Can you accept a soda or car wash after an OPEN audit?

I have done many store audits. Several times after an open audit, I've been offered a soda or even a car wash. It's an open audit and the manager gets to look at all the paperwork and issues. Nothing is hidden from the store manager. After the audit, I've been offered a soda or a car wash. Can you accept these....after an OPEN audit?

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NO. For many reasons. In fact I just received a general reminder email sent to all shoppers from a particular MSC reminding contractors NOT to accept even the smallest of freebies. This applies to revealed audits as well. It also reminded us not to mystery shop while drunk or on drugs. Sadly, I guess enough people needed that warning that the email needed to be sent.

sestrahelena
I thank them but never accept a freebie. Usually it states not to accept freebies in the guidelines.

Do not read so much, look about you and think of what you see there.
Richard Feynman-- letter to Ashok Arora, 4 January 1967, published in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track (2005) p. 230
I don't know what any individual MSC's rules might be but this reeks of payola. I wouldn't accept even if the MSC permitted it.
I got the same e-mail. It was pretty darn specific, like even if they were offering the freebie to everybody, you couldn't accept it! (Although, if it were me, and not a revealed audit, and everybody BUT me accepted the freebie, I, too, would accept it -- then explain, in full, in the report.) But I sure didn't appreciate the e-mail also stating I was not to use my cell phone or "device" in any way on the way to OR from the shop. Get real. I'm driving 300 miles without using a "device"?

(Although a few years ago, I would have been, like, what's a "device"? I mean, my CAR is a device, too! LOL )

But you know, I've been getting a lot of VERY annoying e-mails lately. Do not smoke on the way to a shop. Make sure your breath is sweet (WHAT? I've had bad breath for 45 years. Nothing can be done about it.). Make sure your clothes are pressed (do I LOOK pressed after driving 7 hours? More like CREASED, thank you very much!).
Don't wear sweats. EXCUSE me? I'm not going into a boutique, I'm going into a gas station in west BF, where everyone is wearing camo, jeans, OR sweats. I'll be extremely fortunate if I'm not treated to...well, think about all the cable guy and plumber jokes, and I'll leave it to that. I'm not doing a white-glove inspection at the Ritz (they have in-house that does that), I'm taking photos of a $60 a night motel's parking lot!!!! You don't PAY me enough to tell me not to smoke and how to dress -- that makes YOU MY EMPLOYER. In which case, I want $15 an hour for each of the 7 hours it took me to get there, plus 100% of my car expenses reimbursed, and a meal, too, thanks!

Get it ?-- the reason they use us, folks, is because we are cheaper than hiring employees. They can't have us cheaper but treat us as employees.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/10/2021 02:21AM by ceasesmith.
If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it is a duck. This is a bribe.

Edited to add: I consider the offer of a soda or a bottle of water after an announced audit or after a reveal to be incorrect. During a mystery shop where every customer is offered a bottle of water or a pen or something like that, which is common at banks, dealers, health care shops, etc., it is part of the normal flow and often the company wants to know that the customer is indeed receiving those expected things.
@johnb974 wrote:

I have done many store audits. Several times after an open audit, I've been offered a soda or even a car wash. It's an open audit and the manager gets to look at all the paperwork and issues. Nothing is hidden from the store manager. After the audit, I've been offered a soda or a car wash. Can you accept these....after an OPEN audit?

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


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/10/2021 12:34PM by myst4au.
I have been accepting things for years. Soda, food, car wash, and even got oral.....dental service. Yeah, that's it. Dental service from the shop owner's niece.

They offer it, take it. They still get the review they earn.
I have been offered beverages on many (unrevealed) shops over the years; standard practice at car dealerships, banks, oil change, etc. MS is thirsty work, and I always accept that cold bev. or steaming cup of Joe.
Never accept anything at an open, or post mystery shop reveal audit because the owner can come afterwards and accuse you that you accepted something of value to undermine your credibility and your report.

Btw, the reason they state all these reminders it is strictly for liability reasons, usually directed by the client and their legal department, or the MS legal dept. You are an IC, but they have also warned you not to do x,y,z , thus they are not liable in any possible way. Same reason products have all this silly sounding warnings.

