Recent Posts

Earn extra money as a focus group participant

Dear WAHFAQ, I’ve heard that people can get paid doing focus groups, just sitting around and giving their opinion on stuff. I’m very opinionated! 🙂  How can I get that kind of work?   Companies and brands pay good money for Market Research: finding out about how their products and services work and are perceived. By interacting with the public, (ie: the “market”) they learn what is liked and disliked about not only their own offerings, but that of their competitors as well. There are two types of data collection: Quantitative and Qualitative.  Quantitative research requires a very large sample…

Would you recognize this scam on CNBC?

**Note: Since writing this article, the scammers have changed the landing page to make it look like MSNBC. If you visit the site it may have changed again. Darn those sneaky scammers!** Once upon a time, I received an email from someone telling me that she saw an article on CNBC spouting off a great work at home job. Her exact words were, “It seems scam-ish, but it’s on CNBC?” I went to the site, and this is what I saw:     I’m used to the “(Insert city name here) Mom makes a Bazillion dollars working part-time” ads. I…

Should you give out your social security number?

Dear WAHFAQ, It seems like every Mystery Shopping company that I sign up for wants my social security number. I don’t feel comfortable giving it out. What should I do? I know that Mystery Shopping does sound a little too good to be true, and it can feel like a scam when you’re first getting started, but, believe it or not, this is a job! Your employer, the mystery shopping company, needs to know that you’re legally authorized to work in the US, (or Canada, or wherever you’re shopping) and because of that, they need your social security number. Even…

Unemployment benefits available if you want to self-employed

Dear WAHFAQ, I just got laid off and a friend of me told me that you had mentioned at some point that unemployment would pay benefits to start a business. Is that true? How do I make that happen? Depending on your state, yes, it’s true! If you are receiving unemployment benefits, instead of fulfilling job search requirements, you can instead enroll in a retraining program, or entrepreneur program. You will still receive your benefits as long as you meet the requirements of your program. The federal government has recognized the trend of increasing self-employment, by passing a $35 million…

Why can’t I get a gift certificate for mystery shopping?

Dear WAHFAQ, I’m supposed to do a really high-end restaurant shop this week, but the mystery shopping company won’t get me a gift certificate.  I’m supposed to take 10 people!  This is going to cost me around $300, and even though I’m going to get reimbursed, it’s going to take awhile. Why can’t they just give me a gift certificate and make my life easier? First of all, congrats on the restaurant shop!  That’s going to be a lot of fun, and a really hefty reimbursement!  I totally understand where you’re coming from, and that’s why some of these high-end…

How do spammers get my email address?

Dear WAHFAQ, I had to finally close an old email account because I was getting too much Spam. How can I prevent this from happening with my new account? I’ve already gotten a few pieces of Spam and I just don’t want it to override my account like last time! Ah yes, the everlasting quest to stay one step ahead of the spammers! Feels like a game of whack-a-mole, no? I’m not really quite sure how “Spam” got its name. Sure there’s the meat, which we’ve all (ahem) enjoyed over the years…some more than others. But Spam in the online…

Insurance for the self-employed

Dear WAHFAQ, I really want to start my own business, but I’m scared to death of giving up my health insurance. I know the Affordable Care Act is currently under attack, and I just don’t want to take the leap with something so important hanging in the balance. What would you recommend?   Ah yes, Insurance. It can be tricky to navigate once you’re outside the safety net of an employer, but there are a few options that are available to you. And truthfully, there is nothing wrong with staying in your job while you build a business — Especially…

Unconventional Million-Dollar Ideas

Through my classes and websites, I encounter many people who believe that it’s only “other people” who can have success in a non-traditional work environment.  It’s these “other people” who have the creative ideas, and the “other people” who will make the millions. I constantly challenge that assertion because opportunity is all around us.  It’s just a matter of developing the habit of recognizing it, and allowing yourself to have courage to pursue it.  You don’t have to go to college and get a degree or have a high-paying 40+ hour a week job to earn money to survive.  Remember…

Can I bring my kids on a Mystery Shop?

  Dear WAHFAQ, I was recently assigned a movie theater shop, and 2 restaurants. I’m so excited to get started!  The only thing is that my baby sitter cancelled on me, and I have to get these shops done TODAY!  What should I do?  Can I bring the kids with me? Ok, first of all, RELAX. Then, call your scheduler!  They are your life-line to help you when situations like these arise.  I cannot specifically speak for your scheduler or company, but most restaurant shops allow you to take a few people with you.  In fact, Mystery Shopping companies LIKE…

Unclaimed Money: Go get yours!

