What Are The Known Reasons Clients End Mystery Shopping Programs?

I was sad to see Chili's go (from recent thread discussion). I really liked their multiple choice-mostly survey report and decent meal reimbursement. Food was something my friends and family liked, so I always had a guest I could bring and we enjoyed the shops.

That got me wondering, what's been the reasons that people know of (or maybe just speculate on?) for clients pulling shops?

When BWW was cancelled, I figured it was due to their business being bought out by the parent corporation of Wendy's and profitability issues at that time.

Do clients who "go" typically stay gone? Do they make comebacks and, if so, how many years later?

Just very sad when GOOD shops disappear. Chili's comfort food was great and they had the absolute best report to do (hassle free). BWW had awesome half-price wing deals on Tuesdays (no longer) and happy hour 50% off appetizers (for combined whopping mega meals on the cheap), a job fee (on top of reimbursement) - plus, I regularly got bonuses on their shops, and a relatively easy report (slightly more multiple choice questions than Chili's and a few short answers of a few sentences).

These were rare. Many/most dining shops have lengthy narrative reports with lots of observations on minute details every few minutes of the shop that make for less pleasant and stress-filled dining experiences. Other than Five Guys and TXRH, I don't have anymore dining shops I'm willing to do.

Will we ever see the "lost" shops again? How often do new ones pop up in your areas?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/28/2019 10:17PM by shoptastic.

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I can think of one shop that came back: Applebee's. It was once a meal in the dining room. The report was a pain. I always said "Never again" and then they'd call me and I would do it again. It came back with another MSC and it was just for the curb side ordering. The report was much easier, and you got paid and the reimbursement covered what you needed to order.
And I just thought of another one. Brookstone was once shopped. My girlfriend's son worked at one and told us who shopped it, and that's how I got into mystery shopping. They stopped the program for a couple of years and then restarted it with the same MSC. Then they ended it again and then declared bankruptcy again and closed all their retail stores
In my area a couple of companies dropped the MS company and went with another company. One of the companies, a high end restaurant with an easy report was looking if certain servers and bartenders were stealing. Once a few shops were done on each of the targets the client stopped the shop because either they found the person trustworthy or they fired them for stealing.
GNC had a specific shop in one location. The card reader was broken and the location only accepted cash. Corporate wanted to make sure the cash was accounted for.

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
Several clients in my area have taken to adding an area on each receipt asking for comments on "How are we doing". As far as I am concerned it's nothing more than a thinly veiled mystery shop - without having to pay MSCs or shoppers. These companies should think about GIGO and respect professional mystery shoppers. I'm stepping off my *soapbox* now!
@ceasesmith wrote:

Clients generally end MS programs because they don't perceive value for the investment.

This. When I worked client side and had a marketing research budget I did not use it on MSing unless I got a huge amount of pressure from our operations folks, and even then - I tried to get them to give up funds from their budget, which they never wanted to do. MSing is expensive, often comes from the marketing budget, and its useless unless operations and training folks actually want to do something with the information (outside of just curiosity or for a HR issue). And unfortunately, they usually have no real plan to use the information and create positive change. Most all other forms of marketing research you can show real measurable ROI, it can be hard with MS to do this.

And also this:

One great use of MS… is to provide competitive intelligence to a brand that needs to know how that product is actually being sold in stores - many brands/companies have no idea how their products are actually being sold and talked about in the stores at the street level. But usually we just do one round of a sampling stores. For example - Microsoft wants to know how MS Office is being sold by the Best Buy associates - we do 500 or so shops across the country - but we only do it once. So it might look like the program is being cancelled, but in reality we only intended to do a set number.
@HelenaNOLA wrote:

In my area a couple of companies dropped the MS company and went with another company. One of the companies, a high end restaurant with an easy report was looking if certain servers and bartenders were stealing. Once a few shops were done on each of the targets the client stopped the shop because either they found the person trustworthy or they fired them for stealing.

With stealing, if the establishment has high turnover (and it's not a bartender, for example, who has worked there for decades), you'd seemingly need to recheck them every now and again.

I know with Five Guys, I've "caught" employees giving out free drinks multiple times. I guess you could say that's "stealing." I have no idea why they do it, as I am not even a regular customer enough that they would remember me and try to chat with me or anything. But, yeah, these were different workers at the same place and I know FG rotates staff a lot. Always new people.

