PictureClick the photo to go to Amber and Julio's GoFundMe page!
I don't know about you, but I love it when people come up with creative solutions to everyday problems. Take this couple, for instance. They want to adopt, but as we all know, adoption is crazy-expensive. These two could have just given up. They could have heard the price and said, "Oh well. We weren't meant to have a baby." They could have mourned for their situation and wished and wanted.

Instead, they have come up with a fun and creative solution, and I am impressed!

Most of you have probably heard of GoFundMe. It's a website where you can set up a fundraiser for just about any cause. It's a way to ask people to donate to your worthy cause.

Amber and Julio set up a GoFundMe page, but wait, that's not the creative part. No, no, no... Amber and Julio decided to use their talents to motivate people to donate. They have set goals for donations, and when those goals are met, they will perform. 

For each $1000, Julio and Amber plan to make a video.
Here are the videos they plan to make, so far:

$1000 Do the "Whip/Nae Nae" dance 
$2000 Chubby Bunny Challenge
$3000 Julio does Amber's Make-up
$4000 Amber does Julio's makeup
$5000 Julio cleans our floors in an ostrich jockey costume
$6000 Find out how double jointed Amber's elbows are
$7000 Julio will post 3 embarrassing childhood photos of Amber (she has no say) 
$8000 Help Amber get Julio back (see above)

They are still coming up with ideas for the high thousands. If you want to see anything in particular, put in your request! Maybe they'll make it happen....

Now, how smart is that? And how sweet is that? These two want to be parents, and they are willing to do anything to get there, even if it means embarrassing themselves in front of the millions (Okay....probably thousands) who will watch their videos.

I think these two are pretty brilliant. They are brilliant for two reasons...

First, they used their brains and abilities to find a viable solution to meet their need.

Second, and most importantly, they realized they might as well put it all out there for this baby. The truth is (as known by anyone who already has kids), nothing they can do to embarrass themselves will match the various and sundry ways this child will find to embarrass them! Ha! (C'mon. You know it's true. Just take a toddler/preschooler in public and watch what happens...)

For your entertainment, click here for Julio and Amber's first video:

I don't know about you, but I want to see what they'll do next! If you can contribute to this Dynamic Duo, please do so. If not, you can still say a prayer for them!

To learn more about Julio and Amber's adoption story by, visit their blog:

I have no doubt Amber and Julio will have their baby in the very near future, and, I am pretty sure when they do, that child is going to know how to Whip and Nae Nae.   -Al
I wear my pajamas to work.

I don’t have to leave my house.

I love my job.

You could too.

Have you ever considered working from home?  Do you need extra income that you can earn but still be home for your kids?  Are you good at spelling, grammar and punctuation?  If you answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you should consider becoming an editor for A Closer Look!

A Closer Look, an awesome mystery shopping company, is currently hiring from-home editors.  You could work for us, in your pajamas.

If you are not familiar with mystery shopping, you can read more about it HERE.  To learn how to be a mystery shopper, go HERE. Although there are many scams involving mystery shopping, mystery shopping in itself is a legitimate and large industry.  A Closer Look is one of the premier companies in that industry.

Editor Position:  The editor role for ACL is vital in that it is the final check of the information submitted by the shopper before reports are sent on to our clients.  This position would be an 'at-home' position (not at the ACL offices) with the editing of shops possibly being done during non-traditional hours

Requirements for becoming an editor:

1.  You must have on-line capability AND have at least a DSL or Broadband connection to the Internet.  Connections that are less than DSL or Broadband quality are too slow for this position.  As compensation is based on the number of shops edited online, a slow connection is not desirable.

2.  The applicant for this position must possess great attention to detail, the ability to read and follow precise directions, the ability to identify and correct inconsistencies in information, the ability to proactively obtain information from shoppers by phone daily, and a strong command of the English language, including spelling, grammar, and the ability to alter sentence structure.

3.  You must have a minimum availability of 4 to 5 consecutive hours a day (and more hours as needed) to commit to editing.  We have seven day editing week, with a 4 on/2 off schedule for editing that rotates throughout the year. 