Dear WAHFAQ, I’ve moved around a lot, and I think a utility company is still holding a deposit from several years ago. I remember you mentioned something about tracking this money down, but I forgot who to contact. The company, of course, doesn’t exist anymore, (they merged so many times!) so maybe I’m out of luck? Can you help?  Ah yes! The fun of tracking down unclaimed property! I remember I first heard about this process from a friend of mine several years back. She told me she had received notice from a company trying to track her down and…

Get in on the ground floor — plus other home business lies

Dear WAHFAQ, I’ve been looking into different Direct Sales companies to join because I really want to start my own business. I don’t quite have the money yet to get started, but people are pressuring me to sign up, saying I’m going to miss out because it’s a new company and they’re growing really quickly. And it seems to be true. I’ve seen their growth charts! What do you think? Should I just take the jump now, or should I wait a bit until I’m really ready to start a business? Who wouldn’t want to be ahead of a trend?…

Is this a real job offer or scam? (Mystery Shopping WalMart)

Dear WAHFAQ, I got this email the other day, and I was wondering…is it a real job or a scam?  I know you like Mystery Shopping, and I just wanted to get your professional opinion~ Thanks! One of  America’s largest, discount departmental outlet is re-branding. The Retail Industry is a competitive world, with each retailer vying for the attention of consumers in an increasingly clustered market. We do not want to rely on proprietary data collection processes and technology alone, we need appraisers to collect specific data about their experience and opinions when they visit this any of our outlets,…

Do I have to buy something?

Dear WAHFAQ, I’m really interested in this mystery shopping thing, but I was wondering if I had to buy stuff when I shopped.  Isn’t that I just would get money back for the money I spent? And what if I spend more than what the assignment paid me?  It doesn’t seem like a good way to actually make money. Each assignment really depends on the mystery shopping company’s guidelines as well as the requirements from the client.  For restaurant shops, yes, you do actually have to purchase a meal.  Sometimes the MS company will reimburse you for the meal as…

Making the Case to Work from Home

Dear WAHFAQ, Your site is great, but I’m in a bit of a unique situation. I love my job, I’m not really looking for something new, or a “side-gig”. In my ideal world, I would just like to be able to work from home for my current employer. Do you have any advice for someone like me? Flexible work schedules or “flex-time” still isn’t completely common in today’s workplace, but the concept is becoming more popular. Before you approach your employer, it’s best you draft your plan of action by considering the following: Do your research. Look to your employee…

Are you an independent contractor or employee?

Dear WAHFAQ, I recently started working with a company, and they told me that paying taxes is 100% my responsibility. They said I’m considered an “Independent Contractor.” I’m a bit confused as to what this actually means and what I have to do for taxes. When you enter into the “random job” world, you may find that not only can you get traditional employee work, but you might also score a few “independent contractor” gigs as well. It’s important to know the difference when it comes to keeping track of your business. The IRS website has three different Common Law…

Who Mystery Shops Walt Disney World Cruise Lines?

Dear WAHFAQ, Can you tell me who shops Walt Disney Cruise Lines?  I’m also interested in doing Panera, or Shell Gas Stations…I can’t seem to find out who shops these companies, and I don’t want to waste any more time! I would tell you if I could…but this is the cardinal sin of Mystery Shopping: revealing “who shops who.”  We can’t do it. Please don’t ask me to violate my confidentially agreements…It just won’t happen! We can’t reveal these things because Mystery Shopping companies don’t want to lose their clients.  If they didn’t have the confidentially rule, we’d be able…

Have you Googled yourself lately?

Dear WAHFAQ, How can I make sure that my private info isn’t online? Thanks! You would be amazed at the amount of information that is available online. In just a few simple clicks you can find out so much information about a person including their family, where they live, and even their purchase history on Amazon or eBay. It’s creepy, so I recommend a few steps to make sure your personal information STAYS personal! First and foremost: Check all three major search engines: Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Not only the main web results, but also look through their image and…

What is a Retail Mystery Shop?

Dear WAHFAQ, What is a retail shop?  Do you have to buy something?  Do you have to spend your money, or will they give you some?  Are you supposed to keep the merchandise or send it to the company? Retail shops vary by company and assignment.  Here are the main points you need to know: 1)   You generally will NOT receive money from the mystery shopping company to buy anything.  You’ll have to use your own if a purchase is required. 2)   If a purchase is required, they may have something specific for you to buy. 3)   If a purchase…

Why do they want my email password?

Dear WAHFAQ, I signed on with a few mystery shopping companies, but they all ask me for my email and password. That seems a bit invasive. Why do they want to log into my email account?  Do they need to? Is this normal? The Mystery Shopping company isn’t trying to log into your email. They want you to create an account on their site!  Your user ID would be your email, and then you create a NEW password for their system. Kinda like how any membership site, or bank, or credit card company, or forum asks you to create a…

Approach the media right with these quick pitch tips

Business owners should constantly be on the look out for new opportunities to get press for their business. Unfortunately, even some of the most seasoned public relations managers can fall flat when trying to submit a pitch to get publicity. Here are some quick tips to get you and your business noticed: Never pitch yourself. Pitch the issue that you are an expert on. Provide outside facts and stats. Never pitch your product. Pitch the problem your product solves. Writers want answers and solutions…not an infomercial. Give them the story. You can write an AP style story instead, framing yourself…

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