I know the manager probably appreciated my catch.
@ceasesmith wrote:

Clients generally end MS programs because they don't perceive value for the investment.

Yeah. It could be the shop was designed poorly too.

Some shops ask for what seem to be silly observations that don't seem helpful, while omitting stuff that I guess I'd want to know about my workers if I was the owner.
@shoptastic wrote:

@ceasesmith wrote:

Clients generally end MS programs because they don't perceive value for the investment.

Yeah. It could be the shop was designed poorly too.

Some shops ask for what seem to be silly observations that don't seem helpful, while omitting stuff that I guess I'd want to know about my workers if I was the owner.

McDonalds comes to mind when I think about poorly designed MS programs. If they had been more concerned with Customer Service, cleanliness, etc and less about how fast customers got their food, they may have actually gotten value out of their MS Program. (I know the questions were on the survey, but any shopper that had their report invalidated or questioned, can tell you it was all about the timings. This was also why ordering guildelines were so strict and never changed. )

Lady Marius
Canadian Mystery Shopper
On the client side, we dropped our shopping program when each department was forced to tighten belts. It was an easy way to cut out a ton of expense, keeping our survey program and not causing any job loss internally. We’ve been bought (again) and our new company uses shoppers, but it remains to be seen if the newly acquired locations will get the program back. I sure hope so! Good shoppers are my eyes when I can’t be everywhere at once. But, as a shopper myself, I have high expectations for the reports and believe our shoppers make a fair amount for the effort. I have no clue who shops our new parent company or what those reports look like...I don’t want to waste budget money on something of little value.
One client that moved to the receipt feedback survey program is Dairy Queen (at least in my southeast area). Maybe it's cheaper for them since it's likely a pay-per-use type system. That's just a guess. I mean, who really does surveys on a receipt, then keeps the receipt with whatever code on it for free food?
@jrich wrote:

One client that moved to the receipt feedback survey program is Dairy Queen (at least in my southeast area). Maybe it's cheaper for them since it's likely a pay-per-use type system. That's just a guess. I mean, who really does surveys on a receipt, then keeps the receipt with whatever code on it for free food?

Me, If it's worth it and I'm right there. I've eaten many free snacks and had many free Cokes or iced teas for one minute of my time. That equals about $1/minute. Or $60/hr. Off the books.
@sestrahelena wrote:

But most you have to buy something to get the "free" thing which makes it NOT free.

Correct. And I don't do those. One convenient store chain has one for $1 off anything. So that's $1 off a pack of cigarettes. Never see a coupon for those.
In my area Applebee’s, Chili’s stopped their prograns entirely. Chili’s stopped when they put the machines on the tables. Most of the bank shops are gone. 99% of all types of shops do not do mystery shopping anymore, and the ones who do never change anything, so why do they bother? There is a casual restaurant chain here where the cook cannot make asteak the right way to save his life. Why hadn’t he been fired? Mgmt doesn’t care that customers continue to get bad food. It’s unbelievable. Now, when I eat out as a regular customer I always report things to corporate. All legitimate and real.
We went to Chili's last night.

Food debris under the table, lots of it
Fingerprints on the mirror
Drinks came after the appetizer
Took too long to greet
Paper towels overflowing and on the floor
Hostesses talking to each other and not saying goodnight to guests
Refills not proactively offered
Specials not mentioned, signature items not mentioned
Alcohol (margaritas) not offered

I could go on. They really need their mystery shopping program back. I saw the survey on the Ziosk.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/02/2019 01:05PM by Niner.
@LindaK wrote:

In my area Applebee’s, Chili’s stopped their prograns entirely. Chili’s stopped when they put the machines on the tables. Most of the bank shops are gone. 99% of all types of shops do not do mystery shopping anymore, and the ones who do never change anything, so why do they bother? There is a casual restaurant chain here where the cook cannot make asteak the right way to save his life. Why hadn’t he been fired? Mgmt doesn’t care that customers continue to get bad food. It’s unbelievable. Now, when I eat out as a regular customer I always report things to corporate. All legitimate and real.

I just emailed corporate, told them about last night, and suggested that they need to restart their mystery shopping program.
Aldi now has survey information on their receipts. Wonder if they're thinking of going that way exclusively?

