Grade My Sample Narrative, Please

Since I'm applying to several companies, I am writing a sample narrative that will be tweaked dependent upon what each company asks on their application. I'd like some constructive criticism on this base narrative for a positive customer service experience. If you will, please also grade it on a scale of 1-5 (1= excellent; 5 = quit MS now).

I believe this will help me get started in my shops as well. THANK YOU, in advance, for giving me some insights and tips.

My Sample Narrative:

"My guest and I went to the restaurant for lunch. The parking lot was fairly clean, though the wind had blown some trash into the bushes overnight. The building facade was clean and free from mold, chipped bricks and debris.
Upon entering the restaurant, I noticed the floor was shiny and looked as though it had a fresh coat of wax. The dining tables were clean, each with tablecloth, silverware, napkins and condiments in place. Throughout the restaurant, framed photographs of local landmarks decorated the walls. We were immediately greeted by a waitress who came over to seat us. She smiled, welcomed us, then told us her name and asked how we were doing. After exchanging pleasantries, she asked if she could take our beverage order. Her appearance, neatly dressed in an apron and clean shirt, along with her infectious smile and pleasant demeanor, made us feel good about choosing this dining establishment.
The meal included tasty, ample portions that were presented in an appealing manner. Our waitress checked on us throughout our meal, always asking how things tasted and if she could refill our beverages. Towards the end of our meal, the manager stopped by our table to make sure we were satisfied with the service and meal. We thanked him for the meal, the attentiveness of the staff and, his willingness to check on patrons.
When we were leaving the restaurant, the waitress thanked us once again for coming in and, invited us to return for another meal soon. We will definitely do so!"

Semi-retired, Newbie shopper:
Hwy 74 from Laurinburg to Wilmington / I-95 from Fayetteville to Florence / And, Myrtle Beach & Loris areas


Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 04/19/2017 04:19PM by CharlieJ.

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"My guest and I went the restaurant for lunch"

The first sentence of your narrative is grammatically incorrect.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/19/2017 03:07PM by eyelove2shop.
@eyelove2shop wrote:

"My guest and I went the restaurant for lunch"
The first sentence of your narrative is grammatically incorrect.

Thank you! First lesson learned - when proofreading, do not overlook the "small words". :-)
My guest and I went *to* the restaurant for lunch.

Semi-retired, Newbie shopper:
Hwy 74 from Laurinburg to Wilmington / I-95 from Fayetteville to Florence / And, Myrtle Beach & Loris areas
Short, declarative sentences, please! Editors HATE run ons. I've never written a narrative this long as a sample. About 6 sentences seems to be a sweet spot. And precise. "We arrived at 1:13:15 PM. The parking lot was clean, except for some wind-blown trash. We were greeted 13 seconds after entering. The waitress seated us, gave us menus, and took our drink orders at 1:19:42. She returned with our drinks at 1:22:17, and asked if we were ready to order. We completed ordering at 1:27:14. While waiting for the food, we saw the area was clean and inviting, with art work on the walls. We received our food at 1:42:11. The orders were correctly prepared. The food was served on attractive oval white platters, with garnishes that made the whole thing look very attractive. At all times, service was attentive, professional, and non-intrusive. Refills on our drinks were regularly offered before our glasses were half-empty. The server checked with us 3 times during the meal, to ask how everything was, and to see if we needed anything."

But that's just me. M2CW!!!

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/19/2017 04:15PM by ceasesmith.
There are free sites like grammarly that you can put your narrative in to find errors. I believe it will also correct misplaced punctuation (and,). As far as a mystery shop narrative, remember that companies like specifics. Telling them that you received food in ample portions does not tell them what you actually had, how it was cooked, how it was presented, and how did it taste (tasty is too general). And all the while doing this with keeping opinions out of it. Here's to your success!!!!

Kim
My guest and I went to the restaurant for lunch.

It's a lunch shop. They know this already. No need to include it.

though the wind had blown some trash into the bushes overnight.