This is a great position for someone who is looking for a work from home opportunity. We offer preferred shopping status to all of our editors.

The editing workload cannot be predicted, as it is based on when shoppers complete their shops and submit their reports.  As such, we are seeking editors who are flexible and have the availability to work as many hours as are needed on any given day.  Generally, editors average around $10/hour, but as this is a production system, many editors make more or less than this amount/hour. 

Applicants should first register as a mystery shopper at www.a-closer-look.com and complete 3 mystery shopping assignments.  If you are accepted as a shopper and cannot find 3 shops in your area, please contact editorrecruitment@a-closer-look.com .  Once you have completed 3 shops, please also contact editorrecruitment@a-closer-look.com for information on how to apply for an editing position.     -Al

I work from home, and I love my job.  I wear my slippers, and I sit on my couch while I work.  I'm an editor.  You can read about my job HERE.  It's a great job, but it's not for everyone.

Fortunately, there is another position offered by A Closer Look that is a better fit for some.  If grammar isn't your thing, maybe organization is.  

A Closer Look, an awesome mystery shopping company, is currently hiring from-home schedulers.  You could work for us, in your pajamas.

If you are not familiar with mystery shopping, you can read more about it HERE.  Although there are many scams involving mystery shopping, mystery shopping in itself is a legitimate and large industry.  A Closer Look is one of the premier companies in that industry.

A scheduler for our company organizes the calendar of mystery shopping assignments and gets shoppers to complete those assignments.  This isn't the right job for me, but it might be for you.

I asked a scheduler what her favorite part of the job was, and she said she loved the flexibility of being able to set her own hours.  She said the scheduling job was fun because she got to meet new people and she got to work with a great group of schedulers and editors.  (I'm in the editing group, and I can say, we are all pretty terrific!) ;0)   The scheduler said applicants needed to be aware of the fact that they would have to be able to commit time to getting the assignments scheduled.  However, she said there was a great sense of accomplishment when all her shops were scheduled.

Here is more information about the scheduling position:
The scheduler role for ACL is vital.  This position would be an 'at-home' position (not at the ACL offices) with the scheduling of shops possibly being done during non-traditional hours. 


1.  You must have on-line capability AND have at least a DSL or Broadband connection to the Internet.  Connections that are less than DSL or Broadband quality are too slow for this position.  As compensation is based on the number of scheduled shops that are completed, a slow connection is not desirable.

2.  The applicant for this position must be an outgoing, people person who possess great attention to detail, the ability to read and follow precise directions, excellent phone skills, the ability to proactively contact shoppers or potential shoppers by phone daily, creative writing skills and a good working knowledge of Excel, texting, Google Voice, Outlook, the ACL website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other shopper recruiter resources.  The candidate must be someone who likes to “think outside the box” in order to meet goals and deadlines.

3.  You must have a minimum of 4 to 5 consecutive hours per day (and more hours as needed) to commit to scheduling.  We schedule 7 days/week.

This is a great position for someone who is looking a work from home opportunity. We also offer preferred shopping status to all of our schedulers.  We are seeking applicants who are comfortable calling shoppers to promote our open assignments.  The pay schedule is per completed shop, and it might average somewhere around $10/hour as an estimate.  Some schedulers may make more than this and some may make less.

Applicants should first register as a mystery shopper at www.a-closer-look.com and complete 3 mystery shopping assignments.  If you are accepted as a shopper and cannot find 3 shops in your area, please contact editorrecruitment@a-closer-look.com .  Once you have completed 3 shops, please also contact editorrecruitment@a-closer-look.com for information on how to apply for a scheduling position.     -Al

I've been working for Ellis Property Management (EPMS) for a while now.  I like them, and I have found that they are a great company to work for.

If you've only done restaurants and retail mystery shops, working for Ellis may be a nice change for you.  They focus on apartment communities.  When working for them, you will go into an apartment leasing office and act like someone who is looking for a new apartment.   You will let the agent take you on a tour, and you will evaluate the agent's sales techniques.

