How to Sign Up for Half-Price Flights and Free Hotels
Looking for a unique way to save money on flights and get free hotels? How about car rentals, bus rides, and even restaurant meals? You can save big bucks on travel by becoming a mystery shopper.
I recently took a flight from Canada to Peru for a 50% discount. And this summer I expect to fly to Switzerland (also for 50% off), and later in the year possibly to Australia — or maybe even Japan — for another 50% off.
I did this by flying as a mystery shopper. So it wasn't a discount for nothing. But overall, it's great value. Here's how to get started.
Travel Mystery Shopping Basics
The company that hooks me up with these travel savings opportunities is called EvaluateIt by SQM. They feature travel-related mystery shopping opportunities, mostly in North America, and to a lesser extent around the world.
Travel providers approach SQM wanting to ensure their customer service and quality management is top notch. SQM then finds mystery shoppers (like you and me) who are willing to experience the product or service as a normal customer, but with an evaluative eye. After submitting a report about our experience, we receive a discount or refund for our efforts.
What You Get
EvaluateIt is a Canadian company, and thus many of the current available flights are with Air Canada in and out of major Canadian cities, and flying to places around the U.S., Europe, South America, and even Australia and Asia. They are currently adding new airlines to their roster, which will open up more U.S. destinations.
They also have opportunities to mystery shop hotels (mostly in North America), with a resort in Hawaii being their most in-demand placement. In addition, they feature a couple of long-distance bus routes, and the occasional car rental deal.
What you get is a reimbursement (of up to 100% of your cost) of your expenses once you've completed the travel assignment and submitted your report and receipts.
In the case of airfare, you pay EvaluateIt directly for the flight tickets; in all other cases you pay directly for the service in question just as any other customer would. (Remember, as a mystery shopper, the travel provider is to be none the wiser that you're on the job).
What You Have to Do
For my flight from Toronto to Peru, I had to fill out a detailed, five-page questionnaire about my experience, including categories like boarding and pre-departure, cabin service, duty-free service, cabin crew grooming, food and beverage, cabin environment, how they dealt with irregular situations, pre-landing, and after landing. For each category I had to answer 10-20 yes or no questions, plus provide detailed explanations and an overall rating. Although it would be possible to complete the questionnaire from memory after the fact, I found it helpful to print and fill the forms out as I went, given the detailed level of observation required. Within three days of the flight, I hopped online and completed the official questionnaire and uploaded my electronic boarding pass.
Other travel mystery shopping assignments are similar; some are more detailed than others. Generally the higher the value of the mystery shopping assignment/reimbursement, the more work and observation is required on your part.
Who Can Be a Mystery Shopper
Despite the fact that EvaluateIt by SQM is a Canadian company, citizens and residents of any country can participate. But remember, mystery shopping isn't a free ride; there's work required, which is best-suited to those with a keen sense of observation.
Saving on More than Travel and Earning Extra Money, Too
EvaluateIt by SQM is a subsidiary of SQM, who is the parent company and offers everything EvaluateIt does plus a much larger range of mystery shopping opportunities including retail (clothing, parking), services (auto services, massages, spas, hair cuts, etc), banking, attractions, gyms, fast food and restaurants, and more.
Depending on the assignment, you can get paid in four different ways:
A shopper fee, paying you to do the assignment
A shopper fee and a reimbursement fee (you get paid to perform the assignment and you get to purchase an item which you are reimbursed for — partially or fully)
A reimbursement fee only
A partial reimbursement fee (such as 50% off airline tickets)
Shopper fees range anywhere from $5-$100; the more complicated the assignment, the higher the compensation or reimbursement. You are paid (via direct deposit or check) after performing the mystery shopping assignment and submitting your report and invoice. In the case of airfare assignments, you are reimbursed directly to the credit card you initially paid with.
Going Even Deeper With Mystery Shopping
Have these travel mystery shopping opportunities whet your appetite? Volition.com has a listing of mystery shopping companies with international opportunities to make money. Some include travel gigs; however, EvaluateIt by SQM is the only one specializing solely in travel mystery shopping assignments.
Have you ever been a mystery shopper? Please share your experience in comments!