Coyle Shoppers — Is this a typical experience?

I had an unpleasant experience with a Coyle shop last week and as it was my first shop with them, I’m wondering if it was just bad luck or if this is what their shops are like. I’m not an expert shopper like many of you, but I have been doing this for three years and I never have problems with restaurant shops for other MSC’s including a certain high end steakhouse that I did the week before last.

So I applied for a shop at a museum restaurant. It’s supposed to be a nice restaurant — from the menu and $100 lunch I’m assuming fine dining or something close to it. I get the survey and it’s waaaaaaay longer than seems reasonable unless this is an amazing restaurant, but in for a penny...

We arrive and we think we’re in the wrong place — it looks like a temporary place to get coffee and a sandwich plopped down in the middle of an atrium. Just a collection of cheap tables. Fine for coffee — but a fancy $100 lunch?

I would have left if I hadn’t committed to the shop. So we do the lunch. Not an aspirational experience at all. Just an overgrown coffee shop with delusions of grandeur.

Back home to face the survey. Almost two hours on the survey. Made extra difficult because it’s not only long, it’s obviously not tailored to this location but is a general survey for a group of restaurants and doesn’t fit this location very well — mainly because it’s a fine dining survey and this isn’t a fine dining establishment.

Today I get an email with questions — including facts I know I put in my report. Like “what time did you arrive?” — when I put exactly what time I arrived in the correct box on the survey — it wouldn’t have submitted without the time. Multiple like that. Then among the follow up questions from the editor — what number did you call to confirm the hours? Ok — that question was not on the survey and what number do you think I called? The number on the assignment sheet you provided — that’s how I got the info I reported.

Granted, my report wasn’t that positive — I tried to be as nice as I could while still being honest but this place just wasn’t a good experience and I don’t lie on reports. I wish I could have said that I received a warm greeting or that the hostess had tried to make a connection with me — but that didn’t happen.

Is this normal for Coyle? Passing off a glorified cafeteria for fine dining and then requiring a fine dining length report? Or using a generic survey that isn’t tailored for the location — as in it’s hard to comment on the reservation or the bread basket when they don’t take reservations and there’s no bread basket? Or asking a shopper for information that’s already in the submitted report? Or do they have an issue with reports that are less than completely positive? Was this just a bad experience with a particular shop/editor and I should try again?

I don’t mind working for experiences, but the experience has to be worth the work. If you want a super long report, the experience better be super — otherwise why bother?

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Dang. Sounds atypical. Yes they have lengthy reports, and yes the editors almost always come back with questions...and they have a particular format they want shoppers to follow. The shops are indeed a lot of work.
But what sounds atypical is a $100 lunch at a coffee/cafeteria location. How much of a bill were you actually able to rack up? That sucks that you would have to do a ton of work for a $30-$40 lunch with probably a $15 fee.
Did you download an example of the survey narrative(s) and note their prescribed style?

For instance, "I called the Sandwich Shop, on Monday, May 7, 2018, at 8:19 PM EST, by dialing, 212-867-5309. The call was answered . . ."

Sorry you got stuck with a dog of a dining "experience". In for a penny, . . .

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2018 05:02AM by Professional Guest.
Oh no — the food was expensive. You could rack up a $100 lunch for two. The bill was almost $90 — and I have a museum member discount. The place just looked like a coffee shop/cafeteria and had service to match. Cheap tables and chairs plopped down in the middle of an atrium and jammed together too tightly so there was no privacy. Everything “temporary” — I’m assuming they do break it down from time to time to use the space for other events. No dedicated restrooms — you had to leave “the restaurant” and go down one floor on the elevator to a museum restroom. Shop specified business casual attire but the clientele in the restaurant was super casual fanny pack types. Staff was minimally pleasant — the person I went with called it “perfunctory” service. Not rude at all — but serve the food and move along style. Fine for slinging coffee and a ham sandwich, not for those prices. In other words, if I had been on my own dime I would have taken one look and gone elsewhere.

I was really pleased to get an assignment from them but this turned out to be such a hot mess. I’m just trying to decide if this is how the MSC rolls — in which case it’s not for me — or if this was just an unfortunate experience and most of their assignments represent good value for the work required. I also have to admit that one of my biggest pet peeves is editors coming back after a shop asking questions that weren’t on the survey — if you didn’t put it on the survey, I didn’t plan to answer the question — and I shouldn’t be penalized for not having that info handy.
Additionally, I've submitted plenty of the narratives detailing experiences where the staff have been outwardly rude or where the experience fell well below expectations. I haven't noticed any more questions than what I normally receive for a typical or outstanding experience. I have never received any pushback and it seems that my feedback is/was presented to the client. They just want everything documented, using a specific format/set of guidelines.
Before accepting the shop did you see how many questions the survey had? They tell you beforehand. As professional guest stated, did u look at the survey beforehand? They are pretty upfront. Also reading this forum will give you an idea what narratives are required by this msc. Before i did my first shop with them, i had a good idea prior to the shop and did the report accordingly.