I enjoy doing these assignments.  It's fun to go see what apartment complexes have to offer.  Sometimes, I make up a whole different life for myself just to make it interesting.  (I'm a single career woman with no kids....I can fantasize, right?)  The company pays well, and they pay quickly.  I've always found Ellis to be an easy company to work for, and they have great communication if you ever have questions or problems.

One great thing about shopping for Ellis is that there is no out-of-pocket expense.  If you're broke (like I normally am), this is a great way to make some money without having to use any of your own!

To sign up with Ellis Property Management, go HERE.  Give Ellis a try - you'll like them!           

I have been shopping for Bare International for a few years.  They usually have a lot of assignments available throughout the country.

I have found Bare to be pleasant to work for.  They have a self-assign job board which makes getting assignments easy.   The editors give clear feedback which helps shoppers know how to improve their shops.  They grade their shoppers on a 1 to 10 scale.

Bare does fine dining, hotels, casual dining, retail, shipping and more.  They have a wide variety of assignments.  Any time I have contacted them with questions, they responded quickly.  I have not had a bad experience with Bare, and they pay fairly quickly.

To sign up with Bare International, click HERE.

Another great company to work for is Shoppers' Critique.  They are based near Orlando, FL.  

I have worked for SC for many, many years.  I think they were one of the first companies I started shopping for, back in the day.  They have always been pleasant and friendly.  Their forms are easy to navigate, and their expectations of shoppers are reasonable and fair.   I have never had a problem getting paid by them, and they pay quickly.  They provide feedback to their shoppers on their website through a star system (5 stars means you did everything correctly).  

Shoppers' Critique shops mainly retail stores near me, but nationwide, they do automotive, retail, fine dining, casual dining, apartments, attractions, hotels, casinos, banks and libraries.  They offer video shops and lots of phone shops.  There are  many opportunities to work for this great company.  They have a job board on their website.  Once you are registered to shop for them, you can visit their job board and self-assign some shops and request others.  The scheduling system is easy to navigate.

To sign up as a  shopper with Shoppers' Critique, visit HERE.

Shoppers' Critique is also currently hiring editors, and I have heard they are great to work for.  To be eligible, you must live in Florida and be available a minimum of 20 hours a week.  To apply, go HERE.

They are also hiring schedulers.  To qualify, you must be available to work in their Longwood, FL office a minimum of 30 hours a week.  To apply, go HERE.

If you aren't registered as a shopper for Shoppers' Critique, you are missing out!  I love working for this friendly company who treats their shoppers well.  If you apply with them, be sure to tell them notyouraverageal sent you!

Service With Style is a great company to shop for.  I guess they are relatively small compared to some others, but that smaller size actually works to their benefit.  (Mystery shopping is only one part of their business, so they actually are not all that small.)  If you work for Service with Style, you will find very quickly that they are friendly and they get to know you.  They refer to their shoppers by first name and know many of them well.  This gives the shopping experience with them a very homey feeling, and it’s nice to be known when you call.

If you call the office, you are likely to reach Rhonda, Amy, Ellen or Taryn.  All four ladies are super-nice and will help you in any way they can.  You are not just a number when you work for this company.  It’s a refreshing change from some other companies that are not personalized.

Service With Style was started in 1998.  They are based in Brandon, Florida, and many of their shops are in the greater Tampa Bay area.  They also have shops throughout Florida and some in various parts of the country.  They offer casual dining, fine dining, retail, hotels and resorts. 

To sign up as a shopper with Service With Style, go to www.servicewithstyle.com.  Click on, “Become a shopper” and apply.  You can tell them you heard about them from notyouraverageal.com.  I won’t get anything for it, but maybe I’ll win some brownie points!  

You will need to fill out a shopper agreement with this company.  It’s basically a little “test” that you take after you’ve read their information.  Once you sign up, Amy will send you information about this agreement.  If there are shops in your area, you should hear from Amy pretty quickly after you apply.  If there aren’t, she may just save your name until they have work for you.