Edit to add that do not be too trusty with managers, owners, etc being nice during the audit. When their livelihood is threatened, they are willing for everything. I have so many personal examples, eg I have written before about a credit site audit that was going exceptionally well, until I reached the end of the questions survey and had to take photos. He wanted to take my brand new camera! I barricaded myself in a room and had to call the police to be able to leave the place.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/10/2021 12:48PM by KateH.
A soda offered as a bribe? OMG. If anybody thinks a $1.25 soda would bribe anyone, or a shopper would even think to be bribed by it, that's sad. OTOH, a car wash? Probably a bribe.

I did an audit recently that involved my having to be outside in freezing weather (it started to snow), and the manager of the location offered me a coffee during the course of the shop. You'd better bet I took it! I'm quite sure there was nothing nefarious in his mind, and I most surely didn't think it was offered as a bribe. If it was, it didn't work.

I can't imagine that a beverage offered during or after an audit could be considered a bribe! To me, that's a pretty ludicrous idea. But if the value of whatever is offered--say, a $25 bottle of wine or a gift basket--is out of the ordinary, then, yeah, I imagine it's a bribe. Seems to me that this is a matter of common sense.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/10/2021 08:17PM by BirdyC.
Kate H.: What a frightening experience, glad you ok! How did you barricade, what did police say, what was up with owner? Wow!!!
@sbobgal wrote:

Kate H.: What a frightening experience, glad you ok! How did you barricade, what did police say, what was up with owner? Wow!!!

This was 10? years ago when they were doing the credit bureau site evaluations and I was at a mortgage broker's office at a bad area. He went and locked the main entrance door and would not let me out unless I handed him my camera, which was literally brand new. He was the sweetest, polite person, until he realized that I had to take photographs of the physical space. I ran into one of the offices, locked the door and called the police that thankfully came in 3-5 minutes. I had to explain to the police officer what a mystery shopper was, at least he knew that they went for mystery shopping at McDonald's so that legitimized me to his eyes.
Been offered tons of coffee, food when I do reveal gas station shops. Never accepted, the first time I do Murphy's Law will rear its ugly head. I just know it.
Thinking back to another job... some cashiers still remember that I used to have the early morning job and bought lots and lots of coffee from them then. (This was much faster than driving home to fetch more and less unwieldy than traveling with troughs of hot, warming caffeine every day). Fast forward to the present. A local freebie might be a courtesy to me for that reason and unrelated to a shop. Freebies for everyone might be a courtesy to all the stranded drivers during one of our road-closing storms. Offers of freebies at revealed shops in any other town might give even the appearance of an effort to influence, even if the only intention were to express hospitality and a customer friendly atmosphere. There might be some leeway, for some people, some of the time. But the policy should continue to be that shoppers are forbidden to accept gifts or discouraged from entering into anything that could seem too friendly. It is murky, sometimes...

Perfectionism is not a Virtue - The FlyLady (Marla Cilley)
_______
I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
____


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/11/2021 12:03AM by Shop-et-al.
For me it is just not worth the risk. There's always the chance that friendly store owner or manager will turn on you over something trivial. I usually have all the drinks and snacks I want anyways from required purchases. Some are pretty insistent though, and refuse to take the money on the required purchase. In those cases I look for a tip jar, usually at the food counter, or just leave the money on the counter.
@BirdyC wrote:

A soda offered as a bribe? OMG. If anybody thinks a $1.25 soda would bribe anyone, or a shopper would even think to be bribed by it, that's sad. OTOH, a car wash? Probably a bribe.

I did an audit recently that involved my having to be outside in freezing weather (it started to snow), and the manager of the location offered me a coffee during the course of the shop. You'd better bet I took it! I'm quite sure there was nothing nefarious in his mind, and I most surely didn't think it was offered as a bribe. If it was, it didn't work.

I can't imagine that a beverage offered during or after an audit could be considered a bribe! To me, that's a pretty ludicrous idea. But if the value of whatever is offered--say, a $25 bottle of wine or a gift basket--is out of the ordinary, then, yeah, I imagine it's a bribe. Seems to me that this is a matter of common sense.
I just think there's a big difference between a mystery shop and an open audit. It's not the money, it's the principle. Bring a thermos if it's cold.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/11/2021 07:54AM by KokoBWare.
I was 100 miles away from home and didn't have a thermos or any way to make a hot beverage in my motel room. And there was no place to stop and buy a coffee between the motel and the location, as it was literally right down the road. I'm the one of the most ethical people you'll find, but to be outside in near-freezing weather for almost 2 hours and refuse a hot drink because it might be a bribe? Nope; that's just silly, imo. I can smell a bribe when offered, and a cup of coffee wasn't one. If they'd have offered me lunch? Different story altogether.

