i-SPY Hospitality Audit Services is My Company ... This is What I Look For in our Mystery Shoppers

I am the owner of i-SPY Hospitality Audit Services. We are based in Philadelphia and offer our quality assurance mystery shopper service in major cities, including Philly, NYC, DC and Miami. (NOTE: there used to be another ispy, but their company name has changed.)

Most of what I read in online forums, written by anonymous posters, about my company and other mystery shopper companies tends to be negative. I get it ... people do not want to be told they did something incorrectly or did not do a "good" job. They feel "wronged". They feel justified writing about [XXX company] for others to "stay away from" or "avoid".

For potential mystery shoppers, the first thing we do is clearly communicate expectations to meet our high standards. We offer a tryout assignment (and sometimes multiple ones) in which potential shoppers are reimbursed for a completed report.

The following are what we look for in our mystery shoppers:
1. Superior retention and writing skills.
2. Ability to pay strict attention to detail.
3. Follows instructions.
4. Reliable to follow through on committed assignments within 24 hours.
5. NO diet restrictions (food or alcohol).
6. Commit to at least ONE meal per month.
7. Constructive Feedback (does not take it personally). If you do, this will not work out, and please do not apply.

Gathering information over the course of a 90-minute dinner assignment is no doubt challenging. Typing the info out onto a computer is time consuming. This is not simple stuff!

Our clients have high expectations of our mystery shopper reports. Thus, as the owner, I have high expectations of our shoppers -- and communicate this from day one. As the owner of a company, it is incumbent upon me to have clear rules and expectations, and to enforce those rules and expectations to be successful.

I have had wonderful, amazing mystery shoppers work with us for many, many years. They have enjoyed countless dining experiences, and my company has benefitted by their diligent reports that our clients have come to expect. We have had more than a handful of mystery shoppers which we have given many opportunities to that continually did not meet expectations, begged for subsequent chances, and then took to the anonymous online posting route. That's the norm in 2018.

I write this post to open dialogue -- and hopefully not a can of worms! -- between mystery shoppers and the mystery shopper companies they have positive intentions of working with.

I guarantee that for any mystery shopper that adheres to the above list, we will have a mutually beneficial relationship. And unfortunately, to those that do not, our relationship will not last very long.

Sincerely, Marc Kravitz
i-SPY hospitality

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Did somebody post something somewhere else? I don’t see any discussion about your company since 2015.

You’ll only find a small percentage of shoppers who meet your basic requirements. It’s probably less than 5% of the applicant pool, but you probably know that.

I rarely do fine dining anymore for less than a $50-$75 shop fee. I’m not intrigued by a $200 dinner with a $15 fee. How is your fee structure?

ETA: I see the reviews on Glassdoor

It looks like you pay $15 a shop. I'll pass. Most of the expert shoppers you want to shop for you will pass as well.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/27/2018 03:39AM by SoCalMama.
@SoCalMama wrote:

Did somebody post something somewhere else? I don’t see any discussion about your company since 2015.

You’ll only find a small percentage of shoppers who meet your basic requirements. It’s probably less than 5% of the applicant pool, but you probably know that.

I rarely do fine dining anymore for less than a $50-$75 shop fee. I’m not intrigued by a $200 dinner with a $15 fee. How is your fee structure?

ETA: I see the reviews on Glassdoor

It looks like you pay $15 a shop. I'll pass. Most of the expert shoppers you want to shop for you will pass as well.
I absolutely LOVE your reply.

OTOH,I have to give kudos to the above business owner for his transparency and for his clear expectations. My take is that there is nothing wrong per se with having high standards and for creating an environment in which high standards are expected.

That said, high standards and non-competitive pay for adherence to high standards? Ten foot pole to you and your company! I don't mind working with the above standards but you'd better believe I factor pay into whether a given mystery shop is worth it to me - and if the standards are high or I perceive they are and without adequate compensation, I'd rather let a newbie take the shop........
@ispyhospitality wrote:

I guarantee that for any mystery shopper that adheres to the above list, we will have a mutually beneficial relationship. And unfortunately, to those that do not, our relationship will not last very long.

Sincerely, Marc Kravitz
i-SPY hospitality

A mutually beneficial relationship requires that the shopper receive a benefit to justify the work you want. Two to three hours of work for $15.00? That's a relationship of exploitation not mutual benefit.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/27/2018 09:51PM by Rousseau.
I am not signed up with your company, and likely never will sign up, but not for the reasons you might assume. I live in a very rural area. For me, it's a 75-mile drive to get to a city that has fine dining opportunities.

