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 Is being MSPA Silver or Gold Certified Worth It?
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PatriciaKay
Member

Silicon Valley, CA
USA
43 Posts

Posted - 12/24/2005 :  12:24:57 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I just took the Silver test. I didn't do it because I wanted more jobs, I have plenty of those. I didn't do it to learn anything new, and I didn't. I had two reasons for doing it. First, I would like to have the Gold certification. I would like the chance to learn more about this business because I think it is fascinating. I think there just might be a future in it for me. I would like to talk to those who have been doing ms and scheduling to learn more. I also would like to have a chance at more of the plum assignments.

The second reason I took it, I don't think anyone has mentioned. I would like to see ms gain more respect. I think what we do is important and that the skills needed are fairly sophisticated. I have a gut feeling that a lot of the people who do this, jump in thinking it will be fun and easy, then do poor jobs and flake. In order to make give us more bargaining power, we need to organize and show that we are worth the pay.

Taking the Silver test isn't a big step toward this goal, but it is a step. Taking the test is one way of saying that we consider ourselves more seriously than those who treat this like a lark. It is also a way of starting SOME kind of professional standard for us.

As for those who think that money is being made off the certifications-- are you for real? They might pay for themselves, but the charge for the test and the seminar isn't enough to make much money off of.

Shopping the SilliValley CA, and now... engaged to the man of my dreams!
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KaySFbay
Star Contributor

Redwood City, California
USA
316 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2005 :  06:41:34 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by PatriciaKay

I just took the Silver test. ... I would like to see ms gain more respect.
I must say that's an odd way to do it. Paying $15 and taking a test that many people can easily pass without ever having done an actual mystery shop is a curious way, indeed, to try to gain respect for mystery shopping.
quote:
As for those who think that money is being made off the certifications-- are you for real?
Funny, that's what I was about to ask YOU. 10,000 Silver shoppers who took a completely automated test at $15 a pop? That's a $150,000 payoff for nothing more than a small bit of programming.

Yes, I'd say money is being made off the certifications. It's probably what keeps the MSPA alive.

Kay
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PatriciaKay
Member

Silicon Valley, CA
USA
43 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2005 :  09:01:42 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
First. I apologize for my wording in my earlier post. It was way too close to making a personal attack-- not a very mature way to communicate. Still, my guess is that MSPA makes very little on the certifications, but since we don't know their costs, we are only guessing. Perhaps someone from the organization will tell us how our money is spent.

Second, the way you quoted me, Kay, was misleading. I did say that taking the test wasn't a big step, and I think I gave enough reasons why I thought it was at least something. I would love to see some other ideas on how to make this job more respected from some other people. I agree that one way to do that is not to take those low paying jobs, but I also think there will always be enough influx of new people who want to get their feet wet with those. Maybe, instead of us doing what MSPA wants, we should form our own group and decide on what standards we want for certification...

Shopping the SilliValley CA, and now... engaged to the man of my dreams!
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PatriciaKay
Member

Silicon Valley, CA
USA
43 Posts

Posted - 12/25/2005 :  12:07:36 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Thank you, spokesperson for MSPA, (though I really wish there was a name attached to your posts). I thought the numbers would be something like that. I am really glad you posted because I was starting to wonder what I was paying into. Is there some kind of breakdown like that on your website? If not, maybe there should be. And BTW Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukka (and all the other holidays that are being celebrated today and this time of year.)

Shopping the SilliValley CA, and now... engaged to the man of my dreams!
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Andi
Star Contributor

FL
USA
740 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  05:17:09 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by NatalieH
I am amazed at the fact that you are paying an outside speaker such a large amount of money to present such basic and non-exclusive information. At one of the conferences, a shopper mentioned that all the speaker did was ask the audience what works in their own experiences. That really doesn't seem to be a very efficient use of resources (regarding money, as well as time).
Uh, no, that is not all the speaker did. However, the experiences that were shared were
well worth my time and I found it all very interesting.

As I stated before, I agree that much of the information presented
was previously known. However, I did pick up some useful tidbits
and I am glad I attended.

If you don't wish to attend a Gold workshop, then don't do it.
However, there are those of us who did not find it a waste of time.

Andi
MSPA Gold Certified
Shopping Central Eastern Florida
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Paula Kutka
Star Contributor

Houston, TX
USA
1671 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  06:26:40 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I went to one of the first golds offered and do recall getting a workbook that we went through and watching some video portions of shops and then individually critiquing those and then discussing them as a group such as "what did you find?" There was more but I don't recall every little detail since it had to be two years ago when I took the course. I don't feel like I was ripped off, misled or wasted money.

