Shared Insights Support Staff Answer: Helpful or Demeaning?

I was getting ready to complete my first assignment for SI and read all the Assignment Information and the Questionnaire for the job. I had a question about two of the sample photos that did not seem to correspond with the requirements (they asked for photos of anything that was non-compliant as well). I could not figure out what the pictures were and did not know what one acronym was, so I sent this message to the "support" staff:

"I am getting ready to conduct my first assignment for SI and would like some clarification on the Audit Assignment Notes for the [company] job. In the sample photos, can you tell me what the ones in the bottom row left corner and bottom row right corner are pictures of? I can't tell what requirement they are fulfilling. Also, what is an RTD cooler? Thanks!"

Here is her response:
"It says on the notes what the images are for and RTD is a Ready to Drink cooler. You should read the questionnaire."

This companies notes are riddled with threats of "If you don't, your audit will be rejected and you will not be paid." Does anyone else have experience with this company? Should I steer clear? The assignment is more than 10 days away.

Mystery Shopper since 1998; Author of Make Money Mystery Shopping available on Amazon in the Kindle Store.

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Since the assignment was canceled, my two cents are not needed.

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.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/30/2013 09:23PM by LisaSTL.
I emailed the "support" staff and said I would check with my forum community to see if I was just being sensitive or if her answer was indeed, "unhelpful." She said she could take legal action if I mentioned anything about our correspondence, then told me my assignment was canceled since they don't tolerate "threatening shoppers." She also said she had answered my question fully.

Mystery Shopper since 1998; Author of Make Money Mystery Shopping available on Amazon in the Kindle Store.
I have not done a shop for this MSC so I cant comment on this situation but I have run into that issues with other MSC.

I just hate when a guideline instruction has contradictory info and when you ask for clarification the response is "Read the guidelines"
Obviously the scheduler has not bothered to familiarize themselve with the shop

I have also received from other MSc " If you can't understand the gudelines we will take the shop away" without trying to to CLARIFY so the shop gets done right .
I have actually done the shop in question multiple times at multiple locations. Nice pay for the small amount of work required. The photo example page is confusing, but if you follow the written instructions it all becomes clear. I printed off all the instructions the first time, and followed it line by line. Whoever wrote them put a whole lot of effort into writing instructions that make the job look much, much more complicated than it actually is. I usually take about 15 minutes to complete one, and another 10 minutes for input. Pay is usually $30. Easy, peasy shop....never had any feedback or questions about my reports.
jackaroe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
>
> I just hate when a guideline instruction has
> contradictory info and when you ask for
> clarification the response is "Read the
> guidelines"
>
> I have also received from other MSc " If you can't
> understand the gudelines we will take the shop
> away" without trying to to CLARIFY so the shop
> gets done right.

I'm lucky to have not run into the above responses when asking for a clarification on shop instructions, but I've run into plenty of shops where the instructions are confusing, vague, and/or contradictory! Fortunately, most of the schedulers I've had to contact to ask for clarification have been wonderful. In one case a scheduler hadn't realized that the three different sets of instructions and e-mails all had different parameters! She was great about giving me the correct information and apologizing for the conflicting information. Another time a scheduler simply ignored my e-mail and I didn't accept the shop (wasn't going to risk not doing it right because I couldn't get the proper instructions), but I noticed that the next time the shop was posted, the instructions had been re-worded a little bit, although still weren't crystal clear....

I think that because the schedulers "know" what the shops entail they're not able to look at the instructions from a shopper's perspective. They must figure, "Well, I understand the instructions, so why can't they?" Maybe that's why some of them get so unnecessarily hostile?

But it's still hard for me to "get" why they don't "get" that shop instructions aren't always clear, especially to someone who's never done that specific shop before. Why do they get so upset? If they'd just take the time to answer the question(s), their shops would get done so much more easily. Seems it would make their jobs easier, but, instead, the kinds of responses above make everybody's lives harder--especially the scheduler who yanks a job and has to re-schedule 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.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/31/2013 11:50PM by BirdyC.
In 10th grade we had to write instructions for an alien on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Our teacher then acted out our instructions. Very amusing, but knowing that you have to be very exact on how to do everything is something that I will remember forever.

