Problem with Sentry Marketing Group

I was offered a shop at a seafood restaurant that is 16 miles from my home. The pay would be $5 and I would be reimbursed $30 for food for myself and one other person. My bill came to $37.39 and I left a $5 tip. The company expects you to leave 15 percent. I ordered a half order entree, my husband ordered one of their daily specials, and we ordered an appetizer and dessert. We drank a soda and ice tea. We knew we had gone over, but it is a favorite restaurant and we ordered more than usual. Then I went home to do the report. The report is several pages long and they expect a lot of sentences and paragraphs. One section said it must be 500 words minimum. Before I could do the shop, I had to go to another web site to take a qualifying test. A copy of the receipt was required and I took a picture and downloaded it into the report. I did half of the report last night. I clicked on SAVE several times. This morning I was going to complete the report and it was GONE. I tried to contact Technical Support and found there is none. When you call, they say to go to the web site for your answer. I emailed two of the people who do scheduling for the company. No response. I checked on this forum and in 2009, there were some complaints. The owner answered the complaints and had given his email address so I emailed him about the problem. I did not hear anything until 3:30 in the afternoon. Basically the scheduler said, "tough luck, you need to do it again"! I asked for more money since I think this was their problem. They told me I should have copied my work into a word processor, Who does that? You normally can get a copy at the end, but I've never been told to copy what I have in the middle. I told the company owner that I would come here to find out what other mystery shoppers would do. He refuses to give me more money, but instead of having the report due at 10 p.m., he will allow me to have until midnight. Why don't these companies realize that we have a life. I was willing to lose money for this company, but now I have plans for this evening and they have put a lot of pressure on me. I would need about two hours to do this report according to their standards. What would you do?

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I recently lost a report that didn't submit and I just plain didn't want to do it over and left the company. I felt for the small amount and all work involved, no more thank you. Your choice is re-do it, and decide it is worth it for you to continue working for them, or call it a bad experience that ended up cosing is really upsetting and time consuming to re do when it is not our fault. I sympathize with you.

Live consciously....
I've only been in a similar situation on one occasion. I decided, that from the standpoint of self-discipline, to force myself to re-enter the entire report. I wouldn't though suggest another take the same action; it's up to the individual. Which once again returns us to that old adage: To each his/her own.
OK Dave. Care to comment on this one?

Shopping Bama and parts of Georgia.
I'm still learning 24/7.
He certainly is signed on and I'm sure the knee jerk is that the shopper is all wrong.

Jeanne, I normally do write my narratives in Word simply because I like the fact that it will automatically correct some of my typos, show me where my spelling was off and underline in green sentences that got too wordy or just didn't quite work (such as this long sentence). So for me a lost report is not a disaster because I save the Word file.

I don't understand why he is suggesting you go do the shop again. I'm sure you have the receipt and I'm sure you have your notes so you could reconstruct the report. I don't know what the deadlines are/were, but I would hope there would be some flexibility in accepting the report if it was due today (rather than before midnight last night). I sure as heck would not go do the shop again just for the questionable opportunity to write the report again! I might eat the shop but I sure as heck would not shop for the company again. If the "Save" does not work, that is a system problem, not a shopper problem--though it becomes a shopper problem. And who is to say that it won't happen on your future shops for that company? Some risks just aren't worth taking.
I got the impression she was being asked to create the report again....not perform the entire shop again.

The reporting software is not owned by the MSC, as I believe it's Prophet in this case. Jeanne; Have you been able to successfully save reports in Prophet in the past?

I certainly write all of my narratives in word and keep a copy just for cases like this...Mostly because it's happened to me as well. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and re-report the shop if you want to save the relationship with an MSC. Other times when the MSC was clearly at fault, I have seen them pony up an additional fee for repeating work.

If it really just comes down to an additional $5 for the shopper to make everything OK, I can't see much reason for arguing on either side. Perhaps Dave will just be a mensch about it.....
We did not suggest or request that the shopper perform the assignment a second time. The shopper was informed that we did not receive their shop and that we would provide her with extra time in order to re-submit. I offered to extended the submission deadline to midnight and I let her know that we could provide her with extra time beyond that at her request.

