Dining shops with guests

If you’re allowed a guest, do you tell your guest it’s a mystery shop? Does your guest pay you back?
What if you go over your reimburseable limit, do they pay the diffeeence?

I am scheduled to have a dinner, up to $100 reimbursement, next weekend. So trying to find someone to come with me.

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As someone who does not do this for a living I do not mind telling friends I mystery shop as competition does not usually bother me. I always tell my guests for dinner the basics otherwise they can totally mess up your shop by not following the rules as they have no idea what the rules are. I use these opportunities to treat a friend either for a celebration such as birthday or just because I feel I want to pay them back. I myself do let them know the reimbursement limit and tell them if they go over I would like them to pay the difference. Generally they do not go over. Sometimes they offer to leave a tip. For me, if they do the driving I am happy. Pick your guests carefully to find one who you know will pay attention where needed or you might find yourself $100 out of pocket.
I have one very, very close friend that I take with me to dining shops. She is sworn to secrecy and I trust her very much. She knows when to talk during shops and when not to talk during timings and all. I haven't gone into details with her on what I do but, she knows I am watching the employees, timing, etc.

Since I am being reimbursed from the MSC, I pay for the meals myself. Also, since my friend is nice enough to stop her life to go with me and sit during awkward moments, I am happy to give her a free meal.

I usually pull up the restaurants' menu online prior to going on the shop and figure out what we want and what the prices are, so we are within limits.

Shopping Arkansas, Louisiana, & Mississippi.
When I was married I took my husband but now I take a friend, We go to dinner several times a week and I always tell her what we have to order and how much the reimbursement is. If we go over, we just split it. I would not be able to go to so many nice dinners without her.
She gets to eat and I do all the work. But it works for us.
I never ask my guest to pay. My guest has a job to do... They have to help me with names and many times they have to order their meal according to the shop guidelines - and not eat it until I snap a pic. I would only put this on someone close, like my hubby or a bestie gf.
Let the guest know what you are doing.

Set a couple of rules like don't order the absolute highest priced entree unless they want to pay the difference between reimbursement and actual cost including the increased tip. I think most won't mind paying $20 for a $75 meal. At least not in my experience.

The guest is also a wealth of information you might have forgotten when filling out your report. So if you tell them what you are doing, they will pay attention to what you need for your report.

I do shops with family which are difficult because they won't let the server do their job, good or bad. I also do them with a friend and he is really good at watching for the timing points and food quality along with pictures of the entrees if necessary. He actually asks me when we can do the next shop since he enjoys being the guest but not the one who has to write the report.
When allowed, my teenage daughter goes with me. She has grown up with this and knows what to look for. It helps sharpen her observational skills and she feels like she is "earning" a nice dinner.

Shopping KY, IN & OH (with an occasional AL, TN & GA thrown in)
I have one best friend that has come with me on restaurant both in Vegas and again next week in Beverly Hills. She knows what I do and always offers to pay the tip and drive. She doesn't eat that much, so I never have to worry and enjoys her meal, not asking questions or does anything out of an ordinary customer. I've also arranged a nice dinner when visiting my daughter in another state, she loves it and is not interested in getting details, just enjoying her Mom's treat, knowing I will have a report to write. I suggest you tell your friend, they do have to order a different,entree, perhaps an appetizer or dessert, so it's good for her/him to know. Take someone you can trust not to go over reimbursement, and since you've done the inviting, you pay. My favorite is to take another shopper.

Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.....
Dr. Judith Wright

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/08/2018 04:31PM by Irene_L.A..
I wish I knew how to find another shopper in my area. I know there has to be some since so many of the shops I want get snapped up.
You can start another thread about looking for a dining shopping partner in xx city. What is nice is that you can then take turns and every other shop you can just be the helper without having to write a report.
@Insight wrote:

I wish I knew how to find another shopper in my area. I know there has to be some since so many of the shops I want get snapped up.
I have a couple friends I rotate through on dining shops. They know what's going on, and they're always happy to chip in some cash. They usually cover any overage or the tip. They know I'm in for a long report (usually), so they've never minded paying $20-$40 toward a really expensive meal. They've gotten a lot of good food and drink for very little money.

There are a few dining assignments I've done where my guest doesn't need to know anything about it, and the reimbursement isn't going to come close to covering both meals. I've definitely just divvied up that check as normal, done my report, and kept my reimbursement.
Heck, I tried one dinner shop with my stepson as a guest I should have known better he just blabbed it all over the restaurant that I was mystery shopping. That was three years ago and he wants to know when we are going to do another one. Sorry son not in your lifetime.
I've done dining shops with my sister. She is clued in and knows the drill. We have fun, and she is really helpful with remembering details, timings, etc. I don't think I would be able to relax if I had a guest along and they did not know it was a shop.
I take my husband on nice dining shops, but he is a PITA when it comes to ordering and wants to get what he wants to get, usually putting us way over reimbursement...and then he complains that going on my "Jobs" costs him money..He is good at details though. I have a dear friend who is great to go on shops with me. I took her to Capital Grille once and it was a delightful evening even though we went over reimbursement. I also take my sister on casual dining shops for a special treat and sister time. I go to TRH by myself or once in awhile with hubby.

A flower does not think of competing with the flower next to it. It just blooms.

