MYSTERY SHOP YOUR WAY TO DISCOUNTED TRAVEL WITH SQM

Featured on 10xtravel.com - August 3rd, 2018 by Caroline Lupini

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Note: Before signing up for this service, make sure to read the full article. I have had great experiences with this company in the past, but my most recent experience was not great. I still think this can be a great way to save on flights, but make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in to head of time.

 

With points and miles, it’s possible to travel a lot more for a lot less. But even with points and miles, chances are good that you’ll still have to pay cash for a flight or hotel at some point in time.

When that time comes, you still shouldn’t settle for paying full price for your travel because you can mystery shop and save up to 50%! Evaluate It by SQM is a Toronto-based mystery shopping company, but they partner with a lot of U.S. companies!

Overview

If mystery shopping for discounted travel sounds intriguing to you, it’s really easy to get started. First, you’ll have to apply to be a mystery shopper with SQM. After you’ve been accepted, you can request assignments. If you’re approved for an assignment, you will need to complete an evaluation after finishing the assignment. Finally, you’ll be reimbursed up to 50% for your travel.

Types of Assignments

Evaluate It by SQM partners with a wide range of companies including hotels, resorts, airlines, travel companies, restaurants and attractions. Unfortunately, it’s against the terms to tell you exactly what companies they work with (plus it changes) but you probably won’t be disappointed with the options.

In all likelihood, the plane tickets and hotels will offer the largest savings and will be of the most interest of readers of 10xTravel. Let’s take a deeper look into how an evaluation works for flights and hotels!

How It Works

Once you’ve been approved to be a secret shopper with SQM, you’ll be able to see the available assignments. It’s possible to search both by type of assignment and by location. From there, you’ll be able to apply for assignments that interest you!

There are a few things you should be aware of before you decide to apply for an assignment.

  1. Only one mystery shopper is allowed per flight or per night at a specific hotel. You should be ready to request your nights or flights as early as possible, because there’s a chance that someone else could have requested the same flight. This is even more important during peak travel times. On a related note, if you’re traveling with other people, they will have to pay full price for their tickets if they want to be on the same flight. If your traveling party is willing to split up onto different flights in order to save 50%, by all means, go for it!
  2. You won’t earn frequent flyer miles or hotel points. For some, this may be a complete deal breaker. For me, well, I’d rather save 50% on my flights and hotel nights where possible. This could also be a deal breaker for someone with status as you will not receive your elite status benefits.
  3. After you’ve completed your flight or hotel stay, you’ll have to fill out an evaluation. I’ve found that most flight evaluations take between 30 and 45 minutes to fill out and restaurant evaluations usually take between 20 and 30 minutes. I’ve also gotten a bit faster at the evaluations after doing a couple of them. Of course, your mileage may vary.You should keep in mind this time requirement and how much you’re going to be saving on your flight before you request to do an evaluation. It may not be worth it for a really cheap flight where a 50% savings means only $20, but an expensive flight with a savings of $200 might be well worth your time.
  4. Read the instructions carefully. This is where I got burned on my most recent mystery shop. I’ll go into some more details below, but in short, SQM made some changes to their process that weren’t very clear or obvious. I didn’t do something quite right and wasn’t reimbursed for my flight.
  5. Your tickets and hotel nights will have to be booked through SQM. This is how they make sure that they only have one person per flight, that each person is on the right flight and is also the reason you won’t earn miles.Initially, you’ll be charged the full amount for your flight or hotel stay. After your evaluation is completed, you’ll be given a reimbursement according to the terms of the deal you book. Additionally, SQM has a cancellation policy that may be different from the hotel or airline you are booking with, so mystery shopping works best when your plans are pretty set in stone.

How It Works

I’ve only done a couple of flight bookings with SQM and they were all a couple of years ago. Lately, I’ve been traveling a lot with other people, so it’s made mystery shopping for flights and hotels not make quite as much sense due to logistical reasons.

When I used to book with SQM, I probably did around three or four round-trip flights and was able to save 50% on my bookings. This amounted to at least $600 in savings.

I’ve saved about $600 so far thanks to SQM

After getting out of the habit of booking with SQM, I also just kind of forgot about it! When I remembered, decided it was a great idea to write a post about it to share the great deal and also remind myself.

Unfortunately, I didn’t a great experience with my most recent trip. I booked my flights, took the flights and filled out the surveys only to find out that I would not be getting reimbursed due to some changes they made in their program that I didn’t notice.