Paula
Gold Certified shopping the Houston/Galveston area and IAH Airport since 2002
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MargeI
Star Contributor

Middletown, MD
USA
900 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  06:56:19 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I really don't understand the blatant hostility toward MSPA shown in this thread by a number of posters. If you don't think it's valuable, don't go. If you don't think THEY are valuable, ignore them. Why attack them? Why accuse them of "profiting" off of the POOR shopper? Please. You are an independent contractor. Use your judgment, make your own decisions. Go out on the web and look at how much most places get for one-day seminars. Fred Pryor, whose seminars are FOR-PROFIT and are very cookie-cutter generic types of topics, are $195 for six hours, and lunch is NOT included. I've been to some of them. They were OK - but the gold workshop was better. Has it helped me land jobs? Can't really say. I am an engineer by training, I understand the design of experiments. There is no "control group" here - many things have changed over the year I've been shopping. I've read these forums, I've gained more experience, I've networked with others...who knows how much of my success is the seminar versus these other factors? Not me. But to bash MSPA because they are charging $99 is patently ridiculous. And to insist that they disclose their cost structure is completely inappropriate - I thank them for this information, but frankly it's none of our business. When you go to the grocery store and buy a loaf of bread, they don't tell you that 39 cents is for salaries and 10 cents for electric.

Use your heads, make your own decision, but don't buy into any "conspiracy theories" about "profiteers" at MSPA. Please.
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Lori CA
Valued Contributor

Los Angeles, CA
USA
105 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  1:09:09 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Since certification is entirely optional, why is it such a volatile issue?

MSPA Gold Certified
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PatriciaKay
Member

Silicon Valley, CA
USA
43 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  2:16:44 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Hi MargeI,

I agreed with what you said, except, of course, when you disagreed with what I said Since MSPA is a non-profit organization (at least, I think that is what was said) asking for a cost breakdown is not unusual. On their hall of fame page, the first guy is said to have increased MSPA revenue by 400%. Wow. I think asking for where our funds go is reasonable.

Shopping the SilliValley CA, and now... engaged to the man of my dreams!
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PatriciaKay
Member

Silicon Valley, CA
USA
43 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  2:24:31 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Hi Nora,

You said:
So the MSPA was formed at the behest of "shoppers"

I don't think that is what was said. I believe the mysterious MSPA spokesperson said that the certification was requested for by shoppers. If you take a look at the MSPA board, you will see that they are all representatives of the companies who pay us. I am not sure an organization that represents both sides is the perfect answer to making this a more respected field (kind of like having a union for workers and management--just isn't the best.) However, I am all for taking first steps.

Shopping the SilliValley CA, and now... engaged to the man of my dreams!
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PatriciaKay
Member

Silicon Valley, CA
USA
43 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  2:34:54 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by ChrisT

I just don't see how a company would give a certified shopper first crack over a non-certified experienced(with verifiable good to excellent ratings from either them or another MSC they could check with) shopper.
Hi Chris,

This is how I see it. You can learn a trade or a profession in two major ways: you can apprentice for it, or you can get the education. I think most people learn their by doing both. For example, when I got my teaching credential, I started teaching before I had it. Not the easiest way to learn, but it was possible. When I went to school to become certified, I really didn't get much new information, but some of it was very valuable. I could have taught forever in my private school without certification, but I wanted the education that went with it. So, someone with lots of experience and a good reputation should not worry about the Gold Cert if they didn't want to. I am sure they have all the jobs they can handle. But for some others, a jump start with a bit of education can be helpful and give them an edge.

Shopping the SilliValley CA, and now... engaged to the man of my dreams!
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ChrisT
Star Contributor

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  2:41:09 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Yes, Pat I agree with what you're saying. I just think it's unfair for an MSC to give someone with a cert(who has not done a single shop or very few) preference over a experienced shopper.

It's different with a teaching credential. That requires two years(at least in CA) to get. Also that is more than 7hrs of education. If a company had a job as a Network System Administrator open and there were two applicants and one had say a NSA certification(but no experience) and one had 5 years of experience as a Network System Administrator, but no cetification, who do you think they would chose?

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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Paula Kutka
Star Contributor

Houston, TX
USA
1671 Posts

Posted - 12/26/2005 :  4:39:58 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
From a business point of view as far as asking for a breakdown of MSPA expenses and MSPA being a non-profit, one might note that they are a non-profit association. They are not a charitable non-profit like the United Way passing out contributions to needy people including shoppers. Therefore, their financial breakdown of expenses would stay within their membership with it really being no business of shoppers contracted by their member companies whether they paid for silver or gold or not.

Paula
Gold Certified shopping the Houston/Galveston area and IAH Airport since 2002
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HeatherN
Valued Contributor

New York
USA
142 Posts

Posted - 12/28/2005 :  2:55:33 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Thank you, Chris, for the kind words. Since I am Gold certified, I can speak about MY experience without others trying to negate my opinions based on a lack of certification, as has happened to non-certified shoppers. I want to add my opinions for a balanced overall viewpoint since some shoppers only profess the glories of the Gold. I believe the Gold certification is more multi-dimensional than a "must have" simply because it offers only basic training.

I would also like to state for those who think that companies do not push shoppers to get the Silver or Gold, that is incorrect. Perhaps it is not pushed to the degree that it once was and these shoppers were not around at that time or they were not with the companies that were insisting upon certification. Unfortunately, the ONLY reason I became Silver was because a company I worked with frequently and that I had a perfect rating with sent out a mass email stating they would not use non-certified shoppers any longer. While that might be their prerogative, my PERFECT standing with them no longer mattered. I had never missed a shop or asked for an extension on any job, yet I received an email stating I would be brushed aside for those who are certified, regardless of their experience with said MS company. Over three months went by without receiving a single job for any of their clients (rotation was not an issue) but when I gave into the pressure and became Silver, I was given the first job I applied for. Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps not. That company was not the only company to do that to me, either; it was just the most vocal at the time about its certification preference.

I've never seen anyone post about the Silver who said they learned anything. Most joke about how simplistic it is, yet companies alienated shoppers with excellent track records for shoppers (some with no experience) who were willing to pay $15 and take a quiz that was about as difficult as the Sesame Street game that asks kids to pick which one of the four items doesn't belong.

I would not have any issue with a company choosing a trained "certified" shopper over a non-certified shopper if I had truly learned anything that improved my skills as a shopper once I had taken the Silver or even the Gold. The quality of my shops did NOT improve with certification. What I learned was minimal and there was nothing (except viewing a video shop) that wasn't already in Cathy's book, The Mystery Shopper's Manual or on Volition. Plus I've had more successful networking relationships with schedulers via email than I did with the few company reps that were at the Gold.

That doesn't mean that others might not benefit "educationally" from the Gold nor should people not attend if they truly want to go. I only want people to realize that the educational experience can be found for free and will be minimal if they're well read on the forums.

At the same time, I've had several schedulers tell me that I was chosen simply because of my Gold status. It's a catch-22. I gained minimal knowledge through certification and it did not improve my shopping skills, but I was offered jobs that might have otherwise gone to another shopper. When all is said and done, the hope of being assigned more and better assignments is at the heart of shoppers who take the Silver or attend the Gold.

Oh! SurfMerchants has added additional questions to several SASSIE company applications. I don't see why the companies can't request a section where shoppers can give a writing sample. There IS a correlation between well written applications and well written shop reports. If a shopper doesn't care about appearances on an application, then it's guaranteed that the same effort will be put into their reports.
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HeatherN
Valued Contributor

New York
USA
142 Posts

Posted - 12/28/2005 :  4:12:35 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I don't believe anyone on this thread has been blatantly hostile towards the MSPA. The comments and questions asked of both sides allow shoppers who have not become certified to weigh the options-both positive and negative-to make an informed decision. I would be suspicious if everyone made flowery professions of love since nothing pleases everyone all of the time.

It's also nice that the MSPA offered quotes from company reps and offered the average cost of the workshops. Yet, I doubt many shoppers would offer negative feedback to a company rep at a Gold seminar and I believe anyone who is going to pay for a seminar should know what's included.

I've never been told that what is taught at the Gold should be kept in the strictest confidence or that sharing the information would break ICAs. After all, one must attend the conference and pass the test in order to gain "Gold status". Its been awhile since I took the workshop, so I dug around until I found my MSPA Gold Shopper Workbook. I've included page numbers so people can get an idea of how much space is allotted to each section. The workbook is 8 x 11 but keep in mind that there is more white space in the workbook than what would be found if it was printed through a publishing house.

MSPA Mystery Shopper Gold Certification Workshop Table of Contents:

5...A Welcome Letter from the MSPA President

6...The MSPA and its Role in the Industry

7...Applying to Mystery Shopping Companies

8...Being an Independent Contractor:
9...a) Confidentiality
10...b) Tax Issues for Independent Contractors

11...Working with Mystery Shopping Providers:
12...a) Time Management: Handling Multiple Assignments

13...Getting Paid

14...Getting More Jobs

15...Types of Mystery Shops

16...Training and Preparation for the Shop:
17...a) Scenarios
17...b) Objections

18...Doing the Shop:
18...a) Keep the Mystery in Mystery Shopping
18...b) Doing an Accurate Shop
18...c) Using Equipment

19...Video Shops

20...Getting the Information You Need

21...Creative Ways to Record Information

22...Grammar Tips

23...Commonly Confused Words

25...Writing the Report:
26...a) Writing Comments and Narratives
27...b) Sample Comments
27...c) Report Writing Tips
28...d) Describing Employees