I really think there's a big difference between being offered a beverage and being offered a meal or something of real value. Even when I sold real estate, where there are a multitude of ethics laws (not guidelines or suggestions), a Realtor can accept a gift of up to $25 in value from a client before having to share it with his/her broker or report it as income. It's not unethical or legal, and it can be a gift from a client during the course of house-hunting, not just post-closing. Not a bribe.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/11/2021 01:28PM by BirdyC.
Oh, and, no, I couldn't bring a coffee from the motel because there wasn't any in the lobby, or tea, or hot chocolate. (Well, there was something that was supposed to be coffee, but it looked and tasted like the water had been run through the grounds a second time and was not fit for consumption.)

Common sense prevailed.

Maybe I should add that a) they knew a couple of days in advance I was coming, so if they had any deficiencies they could have remedied those ahead of time and not tried to bribe me with a cup of coffee (LOL), b) this was entirely a photo audit--there's nothing I could fudge or lie about in the report, nothing subjective, etc., and c) this was a car dealership, and it's standard procedure to offer people coffee. I wonder if they think offering a coffee to a customer is going to bribe them into buying a car?

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/11/2021 03:31PM by BirdyC.
Many of these gas station audit require you to purchase something for the receipt. No sense in taking a soda from anyone, since you get reimbursed for the one you bought.
Just read about a trucker who was stranded for the second night in a row, near where I am/was/might still be scheduled to shop today. (That end of the road is mostly clear and open. My end of the road will be closed for at least two more hours. The logjam of delayed vehicles, traveling slowly, will lengthen the drive time substantially-- even if no one crashes or is blown over by the wind. I am hoping that the message I sent at midnight-ish will result in penalty-free reschedule.) He gratefully received gifts of food and beverage along with other stranded travelers at the temporary shelter. I only mentioned this because I don't want good ol' hospitality and common sense to be eclipsed by the ethics of mystery shopping. I also want to remind people who might want to shop here that some roads frequently close for many hours at a time. Plan accordingly. If someone cannot get to you, they cannot give you goodies. But they will want to give you goodies, or somehow acknowledge that you are still here instead of where you would rather be.

The first time someone who was not known to be affiliated with a location literally handed me a cup of coffee, I thanked them and tried not to out myself with profuse thanks or ungracious dismissal. Now, years later, I know that the question is: what would Sheldon Cooper do in this hot beverage situation? The second time, someone waived my payment. I said something like, 'Oh, good. now I can get something else, too.' I got a treat for hubby and a required receipt. These freebies occurred during partially or wholly unrevealed gigs. At least I know what to do to save my gig if something like this happens during a revealed assignment.

Perfectionism is not a Virtue - The FlyLady (Marla Cilley)
_______
I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
____


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/12/2021 03:56PM by Shop-et-al.
@Shop-et-al wrote:

... Now, years later, I know that the question is: what would Sheldon Cooper do in this hot beverage situation? ...

Love it!
Just thought I'd pass this along. I may be doing a revealed audit this week, and the MSC has specifically addressed the question of what you can and can't accept:

"You may accept a beverage such as coffee, tea, or water if you are offered, but you may not accept anything like a meal or a gift."

This is what's made sense to me all along. It's too bad other MSCs don't clarify this in their guidelines (maybe some do, but this is the first time I've ever seen it).

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
One gas station shop last year was kinda cool.. they were making homemade pork rinds. They offered me a bag of the flavor of my choice, and they had some AWESOME flavors. BUT.. It's a clear ethics violation to accept anything for free from someone you're auditing. We talked about shoes, because the owner used to sell New Balance shoes, and New Balance shoes are the only ones I can wear since my knee surgeries. I purchased two bags of pork rinds and a soda for the drive home.

I NEVER accept anything free from anyone, not when I'm working, and not when I'm not working. I can't afford to owe anyone any favors, or anything else. The cost is too high.
According to the MSC for whom I was going to do the audit this week (but which, sadly, got cancelled by the client), it's NOT an ethics violation to accept an item of piddling value such as a beverage. And this MSC is a pretty big player in the field. If they say it's OK, then if I'm offered a coffee while conducting the audit, I'm taking it. There's no way I'm going to be influenced by that, and there's no way the company being audited is going to hope that I will be.

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 12/16/2021 10:16PM by BirdyC.
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