Bad restaurant experiences are making me think twice about the 'free meal' hype

In the past two weeks, I have had two restaurant assignments at 2 different franchises.

The first meal was a dud because my poor, starving guest (mky husband) was presented with a dish that I would not feed to my dog.
The biggest problem was that even though it looked unappetizing, because it was supposed to have a meat sauce on it, and there wasn't any visible meat, I asked if they had given him the right dish.
When I was told it was a Bolognese sauce, I asked for the meat to be added to the dish.

This was done, but still the food was absolutely inedible. (My dish was great).

I went home and happily reported on the bad experience without thinking about the consequences.

The next day I had an email stating that my assignment had been rejected because I had returned the dish.
I had not!
All I had asked was that the same dish had meat put onto it so that at least my guest could eat something.
When I disputed the decision I was told that I had not gone by the rules and I should know how to conduct these type of assignments.

Yesterday, I went to another restaurant that, unknowing to me, had just opened. Needless to say, the service was awful, the wait times were ridiculous and the food was horrible.
I am afraid that because I had questioned why I had not received the salad that should have been included with my meal, this job may be rejected too.
So, not only was I grossly overcharged for my meal, but it may also be thrown out on some 'technical' issue.

Surely other shoppers must have had similar experiences.
Did you just shut up and not point out that there were issues with your meal or did you do what you would normally do as a guest and let the restaurant know that something was not right?

I'm thinking now that doing a restaurant assignment may be too risky in the future.

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I guess I am just really lucky. I always get great service and good food. Then again I am easily pleased.
From my experience: Order the meal. If it's incorrect, report it. Do not change it unless your company tells you that you can. If you're missing something in your meal, report it. If it's inedible, report it. That's what I do and so far, so good.
I agree. Completing restaurant shops for reimbursement only does not work out to a free meal. When you are served something you can not eat, and then have a longer report to write, we end up paying to shop.

I do not jump through hoops to get these anymore. Too many long reports on bad meals / experiences.
can you tell us the MSC since you did not mention the client so that everyone here knows what to expect.
ambergs7 Wrote:
...... Surely other shoppers must have had similar
> experiences.
> Did you just shut up and not point out that there
> were issues with your meal or did you do what you
> would normally do as a guest and let the
> restaurant know that something was not right?

I really have to read my instructions carefully and do what each particular assignment asks.
At one I am not to mention anything about the meal while at the restaurant, just report on it. My DH hates food that is not HOT, so he finds it annoying. I am also to report whether the meal comes as it is described in the menu, but not mention it while at the restaurant.

At another one, I am to mention if something is not right and accept whatever they suggest, then report on that. If I don't mention it to the server, I'm not allowed to mention it in the report because they didn't have the opportunity to satisfy me.

So, I have to remind myself before the shop, what are the requirements this MSC wants. It simply is not about what I would normally do as a customer.
jwolpert Wrote:
> can you tell us the MSC since you did not mention
> the client so that everyone here knows what to
> expect.

Thanks for the feedback so far. I have been doing restaurant jobs for years, so know what to expect with certain companies, however, for the last two assignments I feel I have been between a rock and a hard place when it comes to reporting on the bad quality.
What gets me is that with the first restaurant, the Client needs to know what terrible food was served that night because I am sure it must have put other customers off ever going there again.

jwolpert - I have worked with this company for a long time, so I do not want to mention who they are in case I scare off other shoppers who might enjoy the excellent assignments that they usually hand out.
A Closer Look has some restaurant shops. While the report does require narratives in each section, I don't find it that hard to do. And I don't mind it being reimbursement only.

Have PV-500 & willing to travel.
"Answers are easy. It's asking the right questions which is hard." (The Fourth Doctor, The Face of Evil, 1977)

"Somedays you're the pigeon, somedays you're the statue.” J. Andrew Taylor

"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him." Galileo Galilei
JamesBond mentioned A Closer Look - Their shops are great. They are reimbursement only, but the restaurants have been good. The editors there are great, in fact I had one call to ask a few questions for clarification and she even took some time to explain what they are looking for and what they based evaluations on. It was great. She was very positive, even though I had an error, and listed the wrong name in once place. They are a great company to do shops for.
I have performed multiple restaurant shops and have been lucky so far to date. There was only one where the serving was so small I was still hungry. I did report this but the service was excellent I guess I was lucky the company did pay me for the shop.
Whether a shop or non-shop, I never complain at a restaurant. If the service or food sucks on a non-shop, I go to the contact us link on the corporate website. If it's a smaller venue, I will attempt to email. Plus, there is always Yelp.
I've had a few bad experiences while on restaurant visits as a shopper. Most times the guidelines say not to make a complaint. That's a bummer, because if it's a reiumbursement only assignment, you're out your own cash for a crappy meal. But some MSCs have done the right thing and thrown an extra bonus out to compensate for the unenjoyable visit.