Generally, fine dining shops require two people and/or consumption of alcohol. That makes them infeasible despite the fact I would like to do one once in a while.

That being said, if you see me complaining in this forum about a company, it's usually rooted in one of my pet peeves. I have several.

No. 1 is most definitely companies that don't embrace technology. I am not a millinial, but rather I am retired. Being old does not mean I can't learn new things. Just because a company hires oldsters to do their scheduling, it doesn't give them a pass on keeping up with the times. And it certainly doesn't give them license to lecture me on what computer systems can and can't do (I've coded on and off for 40 years.)

No. 2 is integrity of those running the company. Two of my favorite companies to work for are DJCs and ServiceSense. In both instances, both the MSCs and their major companies have a lot of integrity and value accuracy rather than trying for certain outcomes no matter the facts.

There are two MSCs that I do grocery store shops for that I will no longer do. In the first instance, I was told I was finding too much wrong and in the second not enough. The first happens to be a very low-end chain with filthy stores and exceptionally rude employees. The second caters to the wealthy, the stores are spotless, and the employees are as customer-service oriented as they come. I am not going to find fault where there is none.

No. 3 is unresponsive and/or unethical schedulers. I think this is self-explanatory.

Finally, No. 4 is vague feedback. If you don't tell me what I did wrong, I just may do it again. And I will be gun-shy about taking another shop from you.

Anyway, as a shopper who completes 100-200 shops a month in extremely rural areas, that is how I decide which companies to work for and which companies I won't touch with a ten-foot pole.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/27/2018 02:27PM by whiterosie.
Do you have any shops in North Carolina or Myrtle Beach? I don't mind high standards but would appreciate if a company would pay a reasonable amount for this. This said, I love doing high end restaurants and don't mind the low pay once in a while if it is somewhere that we have wanted to go and the entire meal plus tip is reimbursed. I have been shopping full time for about a year and a half and it is a great job for someone with disabilities that cannot work a full time job anymore.
Thanks for engaging in dialogue. Recruitment is not my goal for starting this conversation.

You know who I am (or have looked me up). Let's try something: include your name and where you live with your posts, and remove the anonymity.

And keep in mind compensation for an assignment, notably a restaurant, includes the fee PLUS the value of the meal the shopper is reimbursed for, whether $40, $100 or $250.
@Rousseau wrote:

@ispyhospitality wrote:

I guarantee that for any mystery shopper that adheres to the above list, we will have a mutually beneficial relationship. And unfortunately, to those that do not, our relationship will not last very long.

Sincerely, Marc Kravitz
i-SPY hospitality

A mutually beneficial relationship requires that the shopping receive a benefit to justify the work you want. Two to three hours of work for $15.00? That's a relationship of exploitation not mutual benefit.
Truth!
Unfortunately, there are some highly unscrupulous, vindictive schedulers out there that schedule for multiple companies. If they feel slighted, they make it very difficult on shoppers.

Over the years I've posted enough for many to figure out who I am. I have a very high internet profile due to other work I do. Anyone who knows me, knows I will generally put my name to my comments. This forum is one of the few exceptions because of the hateful nature of some involved in this business. I need to work right now and this is easy work. I'm not going to screw that up.

I believe this is a conversation that needs to happen. I see a lot of really unethical things in this business and that hurts everyone who is trying to do right and be taken seriously.
Marc -

I've got no opinion of your company - good or ill. However, I do not anticipate ever doing any work for you.

Along the lines of what has been posted above, I would not want to spent several hours working for a token fee of, say, $15. You have stated that the meal itself is part of the compensation. Perhaps for some folks it is. However, I simply will not enjoy a meal during which I have to time the number of visits from waitstaff, ask specific questions about wines, make sure I find a reason to speak with the manger, conduct multiple timings, etc. The meal, therefore, would be work and not a reward for me. I do periodically visit upscale restaurants. When I do so, I want to truly enjoy the experience and not have to concern myself with writing a report thereafter.

I recognize that such compensation is the norm within this industry and if other folks find more value than I do in the compensation, more power to them. I mystery shop to augment my income and these jobs simply do not help me in my endeavors.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/30/2018 05:08AM by MFJohnston.
I can appreciate there are people who have taken advantage of you, and empathize for your negative experiences. That sucks people would do that.

We are not your typical quality assurance company. We do not have a "scheduler". We do not post jobs online for anyone to randomly sign up last minute looking for a free meal because they happen to be in (xxx city).