I do not have an explanation why this shopper's report was not saved. We have not received any other reports from shoppers describing a similar issue. I contacted our software company to ask if they had reports of similar issues. They did not. I checked the history of 40 other shops and found that many of them indicated the shopper had successfully saved their work. We use the same mystery shopping software as many other companies in the industry.

The reality is that data transmission over the internet can be impacted by many factors and in most cases, these situations are not something that Sentry Marketing Group (or any other mystery shopping company) can control. I understand this shopper's frustration and empathize with her. We try to be very accommodating in these circumstances but we cannot negotiate the content requirements of the assignment.

I'd like to elaborate on a few other details of this assignment:

- The Service Experience section has a 500 character minimum and not a 500 word minimum

- An appetizer and dessert are not required

Lastly, the shopper was not told "tough luck". The scheduler and I both apologized for the issue. In these situations, however, there is not much that can be done other than to apologize and ask the shopper to resubmit the shop.

"Best practice" tips from shoppers for lengthy narratives, which have been recommended for years in the industry, are to write up comments in a Word document for a couple of reasons - to check for spelling and grammatical errors, as well as to have a copy in case of a time out during electronic transmission. I've seen this happen on Prophet, ShopMetrics, and SASSiE alike, where reports were lost due to a time out in the connection. This is no more a shopper error than it is a MSP error. It's just something that happens from time to time. We either learn from our experience, take necessary precautions to keep it from happening again, and resubmit a well-written report, or we throw our hands up and say, "It's not fair!" From personal experience, I have seen a fine dining report with 3 pages of narratives (which were fortunately typed into a Word document initially) on ShopMetrics submitted 4 times before learning that ShopMetrics was not fully compatible with Google Chrome. Using a different browser, the comments were pasted into the report and it finally submitted successfully. I could have blamed the MSP, but it was not their fault. It was a technology issue, plain and simple. The MSP was gracious and helpful. I was thankful the report wasn't canceled out from under me. Payment was received even though the report was submitted after deadline. All was well.

With this particular "problem", when the shopper first contacted the scheduler, it was still 5:30am where the scheduler lives. (Contrary to popular belief, we schedulers do need to sleep from time to time.) Dave was contacted later and forwarded the message around 9am the scheduler's time. The scheduler, who was working through her email responded in a very reasonable amount of time and in no way told the shopper, "tough luck, you need to do it again." In fact the scheduler, who is very well-respected among shopper and MSPs alike, was apologetic, very professional, and offered suggestions for avoiding this issue in the future on the Prophet system. I have also seen communication between Dave and the shopper. He too was nothing but professional and tried to accommodate the shopper. A reporting deadline extension was offered (until 8am tomorrow morning). At no time was the shopper told she would need to redo the assignment. We just needed the report in its entirety, without compromising the integrity of the report's content, of which we are contractually bound to provide the client. The shopper was willing to resubmit, but wished to do so without completing the comments the client expects to receive. Unfortunately, being that we are bound to provide these details, the shop cannot be submitted to the client without those comments.
There seems to be 2 different stories here.

It reminds me of, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. I am the great and powerful Wizard of Oz"...winking smiley

Shopping Bama and parts of Georgia.
I'm still learning 24/7.
Jeanne - You asked "What would you do?"

You have already done the shop. All you have to do is reconstruct the report. I would reconstruct in Word, save my narratives, and submit a superior report.

I would not make any other decisions at this time.

That's what I would do.

Mary Davis Nowell. Based close to Fort Worth. Shopping Interstate 20 east and west, Interstate 35 north and south.
Thank you to all who gave an opinion. I was not asked to redo the shop, just the report. I was not told that I could have an extension to 8 a.m. the next morning. I asked Dave, the company owner to meet me half way after he said he would work with me. I said that I would answer the yes, no questions and give a good narrative, but not sentence after sentence on the same topic. He chose to give the job to another shopper and in addition release me from working for his company. A lot of people told me to redo the report. We make so little money for our work. I put a lot of time into the project and thought I was working with a company that would consider the fact that it was not my fault-it was their problem. I told Dave that there were a couple of things that I felt the company should know. He didn't ask me what those things were. All he cares about is making a lot of money from people like us who do all the work for him. On so many jobs, we don't even make $1 hour. I think the owners of the restaurant should know what kind of company they have hired. I will start making copies of my narratives, but it's sad that they don't provide a form that actually works. There are good companies out there and if they hadn't let me go, I was going to do it myself. I don't need this kind of stress in my life. I don't do a lot of these shops where they pay you to eat. I find that offensive. I want to earn money, not food. I only chose to do the shop because I really like the restaurant.

