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1. Accept or Except?

Accept means "to receive." Except is usually a preposition meaning "but" or "leaving out." However, except can also be a verb meaning "to leave out." As verbs, accept and except are nearly antonyms, so the difference is important!

He accepted the gift. (He received it.)

Everyone except Bill. (All but Bill.)

2. A Lot or Allot?

A lot (two words) is an informal phrase meaning "many." Allot means "to distribute between or among." Alot does not exist as a word.

3. Farther vs. Further

Farther is used for physical distance; further for non-physical.

The farther we walked, the more tired I became.

I will give it further thought.

4. Could Of or Could Have?

Could of does not exist. Neither do should of, will of, or would of as verbs. Use could have, should have, will have, or would have.

5. Supposed To and Used To

The common expressions supposed to meaning "meant to" or "intended to" and used to meaning "formerly" are frequently misspelled or misunderstood.

We are supposed to meet at seven
​We are suppose to meet at seven.

6. Than or Then?

Than is a conjunction used with comparisons. It rhymes with pan. Then is an adverb that refers to time. It rhymes with pen.

He likes you more than me.
​First you do the shop, then you report it.

7. Disinterested or Uninterested?

Disinterested means "impartial" or "not taking sides." In other words, not having a personal interest at stake.

Uninterested means "not interested." In other words, not showing any interest.

8. Assure, ensure, insure

Assure means to guarantee
Ensure means to make sure
​Insure means to protect against loss or damage

9. Later vs. Latter

Later means afterwards
​Latter is the second of two things

The blue shirt and black slacks were nice, but the latter was less expensive

10. Passed vs Past

Passed is the past tense of pass. Past means a time that has gone.

The employee passed me without acknowledging me.
​The employee walked past me without saying hello.

11. Difficult vs hard

Difficult describes tasks, while hard describes objects

The test was difficult.
​The table is hard.

12. Use “try to” rather than “try and”

I will try to get that done today
​I will try and get that done today.

13. Who vs. Whom

A simple test to see which is proper is to replace who/whom with he/him. If he sounds right, use who; if him is right, use whom.

Since he did it and not him did it, use who did it
​Since we give something to him and not to he, use to whom.

14. Its or It’s

Its is a pronoun, and it's is a contraction meaning "it is"

A tree loses its leaves in the Fall.
​It’s going to be a long time before I return to that store! 

Common Writing Errors in Mystery Shopping Reports

Tips for Writing Great Mystery Shopping Reports

Below is a list of tips that may be helpful when writing essays for shop reports. Please feel free to print and use as a reference.

  1. Employee descriptions – try to make them uniform and detailed when possible. Employee descriptions should be written as followed when possible: gender, age, height, build, hair color, eyeglasses or not, facial hair (for men). Please remember that someone on the other end is reading about themselves…being referred to as dumpy, or “in need of dental work” does not make for a happy day for that person!
  2. Do not use “approximately” before a time – it makes it sounds like you are estimating, and the client may wonder what else you’re not paying full attention to. Approximately IS okay to use when referring to an employee’s height.
  3. Comment boxes for questions – when you see a comment box for a question, such as “What do you think our facility excels at?”, please be sure to use complete sentences and be specific. Instead of saying, “better service” would be an improvement, say, “It would be beneficial if the server check on customers soon after they receive their meal to make sure everything is okay.” This is specific and gives the client good information to work with.
  4. Reports with comment boxes vs. full narratives – if you are scheduled for a shop that has comments after each section as opposed to a full essay, please provide good details. It seems as though shoppers tend to write only one or two sentences in the comment boxes. Please treat them as you would an essay – detail is important, especially in the sections that pertain to employees/customer service.
  5. Shopping scenarios – if you are assigned a shop that requires you to write out the scenario, please be sure to use complete sentences and describe the scenario completely. Simply writing “Scenario #1” or “looking for a new house – I just sold my other one” doesn’t give the client a lot to go on when evaluating the employee’s performance.
Other General Tips
  1. Do not use contractions – it is better to spell out words completely
  2. Write out numbers below ten
  3. Money and percentages should always be fully written out ($7,500.00 vs $7500, 6.0% vs 6%)
  4. Do not use abbreviations (OK – okay, approx – approximately)
  5. Time - 7:00 pm vs. PM – use the lower case pm without periods for consistency
  6. Do not use passive voice - He explained that you would get a discount if you chose this option. vs. He explained that I would get a discount if I chose this option.
  7. Do not underline or use exclamation points for emphasis.
  8. Had on vs. wearing – “She was WEARING a name tag” or “her name tag was visible” vs “she HAD ON a name tag.” Similarly, use “shirt” or “blouse” instead of top (i.e. she was wearing a beige top) – these just sound better.
  9. Consistency – if you refer to customers as “patrons”, the word “patron” should be used throughout the report. If you refer to employees as “associates”, be sure “associates” is used throughout.
  10. Like vs such as when describing something - It is better to say “there were many flavors, SUCH AS chocolate and vanilla. “ than “there were many flavors, LIKE chocolate and vanilla.”
Thesaurus Central

