A Closer Look - Narrative length

I've done a few shops with this MSC company. It seems like they require much more detail than other MSCs. I just did a high-end restaurant last night that took 1.5 hours to write up, as literally every yes/no question needed a sentence to report. That was excessive, and my bill at the restaurant was well over the reimbursement, despite ordering only the required items. No prices were available online. Like others, I'm learning what is and what is not worth my time.

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I do shops for them on a regular basis. The narratives are typically 5-8 sentences. I did a diner on Monday and it was 5-7 sentences, but there were a lot of sections.

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
Honey is on target with the narrative requirements. I think there might be one area in each report that asks for 8-10 sentences. Almost all, except maybe Market Force, require that you address every no answer in your narrative.
Some shops have a lot of sections and require a lot of photos. Others, not so much. I like this MSC overall. You need to figure out what works for you.
I know sometimes I snag jobs that look so easy, then am blindsided by the ton-o-work that is actually required....prob want to stay away from the amusement park, casino, resort, and fancy FANCY restaurant shops. For my lazy butt, ACL has been pretty ok. One of the metrics I use to determine if a shop is worth it to me is enjoyment & time spent divided by reimbursement + shopper fee. A $60 reimbursed lunch at a restaurant me & my husband enjoy is worth the 1.5 hr report time + pix.
I did a greasy spoon for them on Monday. It actually had a fee. The report took about two hours.

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
I typically don't shop food with this MSC b/c I don't like the fact that there is no fee. I don't care if it is only $5 that still is better than no fee. It's more the principle of it for me. Or a higher flat fee like when Chipotle did it where it is more than enough to cover the cost of what is required ordering. I just did one for the first time for a smoothie chain mainly b/c my kids love their smoothies. But once is enough for me! The reimbursement was $15 and I had to order 3 different items that came out more than $15 and yes I did the get smallest smoothie size possible! For that they wanted a ton of writing and like 5 pictures! I can easily do a car wash with like 1/2 the writing and the fee is $8 plus I get a free car wash!
Always ask for a bonus with ACL. The gas station/convenience store shops that I do are reimbursement only. I get a $3 fee for each one that I do.

Certain food shops (a chain to go, and a tex mex) I will do without a fee because I'm going there anyway.

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
As a general rule of thumb, I think one to 1.5 paragraphs of narrative for every $5 in fees is reasonable. ACL might seem demanding in their narratives only because their fees are so minuscule.
I've noticed some shops where if you buy all items required, the fee does not cover the expense. Mostly, II call BS on that. When you add in the report time, it then becomes charity work...for a company that operates on profit. If the place is known to serve extraordinary food, I might value that higher....but gotta be choosy cuz life is short.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/28/2018 09:45AM by BarefootBliss.
I looked at the guidelines for one of their restaurants. $55 reimbursement and 18% tip. You have to order a drink, an appetizer, an entree, a pizza and a dessert. For $55?

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
The "reimbursemewnt only" thing bugs me with ACL. I quit working for them because of that, and well...they stiffed me at a restaurant named after a day of the week. More on that one - I arrived five minutes after the stated arrival time, but the wait was an hour for a table. We finished and departed fifteen minutes after the "end" time for the shop, and ACL declined the shop because it was not entirely done within the window alotted. Not again with ACL, at least for me...I don't even like that place!
I like the reimbursement only carryout shops. They generally reimburse $40-$55 and there are few sections to report, mostly food photos, a recorded phone call, and details on the pickup and taste of food. I can write up the report in 45 minutes and get food that I didn't have to cook.
I rarely shop ACL not only because of the length of their surveys, but also because a lot of their narrative sections feel repetitive. I know I've answered the exact same question multiple times by the time I'm done with them.

