This list is compiled from Volition’s list of companies. These are based solely on my experience and observations.

Before we get to the list, you should: Enable your auto-fill software because you’ll sign up to a ton of companies. If you don’t have it, there are plenty of free downloads.

Also, if you can, take a moment to write a brief mention of the last shopping experience you had. Note the employee’s name (if you can) or build, hair color, hair length, gender. Mention what they did right or wrong (or both).

Save this somewhere in a document, because many of the application processes require you to submit a writing sample. Be sure to check for spelling, grammar and run-on sentences.

About Face: For reasons I can’t remember, I was not impressed by this company. But since the reasons didn’t stick with me, you should consider checking it out. I have to take into account energy levels/energy use vs money paid. So a lot of things that aren’t worth it for me may be fine for you guys.

Bare Associates International: I love most of the shops these guys let me do. They don’t always pay superbly but the shops are fun. Tim and I got to do a bar shop (a nice hotel’s lounge). I obviously had to stay light on the drinks, but the expenses covered two drinks each and appetizers. We combined it with some parking lot shops through another company, so we didn’t even have to pay for parking. Remember: You may have to do some more mundane shops before they’ll start

Beyond Hello: I wasn’t thrilled with the one shop I did. It was a lot more work than the compensation, and it required a purchase. The purchase could be returned later, but it required two separate trips. Plus, the purchases are pricey.

California Marketing Specialists: These guys do apartment shops. These can be fun (you get to peek into various communities) and the company had a lot of regular work. But the sheer number of pages you have to fill out versus pay did not impress me. For a little extra paperwork, you can shop Ellis Property Management Services and get around $15 more.

Certified Reports Inc.: This company called me a few times, but only ever with out-of-the-way places. I think that has more to do with demand than anything. The audits take awhile, which is why I stopped trying with them, but you get to see free movies in the meantime. You have to do things like count theater goers or whatever. And it’s not sneaky — you get to introduce yourself to the manager. It’s often a relief to be a straightforward evaluator.

Consumer Critique, Inc.: This is a company whose name rings a bell. If it’s the company I’m thinking of, it’s a great company to work for. They had a LOT of work for me. But the only downside is they operate by phone rather than computer. So you can’t self-assign jobs. On the plus side, they never minded that I often wasn’t available. They were very understanding about life outside work for them.

Customer Service Experts, Inc.: I don’t remember much about this company other than the name. I know I did a couple of shops for them. Wasn’t memorable — but that means it wasn’t awful either. Sign up and see if anything interests.

Data Quest, Ltd.: SIGN UP IMMEDIATELY. It’ll take some doing, but these guys offer some fabulous hotel. And most of the questions are yes/no. Tim and I have done at least three of these. I love ‘em! Just keep trying every time you see a shop in your area. Eventually, your efforts will be recognized.

DSG: This company had a fun rental car shop I liked to do. I’m not that close to the airport or I’d probably still do it. But this place definitely is worth a look.

Ellis Property Management Services (EPMS): If you want to bother doing apartment shops, these are the ones to do. They pay the best. There are a lot of pages to fill out (around 10) but a lot of it is repetitive. That said, apartment shops are a lot of info to remember. And you can’t get away from the agent to scribble notes. It’s one-on-one.

JM Ridgeway: This company has good restaurant shops. The pay isn’t spectacular, but I would do them for a chance to take a friend to dinner. The reporting system is pretty simple and is online.

Maritz Research: This company pays very well. The shops from them tend to be ongoing, over the course of approximately 2 months. The one I did was opening a business account at a bank, using it for a couple of transactions and then closing it. There were a total of something like 5 steps, most of the questions are yes/no with maybe one narrative in each section. It paid over $100. I wish I could do more of those, but now you can’t have an account at the banks they do. Phooey.

Speedmark Services: These shops are plentiful. They don’t pay spectacularly, but tend to be pretty simple and easy to complete.

This is by no means an extensive list. Another good source of reviews for is Volition’s forums. People discuss pay time, jobs, etc.

Please don’t forget: It can take up to two months (sometimes slightly more, depending on company pay cycles). If you’re in a position to do it, I suggest getting a credit card to devote just to this item. That way, any finance charges can be written off on your taxes. Because, of course, we all know you’ll be keeping careful track of money for tax-reporting purposes. Cough, cough.

Remember that any company that pays you over a certain amount (either $400 or $500, I think) will have to send information to the IRS and you.

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