How to Sign Up for Half-Price Flights and Free Hotels

Click here to view the original article featured on: Wise Bread - May 8, 2014, by Nora Dunn

Infographic of SQM's Free Hotel and Half-Price Flight Program

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.

 

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Financial Travel Tip #112: 50% Off Airfare with Mystery Shopping

Click here to view the original article featured on: The Professional Hobo - April 5, 2014, by Nora Dunn

Cheap deals on flights, Half off flights

I recently flew from Toronto to Lima (Peru) for a 50% discount, as a mystery shopper. Here is my experience.

How to Get Mystery Shopping Airfare

Last year, I signed up as a mystery shopper with EvaluateIt by SQM. This gave me access to see available mystery shopping assignments, which included airfare around the world (based mainly out of Toronto), hotels (mostly in North America), and transportation (currently coach bus fares, with the occasional car rental assignment).

I received an email notification when new assignments or categories came available, so I didn’t have to lurk the site all the time.

Finally, an assignment (with Air Canada) came up that was perfect for me, given my upcoming trip to Peru, so I applied for it. Only one mystery shopper is allowed per flight, so it pays to book mystery shopping airfare as far in advance as possible.

For airfare, EvaluateIt by SQM reimburses you 50% of the retail cost of the flight. Thus, if Air Canada is having a seat sale, you get 50% off the sale rate – a pretty spectacular deal.

Once approved, I paid EvaluateIt directly for the tickets (which is the case for only airfare; in all other cases you book the travel arrangement yourself and get reimbursed by EvaluateIt). I had to pay full price for the tickets; you receive the 50% reimbursement only after the mystery shopping assignment is complete and the report submitted.

Mystery Shopping Airfare: What You Have to Do

Although not totally onerous, I did earn my airfare reimbursement.

Prior to flying, I printed out a 5-page detailed questionnaire. I also saved an electronic copy of my boarding pass, which would eventually be submitted with the report/questionnaire.

The questionnaire required me to evaluate all aspects of my flight experience, including 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 category had 10-20 yes/no questions, and space for a (required) overall rating and detailed explanation of notes pertaining to that category.

Although the actual report is submitted online after the fact, I found it necessary to work off the printed sheets during the flight due to the level of detailed observation required. (And of course, none of the airline staff can see the questionnaire or know that you’re a mystery shopper).

Within three days of taking the flight, I went online and submitted the questionnaire and my boarding pass.

That’s it.

Had I booked a one-way flight, I’d have received the 50% reimbursement from EvaluateIt after submitting the report. But because I booked a return flight, I won’t receive reimbursement until I’ve completed the last leg of the trip and submitted the corresponding report (EvaluateIt allows return flights within 90 days of the outward flight).

The Downside: No Frequent Flyer Miles Allowed

As a frequent flyer mile junkie, I take pride in accumulating frequent flyer miles whenever I have to pay for a flight. So it was slightly painful to fly and not be allowed to use my frequent flyer memberships.

But of course, my pain was assuaged with the 50% discount, so I can’t complain (too much).

How to Qualify and do a Good Job as a Mystery Shopper

You need to be a detail-oriented person for mystery shopping. The report I filled out was quite involved, and required me to observe and evaluate every aspect of the flight. In some ways it was a bit of a hassle; for example instead of just enjoying my meal, I had to note every aspect of what I was served, the temperature, quality, etc. Although the value received from mystery shopping airfare is huge, there’s no doubt about the fact that mystery shopping is work.

Going Deeper With Mystery Shopping

EvaluateIt by SQM is a subsidiary of a larger parent company: SQM, which has a much broader selection of mystery shopping opportunities.

EvaluateIt focuses solely on travel assignments (flights, transportation, and hotels), and works on a reimbursement basis, whereby you get a refund of at least 50% once you submit your mystery shopping report.

But if you want to go deeper with mystery shopping, you can sign up for SQM and get access to mystery shopping assignments that include everything EvaluateIt offers, plus restaurants, oil changes, massages, haircuts, gym memberships, banking, clothing, attractions, parking, and more. Some of these opportunities work on a reimbursement basis (like EvaluateIt) and/or might include a shopper fee – which means you’re actually paid (anything from $5-100) for performing the mystery shopping assignment. The more complicated the assignment, the more you’re paid.

I’ve been lurking these other mystery shopping assignments through SQM for a while;  however I haven’t found anything that fits the bill, nor am I  overly inclined to go out of my way to do one.

Would I Fly as a Mystery Shopper Again?

Yes. EvaluateIt by SQM has lots of long-haul mystery shopping airfares including fares from Toronto to Japan, China, Australia, and Europe. To get a 50% discount off these flights is huge value, and even a detailed report is well worth the time spent.

The only down side for me is that I usually like to travel on one-way tickets, and Air Canada (EvaluateIt’s main customer) doesn’t have good rates for one-way tickets; it’s much more cost-effective to fly return. But I’m working it out; I’ve got a return ticket from Peru to Toronto for June, and am already thinking of booking a (return?) mystery shopper airfare to Europe for the summer. Then….maybe a return trip to Asia or Australia? Who knows. Let’s see what life deals me.

