Firstly I'd like to say that this is not a review of National Shopping Monitor as the title may suggest, but of 'Food on the Go', a new panel from TNS. I asked Dooyoo to set up Food on the Go, but in their wisdom they added it as National Shopping Monitor as it is part of this website. Anyway, on with the review...
Food on the Go (FOTG) is a new consumer panel from TNS which aims to collect information on food and drink purchases that are consumed outside the home.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Panel members' text information to a free text number each time they buy a snack that is consumed outside the home. The types of snacks they are interested include sandwiches, baguettes, wraps, confectionery, soft drinks, hot drinks etc
Basically FOTG is interested in any food or drink purchases that are consumed outwith the home, with the exception of items bought from McDonalds, Burger King and KFC.
The information that is required is where the item was purchased, the barcode and the price. To make it easier, each shop has a code, normally the first four letters of its name - for example, if I bought something from Tesco, the shop code is TESC. Certain types of shops are categorised, such as newsagents - FOTG isn't interested in the particular shop name in such cases, instead the code is NEWS.
For items that are bought without a barcode, such as cakes, tea, coffee, fruit, there is a list of product codes, which again are four letters which represent broad categories of products.
Lastly the price - this is always entered in pence, i.e. if something is £1.20, it is 120p.
For example, if I bought a can of Red Bull (barcode 90162800) in Boots for £1.09, I would text:
BOOT 90162800 109
However if Red Bull was on a special offer, say 2 for £1.50, the text would be:
BOOT 90162800 75
BOOT 90162800 75
That's it! I don't need to include my name or any other information.
Best of all, the text number is free so it doesn't cost you anything to send in the texts!
HOW DO I REGISTER?
Unfortunately, you can only join FOTG is you are a current member of either National Shopping Monitor or Shop and Scan. These are two similar panels from TNS where they gather information on products brought into the home, the difference being the National Shopping Monitor uses a handheld Palm computer to scan barcodes which are downloaded through a landline telephone each night, whereas Shop and Scan has a smaller barcode scanner which is attached to a computer once a week and the information held is downloaded.
Being a member of the National Shopping Monitor (see my review under nsmrewards.co.uk!) I received an email invite to join FOTG about 2 months ago, and have been an active participant ever since. This email includes an invite number that requires to be sent by text to the number given. The system then recognises me from the invite number and remembers my mobile phone number so that any texts from my number will be allocated to my account.
WHAT ARE THE REWARDS?
For each snacking text that you send, you are awarded 200 points, although points are only awarded for the first 20 texts you send in a week, allowing a maximum of 4,000 points. In addition, if you send a snacking text in during the week, you are awarded a weekly bonus of 1,000 points. Therefore each week you could earn 5,000 points which is equivalent to £5.
The panel is also interested in people who rarely buy snacks, and if you don't buy any snacks during the course of a week, you can send a text saying "Nothing Bought" for which you are awarded 200 points, although these texts are only accepted on a Saturday or Sunday. These texts do not attract from the 1,000 points weekly bonus.
In addition, when I received my invite code, I also received one for my partner. I thought we received a maximum of 5,000 points a week per household, but it was only recently that I found out that it is per person, so we can get a maximum of 10,000 points per week.
So, everyone knows that points make prizes, so what are the prizes with FOTG?
Points are awarded on a Monday night/Tuesday morning for texts sent the previous week. They are added straight into your National Shopping Monitor/Shop and Scan account, which obviously makes it easier to quicker to reach a payout level with each of these.
10,000 points is equal to £10, and vouchers can be requested for a large range of high street stores, including Debenhams, Arcadia (Top Shop, Top Man, Burtons, Dorothy Perkins, etc), Zavvi, JJB Sports, and Argos etc. Vouchers can also be traded for experiences, or points can be donated to charity.
Vouchers can be requested online and you are told that you will receive the vouchers within 5 working days of the order. In my experience with National Shopping Monitor I normally receive vouchers within 3 days. Any orders of vouchers over £80 are sent by recorded mail.
Once I had registered with FOTG I often forgot to make note of the barcode in order to text my purchases, however like everything I soon got into the habit of texting my purchases and it doesn't take long to enter the required information.
One of my main difficulties has been remembering the shop/product codes. For the majority of shops it is simply the first four letters of their name, and most products have a barcode so no product code is required. However, I recently received a letter from FOTG with all the shop and product codes which will come in handy for keeping in my bag for when I'm at work, although a pocket sized guide would be handier.
Another tip is that points are awarded per text not per item. Therefore if you include three items on one text, you get only 200 points, whereas if you send a separate text for each item, you'll be awarded 600 points. This only takes a few extra seconds so is well worth that extra little bit of effort.
Unfortunately not everyone can join the panel, and I believe that membership of both National Shopping Monitor and Shop and Scan is by invitation only. The best way to be invited is to register at www.volunteer4panels.co.uk and hope for the best. I don't know if membership of FOTG has been offered to all current panel members or just a select group at the moment.
I think this is a very worthwhile panel with good rewards for just a little effort.
Food On The Go is a new piece of research where selected individuals from National Shopping Monitor homes tell us about their out of home snack purchases. The information is sent to us by text message using a mobile phone. nationalshoppingmonitor.com/foodonthego/