Shop instructions aren't always written to first open the bag of bread, sometimes they just assume you know to open the bag and not smear peanut butter all over it. Schedulers need to understand when we ask for help, we just need to know if we open the bag first or if it is already open because the instructions simply said, "Make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich"
SecretAgentMom Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> .....knowing that you
> have to be very exact on how to do everything is
> something that I will remember forever.
>
> Shop instructions aren't always written to first
> open the bag of bread, sometimes they just assume
> you know to open the bag and not smear peanut
> butter all over it. Schedulers need to understand
> when we ask for help, we just need to know if we
> open the bag first or if it is already open
> because the instructions simply said, "Make a
> peanut butter and jelly sandwich"

Exactly! I know what you mean--in a tech writing course I took, our first assignment was to take an office stapler and write a set of instructions on how to use it, assuming the audience had never seen one. We were all flummoxed; it was amazingly difficult. To break down the use of something we all just "know" how to do and present it step by step, so that someone who'd never seen one could use it, just through those instructions, was hard. But, it sure does help you look at things from a different perspective and try not to take things for granted!

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
I once signed up with a company and the first shop had a detailed set of guidelines. One of the requirements was to phone the company to go over the guidelines to be sure I had a clear understanding before doing the shop. I studied the guidelines carefully and then called the company. The young man who spoke to me told me to ignore the written guidelines and "just do this....and this....and this." I said that made me very uncomfortable because it completely contradicted the published guidelines and I would have over $20 involved in a take out food purchase that I didn't even want. He said if I found the job too difficult he could just remove it. I told him he was arrogant and I thought removing it was exactly what he should do. Too bad if a company doesn't make the effort to match up the guidelines and verbal instructions somewhat, and also too bad if an employee gives out bad instructions on purpose.

Mary Davis Nowell. Based close to Fort Worth. Shopping Interstate 20 east and west, Interstate 35 north and south.
MDavisnowell Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I told him he was arrogant and I thought removing it was
> exactly what he should do. Too bad if a company
> doesn't make the effort to match up the guidelines
> and verbal instructions somewhat, and also too bad
> if an employee gives out bad instructions on
> purpose.


Good for you--sounds that twerp needed to be fired in addition to being dressed down! I think that most schedulers and contacts at the MSC's are probably pretty good folks, but ones like this? Sheesh--that guy needed to be shopped and get a "failing grade."

My first boss in retail told me to never forget that without customers, we wouldn't have jobs. Likewise, without both clients and shoppers, the schedulers wouldn't, either. Maybe some of them need that reminder!

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
Quilter, while I agree it is an easy shop and 15 minutes on site is doable, how in the world can you complete the report in ten minutes? For me it is about 30 or so because of having to write something for every single question and then upload all the photos individually. The job is still well worth the price, it just feels like the report is unnecessarily tedious.

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.
You did the right thing asking for clarifications of the guidelines.smiling smiley

She would be the "first" to reject your shop, if you did not follow the guidelines.

Sounds like a Catch 22 here. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

I "damn well" would NOT do any more shops for this company, if the scheduler talked liked that and backed it with a threat.

Saying "I don't understand the guidelines" and followed with "READ the guidelines" shows a lack of empathy and common sense on the schedulers part.
iamloved1,

We are sorry that you feel our scheduler was being rude with you. I checked the conversation between you and our scheduler and I would like to mention that she was working during the holidays and had limited access to e-mail. To keep up with the flow of incoming shopper e-mails she responded accordingly.

She was correct when she mentioned that you are not legally allowed to post any conversations from e-mail on public forums. In the future PLEASE do not do this. If you have any questions or comments on the issue please contact us so we can further discuss this matter and clarify anything.

Shared Insight Shopper Support
t: 310 796 0080
e: support@sharedinsight.com
w: [shoppers.sharedinsight.com]
Avoid this company, evidently! Can't stand when they continually threaten the shopper, when the shopper is just trying to follow their guidelines!

