Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Yes, I'm still alive.

Well, I did say in my first post that it might be six months between updates. Actually, it's closer to nine. Wow, that's pretty bad. Granted, I have been busy: trying to get an eBay business off the ground, working as a Mystery Shopper (more on that later), getting the kids back to classes (remember, we homeschool, so most of my day is eaten up by that), and trying to keep the house clean and running efficiently.

So, how has all that been going? Terrible. Our eBay account got hacked, draining our linked Paypal account, leaving us with no money available to ship items, so that came out of our household money. I would be more surprised by this, but it happened once before, many years ago. That time we had a pretty established name on eBay; this time it was just starting up. So, to hell with eBay, Paypal and their lousy security.

The Mystery Shopper thing? Pretty interesting, and somewhat lucrative as a part-time income for a stay-home Dad. Just sign up with one of over 200 companies online, including Corporate Research International, Marketforce, Gapbusters (if you love McDonald's), and so on. Then, once you have an account with one or more, pick and choose which jobs you want and when you want to do them. What do you have to do? Just follow the guidelines for the job you've chosen, usually going to a specific store or restaurant, interact with an employee or two, buy something, and head back home. Last, fill out an online report, scan/photograph any receipts or relevant paperwork, and send it off to the mystery shopping company. They compile the results and pass them on to the store or restaurant.

Sounds nice, doesn't it? It was, until my van broke down. The axle on our Ford Windstar actually snapped. Not only is this going to cost us around $900 to fix, but we're without wheels until it comes back. I've had to turn down nearly two weeks' worth of jobs, including some I'd already scheduled. The main drawback to mystery shopping is the initial overhead: you spend money out of your own pocket during the shop (or, as the call it, "audit"), then wait for your paycheck to come in. Most of the jobs you take reimburse you for your purchases -up to a certain amount- and pay a fee for performing the work. Generally, the jobs pay 2:1 ratio, if you spend ten bucks at McDonald's you get around $20 back.

So, in my situation, I've spent about $100-150 in the past four weeks, with no return yet. That wouldn't be a problem, if two of the three companies I work for didn't operate through Paypal. I may never get paid. As for school, dealing with lost jobs, towing the car, negotiating with the mechanic (who has been very accommodating so far), and busing it everywhere, it's been hard to get any teaching done.

And don't get me started on housework.

On a bright note, my wife found this in a bag of cherries she bought a couple weeks ago:

Yes, that's a cherry with a wiener. The ever-elusive male of the cherry species. I call it: The Dinglecherry. Yes, I am childish and sophomoric, thank you.

So, other than the cherry, that's my sob story for this month. Between car troubles, working through the summer (and now picking up a part-time job in the evenings to pay for the repairs), school, travelling, and whatnot, I've barely had time to work on this blog. On a side note, I just got hired by in Columbus as their "Stay-at-Home Dad" correspondent, which means more work for me, but getting paid to do it. Yay! I think.