“ TES representatives visit retail stores and local businesses to secretly observe and record the overall operations of each location visited. Some assignments may involve purchases and returns, while other mystery shops may involve food consumption and review. „
TNS are one company to avoid. They pull allocated jobs to you and give them to someone else (breach of contract); they move jobs they've allowed you to keep to other days you don't want to perform the job (the mystery of the missing jobs from your inbox by treating you like a contract worker temp). Yes, if you live in London, it does make sense to do two jobs in Maidstone for different companies on the same day, not on different days, resulting in double petrol and more time. Worst of all they don't let you see the full evaluation report questionnaire until you've already committed to do the job. They trot out the excuse: we haven't fully compiled it yet, but it will be up tomorrow. So when you realise the work involved for the token fee offered, you will realise that the effort and time and complexity of work involved is not worth the fixed fee offered. A job described as having a simple report to fill out will turn out to be 50 odd mainly redundant and some irrelevant questions, requiring complex duplications of information you've provided before on a first report, the calculation of figures, reformatting papers to other file formats before posting. All which take absolutely ages to finish, rendering your fee to equate to £1-2 an hour when you consider the time spent on field work and travel too. Furthermore, TNS won't give you the telephone number of any of their internal staff. You are forced to e-mail them if you have a query, problem or any matter about the brief or job to discuss. Of course, they probably won't reply if you don't say the right things but will happily phone you when it suits them (using a disguised number). How insulting is that? The freelance to MS company relationship is far too one sided.
Never work for any MS shopping company that keeps its shoppers at arms length like this. It can only signify one thing: they don't value shoppers and don't want to build a relationship with you. If you work for them for 2 years, having taken on various jobs fo them - all successfully, they won't value you any more after all that time than they did on day 1 before you took on your first job. You will constantly be bumping along the bottom without accumulating any bounce in your ball to elevate yourself to a better level of appreciation and opportunities.
For freelancers, building relationship capital with clients in order to consolidate more and better fee generating opportunities with ease without constant marketing and client generation is the hallmark of successful freelancing to make a decent living. This is so that you get the pick of the better jobs, better fees, better bonuses and first refusal on the jobs that come up. Without it, you are sunk if you are professional shopper (full time, rather than a part time hobbyist for token fees to prop up your real job income) and wasting your time, ultimately, particularly in the absence of any employment relationship that might offer other loyalty incentives instead, like pay rises, promotion and training opportunities.
I have been a mystery shopper for over ten years. The process generally involves either phoning, emailing or physically visiting shops, restaurants, businesses and other organisations to use their services in order to evaluate them. My personal report of my experiences is then passed back to the management of these organisations to ensure that the services are as advertised and of a high standard. You get paid a job fee and/or a refund for any purchases made for doing this.
TNS is a company who sign up mystery shoppers. They are able to supply visits to places like banks, supermarkets, stores, cafes and pubs/clubs. Their client base has not seemed to change much during the two years I have been with them so the jobs that are available tend to be to the same locations and these visits are cyclical. I am unable to specifically name TNS's clients but they are all high profile businesses. TNS also have a lot of restrictions on who can actually complete the jobs. These include sex and age. Restrictions are clearly marked in the visit details. Some visits also require you to be a customer of said organisation - for example, to be a bank account holder or regular visitor to a bar.
The TNS sign up process is not complicated although I did have to complete more forms than I did with the other mystery shopping companies I am with. You are required to complete a short test and then give a lot of personal details including financial information and not just over the internet. TNS actually send you paper forms to sign and joing as an 'independent contractor'. It's not like a job application though - you don't need any references or anything like that! You just have to agree to the terms and conditions and read the important documentation like health and safety issues etc. This also includes agreeing that you will inform the Inland Revenue of your tax situation. Regarding this, although it is unlikely you will earn enough mystery shopping to have to pay taxes you still have to declare this as in income on your tax return.
TNS do not usually send out email alerts to let you know that jobs are available so you have to login to the site in order to check and complete a 'visit search'. The only time I recieve an invitation to complete a job is when the job is marked as an 'urgent visit' or there are special requirements. The login page is virtually impossible to find from the main page so I recommend bookmarking it once you are sent a link to it in an introductory email. It is a secure login page and it uses a special shopper digit/numerical code and a password (which they assign to you) as the access codes.
The search engine is easy to use and it appears that you can search for jobs months ahead. I live in the North East and the entire area is labelled as 'Northumberland', which doesn't narrow it down much! Jobs are listed by the name of the company with the establishment details, city, postcode, type of visit and required date of visit also listed in the details. To find out more information about a specific job just click the name of the company and you are taken to a page where it details exactly what is required for the visit. If you want to apply you must click the 'apply' button and wait for approval. Details will be sent via email of approval and further assignment details.