29...Dealing with Problems and Emergencies:
29...a) Plan Ahead to Avoid Problems and Emergencies

30...Becoming the Mystery Shopper They Love

31...Forms and Resources:
31...a) Web Sites
32...b) MSPA Member Companies
35...c) Shopper Application Log
36...d) Shopper Assignment Log
37...e) Shopper Payment Log
38...f) Shoppers I Met at the Gold Certification Workshop

I found the information taught at the Gold would have been perfect for Silver certification since it covers all the basics. I would have loved to see a more in-depth seminar for the Gold. At the same time, I can appreciate that mystery shopping is pretty basic so it would be difficult to offer a more detailed workshop. Areas such as taxes (beyond a paragraph or two), tracking shops, what to do when a company wont pay, and dealing with unethical companies would be a place to start. Of course, the liability involved with offering workshops of this parameter would probably make the MSPA shy away from it.

If anyone disagrees with the opinions Ive posted, thats fine. Well agree to disagree.
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Presley
Valued Contributor

Dallas, Texas
USA
121 Posts

Posted - 12/28/2005 :  5:27:07 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I agree with MargeI that the hostility toward the MSPA and gold workshops is unfounded. I have seen several times mentioned on this thread the words, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to be a mystery shopper." True, however, my feelings are that in ANY industry whether you are a volunteer, paid employee or independent contractor, you should have integrity, be objective, do the job to the best of your abilities, and utilize any information given to you. Many companies charge far more for seminars than this one. I mystery shop because I love it and I want to ----not because I have to, we all choose what we want to do. I am going to attend the Dallas workshop because I look forward to meeting other mystery shoppers, schedulers, and to learn any new information or be reminded of information I already have. (Also because in this computer era where you interact with people on a daily basis by mail, I look forward to actually seeing real humans behind all of those emails and phone calls!) This web site offeres many great threads with people sharing information and giving opinions. Everyone has the right to decide what is right for them but I too would like to see the hostility go away.

Hope everyone has a great, peaceful, prosperous, new year in 2006!

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

USA
1513 Posts

Posted - 12/28/2005 :  5:59:20 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Well written Heather, and balanced. The MSPA could save, or actually make money on the workshop, if they had schedulers or owners from MSC's giving the presentation (or maybe giving a finer or bigger feast for the attendees). Also in this way, attendes would have something to use to strike up in a converstaion with these speakers.

As to the outline you gave of the workbook, I think most, if not all, experienced shoppers would know or be extremely familiar with what is provided(Dealing with problems and emergencies? lol, I think we've all had that). The Video shop might give some tips if you haven't done any and the time management might help(though you can get that from www.getorganizednow.com also). The sample commentary may be helpful too. Other than that, unless you're a newbie, you either know the info or can find it here.

ChrisT
Deliriously Happy Shopping Uncertifiable
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HeatherN
Valued Contributor

New York
USA
142 Posts

Posted - 12/28/2005 :  9:15:37 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Presley

I have seen several times mentioned on this thread the words, "It doesn't take a rocket scientist to be a mystery shopper." True, however, my feelings are that in ANY industry whether you are a volunteer, paid employee or independent contractor, you should have integrity, be objective, do the job to the best of your abilities, and utilize any information given to you.
I don't mean to be argumentative, but I don't see where stating one doesn't have to be a rocket scientist to be a mystery shopper (which you agree with) is being hostile. Although I'm Gold certified and have friends who question the MSPA certification, I've never been made to feel inferior or gullible because I paid to be certified nor do I believe that the shoppers on this thread mean to insinuate such, either. Whether certified or not, most shoppers complete assignments with integrity, objectivity, and to the best of their ability. Some see benefit to the certification program where others question whether there is a better way to go about it. I can understand both sides of the issue and don't know why there has to be "sides" at all.

I will agree with you about the peaceful, prosperous 2006 New Year, though.

Chris, thanks so much for that link! One thing I'm in desperate need of is better organization. I'd take a weekly Merry Maids mystery shop but I don't see that happening, so I'll take the web site instead.
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DeeJay
Member

USA
24 Posts

Posted - 12/29/2005 :  6:52:44 PM  Reply  Reply with Quote
I've decided to go for the gold in the hopes of getting better paying shops in my area.
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Paula Kutka
Star Contributor

Houston, TX
USA
1671 Posts

Posted - 12/30/2005 :  08:03:04 AM  Reply  Reply with Quote
Congratulations DJ! Sounds like you took in all the information in this thread and made the right choice for you. Good luck!

Paula
Gold Certified shopping the Houston/Galveston area and IAH Airport since 2002
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