Oh crap. It’s a group text.

grp txtPardon the diversion from reviewing talk, but for the record; a group text among a small group of close friends trying to decide on a place to meet up is the only acceptable use of group text, everything else is an MMS gang bang.    I cannot be the only one who despises the overuse and abuse of group texts, right?  I cannot fathom why I still get so many group texts.   Have we not learned?

It happens to me at least once a week that I get roped into these unfortunate group texts.  Even when the text is relevant to me, I still despise them.   Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if so many people didn’t need to chime in with irrelevant banter – but of course people feel compelled to do this.  Do people enjoy having their phones explode with rapid fire irrelevant texts?  Do they not have better things to do with their time?

And, maybe the more pressing question – why is there no option to exit a group text?  That should definitely be an option.  Some app maker could make a fortune.  Be the only messaging app with a feature to remove yourself from group texts.   But in the meantime while we wait for this miracle app, maybe there ought to be some rules for group texting- you know, some basic etiquette.

  1. If you are group texting eight or more people who are not close friends, don’t.
  2. If you still insist on sending your group text, add a caveat at the end telling people to respond to you privately, and not on the group text.
  3. Any person still responding to the group text will be publicly shamed until they stop.
  4. If you are the unfortunate recipient of a group text do not reply, ever. If you have to tell the originator something, respond to them in a personal text.

If people adhered to these basic rules, think how much time would be saved.   Think of how much better our lives would be!   And, maybe I wouldn’t mind so much when I see I have a group text.


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Vacation prep for me always has to factor in my reviewing.   One week from vacation, I (try to) stop taking in new review items – unless I have the seller’s permission to hang on to the item until I am back and review it then.  Most people might do a vacation mail hold from the post office; I also have to do a FedEx and UPS vacation hold for packages as well.   Thank goodness they offer that!  The amount of tonnage that would pile up in my garage or on my front doorstep would be immense.

This year’s main vacation lasted a couple weeks.   It was a road trip over most of the western US.   I was able to see a lot of things that I haven’t seen, some things I’ve seen but wanted to see again.   It was quite an undertaking.

It was (for me) a working vacation as I didn’t take off time from my regular paying day job. I brought my laptop and hotspot with me in the car and for the most part, it worked out ok except in the mountains when I lost signal.vacation

I don’t have much of a distinction between work and home because I work from home, and now I work on vacation.  I’m not complaining at all, because I love my day job and I love my review job.   But I wish there were more hours in the day, especially because this is what awaits me when I get home:

2016-06-13 16.04.11

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Secret Shopping

I primarily review products these days, but occasionally I still do secret shopping when there is an opportunity that fits in to my schedule, that I would do even if I wasn’t paid to do it.

For those not familiar, secret shopping is when a company hires you on to investigate the quality of a business by posing as a customer and then reporting back how your experience was.   Secret shopping is mostly done for restaurants, banks, casinos, hotels, auto mechanics and places that sell a service rather than a product.   Not so say there aren’t some cases where you purchase an item in a retail environment, but the bulk of secret shops are for services in my experience.

You are paid by the job, usually 24 hours to 3 weeks after the shop (depending on company).  You are responsible to calculate, claim and pay your own taxes on the money you make over and above $500.   They send you out appropriate tax forms, should you reach that taxable limit, but you should always keep records (especially mileage) if you want a possible tax deduction.

Secret shopping is (in my opinion) more work with less reward than being a product reviewer.   For instance a secret shop can take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or more and the questions you answer afterwards to tell how the experience was can take another hour on top of that.   Your compensation is the service you received from the shop (for instance a restaurant meal) and then sometimes a $20 cash payment on top of that which is paid AFTER the secret shop is complete.  That is, assuming that you have completed the shop correctly.   You are required to memorize a lot of information, and if you can’t remember a key detail – you may not get paid for your time, or be reimbursed for the full cost of the shop.   Typically you will need to memorize names of people you interact with, their attire and appearance, time the experience took, details about the establishment, and a whole host of other things.  Sometimes you even have to follow a “script” set by the secret shop company.  Suffice it to say secret shopping is best suited for people who have a great memory, can follow directions to the letter, and have a lot of time to devote to it.

My favorite secret shops are for banking and other similar institutions.   These typically have a higher cash payout (sometimes upwards of $50), in some cases pay for mileage, and sometimes they only took 15-30 minutes to complete (although that is not always the case).  Also, I did not have to pay anything up front since you don’t buy things at a bank.  The drawback to those bank shops is they tended to be a lot more memorization than other kinds of shops and the follow up surveys took a long time to complete.  But you get paid cash when you are done, and who doesn’t like cash!

Becoming a secret shopper is surprisingly easy, as long as you are careful about which companies you sign up with.  There are many more scamming companies than honest companies out there.  Many of the reputable companies will have you take a competency test prior to letting you do shops to assure that you can deal with the memorization and other standards they have.   I think for most people this will not be too hard.   Feel free to contact me if you want some suggestions for good companies to get involved with.


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It never hurts to ask

The majority of items that I am offered to review are given at no charge, sometimes I get items that cost a small amount (we’re talking under a dollar).   I also get requests for items that are 50% off, 70% off or 90% off… you get the picture.  These last sorts of items I mentioned are items that are heavily discounted, but have what I think is a still pretty high price for something that I would have to do a lot of work to review, and may not end up liking anyway.

If it is an item that I think I would like, I always email back the seller and say that while I like the product, I could not possibly review it because I only do free reviews.   The worst they can say is “sorry, I can’t do that”, but in my experience they can and do give me the product for free.    So I have developed an attitude of “it never hurts to ask”.

This attitude has permeated into the rest of my life as well, and I have taken to asking for discounts on all sorts of things like lawn care and car repairs or other services.   Guess what?  It works there too.  Even when I get a defective product (most recently a pizza was 30 minutes late) I ask for it for free, rather than wait to see what they would have given me.      You just have to be a little ballsy.

just ask


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Rules for Reviewers

rules for reviewersNo one ever told me how to be a professional reviewer.  It evolved over time.  My style and attitude towards it may be different than other reviewers but I think there are some universal rules of review that should be adhered to (especially on Amazon), and I think all professional reviewers conform to similar standards, even though there is no rule book for it (until now).   Some rules are just basic etiquette, some will save you from violating Amazon’s TOS.

  1. Never accept cash for a review.   The review item is your “compensation”.
  2. Always disclose that you got the product for free or a discount.  Do not bury your disclaimer in the middle of the review, place it in the first sentence or at the very end.
  3. Always plan to have reviews done in a timely manner.
  4. Always communicate with the seller, give order numbers and review links.
  5. Never leave one sentence reviews.
  6. Do not accept reviews where the seller demands a 5 star review in advance.
  7. Proper grammar and spelling are necessary for every review.

If I think of any more Rules for Reviewers I will add a follow up.  Do you have any rules I forgot to mention?


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