I understand your frustration with having to re-input the report. I have been there before. I also understand your frustration with the pay level for shops and have also lost money on many MS meals.

The part that confuses me is where you had an opportunity given to you to get the report entered and refused, based on the fact that you wanted to modify the content of your report. If you have been through the training and looked at the examples, you knew exactly what was required for the report before taking it. Your main offense with the report was the 500 character minimum for the narrative, yet your last rant about this company consisted of 1,494 characters.

We shoppers are often quick to point out problematic MSCs, but in this case, take a look at it from their side. You accepted an assignment, had trouble with the reporting software and then decided it was not worth your time to input the report. That's essentially flaking on a the shop!
I want to add from a personal point of views, having signed with Sabrina from Nimble, I find it hard to believe she would be rude to anyone. I recently had an experience and she was kind, understanding and most helpful, as was Dave...having said that, I think your post was a bit exagarrated, and really 500 words is not that much. I do agree with your frustration, but lets not say on this forum, Sabrina is rude, it makes your story seem less believeable.
Having said that, it is a bummer to have to again input due to a tech problem.

Live consciously....
Irene, I have no idea who Sabrina is. I am sending a copy of the email I got. Yes, she is apologetic, but she did not deal with the problem. It took her 5 hours to get back to me. I had other things to do, but I stayed home waiting to find out if they might possibly have a copy of the report in their system. She did not try to find out from technical support. She probably couldn't get in touch with them either. I asked for extra money which she did not address. She did not explain why you CANNOT get in touch with technical support. IF I could have talked to them, I would have done the report again in the morning. I waited thinking they might have part of the report in their system. I had plans last night that were ruined because they got back to me so late in the day. Dave was just as nice. He offered me two extra hours to finish the report which would be midnight. He refused to pay me more or make it any easier for me. This was not my fault. Then he took me out of their system. All I asked was that other shoppers would tell me what they would do in the same situation. I didn't ask to be put down. Other people wrote to me personally and said they had trouble with the same company. I'm sure they did not want their name on this board so they could continue to work for them. I'm sure your email will get you extra jobs. I'm just happy the whole thing is behind me and I am ready to move on.

*************Here is her email:
Hello Jeanne,

Thanks for your email. I apologize for the trouble you've had with your shop report. I do not know what happened, unfortunately, to the information entered.

If you're not already doing so, please make sure you're using the last version of either Firefox or Internet Explorer when inputting the shop information. Also, it might be a good idea if you click on "Save" frequently. The report form may have timed out, if you were on the page a long time, and that could have been the reason it didn't save.

Another tip I wanted to give you … when you're completely finished entering the shop information, click on "SAVE" before you attempt to upload your receipt. This will take you out of the shop form when you save without submitting. Then, go back into the shop report and upload your receipt the very last thing before hitting "SUBMIT".

I hope this helps, and again, I apologize!

Lanette Bowie
Nimble Support Services
I'm sorry, Jeanne, for the hand you've been dealt. Sign up, do the shop, run into problems, and it's downhill from there. Very few shoppers have posted a favorable experience with this MSP. Those that do normally have a motive.

Chalk it up to a learning experience, albeit a bad experience upon which you came out, as others have, on the losing side, monetarily, with this MSP.

Don't let the turkeys get you down!
What Lanette said was accurate. I have a question..did you click "save" frequently thoughout your report? Or did you click it once at the end? If it was only once at the end, then you no doubt timed out of the system. Regular typing keystrokes are not read by the computer as input; only clicking the "save" button lets the system know you are still active. If you waited until the end to click "save," then the problem was not an error on the MSP's part -- it was that the computer system thought you were no longer active. It's that way on many sites, and I've been burned by that before as well.