Not a fact. A homeless person could have picked up trash and placed them in the bushes. The trash could have been there from 4 nights ago. This phrase should be removed.

The building facade was clean and free from mold, chipped bricks and debris.

I would just say "well maintained" personally because that includes dirt, etc.

made us feel good about choosing this dining establishment.

Personally I wouldn't add this statement. I would just say she was well groomed and properly dressed with a pleasant demeanor. This statement appears too opnionlike for me.

Other than those small things it looks good to me! But I'm not an editor by any means, lol.

Talking tough is easy when it's other people's evil and you're judging what they do and don't believe.
I believe that the company reading the narrative will be far more interested in the specifics of the meal and the interactions with the staff than they will the facade of the building. "I was quickly greeted in a friendly manner by the waitress who made eye contact, smiled, and said "Hi, I am Lisa, and I will be your server today. Would you like a seat on the patio?" Just an example. You want to walk them through the experience so that they are seeing it through your eyes.

This gas station pavement is $%^@*#& hot.
Answer all of the questions in your narrative, yes and no answers. Timing is the most important part of the service. If asked, the parking lot was well maintained and had adequate parking. The signage was professional and the lights were in good working order. I arrived at the podium at 6:15 PM. The host stated I would have a 10 minute wait. We were called to our booth by the hostess within the 10 minutes. The hostess escorted us over to the steak selection, asked if we wanted to select a steak. She picked up the rolls and told us they were freshly baked while she escorted us to our booth. We were greeted by our server at 6:18 PM and offered the special drinks.
The salad was served in a cold plate, the salad was fresh and crispy.
The beer was served in an ice cold clean mug.
The steak was cooked to perfection, medium rare as I requested, the portion was the 8 oz. I selected.
Basically answer all of the questions. Do not add in any opinions.
Fun topic! The survey questions will indicate how much effort you will need to put into your description of the exterior conditions of the property... and we hope that you will never require this much effort... My guest and I arrived in the parking lot of "restaurant" at 1:00 p.m. Parking space striping was intact and painted in a bright goldenrod color. Additional parking stripes were specific for designated handicapped spaces. Pavement was smooth and intact in most places. I noticed a 16" pothole when I was exiting my vehicle. My left foot did not land on the same plane as my right foot. The left foot descended approximately eight inches into the earth and, due to the curvature of the earth at the bottom of the hole, my left ankle turned sideways and caused my left knee and left hip to turn to the left and pull me to the ground. I landed with parts of me in the pothole and my left hip on the jagged edge of the hole. After extricating myself from the pothole, I hobbled toward the building. [The exterior of the building was as bgriffin described it.] As I approached the front door, I noticed that three white plastic bags were hanging from the lowest branches of the third lilac tree from the left (when facing West). Blue lettering was on the white bags. The lettering was not clear when viewed my angle of approach. Two brown bottles were on the ground beneath this tree. One bottle had a Coors label. As I crawled through the front door, I smelled garlic and butter. The thick carpeting absorbed the saliva that I emitted upon smelling garlic and butter. I was greeted immediately by a 6'0" bald female who was dressed in a sarong made of fabric that resembled an Italian flag. She did not wear a name tag. Her shoes were bright red ballerina slippers. The female was smiling and holding menus. She said, "Welcome to Guido's and Guido's. I hope you are hungry because today's specials are..."

And, that day's dinner shopper experiences this...

My guest and I arrived in the parking lot of "restaurant" at 7:28 p.m. I parked my vehicle in the fifth space in the first row closest to the building and noticed a series of dark splotches on the pavement. The splotches were maroon and approximately one-half inch in diameter. I followed the splotches in two directions. The splotches started or stopped at a pothole in the southeast corner of the parking lot and started or stopped at the brick red carpeting in the entryway of the restaurant...

Oh, why can't food shops be only about the food, lol?!?

Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind - listen to the birds. And don't hate nobody. Eubie Blake
WOW! Thanks for the input. Although I initially meant to ask about a sample narrative written during the MSC application process, these answers will be most helpful for actual shops -- and for those samples. Thank you all for your insight and advice.

Semi-retired, Newbie shopper:
Hwy 74 from Laurinburg to Wilmington / I-95 from Fayetteville to Florence / And, Myrtle Beach & Loris areas
I may have misunderstood what the OP was asking. Several posts talk about the survey questions indicating what to write and warn that all survey questions should be covered in a narrative, so is the OP talking about narratives in reports? I believed that the OP was saying he is applying to different companies and he is writing a sample narrative that he will provide in his applications to all the companies.

OP, I might have misunderstood, but if you are asking about a narrative that you will provide in an application to a MSC, what you've written looks reasonable although I would work on grammar. In the sample narratives, I think shorter is better usually. And I'm betting that there are only one or two companies that will actually read the sample narrative you provide. Most times when I hit Submit on an application, I get an immediate acceptance email. I could be wrong, but I think there's an automatic acceptance of everybody from most companies, regardless of how the sample narrative looks.
I believe you are correct, but i also think your sample narrative might be read before being assigned a shop.

Talking tough is easy when it's other people's evil and you're judging what they do and don't believe.
@roflwofl, I initially meant to ask about a sample narrative written during the MSC application process. But, I'm thankful for all the answers. They will be helpful for either the sample or during the normal shop report process. I have been told I am verbose. While I thought that a good skill to have for MS, I am quickly learning that I will have to become more precise AND concise.

@roflwofl wrote:

I may have misunderstood what the OP was asking. Several posts talk about the survey questions indicating what to write and warn that all survey questions should be covered in a narrative, so is the OP talking about narratives in reports? I believed that the OP was saying he is applying to different companies and he is writing a sample narrative that he will provide in his applications to all the companies.

OP, I might have misunderstood, but if you are asking about a narrative that you will provide in an application to a MSC, what you've written looks reasonable although I would work on grammar. In the sample narratives, I think shorter is better usually. And I'm betting that there are only one or two companies that will actually read the sample narrative you provide. Most times when I hit Submit on an application, I get an immediate acceptance email. I could be wrong, but I think there's an automatic acceptance of everybody from most companies, regardless of how the sample narrative looks.

Semi-retired, Newbie shopper:
Hwy 74 from Laurinburg to Wilmington / I-95 from Fayetteville to Florence / And, Myrtle Beach & Loris areas


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/19/2017 07:44PM by CharlieJ.
My guest and I arrived at ________ at 1:13 PM, on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. The parking lot was clean and well-maintained, with the exception of some wind-blown trash.

We approached the host station and were greeted by our server (Female, approximately 5'2", with shoulder-length straight brown hair). She made eye contact, smiled, and in a pleasant tone greeted us with, "________." I informed her that we had reservations. She led us into the dining room, walking at a leisurely pace. She waited for us to be seated, handed us menus, and immediately took our drink order at 1:19 PM. She returned with our drinks at 1:22 PM, and asked if we were ready to order, but did not suggest or offer any specific menu items. We completed ordering at 1:27 PM. The food runner (Male, approximately 5'8", with short black hair) brought our food at 1:42 PM. He made eye contact, smiled and in a courteous tone, announced the dishes, "Tuna Casserole" and "Spaghetti with Lobster Foam and Wild-Foraged Nettles". Before departing he inquired, "Is there anything else I can bring you?" The items were prepared as requested. The casserole arrived hot, the ingredients were fresh and of excellent quality, its portion size was generous. It met expectations. The spaghetti arrived hot, . . . . .

