One night, a thousand years ago, I was sitting in a college classroom. No, I mean I belonged there. Not like I was just sneaking into a building or anything. While waiting for class to start, I saw a guy reading, checking, stacking a bunch of receipts from purchases and filling out several forms, then putting things in a large envelope.
“Whatcha doing?” I asked, being the nosy bastard I am. “Tracking your spending?”
“Part-time job,” he said.
“Part-time job.” Eyeroll.
“Huh?” (He didn’t know I’m stupid)
“I buy stuff in stores and evaluate the employees.”
“What do you buy?”
“Coffee and sandwiches.”
“You get paid to buy coffee and sandwiches?”
“And – to evaluate the store.” (headshake)
“Do you get the food free?”
“They reimburse you for it.”
“Wait. Let me get this straight. You go into a store, buy sandwiches and coffee, get reimbursed, plus you get paid on top of that?”
“How can I do that?”
“Can’t. No openings.” (Liar)
“What store do you do that for?”
“That’s my favorite store ever!” And it went on a little more from there.
About eight years ago, when I needed a part-time job, I remembered that guy in college and did some net searching.
For those unaware, Wawa is the perfect store. It’s a convenience/grocery store that sells excellent coffee, great food, all major candy bars for fair prices, and about the lowest-priced gas anywhere. They’ve got breakfast hoagies that include scrambled eggs; a choice of bacon, pepperoni, or sausage; six cheese choices; wheat or white rolls; and more. They make a hot chocolate that is actually made with melted semi-sweet chocolate chips. Cappuccino and espresso are freshly made, ground, whatever. Some stores have pizza, all have quesadillas, several “soups of the day,” macaroni and cheese, and of course they’ve got all the regular hoagies you’d find in any deli. In November, they have a hoagie with hot turkey in gravy with stuffing and cranberry sauce. There’s a freezer wall full of various kinds of ice cream and another cold wall full of all kinds of sports drinks, milk, soda, and anything else you’d possibly want on the go. And as for “on the go,” you can find them here. They’re mainly in the Northeast, although now they’re appearing as far south as Florida.
I can’t rave enough about the store because it’s time to rave about the part-time job. I do something called “mystery shopping.” I go into a Wawa store, I buy a cup of coffee and something to eat, like a hoagie or a quesadilla, I stroll around the store to evaluate a few things such as how friendly the employees are, how clean the coffee area is, how long I had to wait for my order, and that’s about it. I get the receipt, get my food – usually about $7 worth, then I get about $10 worth of gas, and then I’m outta there. The $17 in food and gas is reimbursed, and then I get about another $8 on top of that as payment for the evaluation. I’ve been doing this for about 8 years.
To answer your first question – no, it doesn’t get boring because each month the food items change. Last month, November, was the hot turkey sandwich. This month is a cheese steak or chicken cheese steak quesadilla. Sometimes it’s the scrambled egg breakfast hoagie, and the hoagies themselves aren’t small. It’s a 6-inch hoagie, technically, but it seems completely bigger once it’s all full of foody goodness. I could probably go an entire month eating for free. If I had any brains, which we’ve all learned isn’t so, I would have taken a picture of my freezer about two weeks ago when there were roughly 20 of those turkey/gravy/stuffing sandwiches stacked up. Some months I have to buy any flavor of coffee, but sometimes – like this month – they want me to buy a peppermint mocha latte. I don’t know what that means, but it’s not bad.
There are other parameters to deal with. For example, I can’t just randomly trot into any Wawa I come across. There’s a website with a list of specific stores to visit. As I select the ones I want, they’re removed from the list so other shoppers don’t go there as well. Each month, there are different time frames. For example, this month I have to visit the store between 2pm and 5pm or between 8pm and 6am, anywhere in that range. Other possible times are from 6am to 10am and from 4pm to 8pm. It alternates each month.
Also, I cannot freely hit as many stores as I wish. When I log in to their website, I can only have about 10 stores on my “to do” list. Once I complete them, and my list shortens from 10, then I can select more. Receipts are necessary. Back when a college friend was doing this, he had to fill out paperwork and mail everything to the company. Now it’s all done online, including snapping a picture of the receipt with my cell phone and attaching it to the evaluation form on their website.
