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 Is being MSPA Silver or Gold Certified Worth It?
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Toni-Girl
Valued Contributor

Ohio
USA
145 Posts

Posted - 07/18/2005 :  8:58:44 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
For me, when I went Silver, I got a few more emails offering jobs that were sent out to Gold and Silver shoppers first. But I didn't really end up with anymore jobs.

I have no idea how the MS comps send the emails. Some say they send out emails 5 at a time to gold and silver shoppers. But which 5 shoppers get those first?
Do they go by the certification dates - older gold first, then working to the newly certified then older silver, working towards the newly certified, then a mass mailing to the uncertified? Or do they go by the date you applied with them. Older registered shoppers that are gold get first, working towards the newly signed up then the same for silver? (If any schedulers know for sure and could explain, that would be terrific!)

While all that's very confusing and unknown, the one thing I do know is that there's at least 25,000 silver shoppers while there's only about 3,000 gold shoppers!
So if shops are sent out 5 at a time to gold first, then silver, and you're one of the last silver shoppers that gets the email, then chances are, you're not going to see many more jobs.
Going gold brings you to the front of the pack by a huge leap.
(Yes, I realize that ALL the shoppers won't be signed up with each MS comp so these numbers aren't realistic, they're just being used here to make the ilustration of how wide a gap there could be between getting notice of a job for gold vs silver shoppers.)

Perhaps it's not right that a mere certificate can make or break shoppers in this business but the fact is, now that it's in existance, it can and does. While it doesn't guarantee the shopper is better, more dedicated or more experienced, failure to live up to it will rapidly cost the ceritifed shopper their place in each company.

For me, having the gold certification put pressure on me b/c now I feel I HAVE to be *the best* and better than I ever was before and I think I do actually perform better jobs and give better reports - all b/c of that pressure I put upon myself.

And yes, being gold has brought me job opporutnities that I'd have never seen without the gold certification.
No, I haven't had any 3 day spa jobs, nor cruises and I certainly missed all the offers of full reimbursement on a new house, but I believe that the gold was worth it b/c it has made me a better shopper AND given me more and better opportunities.

Can someone point me in the direction of those house shops? LMAO!!!

Shopping extreme NW Ohio
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LauraRic
Member

Virginia Beach, VA
USA
44 Posts

Posted - 07/19/2005 :  06:14:15 AM  Send LauraRic an AOL message  Reply  Reply with Quote
Hi All,
Thought I'd throw myself into the fray and toss out my ideas on certification. I have been shopping just a month. Hubby pointed out the MSPA information from a newspaper article in our local paper. When I do something, I like to have the most information that I can. The MSPA was a great place to start. The silver certification was simple...no doubt about that. What it did for me was to put me in a place where I think of Mystery shopping as a profession. For me, it is really all about the possibility that the certifications may offer. No one promised me anything. My expectation is that I will be the best at shopping that I can be. If I only learn one thing a day, or one lesson per shop,I am getting better. I do think that I have received jobs that I would not have received otherwise because of my silver certification. I am going for the gold in August. My expectations from that workshop are that I will continue to learn how to be the best. I see huge opportunities in this field, and I want to be on board when the cruise ship does sail!

Laura
Mystery Shopping Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake, VA
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NatalieH
Contributor

USA
8291 Posts

Posted - 07/19/2005 :  09:11:00 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Here we go again is all I can say. Why some people continue to seem threatened by the questioning of MSPA's certification program is simply and utterly beyond me. Why this issue has turned so political in the world of mystery shopping is also simply beyond me. It does make the whole program seem quite suspect to many of us, irregardless of the unanswered questions about its educational merit.

What it boils down to is this:

If you choose to spend your money on the gold workshop, that is your prerogative; networking can be an enriching resource for some people. However, mystery shopping is inherently a solitary business where one does not need to network in order to function or prosper. In fact, in this business, we all are essentially competing against one another, which is evidenced almost daily through comments on this board (including comments in this very thread).

Once again, the main marketing thrust of certification, from MSPA's standpoint, is education. However, shoppers who have attended the workshop don't speak much about any educational content, with the exception of mentioning basic writing and communication skills. Such skills are rudimentary, and as pointed out previously, should have already been mastered during one's K-12 years. To penalize those who already are proficient in these skills, is just ludicrous. To call gold shoppers some elite class of superiorly capable shoppers is just ridiculous.