Service was attentive, professional, and UNOBTRUSIVE. Refills on our drinks were regularly offered, before our glasses were half-empty. The server checked with us THREE times during the meal, to ask how everything was, and to see if we needed anything.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/20/2017 03:00AM by Professional Guest.
Interesting to say the least. I just got rejected by a MSC for my narrative. I used to write legal briefs and was a professional editor, but they didn't like mine and told me I was welcome to reapply. They told me not to have choppy sentences and no run-on sentences. So, somewhere in the middle, I guess. LOL!
>Upon entering the restaurant, I noticed the floor was shiny and looked as though it had a fresh coat of wax.

Inside, the floor shone as if freshly waxed.

I was just reading some samples provided by my MSC and was struck by how many times their author wrote, "I saw..." Unless it's really about seeing something, just write about what you saw. The only time I diverge is to say when I *didn't* see something that I should have.
If your survey has places to enter the timings, I would leave most of them out, except for two things: what time I entered, and how long it took to get food, and even that I would approximate.

"My guest and I entered at 8:28 pm. (Or even 'a little before 8:30' if the survey already has a spot for exact numbers)

"... About 5 minutes 35 seconds after the order was entered, the server delivered my meal, placing it horizontally in front of me. ... She returned within three minutes to check on me."

Having too many timestamps makes the reading bog down. I would write it almost as I'd tell a friend. But of course if that's how they like it, do it their way.

@ceasesmith wrote:

Short, declarative sentences, please! Editors HATE run ons. I've never written a narrative this long as a sample. About 6 sentences seems to be a sweet spot. And precise. "We arrived at 1:13:15 PM. The parking lot was clean, except for some wind-blown trash. We were greeted 13 seconds after entering. The waitress seated us, gave us menus, and took our drink orders at 1:19:42. She returned with our drinks at 1:22:17, and asked if we were ready to order. We completed ordering at 1:27:14. While waiting for the food, we saw the area was clean and inviting, with art work on the walls. We received our food at 1:42:11. The orders were correctly prepared. The food was served on attractive oval white platters, with garnishes that made the whole thing look very attractive. At all times, service was attentive, professional, and non-intrusive. Refills on our drinks were regularly offered before our glasses were half-empty. The server checked with us 3 times during the meal, to ask how everything was, and to see if we needed anything."

But that's just me. M2CW!!!
Your thought process was good but keep your sampling writing to 10 to 20 sentences. Keep the narrative in sequence. For example, I parked my vehicle into the parking lot. The parking lot was clean and had designated parking spaces. My guest and I walked towards the restaurant. The walkway was clean and free of debris. The building's exterior was clean and well cared for. We entered the restaurant. The hostess made eye contact, smiled and greeted us in a friendly manner. When using numbers in your sentences, write out the numbers one to nine. As in, I order two hotdogs to go. The numbers 10 & up, you can use the numbers, as in I ordered 10 bagels to go. As a shopper, you are there to make observations. Never put any personal opinions in your sample writing or future reports. For a couple of your sentences: Throughout the restaurant, framed photographs of local landmarks decorated the walls. Write: Framed photographs of local landmarks tastefully decorated the restaurant's walls. Her appearance, neatly dressed in an apron and clean shirt, along with her infectious smile and pleasant demeanor, made us feel good about choosing this dining establishment. Write: Our server was neatly groomed. She wore a clean and presentable blouse, dress slacks and apron. She maintained eye contact, smiled, had a pleasant demeanor and made my party feel welcomed for our presence.
Good point about time stamps. Timings bog down my entire experience. Personally, I rarely care about them. As a shopper, I am paid to bother about timings.

Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind - listen to the birds. And don't hate nobody. Eubie Blake
At the end, the comma comes before the "and" not after. (I left my own comma out so as not to confuse you!)

Doing what I can to enhance the life of my family! I LOVE what I do smiling smiley
@CharlieJ wrote:

We were immediately greeted by a waitress who came over to seat us.

Two points here. First, avoid gendered language whenever possible. Server, not waitress. Second, was it the server who greeted you or was it the host?

@ceasesmith wrote:

I've never written a narrative this long as a sample.