 

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How to Get 50% off Flights and Hotels as a Mystery Shopper

Click here to view the original article featured on: Flight Network - October 4, 2013, by Matt Gibson

50% Off Flights and Hotels


Subsidize your travel costs
This could be you (well…your hat, sunglasses, and money). Photo on Right: Sergey Novikov | Shutterstock


You’ve heard the story before; your friend’s cousin’s sister-in-law (who you’ve never met) makes her living as a mystery shopper. Companies pay her a comfortable salary to shop and eat out all day. It sounds too good to be true, so you brush it off thinking that it’s either a one-in-a-million job or an urban myth.


The truth is, there are mystery shopping opportunities out there, some of which offer exceptional culinary and travel benefits — even up to 50 percent off of airfare — although they won’t pay the mortgage.


This article explains everything you need to know about what mystery shopping is, how to become a mystery shopper, and the limitations of mystery shopping for travellers.


What is Mystery Shopping? In Flight Picture with stewardess

Mystery shopping is a marketing research tool used by many airlines, restaurants, hotels, and other consumer-oriented businesses to understand the experiences that consumers have when dealing their company.


The mystery shopper will visit a business anonymously, sample the services or products, and then submit a report about their experience to management.


This helps management understand how customers are treated and how they can improve their service. Mystery shoppers receive free or discounted services and goods (and are occasionally paid) for their work. In the travel industry, mystery shopping can result in incredible deals the shoppers.

 

SQM: The Canadian Travel Mystery Shopping Company

Photo of an amazing hotel with Palm Trees

Sensors Quality Management Inc. (SQM), based in Toronto, links restaurants, hotels and travel companies with mystery shoppers to ensure their customers are receiving the quality service that management expects. In turn, mystery shoppers normally get about 50 percent off of their bill.

 

If you and your partner want to have romantic restaurant dates more often, mystery shopping is an excellent way to eat out for half price.


Reviews only take about 20 minutes to complete, so it’s not too much work for the discount. Deals on flights, hotels, and numerous of other outlets are available as well.


SQM does not require that shoppers pay an upfront fee  to apply to become a shopper (which some bogus mystery shopping companies do). The sign-up process is simple and, after a few minutes, you can be browsing for assignments. 


Mystery Shopper lounging in a hotel roomHow to Sign Up To Be a Mystery Shopper

First, log on EvaluateItBySQM.com and fill out their straightforward online application. Anyone can be a mystery shopper, but many applications are rejected because the instructions have not been followed properly or because of excessive spelling and grammar mistakes.


The reason for this attention to detail according to, Ragaa Abdulcadir, the travel program manager at SQM, is because “the application shows us that you will be able to write a good report when completing your assignments.”


As soon as your application has been approved, you can start browsing assignments. 

 

Mystery Shopper Evaluation Requirements Guests Checking into a Hotel

You don’t have to be a novelist to write acceptable evaluations, but you do need to write in complete sentences with proper punctuation and without abbreviations.


Applicants who have been accepted to the program area able to browse evaluation guidelines and read completed evaluation forms to ensure that they will write an acceptable evaluation and receive a discount on every shopping trip.


The evaluation form only takes about 20 minutes to complete. The company stresses the need for shoppers to be thorough and honest in their responses to guarantee that their evaluation is accepted. If the evaluation is not accepted, the shopper will not be reimbursed.


Smile ✓ Cheap 5-star room ✓ Ok, you pass.

 

Woman in a Hotel LobbyPayment and Processing

SQM works hard to make payments hassle-free for their shoppers. Shoppers pay for products or services in full and then submit their report to SQM. After the report is approved by the client company the shopper receives a partial refund for the goods or services purchased. Payment usually takes about five days.


In addition to the normal 50 percent off of flights, accommodations, and meals, SQM offers a number of other incentives to keep shoppers active.


About a week ago, we had free upgrades to first class for flights to London departing in September. So, shoppers saved a ton paying the economy rate (plus the 50 percent discount) and got to sit in First Class,” Abdulcadir said. “We also ran a sale to a few South American countries for $350 round trip a few months ago.”

 

The Limitations of Mystery Shopping for Travellers How to get cheap hotel rooms and hotel deals

One of the advantages of mystery shopping is that it can be incorporated into trips for big savings on airfare, hotels, restaurants and shopping.


Now you’re probably thinking, “What’s the catch?”


There really isn’t one. There are, however, a few of limitations.


First, you have to be flexible to take full-advantage of date-specific mystery shopping opportunities such as flights.


Second, it requires time to browse the database and make travel plans around the available gigs.


Last, SQM doesn’t have many restrictions for travellers, but there is one that makes it difficult to travel in pairs or groups: only one person may evaluate any given flight. So, couple’s who want discounts for both parties can’t fly together.


Couple Traveling Together

Sometimes, couples like to go together to take advantage of the discount, so instead we send them on two different flights,” Abdulcadir said. “The only issue with this, is that sometimes it has to be on different days, as the airline might only fly to a particular destination once a day.”


If you and your travel partner are flexible, the money saved can be worth spending one day apart. “Shoppers can fly as many times as they like to any destination, we don’t have any limits,” Abdulcadir said. SQM has very few restrictions, which makes planning assignments convenient for their shoppers.


Mystery shopping isn’t for everyone, but it does offer a little-known opportunity for avid travellers to save big bucks. And those who simply like to shop and eat out but don’t have pockets deep enough to support their habits may find some great deals for just a little extra work as well. 

 

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