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I defy anyone to tell me that they do not like things for free, something for nothing, or a gift. Well, it gives me great satisfaction to get a freebie. So over the years I have joined various reward and survey sites in the hope of getting some nice little things for my times and to be honest I have not done that bad!
One of the sites I have been with for a while is this one, Shop and Scan. So grab your tea and biscuits and have a look at what I think of them……
**What is Shop and Scan?**
Shop and scan is a website run by a large research company called TNS who run other various survey sites. They are based in London but have offices worldwide and are the biggest provider of online market information in the world. I think that knowing how big the research company is, makes you feel more secure in investing your personal information, time and effort with them.
Shop and Scans particular research is about measuring the purchasing of households around Great Britain. In other words they want to find out what you are buying, from where, how much you are spending and when. Each week the information they have received is added up and then reported to manufacturers and retailers. Apparently this allows them to see trends in popular and unpopular products. In my opinion this seems a practical way of doing things as it is a complete honest approach. You can not lie about what brand of toilet paper you are buying, as the barcode will tell them!
**How to register**
It is not as easy as other sites to join as shop and scan is by invitation only. I registered by going to the actual official TNS register site (http://www.volunteer4panels.com/) where you can apply to go on all their research panels. It is a great site to find and I was very lucky to come across it. It usually takes about 5 days for TNS to email you and to tell you if you have been accepted for the shop and scan website or not. It does state that it want to keep their panels demographically balanced so you might not be accepted straight away and there is no guarantee that you will be invited to join. So register your details and keep your fingers crossed. If you have been accepted then you will get emailed a unique invitation number which you then use to actually officially register with the shop and scan website. It sounds long winded but I found the entire process quite quick and stress free. Another thing to note is that you can not register with an Apple Mac or if you are using Windows 95 or 2000 and you can only register using Microsoft internet explorer and the site is not a big fan of AOL users. So this may stop some people of registering so bare it in mind if you plan to try and join the panel.
**What you have to do?**
Ever since I was a child I loved the little 'beep' made at the supermarket check out when the shopping went through the till. So when I found out what shop and scan wants you to do the child part of me kicked in and leapt for joy! (really!). Shop and scan send you what they call a 'clicker' in the post. This is a small black scanner about the size of a matchbox which has a red beam shining out when you press the 'scan' button. This works just like a supermarket checkout. You scan the barcodes of all the items you buy. (Food, clothes, cosmetics, household goods etc) and this little 'clicker' registers it all! Shop and scan also send you an easy to follow user guide with your clicker. That has three laminated pages. The blue page contains the information of all the people living in your household. The first thing you do is scan who has done this particular shop. The second page is yellow. These are all the shops that you may have shopped in as I said before, supermarkets etc and you have to scan which particular shop you bought from that day. The last card is green and on this one you scan the amount you spent. For example 0-99p, 50.99-60.99 etc. and then last but not least you scan all the items you bought that day. They ask you to do something called 'transmit your barcodes'. This is how they get all the information on your clicker that you have scanned. You plug the clicker into your computer, through a serial port (which is usually on a PC or through an usb adapter if you use a laptop) don't worry if this sounds confusing or like too much jargon. Shop and scan are great and send you a small leaflet with pictures that you can identify with rather then jargon words. This was a great help to me as I am not a computer wiz. Once the clicker is connected, you pop on tot the shop and scan website, click the button transmit barcodes and the clicker will start beeping away. Don't worry it won't explode. Then the website will tell you after a few seconds that your barcodes have been transmitted and you are free to go! So what they ask you to do is really quite simple and they give you plenty of instructions and helpful hints in leaflets and all over their website.
**Rewards…. What's in it for you?**
Shop and scan reward with points for weekly scans. These points can then be redeemed for high street vouchers or you can also opt to have your points sent to a charity for either health research or a children's charity, which if you are feeling generous is a very good idea. Every week that you scan you get credited with 1000 points and on the odd occasion they ask you to fill out very short surveys and they give you bonus points. Usually 500 or 1000 points. You can redeem your rewards once you have reached a minimum of 10,000 points which is the equivalent to a £10 voucher of your choice.. So if you follow the standard rules you have to transmit weekly for 10 weeks (2 and a half months) to get a £10 voucher. But don't forget the bonus points you get every now again so don't forget to check your emails! Oh and before I forget, a great incentive is that for your first ever weekly transmit they give you 10,000 points as a welcome and thank you. This is an instant £10 voucher. This made me very happy I joined and defiantly gives you an incentive you keep transmitting. I found that my points were added to my reward account within 24 hours of my weekly scan and you get an email every time points have been added. I think it is great that the team is so fast an efficient as it means you don't lose track of what points you should or shouldn't be getting! Shop and scan are also good at sending out the vouchers. They even have a free phone telephone number if you have any problems with your rewards. They state that the voucher will be with you in 5 working days but I have ordered 3 vouchers from them and they have taken at least 10-14 days to come through. But I know people who have got their vouchers in a matter of days so I am not sure if this depends on your address, or when you ask for the voucher. But still a very positive experience for me in redeeming my rewards. Below is the full list of vouchers that are on offer on shop and scan. There really is something for everyone!
…..Entertainment and Leisure vouchers….. Alton Towers, Beefeater, Bella Italia, Blackpool Pleasure Beach, Brewers Fayre, Chessington World of Adventures, Drayton Manor, Dream Car Hire, English Heritage, Keith Prowse Attractions, Theme Parks & Hotel Breaks, Leisure Vouchers, London Eye, London, Pass, Madame Tussauds, Marriott Hotels . …..High street vouchers….. Arcadia, Argos, B&Q, Blacks, Burton, Comet, Currys, Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Halfords, HMV, Homebase, House of Fraser, JJB Sports, Kingfisher , Miss Selfridge, Next, Outfit, Thomas Cook, Thorntons, Topman, Topshop, Wallis, Waterstone's, WH Smith and Woolworths. I know… spoilt for choice!
**My experience and conclusion**
I have found shop and scan to be a very rewarding and easy to use panel. The vouchers are great and are redeemable fairly quickly and I have had no problems with any of my points being credited.
At one point my clicker stopped working so I contacted the shop and scan website and within a week I had received some new batteries, a little screwdriver and an instruction booklet on to how to change the batteries. So fast and efficient, that I actually for the first time felt like a valued member of a research panel!
One bit of advice I would give you is if you decide you can not be bothered to scan any more and you want out of the panel, make sure you contact them. The customer service team will email you first to tell you to scan, and then they will start calling you which can be a bit of an awkward situation. That is the only downside. Thy had to call me once because I just didn't scan because I was so busy, after a couple of weeks they called my mobile 3 times and also wrote to me. I felt like I hadn't paid my credit card bill! But at the same time, at least you know the company is on the ball and there is an active team of people working behind the website.
If you want to earn vouchers by doing something other the filling in surveys this is a great site to join. Bravo and encore to shop and scan!!