If you saved repeatedly throughout the report, then this would not apply to you -- but I bet that's what it was.
Sabrina owns the company and was the one that posted here, so, that's who I referred too. I have had no experience working for Nimble, although I am registered, they do Video shopping (which I don't do), so let's not assume (Mert) I have anything to gain. My experience was with a scheduling job they did for Sentry, first one I accepted in years. I had nothing to gain, except when I lost my prescription glasses and had to cancel, not being able to drive the freeways for a week, Sabrina was the best, but saying that will not get me "extra jobs", I have never worked for her, I don't do Video and she does not have jobs suitable for me in my area. I think fairness to shoppers, schedulers and MSC owners are overlooked in our frustration.

Those that know me know I don't kiss a.....msing doesn't pay enough.

Live consciously....

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 08/13/2011 08:13PM by Irene_L.A..
Sorry, but I fail to see how this is a problem with the scheduling company or MSC at all. I feel like I'm the first one to point out when when a company is being unfair, but sometimes the shoppers are out of line as well.

Think about the number of shops and number of companies out there. How much profit do you think there is in one restaurant shop, after the editors, software company, and shopper get paid? When one shopper has a problem that no other shopper is having, how much time and effort can reasonably be spent tying to work out the issues when the shopper is not cooperative?

Jeanne posted here supposedly for advice, but when I replied with a few facts I was accused of putting her down. It seems all she really wanted was sympathy since the initial posting distorted the facts:

-The ordering requirements for the shop do not force the shopper over budget.
-The narrative in question is only 500 characters.
-Both the MSC and scheduler replied in a reasonable amount of time, with sympathy, and offered an extension.

We shoppers are independent contractors. We are not guaranteed 24-hour phone support. It's our responsibility to make sure the hardware and software we utilize is functional and compatible with industry standard software. Schedulers and editors live all over the world, and getting an answer in 5 hours is reasonable in many circumstances.

The reason why this shopper is not getting paid for the shop is 100% her responsibility at this point. That's not an insult. It's a fact!

I don't expect Jeanne to see this situation from my point of view, but I hope other shoppers will read this and realize that perhaps the best thing to when there is a problem is not to immediately go on the offensive. Most problems like this can be avoided if you work with the company in a positive manner.

For the record; I do not and have not ever worked for Sentry. I have performed 1 shop for them in total and lost money on it myself, so I don't see how posting this would be financially beneficial to me. I post here because I feel that my experience and insights are helpful to many. I do not expect or derive any financial benefit from it.

Jeanne; Before you send me another snarky PM, spend some time reading here and you may notice that I am often the voice of reason. I'm not unnecessarily combative and not one to hurl insults. I'm not the one you need to be angry at. own up to your responsibility in creating this situation and learn from it.
I do not know how to quote or link other threads - but I thought I remembered almost this exact same issue with Regal Hospitality and I searched and found the thread (titled Beware Beware Beware Regal Hospitality). In the thread, the poster talks about how they hit save after a lengthy report, exited and when they came back to finish it - it was gone. And Regal told the poster that "too bad, you need to re-do the report." And the shopper was mad and thought this unreasonable on Regals part.

Basically the exact same situation here (even the same software - Prophet - in this case). The only difference is, Dave and Sentry seems to have been a little more polite in the situation and granted an extension.

The interesting thing is - when it was Regal, nobody accused Regal of being unreasonable - and most of the posters (myself included) gave the thoughts that it was indeed the shoppers responsibility to save the narrative outside of the report.

I get the fact that Sentry is polarizing. But lets all be honest here and look at the situation for what it is and not let the emotion of past grievances get in the way. I agree with Steve (and please no PMs about how I am Steve's little puppet - I do have my own opinions, and I would, and have, disagree with him publically if the situation warranted it) - this is in absolutely no way Sentry's fault or issue and while I believe it was Jeanne's perogative to not do the report per her IC status, it was also Sentry's perogative to deactivate her for taking an assignment and essentially dropping it.

And for the record - I do not have any motives here - I do not work for Sentry. I worked for them one time many years ago and have no intention of working for them again (purely because they do not do the type of shops I do).