ACL reports are only worth the extra work if I get a big payoff, such as House of Blues. This shop reimburses for two show tickets, drinks, appetizers and parking. The total value is well over $200 for some of the concerts. If ACL is offering a shop for a hamburger joint, I just keep on stepping.
I won't do another shop with them. The reports are way too long and detailed for the low pay. I deactivated my account with them.
I am very selective with their shops. Some are pretty easy like the donation shops and pay decently. One current restaurant is really easy with almost no narratives as well. But damn, some of them are a bare. I did one restaurant that took over an hour to write up, and the required spend was $25 more than the reimbursement they gave. Never again. There are some gems with them, but you have to be careful. There is a pizza shop that requires a narrative and name for each of the 5 people that helped prepare you pizza. I find that level of detail ridiculous, not to mention nearly impossible to remember 5 names in the span of a minute.
Thanks everyone! A scheduler keeps encouraging me to sign up for ACL on FB and was wondering if it was worth it.
I just made a quick $600 on a route because ACL hotel shops rewards points covered my hotel expenses 100%. Remember, there are ways to make reimbursement-only shops pay off and the value (100s of dollars worth of hotel rewards points, in addition to using their hotel shops to anchor a route!) is also not taxable income.

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
I did a reimbursement only lunch with a report that was so easy that I felt like I was stealing.
I got 5% back from Discover, so that makes it a $2.50 fee.

I can't think of any shop that I have done for them that had a long report, not even the hotels.
Their hotel reports are very quick and easy IMHO. I also do a quick service lunch shop or two for them and those reports are very easy. The ONLY time I have had to write a long narrative for their shops was when something complicated and really negative happened so that I felt that a very detailed account was needed. Otherwise, 3-4 sentences per area of a hotel report was good enough to yield a 9 or a 10.

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
The "bad" reports are the quick pizza shops, and I still do them once in a while to have credit with the scheduler I work with all the time, but they are not close to worth the pay. You have to do a strict timing (easy if you have the right app), then remember at least 5 names, then do narratives on each of those people, plus the place, the food, the bathroom, etc. It's got to be a hard sell for the schedulers.

Orlando - lightly shopping NC
@oteixeira wrote:

The "bad" reports are the quick pizza shops, and I still do them once in a while to have credit with the scheduler I work with all the time, but they are not close to worth the pay. You have to do a strict timing (easy if you have the right app), then remember at least 5 names, then do narratives on each of those people, plus the place, the food, the bathroom, etc. It's got to be a hard sell for the schedulers.

The only way this shop can be done, with the information they want, is to record the shop. Leave your cell phone recorder on.
Better, yet, leave the recorder off and never do the shop. My area scheduler knows that I cannot be bribed to do them and leaves me alone, with no negative consequences.

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
Yes, I have never done one of those particular pizza shops. There are so many other shops with quite generous reimbursement that I don't feel the need to suffer through that, LOL. Heck, there are several regional chains in my area that ACL has with great pizza and they reimburse $35 for simple carryout shops. That's more to my liking.
Back to the narrative. I actually like the way the report is broken into sections and you supply comments accordingly. My only problem is when they ask for 5 to 8 sentences for a section in which there were a few questions. It’s hard to not be repetitive in describing the conditions at the entrance in five sentences, for instance.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/18/2018 10:03PM by kenasch.
Even recording the shop can me a pain. You have to listen to the whole shop all over again, measure the times, and than add up the times to each section. Not worth the pizza. I thought about going in with a stop watch and a paper pad to time each section. I'm sure that would be real annoying to the employees,. Tell them you're just doing your job.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/18/2018 10:09PM by johnb974.
You really thought about revealing that you were doing a mystery shop on a mystery shop? SMH.
ACL has one of, if not the, largest client lists of any MSC I know. They have some high end shops that are highly sought after. They use both to their advantage in low reimbursements and rarely a job fee. The funny thing is I did one of their fine dining lately and found the report much easier to complete than some of their pizza or other casual dining for 10-20% of the reimbursement. vs the reimbursement for fine dining.

Moral of the story, as long as they keep their jobs filled, I wouldn't imagine any changes. The pizza shops were reimbursement only until they couldn't fill them, now you at least get a few bucks for your trouble.
Who designs the reports anyway? If the pizza company is the one telling ACL what they want in the report, we really cannot blame ACL. I'm sure they have other shops that pay better and are easier to use. That would be the responsibility of the company asking for the information.
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