Did u get a fee for this shop? Usually they give a small fee to start.
I saw the number of questions — and from that, the reimbursement amount, and the sample menu online I was expecting a fine dining establishment — not a temporary venue consisting of some low quality tables grouped too close together in an atrium. I initially thought I was in the wrong place and what I was viewing was a spot for a quick bite not the restaurant I was assigned. I have a feeling Coyle is not for me. I feel strongly that there has to be fairness in shops. The fee here was so tiny as to be irrelevant so the value for the work was the meal experience — and it in no way matched the work required. This is more than double the work I did for an expensive steakhouse meal two weeks ago.

Anyway, I appreciate the input. At this point if I can simply get this shop accepted and reimbursed I’m going to call it good for now and be very, very careful about accepting any other jobs like this in the future.
@Julia2026 wrote:

I also have to admit that one of my biggest pet peeves is editors coming back after a shop asking questions that weren’t on the survey — if you didn’t put it on the survey, I didn’t plan to answer the question — and I shouldn’t be penalized for not having that info handy.

Hold up - just because a question isn't on the survey, doesn't mean you don't have to note the experience in your narrative.

For instance, if your server was not as attentive as you would have liked or should have been, and there's not a question in the survey that specifically asks, "Was the server attentive?", I feel it's your responsibility and obligation to note it for the MSC and the client. I bet Coyle and client share my feelings.

Ultimately, this is what you signed up for. This is the information the client wants to know. They want an overview that encompasses all aspects of the experience, in their prescribed style. It's not repeating what you have already checked off or entered, although based on your original post, it seems that you didn't necessarily do that either.

Welcome to the world of Coyle (and many other MSCs).

If you're not willing to provide that overview, and don't really want to move on to their higher-end hotel/resort assignments, then, perhaps, Coyle isn't the MSC for you. There are plenty of other MSCs that offer fine dining with less work required.

Finally, were you penalized for not having the information handy? Have you received "Your Mystery Shop Results" yet?

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/09/2018 05:02AM by Professional Guest.
Apologies. Looks like I missed your last post.

Yes, lots of work and sometimes it seems, not worth the level of effort, especially when you're just starting with Coyle. It takes a while to learn their style, as with other MSCs.

Good luck in your endeavors.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/08/2018 02:41AM by Professional Guest.
Prior to accepting a shop at a business you are not familiar with, it’s always a good idea to do a little research. A few minutes online can help you determine what you can expect.
On that note, be careful not to let your expectations influence your report. It seems you have a different expectation of “fine” dining than this client does. Remember that the idea is you’re someone who would have gone there anyway. A real customer would probably have known what to expect.
It’s not that unusual for a museum, art gallery, zoo, etc to try a “fine dining” experience as a way to generate and keep more revenue. Especially if they partner with a well-known chef or restaurant. The “fine” part of the experience is typically just that you ate at the museum, and you get to hold your nose a little higher when you tell all your friends over tea and crumpets at the garden party next weekend.
You’ll also find that the first report always takes longer. They do get easier after you’ve done a few.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/08/2018 03:01AM by TroyHawkins.
No problem. I appreciate the input. BTW I did give them quite a few insights on things that needed work — and weren’t in the survey. I do believe in turning in thorough and honest reports. It was a few nitpicky things they wanted answers to that weren’t on the survey and were in the follow up email questions that arrived after I submitted the report. It would have been easier all around if they had simply tailored the survey to the venue and made sure that it contained all the questions they wanted answered. Shoppers should report anything they see amiss even if it’s not on a survey but the MSC needs to provide clear surveys.

Anyway, live and learn. I’m sure I could learn how to please Coyle if that was my priority but it’s not. I can’t imagine doing another shop like this. To each his own — then again, I also like nitpicky banking shops that send other people running. I think I’ll pick up a few more of those and buy my own lunch...
I think you did get a bit of a dog assignment, and that I would try again. Some of Coyle's assignments are amazing experiences and rank up there with my short bucket list (swim with dolphins - check!, interact with A list celebrity - check!, stay in $3K hotel room and drink gratis glass of 2008 dom - check!) and some are totally painful "what the h**l am I doing this and why for $15 and a lunch that should have cost $30 and instead cost $130... The editors sometimes ask me a million questions and sometimes I don't hear a peep out of them. It's all just part of the process. It's worth it (honest, in the end).