Here are some words to use when you’re stuck for ideas:

  1. Employee: employee, sales person, sales associates, receptionist, greeter
  2. Customers or people who accompany you on shops: guests, companion, spouse, patrons
  3. For restaurants, “server” is a better option than “waiter/waitress” and “busser” is better than “bus boy.”
  4. Use “woman” instead of “girl” or “lady.” You can use “female” if you are describing an employee (i.e. female employee vs “the female explained…..”). Likewise, “gentleman” is more appropriate than “the man” or “guy.”
  5. “Children” is better than “kids”, “companion or spouse” is better than friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, neighbor, father, mother, sister, etc.
  6. “Commode” sounds better than “toilet.” “Restroom” sounds better than “bathroom.”
  7. Other words for “very” – quite, exceptionally
  8. “Told me/said” – there are many other words to use. Essays become redundant when there is a lot of “he told me, then I told him, and he told me, etc.” Other words you can use include:
    Described          Replied
    Stated                Explained
    ​Reiterated          Went on to say
    ​Mentioned          Commented

Tips for Writing a Great Essay

  1. Keep in mind that more detail is always better than less. However, the detail needs to be objective. Rather than writing, "The restroom was filthy" it is better to outline exactly what made it so bad. For example, you can explain that the floor was badly stained, the sink was covered with dirt, and the mirror contained several streaks and smudges. The second sentence is much more helpful to the client.
  2. Opinions - clients want objective information that is free of bias or opinion, unless it is specifically asked for (i.e. "How can we improve our service?"). Please do not include any opinion statements, such as "I think the staff should have..." or "the employee didn't help me for six minutes - I think he was tired or having a bad day." Report the facts and the facts only!

    ​Another suggestion regarding opinion statements is to keep statements free of "emotional" words. For example, instead of writing, "He didn't even bother to talk to me while he completed the transaction," it is more effective to write, "He completed the transaction in silence" or "He did not engage in conversation as he completed the transaction." The same information is being provided, yet you are keeping the statements objective.
  3. Use the questions in the survey as a guide. If you address the questions in your essay, you will ensure that you have covered all of your bases! Also, ALWAYS make sure to provide details on any question you rate as "no" or less than excellent. This will ensure that all of the bases are covered, and we will not need to contact you for futher information.
  4. Chronological – keep the essays chronological. Start with the beginning of your shop (telephone call, arrival, etc depending on the shop) and work your way to the end. Clients LOVE when they feel “as though they were right there with you.” A concluding paragraph is a great way to summarize your visit and end the report. We do offer sample narratives in the shop notes so you can know what is expected for each client.
  5. Paragraphs – please break your essay into paragraphs. There is no need to indent your paragraphs. One line between each is sufficient.
  6. Spelling/grammar – PLEASE use the spell check feature on Sassie. It is also an excellent idea to use Word or Word Perfect to run a spell/grammar check one last time before you submit a report. Read your essay out loud when you're finished - it's amazing what you can catch and fix by doing this!
  7. Write your essay in Word or WordPerfect. Not only will you be able to utilize the spell/grammar check feature, but this will allow you to save the essay in case it does not save properly on Sassie. This has happened to many shoppers, and we would hate for any more shoppers to go through the pain of rewriting an essay. You can copy your essay when you’re done and paste it into the essay box on Sassie.
  8. Once you submit your report, don't forget to check your email in the days following. We may have additional questions or need more information from you. By checking your email frequently, you will ensure that follow-up happens quickly and reports will get to the client within the required time frame.