They do have a list of instructions, but based on a quick skim (since I’ve done quite a few shops in the past), I didn’t notice the changes. They send out two emails when they book a ticket, one with some additional reminders, and one with the ticket. In the email with the additional reminders, nothing was mentioned about the changes made. My airline tickets are automatically pulled into my calendar, so I never saw the email with the ticket in it and therefore missed the additional instructions that were listed there.

If I had done a thorough read of the rules, I would have noticed the changes. I had done enough shops with them in the past that I figured I could skim the rules and didn’t notice the changes. That means that I paid a whopping $560 for flights within the U.S. that I wouldn’t have taken had it not been for SQM. After discussing the issues that I ran into with this shop, the people I was in contact with at SQM were not willing to compromise with me and also encouraged me to not write about their service.

Bottom Line

Even with this negative experience, I still think it is worth checking out SQM, but I recommend being VERY careful that you follow instructions to a tee. I likely will give SQM another go if I have a flight that makes sense, but I won’t be rushing to do so.

 

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Budget Travel Options

Click here to view the original article featured on: Asian Avenue Magazine - August 28, 2017, by Mary Jeneverre Schultz

How to Save Money on Travel

Those who wish to travel are often confronted by the reality of their budget first. Here is an idea for making a trip on the cheap: try to reduce your airfare by 50 percent.

A Canadian-based company is offering opportunities for airline discounts in the U.S. Travellers can find airfares up to 50 percent off. They also boast free or reduced-price tickets on different major US bus and rail lines.

David Lipton, president of Sensors Quality Management (SQM) in Toronto, Canada says,  "We are thrilled to help consumers save money."

Here's what to do:

  1. Sign up at: www.sqm.ca
  2. Create a profile that will require an email and contact information
  3. After approval, you will have an opportunity to review the travel boards
  4. Familiarize yourself with the website so you can navigate it easily
  5. Wait for further instructions.

Then there are other things to consider before you book your trip:

  • Only one person can be allowed on the reduced-cost flight. Couples, families, and those traveling in groups won?t be able to sign up on the same flight or plan a group trip.
  • If you participate in a frequent flier program, you will not earn points since you are getting half off the flight.
  • You are required to fill out an evaluation on each leg of the flight. The first survey takes a little longer than any others, usually an average of 30 minutes. Most airlines have wireless Internet that allows individuals to work on the survey during the flight.
  • You will work closely with SQM to book your tickets. The process is typically easy and seamless.
  • Last-minute travel won't work—you will have to plan ahead. A good rule of thumb is to book tickets at least three weeks in advance.

Afraid of flying?

SQM offers rail and bus options, too, allowing leisure travellers to see North America on the ground. As more airlines receive bad publicity or experience unfortunate incidents, discounted travel allows more airlines and rail companies to build and improve their brands. Lipton adds that his company also works closely with hotels and upscale restaurants to improve the complete traveling experience.


Mary Jeneverre Schultz travels all over the U.S. in search of ethnic enclaves. Follow her on Instagram @Jeneverre.
Let SQM know you heard about this opportunity and they will prioritize your application.

 

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Dear Nora: Is Free Travel With Mystery Shopping Companies a Scam?

Click here to view the original article featured on: Credit Walk - August 19, 2014, by Nora Dunn

 Flight Deals, Learn how to save on travel

Mystery shopping seems too good to be true: free hotels, discounted flights, and free swag, all in return for submitting a report. Although you need to be choosy about the mystery shopping company you work with, I can say – from personal experience – it’s the real deal.


Reader Question:

What’s the scoop with mystery shopping? I heard I can get free flights and hotels by filling out a questionnaire about the experience. It sounds too good to be true. Is it a scam? - Chris


Answer:

Mystery shopping isn’t a scam, but it also isn’t money for nothing (you work for it). A few months ago, I flew from Toronto to Lima for less than half the listed price, and I’m about to do it again.

Travel Mystery Shopping for Canadians

Although Toronto-based company EvaluateIt by SQM features largely Canada-centric mystery shopping opportunities, citizens of any country can take advantage.

Here are the kinds of mystery shopping assignments currently available with EvaluateIt by SQM, which offers solely travel-related deals:

    * Discounted Airfare (mainly Air Canada flights, with domestic and international destinations; reimbursed at 50% off the listed fare, including seat sale fares)
    * Free Hotels (throughout North America, usually for 1-2 free nights)
    * Bus Trips (mostly in the Niagara Falls/Buffalo area)

You’ll also occasionally find car rentals, train travel, and other transportation or travel deals. EvaluateIt provides email updates when new assignments and when special deals come around.