Shoppers at Service With Style are expected to submit quality reports with good comments.  Be prepared to use full sentences and punctuation when writing for them.  As you start out, you will see the easier shops available on their job board.  As you gain experience with them, you should start to see the nicer assignments (assuming you do a good job on your reports).  You will not be eligible for resorts and hotels until you have completed several quality reports for them.  If you ever wonder if your reports are good quality, it is okay to ask.  The ladies in the office can give you feedback on improvements you can make on your reports.  If you want feedback from the editors, you can request that too by asking Amy or Rhonda.  They can pass a message on to the editors that you would like constructive criticism.

One down side to this company is the fact that they do not pay quickly.  Their shopper payments average about 60 days.  For instance, if you did a shop in December for them, you could expect to be paid around February 15.  A lot of companies work this way, but I thought I would warn you.  Sometimes, especially when paying for fine dining, hotels and resorts, it is hard to wait that long for reimbursement.  The good news, though, is that they are reliable about payments.  You don’t have to wonder if they will try to not pay you, because they are honest and trustworthy.  It might take a while, but you will get your money.

I hope you will consider signing up with Service With Style.  I only found out about them about a year and a half ago.  I enjoy working for them, and I think you will too.  -Al

My favorite mystery shopping company, hands down, without a doubt, is A Closer Look.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Doesn’t she edit for them?”  (See…I can read minds!)  Yes, I do.  The fact that this company pays me so I can have electricity in my home doesn’t hurt, but that’s not the only reason they are my favorite.  

I have been a mystery shopper for A Closer Look for about 14 years.  I have always loved working for them, and I have never had a problem being paid (even before I became an editor for them almost 3 years ago).  They are a high-class company with high-class standards.

The good thing about ACL is that they treat everyone with respect.  They bend over backwards to be fair to their shoppers and, in my case, their independent contractors.  It is rare for them to deny payment to any shopper who has made an honest effort to complete their assignment.  I’ve even occasionally seen them pay shoppers who really did not deserve to be paid.  However, that’s how ACL works.  They are genuinely nice, and they genuinely want to do the right thing even if it means extra expense for them sometimes.

This company shops many types of places.  They do fast food, casual dining, fine dining and hotels.  They are also branching into retail stores and professional services.  The list just goes on and on.  ACL is so large that they have thousands of assignments available every month.  There have many opportunities throughout the country and even in Canada.

To register with A Closer Look, click here  and sign up!  

There are a few things you should know about ACL before you sign up:

1. Pop quiz!  There is a test that shoppers have to take to work for this company.  When you take it, give your best effort as it may affect what types of assignments you will be allowed to complete when you start.  Don’t worry.  There’s no math involved.

2. A Closer Look expects quality reports.  They want reports written in complete sentences and using good grammar.  They want all the facts of the report to match and make sense.  (This is actually true of every company in the industry.)

3. They have a quarterly drawing for a cash prize if you refer a friend.  After you start with them, refer your friends.  If they sign up, you and your friend will be entered in a quarterly drawing.  If you win, you both get $50 cash!  I have not included a link to enter me in the drawing if you sign up.  Just getting to work for them is reward enough for me!

4. When you start working for them, you can expect to get feedback from the editors.  This is not meant to be a criticism but a chance to help you improve.  ACL is committed to helping shoppers be the best they can be.  Just know that we (the editors) are only trying to help you get better assignments by improving your reports.  The feedback will always be phrased positively.  We won’t slap your hand with a ruler or tell you you’re fired.  I suggest that you take the tips and put them to use, so your reports can be even better!  The editors will love you, and you will get even more opportunities for awesome assignments.

So, that’s the low-down on this great company.  I really could keep writing.  I could pledge my undying love to them.  I could beg you to join the team.   I think you get the point.  If you are thinking about being a mystery shopper and you skip the opportunity to work for A Closer Look, you are missing out!  -Al
PictureThe real hotel was too scary to show.
Oh, number one.  El numero uno.  The single worst mystery shopping experience of my life….  Wow.  Was it bad.

When the Beetle was about 5 and the Goose was about 1, we decided to take a trip to Atlanta with some friends.  We were going to Six Flags over Georgia to ride the Superman roller coaster.  I, being the thrifty wife that I was, decided to get a hotel shop.  We offered that our friends could stay in the room with us, but once they saw how inexpensive the hotel room was, they said they would just book a room at the same place.  This was my first experience with staying in Atlanta, and I learned quickly that there are many different parts of Atlanta.  Some were much more desirable than others, and you guessed it, our hotel was not in the more desirable area.

