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 Is being MSPA Silver or Gold Certified Worth It?
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ShayB
Contributor

Memphis, TN
USA
50 Posts

Posted - 12/21/2005 :  3:31:52 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
To put it simply, I wish I had not wasted the money I spent on the silver certification - I've been shopping for 4 years now, and it hasn't made any difference in what I've been offered.

Shay
MSPA Silver Certified
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ChrisT
Star Contributor

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 12/21/2005 :  4:29:51 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Yes, SB, I believe you must upgrade to Gold to get any distinction, that's how they get you, make the silver a small fee then get you to go gold. There are over 10,000 silver(maybe more now), so unless you're in a RURAL area with few shoppers, and just MSPA member MSC's that look at certification, I don't see silver singling you out.

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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.MEKimberly
Inactive

Louisville, KY
USA
82 Posts

Posted - 12/21/2005 :  5:29:27 PM  Visit .MEKimberly's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
If you are curious about whether or not to get certified, I will tell you that 70% of new shoppers fail to complete their first shop. This is an industry standard. 70% IS A HUGE FAILURE RATE!!!!! If a company launches 1000 shops to be completed in 7 days, 700 new shoppers will not complete the shops.

What does it mean to you, the shopper?

Whenever a shopping company moves into a new market, regardless of your past performance with other companies, shopping companies can't tell what shoppers have experience and what shoppers don't. So, we default to Gold and Silver certified shoppers. WHY? Because our clients depend on us to deliver shops in a timely fashion. Gold and silver certified shoppers are likely to complete shops for us.

Plain and simple, even if you have a good record with other companies, new companies that move into your market with new shops, we have no way of knowing your past record. Get certified, and you will see more shops from newer companies.

Kimberly Nasief
President
Marketing Endeavors
www.meshoppers.com

Kimberly Nasief
President
Marketing Endeavors, LLC.
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ChrisT
Star Contributor

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 12/21/2005 :  5:49:14 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by KimberlyNasief

If you are curious about whether or not to get certified, I will tell you that 70% of new shoppers fail to complete their first shop.
Well Kim, a NEW shopper with NO experience can get silver and gold certified. Why would you pick someone who has EXPERIENCE over someone who just has a piece of paper?

If the silver (and gold) required experience or some kind of track record I could understand your reasoning. But someone could take the silver, pass it, and still flake!
quote:
Get certified, and you will see more shops from newer companies.
Maybe from your company and some other MSPA members, but there are MANY companies that don't even ask, or even look for it. I get plenty of work from and do GREAT jobs for them. It's your loss to be so narrow minded.

EDIT: I just checked. I am already signed up with your company and got a 9 on my assignment a while ago and got great comments on my work. However there is no work in my state right now. Are you saying you would give work to a NEWBIE w/silver or gold over someone who has an excellent track record with you already?

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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Mary Elizabeth
Valued Contributor

USA
117 Posts

Posted - 12/21/2005 :  6:45:28 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
The subject of this thread is whether being certified is worth it. A lot of shoppers argue that giving preference to a certified shopper doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t matter whether it makes sense to us. It makes sense to them. They are running a business and they have done their homework. They get to decide what’s best for their business.

I got plenty of work prior to getting my Gold. The difference that I see now after 5 months is that I get better paying and more interesting work. When I apply for a job, I usually get it. My average shop fee for this quarter is $29+. Last year during the same period it was $13+.

It was worth it for me. There are variables. I don’t know if there are many Gold shoppers in my area.

Mary Elizabeth
MSPA Gold Certified
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JanetOKC
Contributor

Oklahoma City, OK
USA
57 Posts

Posted - 12/22/2005 :  09:42:53 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
All I can figure out is that some MS companies think certified shoppers are more serious/dependable shoppers.

Either that, or there's some type of "conspiracy" going on between certain MS companies and MPSA. It's actually crossed my mind that some MS companies might get some type of direct benefits from MPSA for including certification in their applications, promoting it on their sites, etc. (I have no idea what those "direct benefits" might be, because I don't know the industry ins and outs well enough.) But that's me and my imagination.

I can see how MS companies, who hire sight-unseen, would grasp onto certification as at least giving a clue to how dependable an otherwise unknown shopper might be.

I spoke with a scheduler last night who said she doesn't look at certification at all. She looks at age. She prefers shoppers who are at least in their late 20s, because they're more likely to complete the job. That sounded a bit prejudiced to me, even though it works in my favor. I know younger people who are very responsible. . . . But if I were in her position, I might end up feeling the same way.

