If you’re not interested saving cash by changing your own oil, our blogger Amanda L. Grossman has another option to save on oil changes: become a secret shopper.
Is there someone in your life that you have friendly competition with? For me, friendly competition typically revolves around trying to out-save one of my frugal friends. It adds a bit of fun and intrigue to the lifestyle when you can compare electricity bills to someone equally as diligent as you are, or gossip to one another about your latest free score at the drugstore.
Just a few years ago a frugal buddy of mine figured out a great way to cut the cost of labor from oil changes for the rest of his life: he learned how to change the oil on his vehicles. This is a sure way to save money, and I have to admit that I was impressed. That is, until I one-upped him.
Introducing Mystery Shopping Oil Changes
Not only have I found a way to get my oil changed for free (parts, labor, and all), but I also get paid for the time that I sit and wait in the lobby. Granted, it’s not much, but I will take the $5-$10 and free oil change for an hour and a half of my time any day.
It’s called Mystery Shopping. And it’s not a scam.
How to Become a Mystery Shopper
Companies have many reasons for paying people to shop at their retail locations. Perhaps sales are down at one shop and they want to figure out why. If they suspect it is due to the service, or the cleanliness of the shop, or for any number of other reasons that they can resolve by sending a local mystery shopper instead of someone from corporate headquarters, then it’s a no-brainer to do so. Sometimes companies just want to test out their own services to make sure that the training they have incorporated is being used in practice.
In order for you to be one of these lucky shoppers, you will need to do the following:
Find Mystery Shopping Companies
Apply to the Ones You Choose
There is an application to fill out for each company. It usually entails the typical employment details, information for how to reimburse you (such as your PayPal ID), and a small test where you will be required to write something like a detailed paragraph about a shopping experience you have had. This is because the company needs to know that you are observant, detail-oriented, and can write a good report in the end.
Pick Out and Be Approved for an Assignment
Once you are approved as a shopper, you will then be able to either check-in on current assignments until you find one you want to apply to, or sign up for emails where potential assignments come to your inbox.
Conduct the Assignment
After picking and being approved for an assignment, you need to conduct it. Typically there is a timeframe for you to do so. Remember to always read the instructions very carefully, as there are certain things that a company will specifically want you to do (for example, visit the restroom to see how clean it is).
Write a Report and Submit for Reimbursement
After your assignment, you typically have a short time period (a day to three days) to complete and submit the report and reimbursement. Reimbursements could take one-two months, and reports are edited internally (this means they may ask you additional questions).
Mystery Shopping has opened up a whole other world for me. This is because since I am so frugal, I don’t normally splurge on services. Instead of getting the bare-bones oil change I now can get the one where vacuuming and curbside service is included. And Mystery Shopping goes far beyond just oil changes; so far this year my husband and I have had two free date nights, one at the opening night of our local horse track race (we got to place bets as well), and a Friday night date at our favorite pub. A guesstimate of how much money I have been reimbursed for Mystery Shopping this year alone would be around $300, and the potential is much more than that.