For those of you who may have seen some of my photography, much of it comes from this part-time job. There’s obviously a lot of driving involved, and that brings me to farmland, the beach, through suburbs, and a few small cities at various times of the day. Sometimes I’m out before the sun comes up, and you can get some of the best pictures at sunrise either near the ocean or alongside a farmland expanse where nothing blocks the horizon except cows and wheat stalks. Weather plays a part and can slow me down, but it can also bring some great summer cruises, windows down and sunroof open. I would use the convertible, but I’m too fearful of leaving the top down while running into a store as well and worried about the mechanics of constantly putting the roof up and down and up and down.
In addition to the free food and coffee, this job brings me about $400 a month, which is great for someone with too much free time on his hands already. It also causes me to learn a lot from books on CD, talk radio shows, and just letting my imagination think of ideas for short stories and other writing assignments like the Friday Fictioneers.
In a couple of hours I’ll be heading out for today’s “work.” I’ll drive to about five stores on my way to the shore between 2 and 5pm. Then I’ll do some Christmas shopping in a mall down near Atlantic City. Then I’ll stop at about six more stores after 8pm on my way home. That’ll net me about $150, 11 cups of peppermint latte, and 11 cheese steak quesadillas.
Oh, and to answer your second question – No. There are no openings. You can’t find this job on the Wawa website. And there are no openings because if you or anyone else starts doing this job, then you might be taking money out of my pocket, coffee out of my hand, and hoagies off my plate.
58 thoughts on “It’s Beer Money”
won’t say where exactly, but I love mystery shopping!!!!
Just adding to the mystery
You lucky bastard. You should play the lottery. You’re that lucky. I wish we had Wawa here. The convenience stores here have really bad food, bad coffee, and bad prices. I’ll never forget on a family trip once to Memphis and we got hungry late in the evening and couldn’t find anything open but convenience stores and my son ended up buying a burrito which, after we got down the road, he noticed had mold growing on it. That’s the kind of food we get here. One thing you didn’t cover. Are you an easy or a hard-ass grader? I know someone who does a job similar to yours, but with banks. His nickname is Dr. Death and the works for the feds and has closed down quite a few banks. Oh, and like you, I thought My Week With Marilyn sucked pretty bad and I thought Michelle Williams had the gestures down, but she didn’t have the bod for the part. See ya at FF!
i think i grade fairly easily for most things, but i go out of my way to mention when someone is smiley and polite with customers. i appreciate that. i don’t usually eat the food, but i have to in order to evaluate it. but if i keep that up, i’m going to need either new pants or a new belt.
Dang. I am freaking jealous. I love food.
we all do. we all shouldn’t.
Why shouldn’t we? It’s my way of life.
wow — sometimes when I work really late I have bought the hot dogs at Speedway — now that I know there’s a way to get reimbursed, the 2.22 for two, the taste is bitter indeed.
That’s a cool job, if just for the gas and the travel.
i like the travel and casual driving around. and coffee.
good luck with your books.
thanks very much.
When we visited your country my kids introduced us to Wawa coffee.. I’m sorry to say if I lived in the USA I would be attempting to relieve you of some of the hardships of you job .. I have never had coffee like that in my life, and their food was a God send… I would drive around checking stores all day if I could.. I would also be 3 times the size that I am… you’re a lucky man, but then you know that… I LOVE WAWA’s … We even looked into importing their coffee to sell in our Coffee shop here in South Africa.. but it was just too expensive and the wife and I would have drunk all the profits… one day I will return, if for nothing else but the Wawa coffee…
well, i’m starting to find it more difficult to NOT eat the sandwiches and stuff. Might be time for a gym membership.
It can’t get any better, can it? 🙂
You have your coffee and you drink it as well. Talk about being lucky!
it gets better when i get some good pictures at sunrise or sunset.
Wawa got me through college. I’m so sad that there aren’t any around where I live now. I thought about making a road trip this year just to get the Turkey Gobbler
Where are you now?
Where were you then?
I went to school in Collegeville which is just outside of Philadelphia. Now, I’m in northeast PA and all we have are Turkey Hill’s. Not the best.
NE PA as in rt. 80 Delaware water gap?
A bit west of there. Hazleton area
I don’t want your job. I want to sit in your car (has to be passenger front because I get carsick in the back) while you drive. I want my own coffee and half your sandwich, and I won’t talk…much. It’ll be fun…you’ll see…..
