I worked a side hustle as an official mystery shopper for a year and a half, evaluating restaurants and other businesses.

I learned that business owners were so interested in my opinion that they were willing to pay a lot of money for honest, thorough feedback.

Which is why, when I hung up my official mystery shopping hat, I decided to try an experiment. What would happen if I gave restaurant owners the same type of feedback I’d given as an official mystery shopper?

Over the following year, I gave 19 companies unsolicited and constructive feedback. And the results were pretty amazing.

Please note that I’m not talking about complaining just to get free things. Instead, the takeaway is that when you genuinely have a bad experience, you can get compensated for your feedback if you know what you’re doing.

 

 

1. Tucanos

Feedback: Unclear and confusing menu flow and pricing, resulting in a poor ordering experience.

Contact Point: Email to corporate offices, copying my local office with this contact information page.

Response: A complete refund of our original meal, plus a rain check for drinks, apps, and dinner on the house.

 

2. Little Caesars

Feedback: Twice, when I picked up a carryout order, my pizza was cold.

Contact Point: Customer feedback form on Little Caesars Listens page.

Response: A personal phone call and dinner on the house.

 

3. Disneyland

Feedback: Less than “happy” response to accommodating nut allergies at several restaurants.

Contact Point: Feedback form on the Disneyland Help Center page.

Response: Personalized email, plus free two-day park hopper passes for everyone in the party.

 

4. Starbucks

Feedback: Normal syrup instead of the sugar-free requested–a critical distinction for many people following particular diets.

Contact Point: Starbucks Customer contact form.

Response: A voucher for a free drink of my choice.

 

 

5. Idaho Pizza Company

Feedback: Incorrect order on my kids’ pizza order (meaning they refused to eat it).

Contact Point: Feedback to waitress in-store, and comment card at restaurant.

Response: Replacement dine-in pizza and certificate for a free large pizza.

 

6. California Pizza Kitchen

Feedback: Inconsistent experience in spiciness of food across different visits.

Contact Point: Contact form at California Pizza Kitchen Customer Care page.

Response: Gift certificate for $25.

 

7. Wendy’s

Feedback: Significant variation in amount of condiments applied by different local stores.

Contact Point: Text to customer care number, with follow-up phone call from manager.

Response: Certificates for free drinks, fries, and burgers.

 

8. Papa John’s

Feedback: Poor online ordering experience resulting in an incorrect order.

Contact Point: Papa John’s Customer Feedback form.

Response: $20 gift card.

 

RELATED: A Broke Girl’s Guide to Getting Free or Cheap Pizza

 

9. Taco Bell

Feedback: Poor response from employees when requesting special orders for dietary restrictions.

Contact Point: Taco Bell Contact form.

Response: Free lunch certificates in the mail.

 

10. Taco Time

Feedback: Overcharged when employees forgot to honor specials.

Contact Point: Email to Taco Time corporate offices.

Response: Meal voucher for amount of our total meal cost.

 

11. Macaroni Grill

Feedback: Messy and poorly packaged meals from the curbside service.

Contact Point: Macaroni Grill Contact Us form.

Response: $25 gift card.

 

 

12. Carrabba’s

Feedback: Removing my favorite meal from the menu and replacing with a lackluster alternative.

Contact Point: Carrabba’s Customer Feedback form.

Response: $30 gift card.

 

13. Cold Stone Creamery

Feedback: Less than helpful response to request for nutritional information in-store.

Contact Point: Cold Stone’s online Customer Contact form.

Response: Two certificates for free Love It creations.

 

14. In-N-Out

Feedback: Stale fries on my husband’s introductory visit to the restaurant.

Contact Point: Contact form to In-N-Out’s corporate offices.

Response: $20 giit card.

 

Don’t bother with McDonald’s, Cafe Rio or Dairy Queen.

Since I frequent these restaurants often, I’ve given these three companies several forms of feedback.

I’ve received a polite “Thanks for the heads up!” but no type of personalized in-kind thank you.

It’s worth noting, however, that McDonald’s and Cafe Rio do have automated surveys that offer free tortilla chips or a burger as a reward!

 

UP NEXT: Your Month-to-Month Guide to Getting Free Food at Restaurants

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