To be able to fully complete jobs with TNs you should have a digital camera, good quality camera phone and/or a scanner. This is to ensure that you can upload pictures of any reciepts gained during the job. This is in order to recieve your refund and is also proof you completed the job. The reciept can also provide information to the company regarding the details of your visit, for example - the time you approached the till, who served you etc. I should point out that TNS don't supply travel cost fees or other expenses unless the job is urgent and they personally offer these extra payments to you.
As someone who uses a few mystery shopping organisations I have to say that TNS is the one I use the least. This is in part due to the fact that it is quite time consuming to have to login all the time. It would be much easier to be alerted to the jobs. I seem to miss out on jobs due to this as other shoppers nab them before me! There are also fewer company visits in my area. Most are based in the nearest city to me, rather than being more rural locations.
I have found TNS to be a reliable and easy to deal with organisation and I have enjoyed undertaking their jobs. I do find them to be a little less professional than other Mystery Shopping organisations though in terms of managing their website and email. For instance, I am always astonished to recieve plain text emails from them saying that such-and-such will be out of office for a few days. This is a little over personal for me, like I'm part of the office network! They also don't have any kind of newsletter or community which I think would make them seem more professional and more dedicated to us, the mystery shoppers.
TNS are a good choice as a way to make a bit of extra cash with fees for visits usually around £5-10 per job. It's a fun way to earn whilst enjoying the services of shops, cafes etc. Recommended for those who like to assume different personality roles too as there are all sorts of scenarios to act through!
See the website to join up:
I have been mystery shopping for about 6 or 7 years now, having been tempted in to it when I saw my sister in law getting paid for going shopping!
I am registered with a number of sites, including TNS. The application process for TNS is longer than the other sites I belong to, and is quite thorough. When you apply, which you do online, they give you lots of information about what is expected of a mystery shopper and why comments from a mystery shopper are so useful to the companies involved etc. From that you are expected to answer a number of questions in a very full way - mini essays really!
I did feel that the application process was quite detailed but this really is a good thing, because at the end of the day you are expected to write thorough reviews on your visits which can be passed on to the relevant companies for them to analyse, so I think the process early on is a good indicator of their expectations.
Once you have got through the application process, it is then up to you to check the TNS website for jobs available in your area. One good thing with this site is that you can choose the area in which you look for jobs, county by county. So for example, I am in South Norfolk, so can pick Norfolk on the drop down menu, or can choose Suffolk, which is very close. Or, if I am away in Devon on holiday I can choose that area to see what is available to do while I am away!
Jobs range from visiting a mobile phone shop and assessing the staff's attitude when you are trying to choose a new tariff, through to supermarket shops where you are asking staff members to point you in the direction of frozen pizzas, and assessing whether the bananas are good enough to eat, and, best of all, going to restaurants with a partner or the family and assessing food, drink, and service - and getting your bill paid for you as your fee!
You are given full instructions, and can print a copy of the questionnaire before you start, so you know exactly what it is you are looking for.
When you have completed your visit, you simply log on when you get home and answer a questionnaire online, then send your receipt in the post (freepost too, so no need to rummage for a stamp!) to TNS.
Payment is made about once a month - I haven't been able to see on the system any record of payments due etc, but I have kept my own records and have never had anything missed. They send you a "payslip" too so that you can keep accurate records for tax etc.
Fees range from £5 plus expenses through to those restaurant jobs which don't pay a fee, but will cover your bill (up to a maximum level.......no ordering champagne unless it is on your instructions!!). So you won't get rich on this type of work.
Although it doesn't pay a huge amount, I find that the odd £5 etc adds up nicely as an extra - I work full time so do jobs that fit in at lunchtime, or immediately before or after work. This means that I am basically being paid to mooch round the shops at lunchtime, and saves me spending money in the process - can't be bad!
Also, the restaurant and coffee shop visits give you and a friend an opportunity to basically eat out for free - in these days of recession, that is not bad payment at all in my opinion, and we certainly look forward to these visits!
Mystery shopping jobs with TNS, as with any other site, are a bit hit and miss - some months there are lots, other months there is nothing that you can fit in, so don't get to rely on the income - see it as a very useful "extra" and you won't be disappointed!
Of course, you need to weigh up the time and cost of getting to a job - there is little point in accepting a job that pays £5 if it costs you £6 in bus fares to get there and back, and takes you all day to do so. But if, like me, you are already at work and are able to wander down the road at lunchtime, it is a different matter entirely!
TNS have an excellent support process so if there is ever a problem with completing a job, the assigned staff member will help you out.
If you are interested in becoming a mystery shopper for TNS then you can find out more on their website: