TrendSource Review (Updated 2021): Mystery Shopping for Cash
Updated on: by Amy Kennedy
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Mystery shopping is a popular work from home job because it’s fun and flexible.
You, as a consumer, get to put on your shopping hat and act like you normally would while you shop.
There’s no catch.
Just shop, complete some specific tasks, and provide your feedback based on your experience.
Mystery shopping is a form of market research; you know, like those online surveys you enjoy taking!
This form or market research, however, is more personal.
You’ll either call or visit a store, restaurant, hotel, or other places to act just like a customer and provide feedback to the company of what went well (and what maybe didn’t go so well).
The point is to give the company a good idea of the customer experience from the customer’s point of view to continue improving hospitality.
TrendSource mystery shopping is one gig you might have come across if you’ve researched mystery shopping.
We wrote about TrendSource a few years ago, but things have changed a bit since then as more mystery shopping companies come along and get competitive with each other.
So, we’ve updated that article right here with information about becoming a MSI Trend Source agent in 2021!
What is TrendSource?
TrendSource, previously known as MSI Services, is a market research company that focuses on mystery shopping services for retail, medical, and various other business clients.
The company has been around for several years, starting as a primarily mystery shopping company, and its very first client was Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)!
Since then, it’s expanded into other types of market research, too, like panel surveys, focus groups, mobile research, audits, competitor research, and more.
What Kind of Work is Available for TrendSource Agents?
Although the TrendSource “About Us” page lists available jobs like conducting surveys and making phone calls, the bulk of the work seems to be in-store quality checks.
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Examples of potential jobs include:
- On-site inspections – visit a site and take pictures
- Mystery shopping – visit a store, make a purchase, and report the store’s performance
- Surveying/Interviewing – approach store customers to conduct surveys
- Store audits – ensure certain products are displayed properly at stores
The one you’re probably interested in is, of course, its most popular: Mystery shopping.
As a mystery shopper for the company, you’ll be known as a Field Agent.
TrendSource actually has its own website specifically for its Field Agents, known as The Source.
This site has the TrendSource login for agents to search for projects by their location, type of project, and other criteria.
They can then request to work on a project, complete the final evaluation form, and submit their work via the website.
It’s completely free to work with TrendSource as a Field Agent and you’ll have access to all the jobs in your area for which you qualify.
Tasks available for Field Agents include observing businesses for quality assurance, making phone calls, interviewing store customers, checking product displays, and an array of other tasks.
How Do You Sign Up to Become a TrendSource Field Agent?
You can visit The Source website here to start the process for becoming an agent.
When you go to register, you’ll complete an application that requires basic information such as your name, address, and phone number.
The Source has a list of job types to choose from. You can click on any of them to register for those types of jobs.
This application is mostly a formality, as you will be able to access the project database as soon as you complete the application.
However, before being able to request jobs, you will have to provide your tax information and upload a scan of a photo ID.
This is simply to verify that you’re a valid citizen and you’re eligible to begin working in your country.
The company currently looks for mystery shoppers in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
What are the Requirements to Mystery Shop with Trendsource?
There actually aren’t many requirements for Field Agents to get started with TrendSource.
Most of them fall in line with general requirements necessary to work for any mystery shopping company.
The most basic requirement for working for TrendSource/MSI Services is daily access to the Internet because you’ll be applying for jobs through email and The Source database.
When you’re done with your mystery shop evaluation, the portal also provides a place to write notes and submit pictures, so having access to The Source is critical.
Although they are not required, shoppers with certifications – for shops involving Medicare or military base locations, for example – have more jobs available to them, making the pool of options larger.
There are some types of jobs that may require more than others, like audits and inspections.
TrendSource requires its auditors to have experience in the field because the position is a bit more technical than regular mystery shopping.
Furthermore, inspectors and auditors will typically have to undergo a criminal background check before being accepted for these positions.
OSI Certification is also required for OSI inspectors.
Lastly, TrendSource/MSI Services requires that their mystery shoppers provide an EIN, or an employer identification number, with their paperwork.
This is a controversial topic among current shoppers and potential applicants, so it’s an important factor to consider.
What is an EIN?
An EIN is a number, much like a SSN, that the IRS uses to track financial information for United States Citizens.
An EIN is typically reserved for small business owners with more than just themselves for employees, so many contract workers don’t need one.
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It is, however, required to do shops for TrendSource, so consult with an accountant to find out if acquiring one will complicate your taxes, affect money tied up in estates, or result in locally mandated business license requirements.
In most cases, an EIN works just like an SSN, but it’s just another number that the IRS can use to identify you and keep all your financial information together.
It can actually be beneficial for you because it keeps your social security number private to the folks at TrendSource and anyone else who might come into contact with your personal information sent to the site.
And, it’s incredibly easy to apply for one on the IRS website.
Remember, this won’t apply to you if you’re outside of the United States, but you might have similar requirements for your country.
You can always contact TrendSource to find out your exact requirements for tax purposes.
What’s Scheduling Like as a Field Agent?
Great news here – there is no schedule!
Mystery shopping is an excellent choice for people who want total control over their own schedules.
As a TrendSource Field Agent, you’ll be able to log into the system whenever you want to take on work, choose the tasks to complete, and get them done.
You’ll never have to meet a minimum number of tasks each week or month, nor will you be capped on how many you can do.
Some tasks might take five minutes while others could take an hour, so just be sure to keep in mind all aspects of the tasks you choose to make sure you can finish them by their deadline.
The drawback of this is that no work is guaranteed.
You could have an incredibly busy week one week and the next not have any tasks in your area.
It’s just the nature of the business.
TrendSource does tend to have several tasks available at all times, but they could also get snatched up quickly if you have several other agents in your area clamoring for jobs.
Still, it’s free to sign up, so you can always check out the job board, see what’s available in your area, and get an idea of how much you might be able to work each week.
Since you’re an independent contractor, you can always sign up for other mystery shopping companies, too, for fill-in work when TrendSource runs dry.
How Much Money Can I Make with TrendSource?
The pay varies depending on the client and job type for each project listed in The Source.
You won’t get paid hourly, but on a per-project basis.
Compensation ranges from approximately $10 for a generic restaurant visit to $40 for a formal event.
Of course, more technical projects like audits and inspections, will pay more because they’ll take more time.
Most people who revealed their TrendSource earnings publicly reported amounts from $30 to $500 per month.
As is the case with many independent contractor gigs, the pay is per-job, so earnings are directly tied to number of jobs completed.
You definitely shouldn’t rely on working with TrendSource as your only form of income, unless you’re only looking to make some extra money each month (in that case, it’s perfect!).
This is typical of mystery shopping, though.
It’s not really meant to be a full-time thing.
Many shoppers report that TrendSource pays less than other top mystery shopping companies.
The quick pay, stability of the company, the ease of finding jobs on The Source, and occasional bonuses, however, help make the lower pay more appealing for some.
How Does TrendSource Pay?
TrendSource pays its Field Agents twice a month, which is better than some companies that pay monthly.
US shoppers can only receive payment through direct deposit or check, while Canadian and UK shoppers have access to PayPal payments.
What Do Other People Say About TrendSource?
TrendSource is definitely a popular option for mystery shopping companies, but as with any similar company, it does have its pros and cons.
Here are a few of the most common things actual TrendSource Field Agents have said about the company:
Pro: Easy to Work With
One of the biggest benefits of TrendSource, according to Field Agents, is that the company is incredibly easy to work with.
Most Agents are able to hop right in and start working as soon as they’re signed up without trouble.
They also say that the support team for shoppers is usually helpful if they do experience any issues during a shop or while filling out their evaluation after a shop.
Pro: Pays on Time
We all love a company that pays its workers on time!
TrendSource is one of those companies, according to many of its Field Agents who state that payments are no problem here.
I’ve researched several mystery shopping companies and rarely do I find any that have so many workers agreeing about its on-time payments for almost every completed shop.
If you do experience any payment issues, it seems like the support team is quick about resolving them.
Con: Learning Curve
I’ve read several comments about Agents being confused about the shops they sign up for.
There seems to be some language TrendSource uses in its shopping instructions that isn’t clear to all workers and they’re not sure how to find out what the unknown words mean.
This can be a problem when you need to finish up a shop but aren’t sure if you’ve completed it correctly due to unclear instructions.
I’d suggest, upon signing up for The Source, contacting the support team to see if there are any helpful articles or guides you can read before you get started to help you navigate the database and complete shops correctly.
Con: Some Slow Periods of Work
Some Field Agents have commented that, while some months are incredibly busy for them with multiple available shops each day, other months are bone dry.
Unfortunately, this is the nature of mystery shopping, regardless of how busy a company is with clients.
Some clients need a lot of work one month but none the next.
It’s a common drawback of mystery shopping and isn’t really something I can place TrendSource at fault for.
I always suggest that mystery shoppers sign up for multiple companies, not just one, to make the most of their time and income as a secret shopper.
How Do I Sign Up as a Secret Shopper for TrendSource?
To sign up as a Field Agent with TrendSource, you can register on the official website for The Source.
The registration form should take you no more than 10 minutes to complete with your basic information.
Once you’re accepted, you can begin browsing The Source for projects you’re interested in.
Just click on those you’d like to apply to and wait to see if you’re accepted.
Then, you can begin working according to the instructions for the project.
Become a Successful Shopper with TrendSource!
Want to know how to be as successful as possible as a TrendSource Field Agent?
Several current and former Field Agents have mentioned a few tricks that help them maximize their earning potential with the company each month.
Try these tips on for size:
Follow Instructions to a “T”
A good mystery shopper always pays attention to the details.
TrendSource Field Agent work is no different.
Every project will have specific instructions you’ll need to follow.
If you don’t, you won’t complete the shop successfully and you won’t get paid.
To make the approval and payment processes go as smoothly as possible, be sure to read the instructions you’re given before you start a shop – two or three times, preferably.
Complete the shop and double-check the instructions again while you’re still at the store.
Then, fill out your evaluation form and re-check that you’ve completed everything correctly before you submit.
Be Available for Last Minute Shops
The folks at TrendSource will sometimes email Field Agents to see if they can work on last-minute projects in their area.
Sometimes, you’ll get bonuses for being available on short notice and getting the shop done.
Although not all quick-turnaround work gives a bonus, it’s a good idea to accept these shops anyway (if you’re available and the price is right, of course!).
That’s because you’ll establish yourself as a reliable member the company can turn to when they need something done quickly.
That makes them likelier to come to you again with similar projects that have close deadlines, and it may even fill you up with some steady work.
Sign Up for Text Notifications
In addition to getting email notifications when a new shop posts in your area, you can sign up for text notifications from TrendSource.
Doing so will send a text right to your phone as soon as a shop becomes available, which can make it likelier for you to grab that job before it fills up.
This is a handy feature if you’re already out and about and have the time to get a shop done for some cash!
Jobs tend to fill up quickly when they’re posted, so the sooner you can accept one, the better for your wallet.
Have you worked with TrendSource before as a mystery shopper?
We’d love to hear your thoughts about your experience below in the comments.
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