I approach the restaurant in the gathering dusk, grateful to be grabbing a couple of hours away from our crazy lifestyle while Ron and I calmly, and quietly reconnect. Someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning up the dishes tonight. Hallelujah.
I was careful to notice all kinds of details around me, things I would mostly have normally ignored. How many cigarette butts around the front door? Was all the signage properly lit? Were the windows clean? How long, in seconds, did it take the hostess to seat us? Did the server put down the prescribed napkin on the table and did she tell us her name as she greeted us? Did she mention all of today's specials? How long did it take for our drinks to arrive at the table after ordering? Were they the proper temperature and appealing in their presentation? Were there any lights burnt out in the dining room? Was there any kitchen staff in the dining room? Was it apparent which of the employees was the manager? Was the server wearing the correct uniform head to toe, including an apron with the restaurant logo and black lace-up shoes?
I love that kind of thing and being so particular did not take away from the enjoyment of our evening one bit. Between noting the efficiencies of the server (or lack thereof), checking the washrooms , and evaluating the quality and taste appeal of the food, we talked, and enjoyed each others' company, as we always do when we're together. (Well, almost always. :) ) When we arrived home, I went onto the computer and reported in detail on our experience in the restaurant. Because that is what mystery shoppers do. And sometimes - I am a mystery shopper.
It's a fun way for us to get to eat out for free. There's a bit of adventure involved, too, a bit of acting since part of the job requires getting the name of the manager and other bits of information without giving away the underlying purpose of our visit. I'm always up for a bit of adventure.
It is pure pleasure to go back and report on a job well done. Not only do I actually like filling out forms, but it's just as much fun for me to be able report on poor service and know that my observations will reach the right ears and actually make a difference.
Our youngest son, Joel, works in the restaurant business and has given us a bit of insight as to what it's like from the other side of the restaurant (so to speak). He says he's always received good marks.
I don't think of it as a job. It's a hobby, really, as it requires only a few hours a month, and I barely make enough to cover my expenses. Neither do I think of it as "spying" on anyone, as much as being a part of the process of improvement of a product and service.
I've often been tempted to blow my cover. It's hard not to tell a server that you are going to be reporting on what a good job she's done when the service has been excellent and you have enjoyed every minute of your visit. It's just as tempting not to inform a slow, inefficient and irresponsible server that you're going to be reporting on his or her actions, too. It is a test that they don't even know they're going through. And its purpose is to evaluate what they're doing well, and what, if anything, they can do to improve their service thereby giving people better value for their restaurant dollar. I often wonder how the actions and attitudes of those restaurant personel might be different if they knew I was about to report on every detail of their service to me tonight?
I wonder how many mystery shoppers I've been evaluated by today? How many people and situations has God sent into my life in order to test what I've said and to try my intent to follow through. How have I been at replacing my ways with his ways? I can't help drawing the parallels. Have I been tried and proven true? Or have I been tried and shown to be needing adjustments still in my character and attitudes?
How easy it is to lose sight of this, but everyone in our lives is a "mystery shopper", really. Everything we do counts for time and eternity. Today someone blocked me in at a gas station and instead of driving out, I had to make a complicated maneuver to get extricate my car from the parking lot. Did it matter that I assigned a very quiet, yet uncomplimentary description to the driver of that other car even though she wasn't able to read my lips? Did it matter that I stopped to encourage someone today, setting aside my own agenda in order to encourage her through a very difficult time in her life?
Does it matter? Does it really make a difference? You bet it does.
Lord, help me see everyone along my path as a mystery shopper who is representing you. Help me to make the difference that you want me to make by learning to submit to your ways, setting my own ways aside. Help me know it matters. It all matters...