Kona Kathie
Hmmm, sounds like a public conversation now that Shared Insights has commented here.

Happily shopping Rhode Island and nearby Massachusetts and Connecticut
I thought there is a Forum Rule that anyone officially representing a MSC should post under their official title or something.
I think it's just forum *protocol*. Not an official rule. But it seems like it would only make sense for those who do represent an MSC to say so, for their own credibility. The 'handle' used here could be anything, and anyone could make one up that looks like it goes with an MSC.

Happiness is merely life's way of keeping you off-balance.
I am trying to do a job for them, but I cannot get the questionnaire correct. The shop report "assignment" does not seem to answer all of the questions while some of them are just plain common sense.
StormCloud Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think it's just forum *protocol*. Not an
> official rule. But it seems like it would only
> make sense for those who do represent an MSC to
> say so, for their own credibility. The 'handle'
> used here could be anything, and anyone could make
> one up that looks like it goes with an MSC.

I agree, it is forum protocol rather than a rule. I think it's a matter of respect for the shopper community, since this is primarily a shopper board. I think it would be polite and professional for the individual posting on behalf of the company to identify him or herself. Speaking for myself personally, I have a negative perception of a company when an individual posts "WE think this" and signs it The Company. I have a much warmer, more positive perception of a company when I read a post signed Susan Jones, The Company.
This response from "the company" infuriates me.I know i'm very late responding, but I just found this. The scheduler is working through the holidays so we should forgive her rudeness. It happens that the shopper is working through the holidays as well. Is anyone going to give her any kind of a break? Report 10 minutes late and see what break you are given. And the LAW is that you can't post someone elses email. It doesn't say that you can't discuss a perceived inequity. If she had been able to get any kind of assistance by contacting the company there would not have been a problem. It seems that 'support' for this company sometimes consisits of answering the phone and telling shoppers with a question to read the instructions. I don't get the companies that treat their shoppers like imbeciles or cattle and then want respect in return. And I'm about done shopping for companies that start a relationship with a page full of dire warnings with penalties for every potential infraction of their rules. You wouldn't treat your dog that way - or you would never have an obedient dog. Threats are not motivating.
charlene4047 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
. And the LAW is that you
> can't post someone elses email. It doesn't say
> that you can't discuss a perceived inequity. And I'm about done
> shopping for companies that start a relationship
> with a page full of dire warnings with penalties
> for every potential infraction of their rules. You
> wouldn't treat your dog that way - or you would
> never have an obedient dog. Threats are not
> motivating.

Two comments, just to keep the understanding clear.

There is NOT a LAW that states an individual cannot post someone else's e-mail. It is NOT illegal to post another person's e-mail or the contents of a letter received from another person. What the nameless Shared Insights representative was referencing is that the OP signed an Independent Contractor Agreement (ICA) with the company. The ICA that the OP signed is legally binding and restricts disclosure of information and communications from Shared Insights.

As to the warnings about penalties, I actually like SOME warnings from MSCs, although if they go too far, I find them insulting. I think MSC's should be very clear and their ICs should understand that not correctly performing the requirements of an assignment leads to nonpayment. Some MSCs give no real warnings. They state the shop requirements without saying "If you don't do this, we will not accept your shop and we will not pay you." A lot of newer shoppers tend to not understand that if they do not perform the shop according to the guidelines, they will not be paid. It is their perception that if they show up and try, they will get paid, whether the shop is successfully performed or not. We get a lot of posts from newer shoppers who are distressed that they made "a little mistake" (which, when they explain, frequently turns out to be a big mistake) and will not be paid and they feel nobody warned them. So, I support companies stating very clearly that they will not pay if the report is not completed correctly.