I took the silver cert. test before I ever completed even one on-site shop. (I had completed several phone shops already.) I was surprised at how simple it was to pass, and wondered how MS companies would be impressed with anything so simple to get. However, I also hoped showing the initiative would help me gain some credibility, since I had absolutely no experience. I usually don't know if silver certification helped me get the job. But I do know I got a $75 job last month that was first made available to shoppers with a rating of "8 or higher" (which excluded me, because I'd never shopped with that company). When the shop was not taken, they then changed the requirement to "gold or silver certified shoppers only." That's when I got it. That $75 fee more than paid for my silver certification fee.

I'm scheduled to attend a gold certification workshop in February. I'll probably learn SOMETHING -- either through networking or through the workshop itself. And I'm guessing that having gold certification will matter to at least some companies. These schedulers have so little to go on with new shoppers. Maybe giving credence to these certificates is grasping at straws in some ways. But if these certificates are all that's out there, then I'd probably do the same as a scheduler. My guess is that, unless and until schedulers have something more concrete to go on, they will use certification as one significant way to evaluate shoppers who are new to their company.

Janet
MSPA Gold Certified
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 12/22/2005 :  10:42:02 AM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
"Actually, it does matter what makes sense to us, since shoppers are the ones being asked to pay for this. Whoever forks over the money has the power--not the other way around."

Since this was put forth, I thought I would reply as I am one of the ones who forked over the money. It was well worth the money and the only ones who can truly attest to it, are the ones who have gone and paid for the certification. Another shopper wrote the difference between her average shops last year, prior to getting "Gold" and this year. Her increase is significant and is quite accurate for what I have seen happen with my shops. I see very few shoppers who do not think the "Gold" was worth the money, no matter what the MSPA calls it and no matter what others who have not gone think it should be called. There is a great deal of learning that goes on and maybe that learning is not so much "book learning" and thus not considered learning by some, but there is something for everyone to learn with this job as technology is always changing, client needs are always changing and the companies who attend the Gold courses are changing and using our information we give at the courses to increase our bottom line as well as theirs. The only thing I would like to see more of is support for the shoppers when they have issues with the MSPA companies.

PamInCa
Author of: "The Essential Guide to Mystery Shopping"
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Mary Elizabeth
Valued Contributor

USA
117 Posts

Posted - 12/22/2005 :  2:10:44 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
"Actually, it does matter what makes sense to us, since shoppers are the ones being asked to pay for this. Whoever forks over the money has the power--not the other way around."

OK, I am interpreting the original poster's question as being "worth it" in the long run for the shopper. The above response makes me think that you are concerned with the amount the MSPA is charging for the actual certification.

In order for me to attend the Gold Workshop I not only had to pay the price of the workshop, but also had to board my dog and pay the price of an overnight stay at the hotel. I had to weigh my decision carefully. Regardless of the fact that most of it was tax deductible, it was a big cut into my profit. I had no idea whether it would be worth it in the long run. In the end, my decision to do it was based on the concern that the Gold may not come my way again and that I didn't want to be competing with more Gold shoppers in my area.

It was a business decision. I did not give much thought about what went on at the conference or whether I would learn anything new. I am happy that I made the decision to go. I did learn some things and so far it appears that the Gold in my signature has made a difference.



Mary Elizabeth
MSPA Gold Certified
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HeatherN
Valued Contributor

New York
USA
142 Posts

Posted - 12/22/2005 :  5:36:29 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Mary Elizabeth

"Actually, it does matter what makes sense to us, since shoppers are the ones being asked to pay for this. Whoever forks over the money has the power--not the other way around."

OK, I am interpreting the original poster's question as being "worth it" in the long run for the shopper. The above response makes me think that you are concerned with the amount the MSPA is charging for the actual certification.
Natalie's comment makes sense. Since the MSPs are not paying for the certification, they can not force the shoppers to take it. They can insinuate whatever they want or put on the pressure, but it's up to the shoppers to give into it. If no shopper gives into the "threats" that Gold or Silver shoppers will be given preference for shops and no one rushes to get certified, the companies will STILL have to hire someone. That is what the statement meant. She's never said that the certification was too expensive. The Silver, after all, is only $15 so the cost is not the objection.

For those who claim that certification shows the shoppers are serious about shopping and in an online world, that's the best way to distinguish good from bad, there is a better way. Try looking at the applications and see how well the shoppers answered the qualifying questions. Aren't most of the applications designed to show how well a person can grasp the rules of the English language and how well s/he can follow instructions?

Certification does not prove the worth of a shopper, period. All it shows is someone was willing to pay money to get a number that anyone can get if they sleep through the class. When I took it, the questions were ridiculously simple and a few of the grammar ones were wrong.

I will agree that certification probably helps some, but so does applying to as many companies as possible and proving yourself as worthy when you do get an assignment. Only a shopper who has not applied to any additional companies since becoming certified can truly answer how much of a help certification was. Quoting numbers--if those numbers include new companies that the shopper has applied to since becoming Gold--proves nothing.

