Once Upon a Time, there was a Mystery Shopper Who…

women-dining-outToday, we want to share a mystery shopper story….

Fran was excited to finally be going to the restaurant in an old schooner ship on the river. She had wanted to see what it looked like on the inside for the longest time. Raving reviews about the food made her stomach growl in anticipation of the meal ahead.

Her best friend Lynne was joining her and it was going to be a fabulous night!

Best of all… it was a mystery shop! The entire cost of this meal (up to a certain amount) would be paid for!

When Fran got into her car, she made sure that her mile tracking app was working. She didn’t want to miss out on valuable mileage tax benefits. She knows that every penny in and out counts for her home based mystery shopping business.

Dinner was Wonderful

From the moment Fran and Lynne walked up the entrance plank to the restaurant they were made to feel special. Their coats were checked by a gracious staff member. The hostess greeted them with a smile, checked their reservation and promptly seated them at a window with a view of the river and the night-lit city on the other side.

Matthew, their waiter, suggested specialty drinks from the bar – and, as mandated in the guidelines, they each ordered only one. They, too, were a nice size. At the first sip, the mixture of bitters, whiskey, and citrus felt warm and relaxing.

As required for the mystery shop, they ordered delectable seafood appetizers – scallops wrapped in bacon and jumbo sized shrimp with cocktail sauce. The shrimp were huge, fresh and scrumptious!

The meal had not yet been served, but Fran was delighted she had applied for and been assigned this shop. This was a great night out.

Dinner and dessert did not disappoint either. As the women paid their $150. bill, they shared a smiled knowing it would be reimbursed. The evening continued at a local night spot, and Fran returned home late, having enjoyed the entire experience.

Life – It Just Happens – or Does It?

The next morning, Fran woke knowing she had to fill out her shop report by midnight that night.

But first, she needed to run a few errands.

When she returned, she did a bit of cleaning up around the house. Then called her mom to tell her what a great night it had been. She sat back down, tapped on her iPad and idled away an hour looking at social media and playing a few games.

Fran opened her fridge and saw the take home box from last night’s dinner. She remembered that she still had to fill out her report, but wanted to eat first. The taste of the re-heated meal was almost as good as the first time.

By now it was 8 pm. Fran sat down at her computer. While she was waiting for the log in to register at the mystery shopping company where she had to fill out her report, she opened her inbox to see what had come in. She saw a few more mystery shops, started clicking around, reading, and applying for assignments.

Soon she remembered why she had sat down, and went back to the mystery shopping report form.


This report form was LONG! And all the details they wanted! Fran realized she had never really ‘looked’ at the form. She had glanced at it to get a general idea of what was required.

She knew a drink, at least one appetizer, 2 entrees, and dessert had to be ordered.

All that timing stuff, well … she hadn’t paid attention to that. Or if a manager was in the restaurant. Or the restroom. She forgot to go to the restroom!

Fran knew her waiter’s name was Matthew, but was the hostess the one with the blonde hair, or was that the coat check woman? She sent off a quick text to Lynne.

Fran started to fill out the report – and then realized she didn’t remember what Lynne had ordered. Another text. But Lynne had not yet replied to the first one. She usually went to bed early. Fran would likely not hear from her until the morning.

Fran saved her half-written report. She sent off an email to the scheduler to say that she would complete her report before noon tomorrow.

When Fran got to work the next day, there was an emergency that kept her busy and involved until 7 pm that evening. As she was winding up her day, she saw Lynne’s responses on her phone.

“Dang – I’ve got to finish that report.”

On the train ride home, she replied to the scheduler’s email asking if the report would be filed today with a, “Yes, by midnight”.

But when Fran got home, her house was frigid cold and she found her heater had stopped working.

The story ends with Fran not being able to finish entering her report for a second, and then a third night.

The Moral of the Story

On the other side, there was a mystery shopping company scheduler who tried her very best to be understanding… because she knows life does get in the way. And she gave Fran another 24 hours.

In the end, however, Fran’s timeline did not coincide with the mystery shopping client’s timeline of wanting to see reports within 72 hours of completion.

Fran could not be paid for her wonderful night out. And that made it not quite as wonderful as it had been. It also made the scheduler very hesitant to give Fran another chance.

Moral of the story: Life does get in the way. So, if you can get your work done before life gets to you (see the part of the story where Fran woke up!), do it. It will be worth it in the end. In Fran’s case, it was worth $150.

How have you handled situations where life got in the way? Have you created a new way of working because of it?

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About Market Viewpoint

Market Viewpoint offers comprehensive mystery shopping services, complete customer service audits, employee and customer surveys, customer focused marketing strategies, and customer service training to help you improve your customer service and outshine your competition.
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12 Responses to Once Upon a Time, there was a Mystery Shopper Who…

  1. Phoebe Lou Roome says:

    I always make notes…making sure I am not discovered…or put it into my iphone…I know I have to get names and details of times…what I ordered…everything must be noted…for the report…I read the report before I go so I know what I have to observe. Dinner shops are very detailed and reports should be filled out as soon as you get home so you can remember everything. .it is not easy…but it is worth it… .. I have been a mystery shopper for over 17 years and love it…Phoebe

  2. Chris says:

    This was a great article – some of which I could really relate to! I had to smile throughout, because I have “been there, done that”, and now I know better!! LOL!

    • Chris – thanks for your compliment. There is definitely a learning curve to mystery shopping. But once you’ve got it – your mind ‘remembers’ what you need to do/look for/keep track of whenever you go out. I know plenty of shoppers who say they do it even when they are not being paid!

  3. cathy says:

    apparently “Fran” is not an experienced mystery shopper as she made mistake after mistake. She was not professional in handling the assignment and an real scheduler would never have assigned an expensive dinner/bar shop without knowing she track record. I know this is just a story but no experienced shopper would do/or not do the things she did.

    • Cathy – thanks for your thoughts. We do agree that schedulers typically take more experienced shoppers for the higher paying shops – but everyone has a first time. And everyone has a bad weekend. Trust that those who work for mystery shopping companies have many tales like this to share. Even from shoppers who have worked for 20+ years! That is why every so often we like to share a story to remind shoppers to try their best to stay at the top of their game.

  4. dimwitt says:

    I know some mystery shopper just put a cell phone in their front pocket and just record every thing .

  5. Dave Mayo says:

    I do not need my partner to remember. We talk to each other during the dinner. My trusty recorder is listening to EVERYTHING! the “Play by play” makes a great narrative. In my state it is only illegal to record a conversion if you bring it to court and attempt to use it in a trial and the person did not know you were recording (unless you were wired and had a court order).

    It is perfectly alright if you have a fantastic memory with the help of a recorder. You mustr be disciplined to get to the report. get the “business” out of the way. Let your guest do the drinking. YOU, for several reasons like being the designated driver and the responsible shopper who needs to remain sober and businesslike should nto mix business with pleasure. Maybe next time your guest will be the shopper (I take my wife) and I can enjoy myself while she works. . .

  6. Pingback: Don’t Be Defeated by this Mystery Shopper Downfall | Market Viewpoint

  7. Dawn says:

    I feel her first and worst mistake was not reading the form thoroughly before the shop. Guidelines and form both need to be reviewed. Even if she had put this report in on time, she would not have been able to accurately answer many of the questions and I suspect the report would not get accepted.

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