We are a boutique operation that handles all scheduling and payment, editing, recruitment and client relations in-house. Our reports are not online templates that clients must adapt to, but are customized for each of our clients, and change as they change their standards. We have personal relationships with our clients that they value.

Our shoppers receive reimbursement for shops within a week of completing the assignment (not 60 days, not 90 days ... but about seven days).

The fact that there is a hateful nature at all in your experience is disappointing. I wrote this post as, at times, there has been hate thrown my way (most of which are kinda funny). I wish you continued success in who you've developed positive relationships with.
I just wanted to point out that if a shopper completes a restaurant shop and writes a good, detailed report on the experience, that meal was not "free". Thank you.

@ispyhospitality wrote:

We do not post jobs online for anyone to randomly sign up last minute looking for a free meal because they happen to be in (xxx city).
@ispyhospitality wrote:

keep in mind compensation for an assignment, notably a restaurant, includes the fee PLUS the value of the meal the shopper is reimbursed for, whether $40, $100 or $250.
This is only true if (a) it's a good meal, and (b) it's a place I would otherwise spend money.

Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
Amen to that! I can't count how many times a "fine dining" establishment had mediocre, overpriced food with mediocre service--sometimes with specific items that had to be ordered and restrictions on other things I was not allowed to order, and I wasn't even able to have more than one drink to make myself feel better while at the restaurant while undergoing a less than positive experience--and then I had to write a lengthy report about it (negative reports are always more time-consuming than positive ones).

Edited to add: then I had to wait for about 6 weeks to get paid back.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/29/2018 04:28AM by JASFLALMT.
@ispyhospitality wrote:

And keep in mind compensation for an assignment, notably a restaurant, includes the fee PLUS the value of the meal the shopper is reimbursed for, whether $40, $100 or $250.

Logical fallacy. Reimbursement is not compensation. It is reimbursement.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/27/2018 09:59PM by Rousseau.
I am a new shopper and have done no fine dining shops. It seems as though your company does not see the dinner as work time but as an unfettered dining experience for the shopper. If you had an employee who was required to attend a fancy company dinner, would you dock that employee's pay because of the "value" of the dinner? If it were an hourly employee, would you refuse to pay them for the time required to be spent at the dinner? If you don't think the shopper is working during dinner, then how is the shopper able to follow your guidelines and complete your evaluation? Do you think that having to work throughout dinner changes the value proposition - that maybe the value to the working diner is not the same as to the person at the next table who doesn't have to work during dinner and who got to choose when to dine and what to eat and drink?
I want to thank Mark Kravitz for "opening up this can of worms" and thereby perhaps opening up the eyes of some of the many msc that think of these meals as free food. I for one have done fine dining with a $15 fee. I do not do many of them now but I completely agree with the sentiment of most of what the other shoppers have written here. And this sentiment also applies to other types of mystery shops I have done where I have spent hours researching, reading rules on, getting to and from, taking and labeling photos and writing narratives. For many of these shops the msc's mention how quick and easy the shops are. Yes the shop report might be but throw in all the time spent in prep, travel etc and it is not quick.
I am hoping that other msc owners/staff who are reading this thread will take some of these comments to heart.
Shoppers who complete these types of assignments are ones who want the experience and can not otherwise afford it. As the company I work for requires employees to wear business casual but does not pay sufficiently to afford business casual, there are employees all over the U.S. wearing sneakers and torn clothing. I can do 6 Jacks for the same pay in 25% of the time.
ispyhospitality New Participant 1m New
Thanks for engaging in dialogue. Recruitment is not my goal for starting this conversation.

####
let's hope not, because if it were, you have failed.
@SS4U wrote:

ispyhospitality New Participant 1m New
Thanks for engaging in dialogue. Recruitment is not my goal for starting this conversation.

####
let's hope not, because if it were, you have failed.
^This.
The latest Glassdoor review, written March 17,2018, basically says exactly what the OP has written.

Like, totally, exactly, as I read it. Maybe it's ironic and nothing more.

I know that I can easily earn $2k a month starting a blog page and posting reviews there and that is why I, personally, do not complete dining shops OR hotel shops that provide the food and experience and $5 - $25 in exchange for a novella.

Edited to add, the second and third reviews, March 26th and January 20, 2018, read exactly the same. The third mentions "employer" which, if they are incredibly specific in their reports they would never say "employer".