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/13/2011 11:55PM by MickeyB.
Here's a link to the thread Mickey mentioned:


In retrospect, I think I was a bit more harsh on that shopper, but they admitted to typing for 3 hours before hitting save in advance.

Be glad it wasn't a hotel, I guess. Otherwise, same discussion.

I remain puppetless....
Apologies to the innocent who thought my remarks were directed at them. I assumed that machinations of the past would be recalled.

I understand the frustration of entering a report and having it disappear. It has happened to me more than once. While I may appeal to the MSP in hopes that they can 'find' it, that's never been my reality. While I may be reaching out to the MSP, at the same time I am re-doing my report. No report, no pay, regardless of who done it.

Having said that, there's nothing wrong with commiserating or offering moral support to go along with the advice. Who among us . . .
I did one local shop for Sentry in 2010 without complications. I turned it down on the next offer, being absolutely certain I would be recognized. A new client is local for me and I'm thinking about applying for that shop. I could do it over and over without recognition. So, I may start working with them again, or maybe not.

I've explained my work connection with Sentry so everyone knows where I'm standing. I don't have much on the line one way or another, or as we say down here, I got no dog in the fight.

However, I've been following this thread and I've become extremely interested in its development and somewhat puzzled at the same time. I suspect there are underlying issues unknown to me. I am discussing only this particular thread.

Here's what I see:

Jeanne estimated two hours to do the complete report, part of which had been lost.

Sentry expected and required the complete report.

Jeanne didn't want to do the complete report. She wanted to do a Yes/No with limited narrative but not as set out in the guidelines. She wanted to abbreviate the report, because part of it had been lost.

Sentry would not agree to accept an abbreviated report.

Jeanne wanted more money because part of the report was lost and it was going to take longer than originally expected.

Sentry was willing to pay only the contract price.

Jeanne didn't submit a report.

They didn't settle their differences.

Sentry dropped Jeanne as a shopper. Jeanne said she was going to cut them anyway.

Jeanne was not willing to think about changing her position. The outcome was inevitable. Case closed.

Why were we consulted for advice under these circumstances? What could we have done as forum members to have made this situation better? Why is Sentry the bad guy? What did Sentry do wrong here?

Mary Davis Nowell. Based close to Fort Worth. Shopping Interstate 20 east and west, Interstate 35 north and south.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/14/2011 05:03AM by MDAVISNOWELL.
There's nothing quite as exciting as a debate (of sorts) on a subject close to our hearts. This thread has been interesting, and heck, even I would have re-written 500 words...but then this thread wouldn't have been written, and we all have learned about integrity and taking lose the report, you pay the price, or as Mary would say...let's not have a "dustup".

Live consciously....
I figured out what bothered me so much about the thread. At 7:07 p.m., the OP presented as asking for advice. Enough time had already passed waiting on response from the MSP to prepare this report several times and be done with it. Getting advice wasn't the point. What was sought was approval, support, and validation for a position. I wish the post had been like this:
Here's what happened and I want you to know. I handled it as I saw fit and I stand by my decision. The information may be helpful.
I learned from this. Now I'm not going to think about it anymore. I can't make it any better, and I'll just annoy myself.
Note to Irene - No dustup here. All good.

Mary Davis Nowell. Based close to Fort Worth. Shopping Interstate 20 east and west, Interstate 35 north and south.
They keep sending me notices of shops but will not accept my login. I have TWICE hit the "forgot password" key and they send me EXACTLY what I have been entering and it still won't work. If I can't even log in to their site, how do they expect me to work for them? I am cancelling as soon as I can get SOMEONE to respond/explain what is going on..................
Hello again Charley - I signed up for one of those Weatherford shops at Sentry and printed out some material that provided an email address you can use to get help.

When I signed up for that shop, there was still another one on the board.

Mary Davis Nowell. Based close to Fort Worth. Shopping Interstate 20 east and west, Interstate 35 north and south.
THANKS for that info. I also shop out of Weatherford - wonder if we have run into each other at some point?
THANKS for that info. We should try to get together sometime and swap tales. I am also from Weatherford

You were not able to login because your account had gone dormant. This happens when a shopper has not logged in for 18 months. I received the email you sent to support this morning and have corrected the issue with your account.

If you would still like to close your account, please email with the request.
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