Happiness is not a goal; it is a by-product. Eleanor Roosevelt
I frequently take advantage of the receipt survey freebies.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/02/2019 06:31PM by greenelight2go.
@WeimLover wrote:

On the client side, we dropped our shopping program when each department was forced to tighten belts. It was an easy way to cut out a ton of expense, keeping our survey program and not causing any job loss internally. We’ve been bought (again) and our new company uses shoppers, but it remains to be seen if the newly acquired locations will get the program back. I sure hope so! Good shoppers are my eyes when I can’t be everywhere at once. But, as a shopper myself, I have high expectations for the reports and believe our shoppers make a fair amount for the effort. I have no clue who shops our new parent company or what those reports look like...I don’t want to waste budget money on something of little value.

I kinda figured it was mostly company's "belt tightening" aka "being cheap".
I love KFC To Go cups. I buy one once a month and it's my fast food treat. I would buy one in September, do the survey, October's Cup was free.

I looked at my receipt last month. For filling out the survey, you get something free with a purchase.

No thanks.

@sestrahelena wrote:

But most you have to buy something to get the "free" thing which makes it NOT free.

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
@bestofbothworlds wrote:

Several clients in my area have taken to adding an area on each receipt asking for comments on "How are we doing".
I filled out one of those a few years back. At the end of the form I was directed to the MSC. I wound up getting paid to shop them. (It didn't last long but then I was asked to be on a panel of taste-testers for new products.) Back to your point: I would guess the results depend on how vigilant the regional managers are about reading them. It could become just another thing to do that gets prioritized to zero. If the client is actually paying someone then the argument could be made that it gets prioritized much higher.

P.S. I miss El Torito, Chipotle and even Mickey D (I had a couple of months supply of Egg McMuffins in the freezer.)

Shopping SoCal and Maui.
@shoptastic wrote:

Some shops ask for what seem to be silly observations that don't seem helpful, while omitting stuff that I guess I'd want to know about my workers if I was the owner.

That's because you fail to understand that there are many reasons companies mystery shop, and I would guess less than half the time it's for the reasons you assume.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
@greenelight2go wrote:

I frequently take advantage of the receipt survey freebies.

I wonder if there is "extra" positive pressure on employees when there are "real" shoppers who evaluate them weekly/monthly? Like psychologically, do they try harder to meet the company policies and performance benchmarks?

Voluntary surveys might not produce consistency and/or the detail a ms could. I know with a lot of surveys I take, they are mostly 5-min. multiple choice questions. Some have no immediate "prize," but instead place me into a drawing (which I NEVER EVER WIN!). smiling smiley

I pretty much stopped doing the voluntary surveys with no guaranteed prize, because I know the chance of me winning anything are probably like that of the lottery.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/06/2019 02:10PM by shoptastic.
@bgriffin wrote:

@shoptastic wrote:

Some shops ask for what seem to be silly observations that don't seem helpful, while omitting stuff that I guess I'd want to know about my workers if I was the owner.

That's because you fail to understand that there are many reasons companies mystery shop, and I would guess less than half the time it's for the reasons you assume.

Thanks for talking down to me like always. smiling smiley

While you have a good point, I think you're also not acknowledging that many shops probably do have frivolous observations. Or, are you saying that NEVER happens and all ms programs are designed perfectly and ALWAYS have awesome value to the clients?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/06/2019 07:47PM by shoptastic.
@shoptastic wrote:

@bgriffin wrote:

@shoptastic wrote:

Some shops ask for what seem to be silly observations that don't seem helpful, while omitting stuff that I guess I'd want to know about my workers if I was the owner.

That's because you fail to understand that there are many reasons companies mystery shop, and I would guess less than half the time it's for the reasons you assume.

Thanks for talking down to me like always. smiling smiley

While you have a good point, I think you're also not acknowledging that many shops probably do have frivolous observations. Or, are you saying that NEVER happens and all ms programs are designed perfectly and ALWAYS have awesome value to the clients?

Who days the observations are frivolous? You or the client who can fire their employee for not meeting expectations, frivolous or not?

As I am an objective mystery shopper, the observations I am being paid to make are rarely based on my feelings. If you think a MS job has observations or questions you feel are frivolous, and apparently not helpful to you, you have every right not to accept the job.

Any silly MS job that I am paid for is beneficial to me.
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