The MSPA's representatives have marketed this program aggressively, and some have portrayed it as the be-all-end-all of this business. To show enthusiasm for a program that one believes in is one thing; but to denigrate those who refuse to buy into it is another matter entirely.
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Shannon Marinelli
Contributor

Canyon Lake, Texas
USA
86 Posts

Posted - 07/19/2005 :  09:29:14 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I have been reading the repiles to this post since I last posted in April. I have done quite a few shops since then. I made sure alot of the companies I have signed up with have this updated information on my silver certification in the MSPA. I found one company that did not have this on their site last week. I was mortified! Well, I still cannot get anything from Imyst....I keep looking at their jobs availble board and nothing for me. I keep checking their postings and see that others seem to be having the same problems.
Okay, back to the topic. I am doing more shops for other companies now. I really like the way some of them do their reports online with the prophet and sassie systems. Their spell check is great. I am getting better paying jobs.
I have some advice for those who are constantly applying to those extra companies. Get a map and decide how far you are willing to travel..more travel will get you more jobs. Put together a list of zip codes you will go to, area codes, cities, counties, ect. I had a company scheduler add on a couple of cities to my list that were quite a bit out of my area. But I was willing to do a small cluster of them. That gave me more work.
When you are scheduled for a longer distance shop, try to line up another, smaller shop to do there if you can. It will up your pay for the travel time. Just remember what the guidelines are for your shops. Some will require you to only do so many per day plus theirs. Try to follow this. It will help in the long run.
Remember, your the only one who can tell if it is worth your time. Travel, actual time to do the shop, and cash out of pocket should all be considered before accepting a shop. Mostly, you get back the cash you put in for the purchases. Gas is the problem nowadays.
I have gotten better paying shops since I got the silver certification. Maybe it is paying attention to details, being ontime with you deadlines and letting them know when you have a problem and need more time to do the report/shop. Be sure you email your scheduler if there is a problem.
Well, that is all I have for today. I hope this helps out some of you. Thanks to all of those who emailed me to continue applying to those companies! Ya'll are great.

Shannon M
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Chelo
Contributor

Springfield, IL
USA
53 Posts

Posted - 07/20/2005 :  09:45:31 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I don't think I've seen more shops since being Silver certified, but I'm not an aggressively-seeking shopper, either (stay-at-home mom with three little ones). However, I have always seen this as a job, not a hobby, so I took the silver certification because it was an important part of the job. I would take the gold certification if I could afford to, but even last year, when I worked pretty consistently, I didn't make enough to have to claim it on my taxes.

All that said-- for the dedicated shopper, I think being Silver or Gold certified is worth it in the interest of personal growth, but not as much in the terms of more shops/ better shops/ faster access to shops (other than a few companies that do release to all Silver/ Gold shoppers first). I do intend to be Gold certified later, but not right now.

Does it bother me that anyone can become Gold certified? Yeah, a little. It'd be nice if a minimum number of shops were required just to get into a Gold class. You have to have hands-on time in most other occupations; why should MSing be any exception?

Off my soapbox and back to making lunches. :)

Chelo

Silver certified (6nrx2v)but taking a break from shopping in central IL (baby girl born 9/25)
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Mary Elizabeth
Valued Contributor

USA
117 Posts

Posted - 07/31/2005 :  1:28:49 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I got my Silver certification soon after I started shopping. I was working for just a couple of MS companies and I can't say that I noticed a difference after getting my Silver. Once I decided that I liked the work I started signing up with more companies. My point here is that I had my Silver by the time I signed up with the majority of the companies. I'm now in a position where I no longer spend a lot of time looking for work. Most of my jobs come from emails. My average pay has gone from $11.00+ a job to $17.00+ a job. I averaged $27.00 a job in July....I planned on doing less in the summer and only took the better jobs. I have to consider the fact that a lot of those emails came to me before going out to those without certification.

When a Gold Workshop was scheduled within driving distance from me I decided to take advantage of it, since it may not come my way again. I didn't want to be at a disadvantage as more and more shoppers get their Gold. I attended the workshop in East Hartford yesterday. At this point,I have no idea if my Gold is going to get me better or higher paying jobs. I did come away feeling it was worth it. I learned some things that will help me do a better job. The speakers were great and being able to talk with other shoppers was a plus.