Special Deals

Speaking of special deals, they can be killer when available. Recently EvaluateIt came out with two specials that are downright delicious:

    * Economy class flights from Toronto to/from Santiago or Sao Paulo for a net cost of $375 – round trip
    * Pay the regular economy pricing (which is 50% off the listed fare), and get a free upgrade to business class

(Note: these deals may not be available any longer but EvaluateIt periodically releases similar offers).

Mystery Shopping: Getting Paid

EvaluateIt by SQM operates all its assignments on a reimbursement deal; you pay full price for the service in question, buying directly from the hotel/travel operator in question as any regular customer would (except for flights which you pay EvaluateIt for as they need to book your flight through special means). Once you submit your report after the experience, you are reimbursed the negotiated amount (which is 50-100% of the money you paid). Your report usually includes receipts and an invoice.

Mystery Shopping Report Requirements and Reimbursement

For my flights from Toronto to Lima (each way), I printed a 5-page detailed questionnaire covering things like boarding and pre-departure, cabin service, duty free service, cabin crew grooming, food and beverage, cabin environment, irregular situations (like delays), pre landing, and after landing. Each section had both yes/no questions as well as space to rate each category and describe the service in detail.

It was detailed enough that I wouldn’t have been able to remember everything, so I filled in a draft report on the flight itself (all the while of course, hiding the questionnaire from flight staff since mystery shoppers are supposed to be incognito). Although on my outbound flight I found the questionnaire a bit overwhelming, it was much easier the second time around on my return flight.

Once each leg of my flight was complete, I had three days to submit the report online. When flying return, reimbursement doesn’t occur until the return flight is complete. In the case of airfare, reimbursement is directly to the credit card you paid with; other assignments are reimbursed via cheque or direct deposit.

Flying as a Couple/Group While Mystery Shopping

EvaluateIt by SQM only accepts one mystery shopper per flight; so if you’re flying with a companion, they’ll have to purchase a full fare to join you on the flight.

Mystery Shopping isn’t a Free Ride

Although it’s a highly lucrative job if you break down your “work” requirements for mystery shopping flights into an hourly wage (considering a reimbursement of hundreds of dollars), don’t forget that it’s just that – a job.

Mystery shopping requires keen attention to detail, since it’s your job to report exactly what your experience was in order to help the service provider in question ensure their procedures are being adhered to and their quality of service is top notch.

In fact, EvaluateIt by SQM doesn’t let just anybody be a mystery shopper; you have to apply to be accepted to their roster of shoppers, and then apply for each assignment, sometimes completing a questionnaire showing you’ve read the terms and conditions of the assignment and understand what your task is.

Other Mystery Shopping Opportunities

EvaluateIt is a subsidiary of SQM (Sensors Quality Management), which offers a broader range of mystery shopping assignments that both include and go beyond travel opportunities. With SQM, you’ll find (mainly Canada-based) assignments in restaurants, clothing stores, parking and auto services (like oil changes), spas, gas stations, banks, attractions, gyms, retail stores, and more.

The scope and reimbursement plan for these assignments vary; in some cases you’re paid a flat fee to perform the assignment (from $5-$100), in others you’ll get paid and receive a free or partially reimbursed item (clothing store assignments, for example).

Some mystery shopping assignments (such as the travel assignments) don’t pay you a fee; instead you’re simply reimbursed for some or all of the cost of the service (such as a reimbursement of 50-100% of your restaurant bill). Generally speaking, the higher the compensation, the more work the mystery shopping assignment entails.

If you want to broaden your horizons beyond SQM (and beyond Canada’s borders), Volition.com has a page listing mystery shopping companies around the world, where they operate, and what types of assignments they offer. Although some of these companies offer travel mystery shopping assignments, EvaluateIt by SQM is the only mystery shopping company that specializes solely in travel.

Mystery Shopping Scams

While you’re busy shopping for mystery shopping opportunities, a cautionary note:

Word on the street is that some “mystery shopping” companies are scams. Although I don’t know anybody who has been ripped off, nor do I know of any specific companies to watch out for, here are some guidelines to ensure you’re not the next victim:

    * Beware of mystery shopping companies that advertise in dodgy classified sections, or solicit your services via email.
    * If it really sounds too good to be true (more so than the assignments described in this article!), then it probably is.
    * You shouldn’t have to pay more than the listed retail price for anything. Beware of companies charging extra fees or deposits to mystery shop or become a member.
    * Most mystery shopping companies require some sort of application process.
    * Since mystery shopping is indeed a job, the company in question should be both professional and explicit about their requirements of you.

 

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