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
~Viktor Frankl
James Bond 007.5 Wrote:
> A Closer Look has some restaurant shops. While the
> report does require narratives in each section, I
> don't find it that hard to do. And I don't mind it
> being reimbursement only.

Hi Mr Bond - I have done one assignment for ACL and liked their reporting style. This was when I was on a weekend break in Manhattan. Pity there aren't more of those restaurants in my area.
I do not take reimbursement only shops, but that is a personal choice. I love an occasional casual burger assignment for Market Force because the burgers are so good and a treat as opposed to my regular diet. A few weeks ago (and for the first time ever), I had a very bad experience in service, food quality and portion size. I was only allowed to complain if the order was incorrect and it was not. I felt unsatisfied, but I guess that is the luck of the draw.
I will take a reimbursement only shop for an upscale place where the meal is $$$ and for two people. I do not enjoy the large national chain inexpensive fast food so I do not do them but I would only do the upscale ff if a fee is involved. First they only reimburse for one person, second they tell you what to order often and it is not always what I want or enjoy. The reports are easy but I don't find it worth my while for a meal for one especially since it involves drive time usually. I always check yelp before trying a new place, especially if it is a long narrative job. But sometimes you are just not served a good meal...I guess I would rather get that bad meal when someone else is paying, even tho I have to do a report, than put out my own $$ and get a bad meal and not even get to tell them what I think in a report I am sure they will read.
markowi3 Wrote:
> JamesBond mentioned A Closer Look - They are a
> great company to do shops for.

Yes, and they're the only company to send me a Happy Birthday email. smiling smiley

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/21/2013 12:26AM by Shopping in CA.
I find that I either mystery shop FD ($100-$260 for two), or FF. I stay away from the casual restaurants because the reports are long and awful, or the food is awful.

Not my circus - Not my monkeys @(*.*)@

~Polish Proverb~
I feel we make a positive change in doing these shops and I see having a meal for reimbursement only is another form of couponing. I have had bad service at restaurants before MSing and love finding the good places to eat while "working." The hubbie and I now have a favorite restaurant because of a shop! I was a food server and a manager so my standards may be different or maybe I am better able to see what the waitstaff is doing. I also know better than to EVER send food back to the kitchen. I just take it home and microwave it!
Most of my restaurant shops have been good, but I have gotten sick from some meals and had other unpleasant experiences. I mostly just take the good with the bad and learn which shops I may want to avoid.

One time, my report was rejected because the restaurant served me the wrong order. It was someone else's order. The shop instructions said I was not to complain about anything, and the MSC took the position that, by pointing out that it was not my order, I complained and drew attention to myself.

I certainly wasn't happy about that and thought it was ridiculous. I guess I was supposed to just eat that meal and draw attention to myself when the customer who ordered that meal didn't get his/her order because I ate it? Grrrrrr.

I didn't raise a stink because I had a good relationship with the scheduler/MSC and she was civil and friendly. That scheduler/MSC had built up a lot of goodwill with me over the years, including working with me when I erred. So, I just reshopped.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2013 06:05PM by BusyBeeBuzzBuzzBuzz.
Unfortunately you have to read the instructions for the shop and other material that is sent to you. If the materials soecifically state that you cannot send the food back if it is wrong, then you can't. If it says that you can, or does not mention anything about NOT sending things back to the kitchen or questioning the accuracy of the dish, then you should go ahead and do so. If the MSC questions it, you can show them their instructions and say that nowhere in the materials does it say NOT to send anything back or question the accuracy of a dish. In that case I would fight tooth and nail to get paid or reimbursed for the shop.

There are some clients that specifically state that you cannot question the accuracy or send anything back to the kitchen unless there is nasal and/or fecal matter in the dish(over sensionalization here) or the meat/fish is raw. Those shops I refuse to do because sending an unacceptable dish back to the kitchen is part of the customer experience (the suits that design the shops at the client companies rarely understand this). So if I can't send a dish back because the sauce is too salty or the steak is harder than a hockey puck, then I will not do the shop for that client.