Mary Elizabeth
MSPA Gold Certified
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ChrisT
Star Contributor

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 08/18/2005 :  1:50:57 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I seem to get plenty of emails without certification. Of course many of those jobs are already taken, but I believe that is more because some people are tied to their computers. E.g., I happened to go to a board looking up jobs and found some and took them. A few minutes later I got an email from that company about those jobs. Of course, someone getting this email wouldn't be able to get these jobs as I had taken them and they'd be marked as scheduled.

Just my

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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Andrea P
Star Contributor

Wheatley Heights, New York
USA
556 Posts

Posted - 08/18/2005 :  2:28:11 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Interesting topic:

I attended a seminar hosted by an MS-ing company and one of their clients, for a client specific shop. The client had been shopped under this MS-ing company before and had one very upscale assignment which the client complained about the quality of the reports that were submitted AND that the shoppers were being easily spotted by their employees. I was surprised to learn that this upscale client was shopped as I'd never seen the assignments before. This company gives preference to MSPA certified shoppers and I later learned that only Gold shoppers can shop this client - which still puzzled me since I have been Gold for (it will be a year in October) and never saw the shop(s).

I surmised that it is probably the same 3 or 4 folks who perform this assignment every month because it is lucrative and they may have become 'lazy' in their reporting, observations and even remaining anonymous, just to have the privilege of doing this particular shop. I could be wrong about this, but in light of hearing first-hand the client's comments, I doubt I am way off base here.

Anyway, what disappoints me the most was hearing that these are Gold shoppers who are supposed to be the best of the best... so to speak. How could they do some of the things that the client mentioned which obviously scream, "I'm a shopper!"? How could they turn in vague 2-3 sentence descriptions for a client that is so upscale and service oriented and demands a thorough and detailed report?

IMHO, the fact that these folks had submitted these reports which the client deemed low in quality, and made themselves so painfully obvious to the staff does absolutely nothing for the image of Gold Shoppers on a whole and if this continues, pretty soon it won't make a difference who is MSPA certified and who is not.

MSPA Gold Shopper # 63irfm
Shopping Suffolk & Nassau Counties; Manhattan; Queens; Brooklyn, New York and Bergen County, New Jersey
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Arla
Star Contributor

Deer Creek, IL
USA
269 Posts

Posted - 09/19/2005 :  9:48:12 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Linda, I agree with you. I am silver certified and haven't seen any difference. I get my shops upgraded and added on because they like the work I do for them. I love it when my account managers write me just to tell me I did a fantastic job and ask if I will do more if they open the limit. Or if I want more they will make sure I get them!
Having great account managers helps alot! Good luck to all.

Arla Ozment
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Helen Jean Harris
Valued Contributor

Mesa, AZ
USA
149 Posts

Posted - 09/20/2005 :  4:57:46 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I've been doing shops, merchandising and all types of work for 4 years. I'm sure the certification is great, but I get all the work I want and average 9 or 10 on all jobs so I've never taken the time to be MSPA certified. I do know some companies state up front their preference is certified; however, I've gotten a lot of work from those companies to. Once you have your reputation in place that helps as much..

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Shannon Marinelli
Contributor

Canyon Lake, Texas
USA
86 Posts

Posted - 09/21/2005 :  07:07:33 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I am doing better shops and concentrating on the better paying shops. My work is getting better. I work harder at it and inversting stuff to help me improve my reports. That is what a person is supposed to do. I hope my reports relfect all of the effort I put into these shops. It is being the best you can be in this line of work. Being certified just means you are more determined to do a great job. Shoppers do not have to be certified to do a great job and get great shops. This is an amazing place to get a great varietiey of shops! I have gotten lots of interesting shops from here alone, without the certification! Anyone who does not put their 100% worth into the shop, should not be allowed to shop that store anymore. I take the time to research the places I go to blend in and not be seen as the shopper. You define your work. Make it great!

Shannon M
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Heather 2005
Trainee

Texas
USA
6 Posts

Posted - 09/21/2005 :  07:34:44 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I just got Silver certified this week. After applying to so many different companies and taking all of their tests I found the MSPA very easy. Whether or not it helps me is to be seen, but I know it makes a difference in how I feel about the job. It makes me feel more professional.

Heather
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.Sandy C
Inactive

NM
USA
151 Posts

Posted - 09/21/2005 :  10:39:13 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
It will do me good against new shoppers, but as they had a gold certification here right before I started shopping, all the experienced shoppers here are gold. So, they get the notices before me and I get what's left. (Unless I happen to get lucky and am checking a site just as they post, that is.)

