
Inactive

NM
USA
151 Posts

Posted - 07/18/2005 :  3:43:35 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Just went Silver today. I haven't had much trouble getting good shops, but I'm looking forward to even more!

Sandy
MSPA Silver Certified July 2005
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KimberG
Apprentice

Los Angeles, CA
USA
4 Posts

Posted - 07/18/2005 :  3:48:02 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I have only been shopping since December 2004 but I noticed that I get contacted for more assignment as a silver shopper than before I became certified. They also tend to be assignments that I actually want!
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