Should I send this terse reply to Bare/BAI?

Hello all,

I would really appreciate your advice, perspectives, and feedback. All points of view are welcomed.

I recently signed up to do an announced auto for an auto repair chain with Bare/BAI. I have done about a dozen varying projects for them, but they are not a company that I contract with frequently, as they don't have a ton of suitable work in my area.

They are very particular as to the days and times when this audit can be completed, which is completely fine with me, and they sent 3 different sets of materials outlining the guidelines and specifications. These documents included fine detail such as shades of color that are acceptable, measurements down to the inch, and images drawn to scale for comparison. Again, this is completely ok with me, and there was a note that we were not required or expected to remember or evaluate this level of detail.

After accepting the assignment, I received an email stating that I would be required to join a "training call" before I am cleared to complete this project. Thinking I would be on the phone for 10 minutes or so, I agreed and dialed in to the conference call today.

First, I hear an announcement about "Free Conference Calls! SIgn up for your free conference call account at_____________!" I am thinking this is pretty unprofessional, especially for a company of this size. You don't have WebEx or Cisco or something? Anyway. I join the call right on time and she tells me, "Well, we like to wait for 5 minutes to let everyone join." Um, then make the call for 5 minutes later. Time is money, miss. Despite this initial annoyance, I wait and we start 6 minutes after the scheduled time (no one else ended up joining after the fact, so there were 3 of us on the call, plus the project coordinator).

She begins to provide us with vital information to include, "Make sure you read all of the materials. You should print it out and take it with you," "Make sure you know how to take pictures with your device. One time, someone did their whole evaluation and went home only to find all of their photos were just black squares! If this happens, we won't be able to use your report or pay you," and, "Make sure you take the right amount of pictures. If you don't have all of the pictures as mentioned in the guidelines, your report will not be accepted." At this point, I am SUPREMELY ANNOYED at my time being wasted like this.

At 16 minutes and counting, she begins to explain how to print a letter of authorization and hand it to a manager- seriously. I said, "Excuse me, but I am going to have to drop from this call. Thanks." I hung up and went back to the 12 other things I have to do today.

I got an email that said:
"You left the training call today. I hope all is okay. Are you still interested in completing this shop at a later date? It is required to complete the full training call before you can complete your first visit."

I don't think I need to explain to you fine people that I left the call because 1) you aren't paying me for this and 2) it is a waste of my time. I don't mind doing things that are a waste of time (see 1 above) if you are also paying me (see 2 above). What I do not need is 30 or so minutes of "Mystery Shopping 101 for Dummies" (at some points, yes, I could have used this, maybe we all could have, but not now and not today, Miss!) for no additional compensation whatsoever. I did not gain any information beyond what could be gathered from a) basic mystery shopping experience in addition to b) reading the guidelines carefully, which I always do and c) common sense (print the authorization letter? Whoa! Mind blown...I never woulda thunk it!).

I have drafted a reply, but I want to know if I am out of line with it. I fully expect that they won't want to work with me again, which I suppose I am okay with. However, I feel like they really need to know the ridiculousness of what they are asking me (and other MSers) to do here. Here is what is sitting in my drafts to her:

"As an independent contractor, I am sure you understand the importance of me making the best use of my time, since I am contracted to work for a fixed rate. I am fully aware that it is important to review all materials, guidelines, etc., before completing a shop and have done so many times for different companies. I presumed that today's call would be focused on particular knowledge above and beyond what could be learned by reviewing the account materials and less obvious than what should be known by anyone who is not a brand new mystery shopper/auditor (such as printing, reading the instructions, being sure to use your camera properly, etc.).

Essentially, the shop fee is $25.00 and taking ~30 minutes to listen to basic instructions about reporting, taking photos, how to print an authorization letter, and the like, in addition to time, travel, the actual audit, and reporting, takes the fee for this project below what makes sense for me. Again, as someone who is not actually employed by your company, it was my understanding that I am required to complete particular tasks without the "Behavioral Control" (see the link here to IRS articles on this topic) that includes mandatory training calls (of a very rudimentary nature) and the purchase of certain materials.


In response to your question, I am willing to complete the project as per the specifications provided. However, I am not available for calls of this nature unless there is an agreed-upon pay rate for that additional time. Thank you."

Am I out of line here? Too harsh? Not harsh enough?

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Way out of line.

I've never had a training call I wasn't paid for. Really. And I've had a few. Every one has been "on the clock" and paid for.

Can't you just ask how much they are paying for the training call?

Heck, you probably spent more time constructing this, and posting this here, than the call and shop prep would have taken. File it under one of those things that you write, to get it out of your system, then toss.

You don't know if the call eventually did get to info "above and beyond", because you left the call. Heck, you could have laid the phone down and done some of those dozen other things while the call continued.

Cancel the shop if you don't want to do it.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/11/2019 11:44PM by ceasesmith.
Training materials, including calls, have to reach those who are novices. While that isn't you, you could have remained on the call (put it on speaker) while doing your other tasks. There may have been something useful to you later in the call.

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
Nope.