I don't see any benefit to going gold right now. I'd be a newer gold shopper than the others. And I only get one advance notice (that I know of) due to my silver that does me any good. The Sassie notices come pretty much the same as they did before I certified.

My only advantage right now against the more experienced ones is that I am newer and have not been spotted. According to a couple schedulers, the gold shoppers cannot shop certain places because there were so few shoppers here for awhile that they were easy to spot.

Sandy
MSPA Silver Certified July 2005
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LKagey
Apprentice

Carrollton, OH
USA
2 Posts

Posted - 10/05/2005 :  7:22:23 PM  Send LKagey an AOL message  Reply  Reply with Quote
I became Silver Certified in the last week, and have been accepted for several shops that I have never been able to do before. It's been well worth it in my opinion. But, I also just started visiting these forums, so that might have something to do with it too!

Laura
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JSalata
Contributor

Wakeman, Ohio
USA
83 Posts

Posted - 10/06/2005 :  08:20:41 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I obtained my silver certification a couple of months ago, and honestly, I don't think it has made much of a difference. I have received a few offers that the company said were for only gold & silver shoppers, but I didn't accept any because they were still to low paying for me.

Janice
Shopping in North Central OH - now Silver Certified!
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ChrisT
Star Contributor

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 10/06/2005 :  08:41:03 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by JSalata

I obtained my silver certification a couple of months ago,... but I didn't accept any because they were still to low paying for me.


so the MSC's want us to get the cert but not pay us anymore? Glad I didn't get it!

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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Lori CA
Valued Contributor

Los Angeles, CA
USA
105 Posts

Posted - 10/06/2005 :  7:49:26 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
As with most things, I think there are different ways to look at the certification issue.

I was fortunate enough to attend the gold workshop last month in conjunction with the MSPA conference. It was an invaluable opportunity to meet company owners/schedulers. I was approached by several owners and asked to apply with them. I picked up (and gave) some tips and leads, received a comprehensive reference book, and made a tax-deductible investment in my shopping business.

On the other hand, quality and reliability aren't exclusive to the certified. There were several attendees at the workshop who have never done a shop before. While I'm all for starting on the right foot, an expert shopper who is not certified will doubtless do a better job than a newbie, certified or not.

Based on statements from the owners, they perceive certified shoppers as more committed, reliable and trained to a consistent standard. I don't think certification tells the whole story about a given shopper, but it can't hurt in this competitive field.

I would not suggest incurring great expense or travel time (it was local for me), but it has already resulted in additional work. After applying for four jobs with one company last week in the hope of getting at least one, I was pleasantly surprised to receive all four. I don't know if this would have happened before I was certified, but I'll take it

MSPA Gold Certified
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 10/06/2005 :  11:31:32 PM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
Everytime I see this topic come up, I have to . There will always be companies who do not require certification and they will probably always be the lowest paying or non paying companies out there. I wish I could post the emails I get stating that since I am Gold, I will be paid such and such if I will take the job. Then again, I wish I could post the emails I get stating not to post this job elsewhere, or the ones that state I was handpicked. Is all of this due to my being Gold? Of course not, I also have a great reputation with the companies. However, the great reputation alone would not be enough with these companies. So, my advice to all new shoppers is get GOLD as soon as possible and do what you say you will do.

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

Atlanta, GA
USA
50247 Posts

Posted - 10/08/2005 :  09:02:35 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
To answer the specific question asked in the name of this thread, absolutely not!
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Elizabeth36
Star Contributor

Greenville, NC
USA
566 Posts

Posted - 10/08/2005 :  2:09:44 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Here is something I wonder about...

For the people who say they receive more offers now that they are Silver (which I am) or Gold Certified, how do you know it is because of the certification?? Could it be that you did some work for awhile, learning the ropes, getting some good ratings under your belt and then became Silver Certified and by coincidence you now receive more shops?

Couldn't it be based on your work up until that point?

Also, what if it is just a way to help companies in large URBAN areas figure out who might be better??

I live in Eastern NC. Greenville NC to be exact and we are fairly rural, the closest large city (as in major city) would be Raleigh NC. I have not seen an increase in my shops just by being Silver certified. I can't say it has hurt me either. I don't think being Gold would help or hurt where I live. There just aren't that many shops in general.

I just wonder about that because I notice some of the folks who are saying it is better to have Gold live in major cities.

Just wondering...

Elizabeth
Shopping Greenville NC and surrounding areas!
I WANT MORE MERCHANDISING WORK! Call me, ok?
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