But read the instructions on all of the shops to make sure that you understand whether or not you can question the accuracy of the dish or send it back if not to your liking.
I read the instructions before the shop and I didn't send the food back. This was a sandwich shop. When a sandwich maker told me my order was ready and I went to the counter to get it, I asked if that was my sandwich (because I could tell, just by looking at it, that it was not). It turned out the employee mixed up two customers. My sandwich was still being prepared.

The instructions said not to make a complaint because that would draw unnecessary attention. The MSC decided what I did constituted a complaint. I was told that I should have said nothing and just accepted the wrong sandwich.

This was a dine-in shop. I could not have just taken the wrong sandwich and leave. The customer who ordered that sandwich was within hearing distance.

The same MSC had the same, don't-complain instruction for another client. I did one of those shops. An employee made a huge mistake with prices. I did not complain but I was charged much more than I should have been. When I asked the MSC whether it would reimburse me for the overcharges, I was told I could/should have said something to the employee.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/21/2013 09:35PM by BusyBeeBuzzBuzzBuzz.
The "don't complain" policy of the MSC you were working with seems pretty inconsistent, Buzz. Sounds like you're damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

If you had gone ahead and taken another customer's sandwich, that would have screwed up things royally on the line and inconvenienced that customer as well as others while the staff tried to recover from the mistake. That seems unreasonable, as a mystery shop is to evaluate conditions, not to cause problems.

By the same token, when you were overcharged, you would think this would be something the client would want to know. If you had mentioned it and it were corrected, you would not have proof this had happened.

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
~Viktor Frankl

I was actually more upset with the second incident than the first. If questioning whether that was my sandwich constituted a complaint, then I acted against shop guidelines on the first (sandwich) shop. OTOH, I followed the shop guidelines on the second (overcharge) shop. I was paid for the second shop but not reimbursed for the overcharge. My receipt was proof that I was overcharged.

The instructions for both shops stated that I must not complain because that would draw attention to myself. In the sandwich case, I believed (and still do) that much more attention would be drawn to me if I had accepted the first sandwich and then the customer who ordered that sandwich found out I took it. In the overcharge case, how on earth was I supposed to know that it I should have complained? Finally, I think my questioning if the employee was offering me the correct sandwich drew much less attention to me than the attention I would have gotten if I had disputed the overcharge in the second shop. A manager/supervisor would have to be involved to correct the overcharge and give me a refund.
Certain "Golden Arches" Guidelines:

"Please do not eat your entree if the meat/chicken/fish/egg appears raw or undercooked. Ask to speak to the Manager. Tell him about the issue. Show your entree to the Manager. If your entree is from the DT portion, go inside and speak to the Manager. If the Manager offers to replace your entree, accept the offer. If the Manager says your raw food looks fine, do not eat it and do not ask for a new entree. Report to us immediately (within 8 hours, so we can notify the client that raw food is being served at that location.)"

I realize all shops and clients rules are different....
Love those guidelines. Protecting the shoppers and the public (and hence Golden Arches) should be a priority.
BusyBeeBuzzBuzzBuzz Wrote:
> In the overcharge case, how on
> earth was I supposed to know that it I should have
> complained?

My thinking as well. And since that was not specifically covered in the guidelines, the reasonable thing to have done on the part of the MSC would have been to cover the overcharges.

One-off situations should be considered with a smidgen of common sense and fairness.

"Between stimulus and response, there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom."
~Viktor Frankl
That appears to be the problem. The editors (or whoever decides that the guidelines were compromised) look at situations as black or white. They don't use common sense to deal with the gray areas.
That is why it is important to pick your battles and challenge those inconsistencies. I am not going to waste my time arguing over a score of 8 or 9 or 10, but if they are applying different standards I will go to the mat.

Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It's not pie.
"I prefer someone who burns the flag and then wraps themselves up in the Constitution over someone who burns the Constitution and then wraps themselves up in the flag." -Molly Ivins
Never try to teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of your time and it really annoys the pig.
I did a postal shop where the employee mis-measured the box, resulting in an overcharge that exceeded the reimbursement stated for the job. I did not dispute it, contacted my scheduler, told him I had not disputed it because we were told not to correct errors, and they paid me for the full amount. I get the idea that food shops don't seem to have a lot of leniency in this regard.

I pray it does not occur that the last thing I did before I died was vacuum the house or eat broccoli.
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