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/08/2018 06:20AM by MickeyB.
Agree with many of the posters comments. Coyle does have some clients that other msc's don't have. It's another way of trying out restaurants, etc that one usually doesn't get to try out. I find with them it's best to just be factual, to the point and just report exactly what happened, minus my personal opinion, unless they asked for it. And i always go online and look at reviews and pictures of where i am going beforehand so i know what to expect.
Ah. I'm getting a good laugh out of this one because if this is in NYC, I know and have done this shop. It's par for the course for any of the museum dining shops. Even though it's a lame location, you are absolutely expected to complete all the usual dining observations and write a 1-2 page report. Some things don't have to be reported on (I'm pretty sure you don't have to evaluate the bathrooms, since they aren't maintained by the dining location), but they're not clear about it in the guidelines.

I don't mind taking multiple shops in this location, because I use it as an extended date with my husband, and I've got the reports down to a science, but I can see how they're super obnoxious to a newbie.
They give out the hard to do places to newcomers. I do a great restaurant for breakfast and reimbursement is 90.00, with a nice fee, so, it's possible they want you to order a lot of food. Being it is a "family type place", you could bring 4 people. Their reports are always off the wall, and not worth the time. Their good places go to their established members.

Create a life that feels good on the inside, not one that just looks good on the outside.....
Dr. Judith Wright
Shopsuey — not in NYC — but on the East Coast.

I appreciate all the input.

No idea how this will turn out.

After my last update to this thread the editor emailed and said I needed to make a fake reservation and write it up because I had called the wrong number — the number I called didn’t match the number on the lunch receipt.

However — the number I called before the meal was the one on the assignment sheet. It went to the onsite office of the catering company that runs the museum restaurants and I reached their voicemail.

Now the instructions on the survey clearly state that if you reach voicemail you mark the reservation questions n/a.

Since this was my first shop for Coyle and the number they gave me went to the catering office I emailed them to confirm that. Coyle support emailed me back and directed me to call the number again and confirm the hours. I did so. Talked to a lovely lady, got the info, and wrote it up.

Now — post shop the editor wants me to make a fake reservation at a different number and write that up.

Problem — the restaurant doesn’t take reservations. It states that clearly on the website. I screenshot the “no reservations” page and send it to her. Along with a copy of the email from Coyle support telling me to call the other number and write up the confirming hours call.

You would think that would be it. But no — I get a request to call the restaurant anyway. How I am supposed to get a reservation from a restaurant that doesn’t give reservations, I don’t know. No guidance was given on what I was to ask — or more importantly, what would be acceptable to get the report done.

So off I go to investigate the issue. Turns out the phone number on the receipt doesn’t go to the restaurant I shopped. It goes to the only real restaurant in the museum — which is a totally different shop. The pop up restaurant not only doesn’t have walls, it apparently doesn’t have it’s own phone.

So I screen shot all of this info and send it off to the editor.

I truly hope that this is the end of it. Fingers crossed.
@Julia2026 wrote:

Shopsuey — not in NYC — but on the East Coast.

I appreciate all the input.

No idea how this will turn out.

After my last update to this thread the editor emailed and said I needed to make a fake reservation and write it up because I had called the wrong number — the number I called didn’t match the number on the lunch receipt.

However — the number I called before the meal was the one on the assignment sheet. It went to the onsite office of the catering company that runs the museum restaurants and I reached their voicemail.

Now the instructions on the survey clearly state that if you reach voicemail you mark the reservation questions n/a.

Since this was my first shop for Coyle and the number they gave me went to the catering office I emailed them to confirm that. Coyle support emailed me back and directed me to call the number again and confirm the hours. I did so. Talked to a lovely lady, got the info, and wrote it up.

Now — post shop the editor wants me to make a fake reservation at a different number and write that up.

Problem — the restaurant doesn’t take reservations. It states that clearly on the website. I screenshot the “no reservations” page and send it to her. Along with a copy of the email from Coyle support telling me to call the other number and write up the confirming hours call.

You would think that would be it. But no — I get a request to call the restaurant anyway. How I am supposed to get a reservation from a restaurant that doesn’t give reservations, I don’t know. No guidance was given on what I was to ask — or more importantly, what would be acceptable to get the report done.