As for that 70% flake rate that is always thrown around, I doubt that average is typical for most companies. The company I worked for did not have such a high flake rate for new shoppers. Then again, the company I worked for did not insult shoppers with $5 fees, either. I imagine that those companies who don't pay much have a much higher flake rate and for good reason. The 70% is a blanket statement that does not include other factors that influence the percentage. I find it hard to believe that 70% of the shoppers on V flaked for their first jobs with every company. If that's really the case, the 30% who know how to follow through really should be compensated accordingly. Unfortunately, we know the companies would rather keep fees low and take a gamble on a "less than" shopper and try to fix the mess given to them rather than pay for quality work.
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ChrisT
Star Contributor

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 12/22/2005 :  8:00:19 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by HeatherN
The Silver, after all, is only $15 so the cost is not the objection.


That's one reason why I feel at least Silver is a joke. It's priced too low. Anyone can plop down $15 and pass it(people who've taken it have said here they wasted their money on it and how EASY it was).
Also there is no way to 'preview' what you're paying for. How ridiculous is that?

Virtually all other certifications let you see sample questions or at least give you an outline. I went to the MSPA site to check it out and they wanted my billing details before going any further. There's only a 'general' faq there about it.

quote:
there is a better way. Try looking at the applications and see how well the shoppers answered the qualifying questions. Aren't most of the applications designed to show how well a person can grasp the rules of the English language and how well s/he can follow instructions?


I agree with you there. There are several sites that I had to bookmark and come back to later because I was too tired to fill them out. These were ones that needed several writing samples of shops, why you're doing mystery shopping, etc. Of course anyone can fool this and copy from someone and/or use the same template for several sites.

quote:
Certification does not prove the worth of a shopper, period.
All it shows is someone was willing to pay money to get a number that anyone can get if they sleep through the class.


I agree. Like I said before, there is no 'experience' requirement. Having that would show the worth and nonflakiness of a shopper more than some paper on a wall.

quote:

I will agree that certification probably helps some


It probably helps green shoppers more by giving them the basics, but I'd bet my wisdom teeth that for experienced shoppers it'd be nothing more than a review of what we know. At the workshop you may pick up some tips and get some new contacts, so for that it may be worth it to some.

quote:
Quoting numbers--if those numbers include new companies that the shopper has applied to since becoming Gold--proves nothing.


Wow Again, I agree. Many Gold shoppers are making casual connections. They may or may NOT be true. Just because B happens after A does not mean absolutely that A caused B.

quote:
The company I worked for did not have such a high flake rate for new shoppers. Then again, the company I worked for did not insult shoppers with $5 fees, either. I imagine that those companies who don't pay much have a much higher flake rate and for good reason.


Yep, that's true. Most likely the 70% flake rate is comprised mostly from the MSC that does those 0.50 pizza phone shops
Experienced shoppers(certified or not) don't usually flake unless there is a personal emergency.

You reasoned intelligently and coherently. Good Job Heather

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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ArtemisPub
Contributor

West Palm Beach, FL
USA
152 Posts

Posted - 12/22/2005 :  8:23:23 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I believe becoming silver certified was a plus. I receive offers from companies that prefer certified shoppers, and they will often raise the fee.

The fees are gradually getting somewhat more generous, and I'm hopeful that trend continues.

Artemis Smith
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Mary Elizabeth
Valued Contributor

USA
117 Posts

Posted - 12/22/2005 :  11:30:53 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Wow Again, I agree. Many Gold shoppers are making casual connections. They may or may NOT be true. Just because B happens after A does not mean absolutely that A caused B.
I agree also. I have no way of knowing whether things would have turned out the same if I had not got my certification. I have no way of knowing whether my headache would have gone away if I hadn't taken an aspirin.

My intention in posting is not to try to encourage shoppers to get certified. Because I think that it has been an advantage to me, I would be better off to discourage shoppers. I really would prefer that my area does not get saturated with certified shoppers.

Being in business involves risk. I chose to risk wasting my time and money. The flip side is to risk being put at a disadvantage if the MSPA succeeds in their goal to increase the numbers of Gold Certified shoppers. I do not pretend to know which is the best choice.

Mary Elizabeth
MSPA Gold Certified
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Merrl
Star Contributor

CA
USA
535 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2005 :  10:27:19 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
If you want to work for Sassie companies and the schedulers who service them, the "Silver" and "Gold" are the pay-to-play way to go. Obviously, if a company's application only takes your name, address, demographic, and zip codes, then they are going to have a potentially high flake rate and need another device for screening shopppers. How clever, get the shoppers to pay for certification, then do away with any need to spend time evaluating writing samples or the ability to follow instructions. It certainly works to the advantage of new shoppers.