However, some companies take it to the point of insult. I don't remember being insulted by the guidelines of Shared Insights, but there is another company I have ceased to work with because I feel so insulted by their guidelines. Written in bright colors and bold type, for additional emphasis, they warn that anything done incorrectly will cause nonpayment. They go on to state "Don't lie. Don't try to fool us. We've been around a long time. We will catch you." I was appalled and accepted no more shops from them. That's the beauty of being an Independent Contractor. We don't have to work for anyone we don't choose to work for.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/21/2014 02:12PM by AustinMom.
Shared_Insight Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> iamloved1,
>
> We are sorry that you feel our scheduler was being
> rude with you. I checked the conversation between
> you and our scheduler and I would like to mention
> that she was working during the holidays and had
> limited access to e-mail. To keep up with the flow
> of incoming shopper e-mails she responded
> accordingly.
>
> She was correct when she mentioned that you are
> not legally allowed to post any conversations from
> e-mail on public forums. In the future PLEASE do
> not do this. If you have any questions or comments
> on the issue please contact us so we can further
> discuss this matter and clarify anything.


I usually appreciate when a company rep gives their side of the story, but this was totally self-serving. I give this a big thumbs down and blowing a few raspberries too.

There are two types of people in this world: Those who can extrapolate from incomplete data.
SecretAgentMom Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> In 10th grade we had to write instructions for an
> alien on how to make a peanut butter and jelly
> sandwich. Our teacher then acted out our
> instructions. Very amusing, but knowing that you
> have to be very exact on how to do everything is
> something that I will remember forever.
>

I actually use this very activity in my training classes. I'm a Learning & Development professional and have developed Management & Leadership training curriculum material to deliver to the Managers & Leaders within companies that I've worked in the past. It is amazing to see the hot headed "I Know It All" managers react to just how unclear and confusing they can be at times. If I had to point to one activity that has probably been commented on it's impact, it would be this one.

Okay, back to MS discussion!
I worked for this company in the past when they had one of my favorite restaurants but I was not really happy with they way they were treating us. Since then, I dropped them.
I work for them regularly. They have only a few shops in my area, so not a lot of shops monthly, but enough to have a good feel for how it is to work for them.

I generally like working for them. But it is true that their documentation can sometimes be confusing.

The tone of the answer you get when you ask them a clarification question completely comes down to who you end up talking with.

Some of the folks are super nice. Others are abrupt and unhelpful.

The unhelpful ones tend to not realize that wording in a document can be interpreted in more than one way. Or that information may be missing or contradictory. So they don't understand why you are interrupting their busy day for such a mundane matter.

Now that I know how to do the shops that I do for them, I don't usually end up dealing with the abrasive personalities. But I will agree that getting to that point can sometimes be a little rough.
AustinMom Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

>
> As to the warnings about penalties, I actually
> like SOME warnings from MSCs, although if they go
> too far, I find them insulting. I think MSC's
> should be very clear and their ICs should
> understand that not correctly performing the
> requirements of an assignment leads to nonpayment.
> Some MSCs give no real warnings. They state the
> shop requirements without saying "If you don't do
> this, we will not accept your shop and we will not
> pay you." A lot of newer shoppers tend to not
> understand that if they do not perform the shop
> according to the guidelines, they will not be
> paid. It is their perception that if they show up
> and try, they will get paid, whether the shop is
> successfully performed or not. We get a lot of
> posts from newer shoppers who are distressed that
> they made "a little mistake" (which, when they
> explain, frequently turns out to be a big mistake)
> and will not be paid and they feel nobody warned
> them. So, I support companies stating very
> clearly that they will not pay if the report is
> not completed correctly.
>

Did that when I first started years ago. Got a restaraunt shop where you had to also interact with the bartender. The shop instructions were 20+ pages, the survey was 15. They also had a second set of examples that was 6 pages. I had to take a second person on this shop. I read everything twice. I gave it to my friend to read and he read everything twice. Never saw that you had to order a drink. I interacted with the bartender by asking directions to restroom after getting a glass of water. They rejected the report and never payed. That was my learning experience. I never did find the line they sent me highlighted about ordering a drink even though I re-read the all the documents again.
It sounds like rather than you missing the requirement, the requirement was missing from the 41 pages of instructions. That would make it their mistake and you should have been paid.

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.
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