I’m 100% convinced you’re right. No need to split anything. I visited 11 stores today. 11 mocha lattes and 11 quesadillas. Take what you want.
I used to do some of that about twenty years ago, I had to go to restaurants (take someone with me), order a meal and drinks and check the loos. I got free evening out and got paid for it. There was also going into clothes shops and trying clothes on. It was good fun.
i haven’t progressed to that, but maybe another time i will. right now, i’m happy with coffee, sandwich, gas, and i’m outta there.
It’s a great way to make some money – have fun.
Wow – sounds like the Best job ever. Wish we had Wawa’s here in Ontario.
it’s actually run by a canadian company that has other stores up there. e-mail me and i’ll give you the website. i don’t want to post it here because i don’t want anyone in my area to sign up and compete for the same jobs i get.
You have my dream job! (even though I didn’t realize that was my dream job until about a minute ago)
All your food descriptions are making me hungry now.
the main company also does this with other stores, maybe something in your area. e-mail me and i’ll send you the name of the company and you can check it out. i don’t want to post it here because i don’t want any competition from anyone living near me.
I get that, don’t worry I don’t live anywhere near you. Emailing you now
i know you don’t live near me. i’m not that lucky.
Neither am I 😦
Do you welcome passengers?
i do. usually it’s my daughter. she loves it because she feels like a spy and points things out to me, like when the coffee area needs to be cleaned up or when a cashier wasn’t very polite. and she loves the hot chocolate. we call it “family business.” she’s quite disappointed on days when there is no “family business” to tend to.
Interesting way to work … plus she gets a sandwich at one place … you get it at the next.
that reminds me of something i should have added to the post. i would sometimes think of things to make it more interesting for my kids, so i would tell them to order the craziest sandwich they could think of. chicken salad with BBQ sauce, pickles, ketchup, hot peppers, etc. then i would have to close my eyes and eat it and see how many things i could identify.
Oh my my … that is priceless!
BTW – If you didn’t notice, HLN is featuring jeans.
heading back. i liked the red velvet top.
Be patient … they will return.
I did this for Whole Foods once. Yes, once. Because I managed Crabtree and Evelyn for very long…I thought I’d be a good candidate to rate stuff. Turns out I have way too much empathy for employees and gave them way too high of a rating. They used me again. Good for you.
the biggest things that i criticize are how nice the people are and how clean the coffee area is. that’s why people go to wawa most – coffee. and anyone spending money in your store deserves to be treated nicely. thanks for reading.
That is never used me again.
Wow! Don’t think a diabetic could do that…the caffeine and sugar would kill me.
we cannot have that happen.
Yah! My blog would suffer.
that wouldn’t be good
And, I couldn’t read yours.
Coolest. EVER! So jealous!
The restaurant I just started working at was telling us about their program exactly like this. I want to find out how to do things like this! (And I don’t have any Wawas here – so I wouldn’t be stealing it from you!)
e-mail me and i’ll give you the website to sign up. they have many other stores, not just wawa.
I love Wawa! Sadly they’re are none around here so you are safe from me. Email me that link too, please … pretty please, I could use some extra cash.
There aren’t any Wawa stores in the UK. I have heard of the mystery shoppers, they’re used a lot in the supermarkets over here. It’s something I know a few folks have done, but I don’t think it’s as well paid as yours is.
As part-time jobs go, it sounds like a pretty cool one to me!
I’d never heard of Wawa until our younger daughter enrolled at PAFA and moved to Philly. When I first saw it, I thought it was some sort of Japanese store. Never been in one yet, but sounds like a good job, although not for someone eating mostly vegan. 🙂
“wawa” – i was told – is a native american word for “goose.” which is why a goose is on their signs. usually.
I secret shop bartenders for a local sports bar franchise. It pays a ridiculous amount of money and there are no other openings because I say so. I shopped Saturday night and Sunday day and made $300 plus my reimbursement. From my shopping they discovered 2 bartenders stealing.
On another note, a WaWa is about to open that is on my way to work and I have to go in just to see it. They are slowly popping up around Orlando.
yup, they’re now infiltrating florida, which is a good thing. especially because i’m thinking of moving down there in a couple of years.
mystery shopping bartenders? ooh, c’mon, you can share that info. we wouldn’t be competing for the same jobs, right?