Thanks to the other companies who put a premium on quality reports and proven shopper reliability. I've got enough work and certification is not worthwhile for me.
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KaySFbay
Star Contributor

Redwood City, California
USA
316 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2005 :  11:37:21 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I've always been intrigued by the networking aspect of the Gold Certification class, considering that this is a business that operates sight-unseen. How many schedulers have you met face-to-face?

Maybe it's worth the Gold fee to speak personally to schedulers, find out their likes and dislikes, whether they'd prefer a Nordstrom or a J. Jill gift card this holiday season, when their birthday is...

Kay
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JanB27
Star Contributor

OH
USA
4831 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2005 :  11:51:17 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Perhaps what Merrl has alluded to is the dilemma for many new shoppers. Shoppers who have done this for several years seem to be well connected, and don't need any benefits that newer shoppers might feel the certification brings them. Also, most of the companies I work with do use Sassie, so perhaps it makes a difference with most of them, and it would behoove me to look into it. At this point I will let my work stand on its own, and hope that the 10s will draw their attention, rather than a gold. Maybe it doesn't work that way, and I'll miss out. I guess what bothers me are the insinuations associated with it. I knew that when I earned a BS I would have a body of knowledge that was worth the time and money invested. I also knew what jobs it would qualify me for that I was unable to obtain without it. I wish that MSPA could provide such clear-cut information, rather than just insinuate that 'somehow' you'll gain from it. It isn't the money issue for me, but a matter of time and principle, I guess.

Jan
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Mary Elizabeth
Valued Contributor

USA
117 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2005 :  2:49:56 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Wow! Chris, I was agreeing with you. I can't be sure that getting my Gold is what made the difference in my stats. Natalie, you quoted only a portion of my post. The biggest impact on my decision to get the Gold was that I didn't want to be at a disadvantage if a lot of Gold shoppers turned up in my area. A calculated decision.

I never understood the advantage of networking either. I enjoyed a short lunch and a couple of breaks talking with other shoppers, but there was no exchanging of business cards or personal information. I don't want people in my area to know I'm a shopper. There was only one company rep at my workshop.



Mary Elizabeth
MSPA Gold Certified
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PamInCa
Star Contributor

CA
USA
6557 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2005 :  2:50:37 PM  Visit PamInCa's Homepage  Reply  Reply with Quote
The schedulers I met face to face:
Wow, that would be a really long list and I am sure I would miss someone. So, here is a list of the companies who had schedulers there that I met and they are in no particular order, just who came to mind first. Well, I still can't remember them all. But, I think you get the idea.

Speedmark, Coast to Coast, Feedback Plus
Beyond Hello, ICCDS , CSE
Kerns scheduling , Jancyn , Secret Shopper Comp.
Intellishop, Shop'n Chek,
Trendsource , Service Intelligence,
Checkmark , Service Sleuths,
SG Marketing , Service Check

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

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2005 :  3:30:32 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I see, sorry if I misunderstood. It didn't seem like that when you mentioned about the aspirin. If you had compared to an ab machine advertised on an informercial or something similar then I would have seen it as agreeing (aspirin has been proven over decades of data and use; not so for Gold certification).

I never said, though, that someone shouldn't do it. If you want the networking benefits fine.Also if you're a newbie it might help you fool some companies at the outset to give you some jobs over more experienced non-certified shoppers.

Liz, I see you also said you're worried that there will be too many Gold shoppers in your area and that's why you got it now. Well, what's going to happen when there is an oversaturation of Gold shoppers thanks to the MSPA and their members promotion of it? Then you'll be at a disadvantage, but have spent $99 to be there

I prefer to stick with my experience

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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Mary Elizabeth
Valued Contributor

USA
117 Posts

Posted - 12/23/2005 :  5:05:32 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I should have put smiley after my comment about the aspirin. It was not meant to be flip. And...I will be out more than the $99. I would have had to get up at 4AM to insure getting there by the start time. I drove up the day before, so I had the cost of dinner at the hotel and an overnight stay. Also had to board my dog.


Mary Elizabeth
MSPA Gold Certified
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ElizabethG
Valued Contributor

Chicago, IL
USA
166 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2005 :  08:56:08 AM  Send ElizabethG an AOL message  Reply  Reply with Quote
I've never seen the encouragement to get certified, or the fact that some shops are first offered to those who are certified, as a threat. I think people are reading far too much into this. It's not a conspiracy for "pay-to-play." It's one of many avenues for finding dedicated shoppers. It's also one of many avenues for said shoppers to learn a thing or two about this business. Don't want to go for it? Don't! Want to? Great!

To those who shrug their shoulders and say MS work isn't lucrative, I think that's a self-fulfilling prophesy. I do this for profit, and I'm making a profit doing it. Not as much as I would in a regular job, but there are reasons I want the flexibility of this kind of work.

Am I glad I got the Gold certification? Yes. Do I think it's for everyone? No.

Gold Certified yysqi1
Shopping Chicago and surrounding areas
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