Length depends upon the MSC and the shop guidelines. I just completed a shop which required a four page narrative. (No, it was not a shop in the hospitality industry.) The interaction at the shop lasted less than twenty minutes.
@Rousseau wrote:

@CharlieJ wrote:

We were immediately greeted by a waitress who came over to seat us.

Two points here. First, avoid gendered language whenever possible. Server, not waitress. Second, was it the server who greeted you or was it the host.


That depends on the MSC and/or client. Some have no problem with gender. One MSC in particular even wants the employee's name to be included in the narrative. Another MSC wants no gender at all which can be a challenge sometimes. They want the employee to be identified as "they" rather than "he" or "she". Sometimes it's the client's requirement and not the MSC so the instructions can be different depending on the client.
It is true about differences in MSC requirements. OTOH, waiter/waitress is among the many gender specific job titles that have fallen into disuse, replaced by gender neutral titles such as server.

Equal rights for others does not mean fewer rights for you. It's not pie.
Never try to teach a pig to sing. It's a waste of your time and it really annoys the pig.
Kudo's for your detail, however, depending on how may words they want, (read the samples), maybe more than needed. Hostess greeted me with a smile and friendly attitude. I was immediately seated and told my Server will be with me in a minute. Server came within 2 minutes, gave me a menu and told me the specials of the day. blah blah....keep it tighter, but being new, I think you'll do great, remembering timings, service and whatever directions say...they don't need too much frill. learning to do jobs quickly brings more money.

When signing up for a company, remember, no one asks if you have an English literature degree. They don't have one as well...many here are super fussy, but not really necessary to get a report approved. i've been called on more than once on this forum, but in 10 years had one report denied, not due to any grammar mistake I made. Don't be hard on yourself, leave that to the forum...smiling smiley

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping....


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/21/2017 08:59PM by Irene_L.A..
You have received good advice. Take it all with a grain of salt because many of your replies contained contradictions and most were riddled with grammar errors. (I understand we're often replying on our phones, and everyone's error rate goes way up because of that. I'm removing extra spaces and "corrected" words as I type this and hoping I find them all before someone pounces!) ) Cutting and pasting from Word is a big help at catching mistakes. In general, avoid qualifiers such as very, somewhat, rather, etc. Leave your opinion out of it, even when you think it must be a fact. Good example above with the litter. It would only be an assumption that the trash just blew in recently. I leave the timing details out of the narrative unless requested. It is cumbersome reading, and it just introduces a new way to make a mistake. Look at the MSCs samples for guidance on physical descriptions; many will not want race reported. Never use words that would be hurtful to an employee reading it- they are subjective anyway (heavyset, short, skinny, frizzy, etc.). It is good to include direct quotes, especially for the opening and closing greetings. Grammar, spelling, and knowing when to spell out numbers is all helpful, but editors can fix those things for you as long as you give them something good to work with. Good luck to you!
Imho, responses may have been written with additional examples of pitfalls that the OP and others may avoid in sample and actual narratives winking smiley

Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind - listen to the birds. And don't hate nobody. Eubie Blake
I was wondering the same thing, how did the shopper know the trash had blown in over night? Was she there the day before and it wasn't there. Not important. If you can't fill a small bag with trash I don't count it. Be direct and precise. Sometimes we think we are covering our basis when in actuality making it worse. When I do mention landscaping because it is required I check out the weeds and cigarette butts first thing.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/22/2017 10:48PM by Kate20105.
I like the narrative approach of writing about going to a restaurant with a guest. I think you did well; however your grammar and punctuation needs improvement. if I were the editor, I would not care about how the parking lot looked as to the wind and the trash strewn about the scene. As a mystery shopper and an English tutor, I am suggesting one needs to write concisely. When we write for mystery shopping we need to see to it that the editor knows exactly what we saw and did, even if it is a restaurant shop. Grammarly will help you with punctuation; although I do not really like the system. I proof read from the bottom up, right to left, as it is a trick I learned from an English professor. Best wishes in your work. Practice will make you a better writer.
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