So off I go to investigate the issue. Turns out the phone number on the receipt doesn’t go to the restaurant I shopped. It goes to the only real restaurant in the museum — which is a totally different shop. The pop up restaurant not only doesn’t have walls, it apparently doesn’t have it’s own phone.

So I screen shot all of this info and send it off to the editor.

I truly hope that this is the end of it. Fingers crossed.

They are testing to see whether the restaurant is genuinely interested in your business. Sure, they may not take reservations; but are they encouraging of your patronage? Are they gracious? Do they provide you with options? Do they simply advise you that reservations are not accepted? Or, do they graciously offer an apology because they don't accept reservations? Do they say something like, "I'm sorry, we do not accept reservations, but currently we have some availability and we would love to see you."?

Trust me, I know.
If they want to do the above dance about calling the restaurant and letting them show genuine interest even though they don’t take reservations — then they are missing one crucial item — the restaurant needs a PHONE.

Did I mention how from now on I’ll be picking up more of those complicated bank shops and paying for my own lunch?

I’m happy lots of people here enjoy these shops, but this is not for me. At least I won’t be left wondering anymore. smiling smiley
Pretty sure their editors get paid by how much they make shoppers want to quit working for them. Outside of one fast-casual place that isn't so bad all of their reports are insanely granular, horrid to type up and they occasionaly come back and ask for answers to questions that aren't even on the form.

So yeah, you had a typical experience.
oh boy, I just applied for my first coyle shop, a restaurant evaluation. After reading all this, I'm having buyers remorse. lol. The narratives look brutal.
Want985 — Not Miami. Think North.

jlovesNYC — I hope it works out for you. Or you take my story as a warning and save yourself the stress and possible lost funds. That’s part of the reason I recounted this in detail — if I had only seen a post like this before I got sucked in to the job... If nothing else I hope my experience can save other people from going through what I did.
Well, all the flags were waiving and the alarms going off - I chose not to proceed witht this shop and its dreadful reporting and editing. I'm thankful for threads such as these that help fellow shoppers out. I sent email to the scheduler and told her that I would not be accepting the assignment. Here is the shocker, not only did she remove the shop from my account, she even closed my account! Not freaking out, I don't think coyle is worth my time.
Yeah, they don't like that either. At this point I will only do their fast-casual chicken place as the rest of the reports aren't worth it.
Coyle is the only company I have ever asked to remove me from their database.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
I had about the same exact experience as you with Coyle and I also did my first shop for them about a week ago. I have done many shops in the past for other companies and none have been this bad.

I had $100 reimbursement for a bar/burger shop. The restaurant did not have anything too special on the menu and I was not able to come anywhere near the $100 limit unless I had ordered more alcohol, which I only ordered one drink at the bar because I was expecting the food prices to be higher like at my other shops with high expense limits. The service was not good at this place with plenty of issues, so I did not give them a great write-up either.

When I went to do the write-up it was really long and took me far longer than any other shop I've done in the past, almost 2 hours also. After I submitted it, it was then rejected the next day because I did not have timestamps in my narrative. The guidelines do not mention anything about timestamps in the narrative and neither does the narrative description. I did not review the sample write up they had though, because I've done a ton of narratives and didn't need to see how to write them. I then fixed the timestamps and a week later I received an email with a bunch of question, at least half of which I also know that I had answered in my report. It's a good thing I took decent notes, because a week is a long time to try and remember things.

I'll never do one of these lengthy narratives for them again and probably never do a shop for them with all the work I had to put into this one. This was not worth it at all, especially for the crappy food/service I had.
Prior to doing a shop, I look at all the information they give. If you had read what they gave you, then you may have wrote the report according to their requirements. Each msc has their own reporting style and even within the same msc there can be different reporting styles. But if you had followed all their instructions then the report may have been approved on the first go around.

I know they have different restaurant shops and some pay fees.
You don't agree that the guidelines should tell you everything you need to know though? Isn't that what guidelines are for? I would expect the guidelines to tell you everything you need to know to write the report and the sample report to be for someone who is confused in how to write it. Even if something is written a certain way in a sample report if it doesn't tell you it needs to be done that way in the guidelines then how do I know what is all required exactly and what is just the sample writers writing style?

@7star wrote:

Prior to doing a shop, I look at all the information they give. If you had read what they gave you, then you may have wrote the report according to their requirements. Each msc has their own reporting style and even within the same msc there can be different reporting styles. But if you had followed all their instructions then the report may have been approved on the first go around.

I know they have different restaurant shops and some pay fees.
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