Zen Shin Talks
When I take someone 99.99999999% of the time it is a family member. They have gone enough of these to know how to act. Before we got we go to the restaurant's site to look at prices and all (Unless TGI Friday's which is disgraceful and doesn't post prices on their site) and figure out what we are going to get - factoring in my limit. They know that when we go to the place I walk ahead of them to the table so I pick the spot that is best for me do I can see all I need to see. They know by now any table where one seat allows me to put my back to the wall is mine because those are the best seats to see everything.
IF I go with a friend and I am going to meet them there I tell them in no uncertain terms: STAY OUTSIDE! DO NOT enter the location without me. Wait outside or in your car on a rare bad weather day. I tell them: If you go inside - have fun. Enjoy yourself. You are paying for your meal - not me.
Having done this 20+ years it is easy by now to deal with family members.
I’m in New Jersey.....anyone need a guest, bring me. Been doing this for over 20 years. I always tell my guest what they can order, and the reimbursement has to cover everything. There is a ton of work in my area. I never take assignments that require pictures of food. I have never seen anybody do this, and to me it’s a red flag to employees.
I call my smartphone with details..I don’t write it down....too easy to be. caught.
I live in NJ also, and these days I always see people taking photos of their food. From fast food to fine dining,people seem obsessed with posting their lives on Facebook, etc. 10 years ago taking a photo was odd, today it is commonplace.
Everybody has their cellphone out. Photos of ink cartridges at RiteAid? Sure. Photos of the tire center place mat at Costco? Why not? You gave me a quote on a car and encouraged me to take a photo of it since you can't give me the piece of paper? As my son says, "use your technology." No Comcast table at Walmart? Time for me to read a text (= take a photo).
@LindaK wrote:

I’m in New Jersey.....anyone need a guest, bring me. Been doing this for over 20 years. I always tell my guest what they can order, and the reimbursement has to cover everything. There is a ton of work in my area. I never take assignments that require pictures of food. I have never seen anybody do this, and to me it’s a red flag to employees.
I call my smartphone with details..I don’t write it down....too easy to be. caught.

Edited to insert a missing letter and to change "hand" to "give" for clarity

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/12/2018 04:55AM by myst4au.
Take husband who is a pro by now. If i take grandkids or nephews i give them a task like remembering hair color and glasses. They also check the boys room.
If i take friends I pay and go over the basic rules.
Man, I’m envious of you guys that have lots of great people to take on shops. My mom is amazing and always asks if I need photos etc of food and details about everything...My husband goes with me some but he is definitely not ideal as he ate some of his salad before I could get a photo at a recent shop and I about freaked lol.. I explained to the MSC I went over this beforehand but he still ate it because he said he forgot and they accepted the shop but warned me to not let it happen again. I only took my dad once a few years ago because he started to blab to people at the next table that I was there on a shop and I gave him a death stare and told him to be quiet ha! I have taken a few friends and while they didn’t screw up thr shop I can’t say they were really helpful either. So, I really try to go with my mom only or alone.
I once had to time the wait at a bakery counter of a restaurant shop. My friend walked up to the front of the line at the bakery counter and loudly complained that we had been waiting too long. She still cannot understand why I told her I would not take her on any more shops.
I've never had that problem Sandy, but if the friend doesn't get it,no free lunch for her.....I have only taken three for food with one being a shopper (hi Steve). He was great, even texted me servers name. I was so interested in conversion, I forgot to take my picture....but, great MSC let it go through, did promise not to let that happen again. Most don't understand rules are rules, they just don't think of this as a real job. I have one person wanting to know how to get all the :freebies" I get, with me just smiling and not revealing my secrets. She has no clue this is work.

Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.....
Dr. Judith Wright
My husb goes with me most often. He's great about following all guidelines, and sometimes even reminds me that I have to do something obscure that I forgot about like "making note of what the background music is." I usually tune out background music, so he's great for that; and he's great with heights, weights, approx ages, remembering if someone had on glasses or not, and what they were wearing.

So...he's a fantastic co shopper smiling smiley

I have also taken any number of my kids when allowed. My 13 year old son is GREAT with details. He gets descriptions and names like no other. He will text them to me, pretending he's being a sullen teen playing on his cell phone. My daughter, who is 16, wants to shop when she's 18, so she's very conscientious about what I have to do...and she sticks around and sees reports being completed, too, so she knows Sassie vs Prophet, for example...

My son who is almost 18 goes for the enjoyment and doesn't do much to help out, but he also doesn't blab or mess anything up.

I have a six year old who has to be strongly admonished to keep his mouth shut. But he understands that we get to do a lot of these things BECAUSE Mommy works for it; and we wouldn't be going to movies, eating out, going to amusements...nearly as often if I couldn't work for it.

An interesting side note: Once when my now 13 year old son went on a shop with my husband and I...it was a shop for men's suits. My husb had to get fitted for a suit and I had to observe and do the report. We said that it was for my brother's wedding. My then (about 5 or 6 year old) blurted out, "But we just got back from Uncle Shane's wedding!!" He also once blurted out that I was on a mystery shop. So there were a couple snafus, but now he's great to go with....
I have a friend who has done some mystery shopping, so she knows the rules and won't mention the work while we're at the restaurant. We do a shop that requires two females only and I buy her meal because she's a big help. Otherwise, I take hubby or my son; both have done shops with me for many years and are trustworthy. I can tell them what details I need for them to get and just focus on doing the timing and photos (if any). They're good for names and descriptions.
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