The fact that the hotel rented rooms by the week should have been clue #1.  Apparently, I was young and stupid.  So, off we went, to explore Atlanta and fly like Superman.

I must provide a little side note here, because though this has nothing to do with the mystery shop, it’s funny enough to tell you.  We all piled in the mini-van and headed north on I-75.  We made it all the way to Valdosta without stopping once.  I was so impressed that the kids had gone that long without a potty or food break.  We stopped at a shopping center, and I told the Beetle to get his shoes on.  He said, “Where are they?”  I said, “Where did you put them?”  He answered that he had not put them anywhere.  We had driven all the way to Georgia without shoes for my child.  This was one of many reasons I was nominated “mother of the year” that year.  Our friends, the childless couple, found this to be hilarious, and they teased us about it for a long time.  I told them just to wait until they had kids, and they would understand.  I mean, really, I was expected to keep two small children alive day to day AND remember to pack shoes?  It was more than one person could handle.  

Okay, so back to the nightmare shopping experience.  We arrived at the hotel after crossing over the railroad tracks.  We were officially on the wrong side of the tracks.  As we pulled into the parking lot, the area was well lit.  Of course, the lighting was blinking, because the parking lot was well lit with police lights.  The cops had someone laid out on the hood of his car, and he was in hand-cuffs.  We’ll chalk this up as clue #2.  Clue #3 was the uniformed officer standing at the door, checking IDs to allow people into the building.  Still, being the dedicated mystery shopper that I was, we headed inside.  In hindsight, for the safety and good of my barefooted children, we should have run back to the mini-van.

We got checked in and headed upstairs.  Judging by the blood stain on the carpet in the elevator, I was pretty sure we weren’t staying.  Plus, many of the “guests” of this “hotel” seemed to have many personal belongings with them on “vacation.”  There were plastic lounge chairs and plants in front of several doors, and many of the curtains in the windows did not match each other.  It looked more like a half-way house than a hotel.

We got to the room and began to inspect.  I had to take pictures, so I got to work.  I instructed Mr. Everything to hold both of my children off the floor and not let them touch anything. 

The room was disgusting.  There was hair on the sheets.  The curtains were stained.  The carpet was ripped.  We could hear yelling next door.  

Picture the worst hotel from an episode of Law & Order, and you’ll have a good mental image of what we were dealing with here.  My Mama Bear instinct was kicking in quickly.  The hair on the back of my neck was standing up, and I needed my babies to be out of there.  I asked Mr. Everything to take them back to the mini-van.  He pointed out that they would not be much safer in the car in the scary parking lot, since the cops had left by this point.  I agreed and reminded him again not to let them touch anything.  Then, I headed to the bathroom.

I had to take photos of the tub, the sink and the toilet.  Meanwhile, my friend opened the dresser drawer in the bedroom.  “Uh, Al, you might want to come take a look,” he said as calmly as he could manage.  (And, yes, he actually called me Alison, since no one calls me Al in my real life.)  I walked over and looked in the drawer.  There was a broken piece of mirror with a white powdery substance on it.  Now, it might have just been that someone had a powdered donut while admiring herself in the mirror, but I doubt it.  My protective instincts kicked in, and the rest is a blur.

The next thing I remember is being in the mini-van, heading toward a decent hotel in a decent part of town.  We got a good night’s sleep and had to return to the scene of the crime (literally) the next morning.  I had to check out of the hotel so I could complete the assignment.  I should have gotten a bonus or at least an “Attagirl” for completing that report, but at least I did not get shot or mugged or worse.

The worst part is that our friends actually had to pay for their room.  I felt really bad about that, but they said they didn’t mind.  They said $39 plus tax was a small price to pay not to have to actually stay there.

After that, we traveled with our friends a few more times through the years.  Each time we did, I would offer to get a hotel shop, and they always answered with a very quick, “No!”  Some people just didn’t appreciate my generosity!  -Al