mystery shopper

That’s the nice way of putting it. My friends, even my husband, they all say that I’m hyper-critical. I just see myself as an informed consumer who isn’t afraid to stick to companies that provide goods and services that get me exactly what I want, exactly the way I want them. And that’s why I’m a mystery shopper. It puts all of my observations of bad service or products to good use, and gets me paid besides!

Well the other day, I did a restaurant shop. Those are my favorites, actually – you get a free meal just for writing a report, so my husband and I do them every few months, whenever our scheduler can fit us into their rotation.

Anyway, at this restaurant, the service was awful. When we walked in, I got this snooty look from the girl who was seating people, and she just walked away instead of talking to me! It was really rude, and I was pretty offended, but since it was a mystery shop, we stayed and waited for our table. She came back eventually – I timed it with my watch – and said, “Table for two?” in a sarcastic voice that I would not have put up with if it had come from my daughter, much less a restaurant. I don’t know if she was new or what.

“In the narrative box on my report, I wrote: When I walked in, I was not greeted. The hostess made eye contact, but did not smile, and walked away. She returned after five minutes and said, “Table for two?” She did not sound friendly.”

She didn’t bother talking with us on the way to the table. She put down the menus and the silverware she’d been holding and walked away. The waiter took his sweet time, too. I saw him texting or something on his phone behind the bar, and then he came up to us and asked what we’d be having. Didn’t offer any appetizers or drinks, didn’t even give us time to think about what we wanted.

“The hostess did not talk to us on the way to the table or after seating us. She did provide menus and silverware. The waiter greeted us after about two minutes. He was using a cellphone before approaching our table. He did not make any suggestions but asked what we would like to order. He did not smile but did not appear unfriendly.”

Since we were pretty familiar with the menu, we ordered what we wanted. It took way too long to get the appetizer, and then we had to wait even longer for the salad. Then the person who delivered our entrees brought them right after we got the salad! At least the food was good even if my salad was drenched in dressing.

“It took eight minutes and five seconds for the appetizers to be delivered. After the appetizers were delivered, it took ten minutes and thirty seconds for the salad to be delivered. The entrees were delivered one minute and twenty seconds after the salad. Hot foods were hot and cold foods were cold. My pasta was very good, but the salad had a lot of dressing on it.”

The only good thing was when the manager came to check on us. She was this tall blonde with a tan, but I didn’t see a nametag or anything, and she didn’t introduce herself. Since I’m pretty used to shopping, I didn’t say anything about the service, and the food was fine so I said as much. She asked me about my earrings, which was kind of nice, since my cousin made them, so we chatted about that for a bit, and she finally left to go check on some other guests.

“We were greeted by a manager who inquired about our meals and built rapport about my earrings. She was not wearing a nametag and did not introduce herself. She was approximately thirty-five years old, 5’9”, with blonde hair in a ponytail, no glasses, wearing a black polo shirt. She was friendly, smiled, and made eye contact.”

Despite the manager, it was a pretty bad visit. I wasn’t happy with the service in general, or the timing. I was pretty angry about it overall. Luckily, by this point, I know how to write a report, and I knew I’d get reimbursed. Plus we got to take home some leftovers!

“Based on my service and the food timing at this location, I would not return. Based on my experience with the manager at this location, I would return.”

My scheduler told me once or twice that it’s harder to write a bad report than it is to write a good one, and I find that’s true most of the time. Writing a glowing recommendation of a place I like is simple. But writing about this trip to the restaurant I shop was hard. I was ticked off, but all I could do is keep myself out of it and record the specifics that I saw, and nothing else. And I got a grade of 10/10 on my report! So that’s always a nice feeling.

The best thing about it: Picky people like me are what these companies need. Because who else is going to tell them what to fix? How else are they going to get better? I mean that’s why I’m getting this food for free in the first place.

And let me tell you, the staff must have taken the report I wrote to heart. The next time I went to that restaurant, the hostess smiled at everyone who walked in that door like they were her best friend.

-Patricia, Bee Caves TX

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