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/29/2018 03:28PM by spicy1.
Has anyone shopped for this company who holds it in high regard? The comments in an older thread on here (including a screenshot of a response to a shopper which was anything but constructive feedback) along with those in other web forums are concerning.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/29/2018 06:30PM by MSF.
I feel the list you posted "what we look for in our mystery shoppers" is great. However, if you want quality, the pay needs to meet the time and energy that a shopper will put in. Spending hours on looking over the guidelines, driving to a restaurant and work as I eat discreetly keeping track of every detail, and the time to file a report. Not to mention spending a hundred dollars or more out to get reimbursed. I get more than $20 plus reimbursement on some fast-casual burger shops that takes me under an hour total for the shop and reporting. My time is worth something, for $$$$, not food. Don't get me wrong, the food can be a nice perk but it is in no way payment for my time.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/29/2018 06:26PM by SassyShoppin.
I make good pay because of bonuses with one of the MSCs that has the LOWEST expectations from shoppers: Marketforce (I think someone once posted that a MF rep stated requirements from a shopper was that they were breathing?). Simple shops, simple reports, nice bonuses. I also like doing shops for Customer Impact as well because the shops pay reasonably for the amount of work required.

And I had never heard of i-Spy until this thread was opened, but this thread has made other shoppers look into it and find the negative reviews that the OP had mentioned. About once a year I go through the official list and look for new companies with which to sign up. This thread and the reviews have made me aware of this MSC and I won't be signing up with them.
You mention that expectations and guidelines are clear and spelled out in advance.

You might note that most of the negativity regarding MSCs comes in the form of poorly written, misleading guidelines on the front end of a shop. This leads to confusion and problems on the back end of a shop. MSCs then blame the shopper for their failure to be clear (suggestions: subtopics with headings, bullet points, clear language, etc.)
I'd say that if most of this were eliminated, you'd see the whole industry turn around.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/29/2018 08:52PM by BarefootBliss.
I'm just curious as what prompted this post? Who is talking about your company or saying bad things? You should have done some digging around the forum, because if you had, you would know that starting off with these types of post are never good. Especially when no one has ever heard of your company. You talk about being anonymous on a forum like there is something wrong with that. My name is Alexis, since you want to know about us posters, but it doesn't matter because I'm not signed up with you. But because this website is not anonymous, the whole mystery shopper world can look at this post at anytime. They don't even have to be signed up with this site in order to see this. I'm sure there are lurkers who will never sign up with you or will stop doing shops for you.

But since you just wanted to start a dialog about standards/pay, let me start off with this: there is a MSC company with a dinning shop in my area. It requires 2 people and steak has to be ordered. Guess what the pay is? $5 with up to $55 reimbursement. It's been sitting on the board for 5 months now. It's nice that you pay and reimburse within a week IF the shop is accepted but $15 isn't enough money to even make me put pants on to leave the house.

Marc, I understand that you want to hold your company in high regards, but us shoppers know our worth as well.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/30/2018 01:52AM by a171989.
I posted because some of the negative postings listed under my company (i-SPY hospitality audit services) were not even about my company, but another company with a similar name, which has changed their name (according to a thread on this website, they changed their name from iSpy to Core). Our company name is the same as it was since commencing in 2002; 2) to introduce my company as I was unfamiliar with this website.

We are not a giant international company, but a boutique regional operation. People from states we've never worked in apply to work with us every single day.

We have ex-shoppers that post fabricated stories about us, anonymously, without worry of repercussion by the website. And then these websites contact us to advertise, or want me to pay a fee for them to delete negative postings.

This post was updated 5/2/18

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/02/2018 08:36PM by ispyhospitality.
Very few people read the Kudos, Compliments, & Shout-outs. I haven't looked there in over a year.

I frequent Mystery Shopping + Mystery Shopping Company Discussions because they are more relevant to me. It's not all negativity. I gleen a lot of great information from those forums. I give a lot of great advice too.

I have a full time job again after shopping for almost 20 years. I work with a boutique company that pays me no less than $50 a report for a bar or restaurant. I get $500 a hotel. Even some of the biggest MSC's pay that well.
Why would anyone have anything "nice" to say to you after you basically let everyone know that you expect us to work for food and $5 an hour? I know how much the shopping company gets per report. If you had great shoppers, you wouldn't need to have any extensive editing. Why haven't any of your shoppers posted here? (Don't let them know that they are underpaid. That can be your little secret.)

You sound a lot like the nut that works at True Guest, except I think that they pay better?

Thanks for popping in to let us all know how things should be. Feel free to create your own forum if this one doesn't work for you.
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