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.
You don't know if that call would have been a waste of time or not because you didn't finish the call. There was a reason they required the call. I think you are being foolish. Don't send that. It will make you seem foolish, arrogant, and uncooperative. I wouldn't want someone like you working for me, that's for sure.
No one is going to read it, so don't send. You got it out of your system and probably feel better. I agree with your sentiments but why send good thoughts out into the netherland?
Neutral observer perspective? It sounds like a hissy fit. You're spending more time writing this email than it would've taken to finish the call. Sometimes people underestimate how long things will take. That's life. Sometimes you have to sit through boring meetings. That's life. Suck it up and deal with it.
@MrsChaney wrote:

You don't know if that call would have been a waste of time or not because you didn't finish the call. There was a reason they required the call. I think you are being foolish. Don't send that. It will make you seem foolish, arrogant, and uncooperative. I wouldn't want someone like you working for me, that's for sure.

If you hired an independent contractor for a set fee such a plumber, would you ask them to sit thru an hour call explaining basic plumbing techniques?
Don't send it, no one will read it but they will deactivate you.. MSCs have enough people (like some who have replied to your comment) who will do the job for what works out to $4 an hour. It's good you know your value.
Unfortunately 'training calls' I have participated in have ALWAYS been a reiteration of the basics and the specific instructions which I have already read. I only accept a shop with a 'training call' if it is a job I really want and indeed I put the call on speaker phone and continue on with whatever non-call tasks at hand while they drone on. I have always found the Q&A at the end of the call more revealing as it highlights that which was awkwardly or conflictingly written in the specific instructions.

I think we all would agree that the mandatory training calls are a PITA but rather than getting yourself in a tizzy whining, just use your speaker phone and pour yourself a fresh cup of coffee before the presenter drones on. Ditch the email, even if read it will be seen as reflecting on you rather than their policy.
Good point, I forgot about that! Absolutely have learned something from the questions and answers at the end of the call every single time.

And I do put the phone on speaker, and continue with what I was doing.

And I'll iterate, every training call I ever participated in was definitely paid.

Edited to add: Perhaps because I specifically ASKED to be paid for my time on the call? I do ask. Never been turned down. Seems I recall they usually called it "bonus" pay, LOL.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/12/2019 07:25PM by ceasesmith.
I've had some that paid and some that didn't. If the job is likely to be worthwhile, I will put up with the call whether it is paid or not, but then I generally only work for companies offering jobs that are worthwhile.
wart3
No, but I wouldn't keep calling him to fix my pipes if he agreed to the call, hung up before the call ended, and then sent a hissy fit email after, either.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/12/2019 06:44PM by MrsChaney.
I've only had one training call. It was unpaid. It was also pointless, at least the part that I heard. I quietly hung up and I doubt they even knew I had dropped off.

I did not go off the rails about it.

Edited to add: And no, I would not send the email.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/12/2019 07:22PM by panama18.
I would not send it. Do understand, however, that most MSC's have little to no respect for shoppers and this is just another example.
Wanting to do the job, you just have to do ONE training call.....that's not too much to ask. Do not send nasty email, it is the requirement for the job. We all do it.....why are you above it...just asking.

Live consciously....
@ATLShopper wrote:

I would not send it. Do understand, however, that most MSC's have little to no respect for shoppers and this is just another example.

There is respect and there is reality. For the most part, mystery shopping is open to all comers. Some companies have tried to develop tests or criteria to avoid taking on shoppers who can't/won't follow directions, can not write a complete English sentence or otherwise are unlikely to survive as shoppers. The reality for them is that they will always need shoppers and always need to bring on new shoppers as more experienced shoppers quit them or the business entirely. I have always said that if you had the organizational skill sets, business knowledge, reliability and study/writing skills needed to be a shopper you had a group of skills that would qualify you for well paying, salaried positions with benefits. You will find that the vast majority of shoppers have been shoppers for six months or less--either they took their skills to something more lucrative or they did not have the skills to make a go of shopping. You will note that many/most of the 'old timers' on this board are indeed retirees or are late career folks setting up gigs to carry into retirement.

I find that my first few shops with any company I will be treated as a brand new, inexperienced shopper. After a few shops, I do get the respect that I can and will handle the project acceptably and in the time frame required. No company is going to have separate conference calls for various levels of experience of shoppers. Any given call could have people who are anxious to do their first every shop and shoppers with 10,000 shops under their belt. It may include folks with the equivalent of an 8th grade education and folks with PhDs. Generally they are not going to excuse any shopper from a conference call unless they have previously performed the shop--and had the conference call at that time. If they tell the client that all shoppers will go through 'special training', that becomes as much a MSC requirement as the shopper performing the shop at the right time in the right place.
Some phone training calls, and perhaps this one, qualify you for similar shops in the future. So I look at the required call as an investment with the MSC that will allow me to self assign or be quickly scheduled for future similar jobs. I need no need to burn your bridges with your email. It will not accomplish anything positive.
I really want to thank everyone for their opinions and for taking the time to share them.

First, I type incredibly quickly, so it didn't take as long to write the OP as it may have seemed smiling smiley I also have a tendency towards being wordy, so it was very much in line with a typical email or other message I would have written and didn't take too much time. I also wanted to give the full context in case anyone wanted to opine.

Secondly, I was in quite the foul mood yesterday, and I knew that my email was resulted from a combination of being annoyed with the call itself and incredibly frustrated with other unrelated things. I often seek the feedback of others when I find myself being overwhelmed to ensure that I am not allowing outside frustrations to cloud my communications, and I do see in retrospect that my email, though cathartic, was an over-the-top reaction to the situation.

I do still believe that the call was unnecessary (to the extent that I heard it) and I don't necessarily agree with the thought that I should just suck it up or that it's just a requirement of the "job" (I execute contracted work, I don't have a "job" with any MSC), but I do realize that I would not achieve the desired outcome from sending the email...so I shouldn't send it.

For the record, I hardly think that I am going "off the rails" by venting my frustrations in an unsent email, then asking the opinions of people who I think might have a valuable perspective based on their having been in similar situations. I did not say anything on the call to indicate my displeasure, and I have not responded to the email up to the time of this writing. I also don't think that I was whining: I stated my position and spoke to my personal valuation of my time, and then I asked for feedback and opinions, giving as much context as possible. I truly don't see how any of that is totally uncalled for, but I am grateful for each person who shared his or her point of view.

I agreed with the analogy of the plumber: if, for example, there were something specific and unusual about my particular kitchen pipes that a typical plumber would be unlikely to know, I think a quick chat to fill him or her in would be appropriate. Reiterating basic plumbing techniques and common industry knowledge would not be a good use of anyone's time, especially without compensation for said time.

Finally, I don't know that attacking me personally as foolish or arrogant makes a lot of sense to me, though I am open to hearing why: how is it foolish to say, "Hey, I estimated this would take X amount of time at Y set pay, but now I realize it will take Z amount of time. I would not have agreed to this rate, so I will bow out of this situation,"? How is it arrogant to say, "I feel I am worth a certain amount of money per hour, and this falls below my personal minimum based on how the situation has developed"? Am I to fiscally humble myself before each MSC that I contract with? Is it wrong to have a personal earnings goal and stick to it? I do respect that some of you wouldn't want "someone like (me) working for (you)", but I appreciate the freedom that comes from being an independent contractor; part of that freedom is that I don't work "for" anyone but myself at the rates I deem appropriate.
You may not have had to send the email anyway. If any BAI reps read the forum, and they might - we would never know, they could easily figure out who wrote the post.

And for everyone else reading this, while we're on the subject of conference / training calls, be sure to mute your end of the line whether on speaker and doing other things or not. You know, in case you fart really loud or something.

sestrahelena


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/13/2019 01:53AM by sestrahelena.
I give you credit for posting here for opinions before hitting send. It's out of your system now. I think if you sent it, they wouldn't read past the first line anyway.
I really don't understand some of the responses to this post. There is continual spewing about how "I won't leave the house for less than $xx", "I won't print out that many pages of reports", I won't do this, I'm not doing that. Why is this any different? All of these heated discussions about what our time is worth and you give the OP heck for actually believing that his/her time is valuable and that the bullcrap hoops that some of these companies put us through is ridiculous? What the heck? Should I spend a half hour on the phone for "training" for a shop that pays $20? $10? Free tickets? Free dinner? Where do we draw the line?

Shopping the South Jersey Shore
We all make decisions about what we are and are not willing to do, who we will or won't do it for, how far we will drive for how much and yes, whether we are willing to do training calls. We can commiserate that training calls can be annoying and uninformative, but we can also try to avoid shooting ourselves in the foot and trying to persuade others that random shots at their own feet are not a sane policy.
Mama, I didn't think you were foolish or arrogant.

I often follow my own suggestion -- write it down, get it out of my system, throw it away, move on.

Glad you didn't send it.

Glad you came back!
Thanks again, all. I ended up throwing that draft in the trash and sent a short, polite note that said I had only allotted a few minutes for the call and as it is a requirement, I would like to discuss payment for that time; otherwise, I would be happy to withdraw myself.

I received a reply informing me that the call lasts an hour (!) and that payment for this time is not an option. She also told me she would remove me from the project as I requested, which is fine by me. I haven't been deactivated to my knowledge, as I was able to pick up a different project with the company that better aligns with my payment parameters.

I think, thanks to both supportive and critical comments from my peers here as well as the calming effects of the passage of time, that I made the right decision by revising my reply and declining the project. With an hour added for a call, I would have been close to or below minimum wage, depending on how long the work itself would take. The representative was probably annoyed but seemed to be professional enough in our emails.

Edited for a small typo.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/14/2019 02:48PM by MamaBearBlue.
So glad you did.

I will say all my training calls were on "projects" that would earn triple digits.
Generally, long ranting e-mails go unread or simply paint one as a nutjob. Short and sweet is more effective.
I would not send it. I know it was frustrating, no one cares how you feel. Someone else will sit thru the training and do the shop. Possibly this was a one time class that would have put you in a higher pay status and you would merely have to show in the future that you are trained.
Take a breath, move on.
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