NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

By signing up to our newsletter, you agree to our terms.

Mystery Shopping City Hall (Part 3)

Fixing a hole, repairing a light, getting a copy of a police report and more

A couple of weeks ago, Citizen Editor Larry Platt asked, “When was the last time you encountered the city bureaucracy and said to yourself, ‘Wow, what great customer service?’” As a result, we’ve taken a page from private industry and unleashed a team of mystery shoppers to interact with city service providers and report back on their experiences…the good, the bad, and the disfiguring. Stay tuned for more.

Mystery Shopper Test #7: Getting a pothole fixed

Steps Taken:

  1. Called 311.
  2. Told the operator about a pothole located at 53rd and Girard streets.
  3. She gave me a confirmation number, and assured me it would be taken care of in one to three business days.
  4. 10 days later, pothole still there.

Time Spent: 5 minutes

Result: Pothole not fixed.

Takeaways: The 311 system for reporting is easy to use, but either the city cannot keep up with demand or there is a lack of coordination between 311 and the responding city agency.

Lightning Bolt Ratingbolt_32x32

 

Mystery Shopper Test #8: Fixing a broken traffic light

Steps Taken

  1. Called 311
  2. Told the operator about a traffic light that was functional, but facing the wrong way/not visible to traffic on 54th and Chestnut streets. He gave me a confirmation number and assured me someone would come investigate within one business day.
  3. After I hung up, got an automated “emergency” email saying: “Someone will come investigate within one business day and it will be fixed within four business days.”
  4. Traffic light fixed in two days.

Time Spent: Five minutes

Results: Success!

Takeaways: Safety seems to be a priority. While the pothole remains, the light was fixed promptly.

Lightning Bolt Rating:bolt_32x32bolt_32x32bolt_32x32bolt_32x32bolt_32x32

 

Mystery Shopper Test #9: Acquiring a police report

Steps Taken:

  1. After house in North Philly was broken into over Thanksgiving weekend, police came out and wrote up a report. The initial report did not contain a complete list of items stolen.
  2. Over the next week, we worked with the detective assigned to our case to update this initial list so we could provide an accurate accounting  for our renters insurance.
  3. Called the detective multiple times, and emailed weekly for a month before finally the detective called back to say the report had been updated and was ready.
  4. At our local police precinct, I got different stories from different officers about where to go for the updated police report. Eventually, they sent me to City Hall to the Police Records Unit.
  5. At City Hall, I spoke to three officials, who were rude and unhelpful; one was on her phone half the time we were speaking with her. The computer program the officials used was so outdated it seemed to make looking up my information difficult.
  6. I was asked to pay $25 to get the police report from  City Hall—even though I was the victim of a crime.
  7. I called my insurance company, which sent in the money to get the report.

Time Spent: Still ongoing—for 4 months

Results: No report was ever given.

Takeaways: Don’t be a victim of a crime in Philadelphia and expect to get justice quickly. You must do a lot of your own advocacy.

Lightning Bolt RatingZero

 

Mystery Shopper Test #10: Acquire a building permit for a residence

Steps Taken:

  1. Called 311 and asked where I can pick up a building permit application for a patio.
  2. 311 representative immediately told me I can find the application at the Municipal Services, 1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard. Then he followed up by asking how far I am in the process of building a patio. When I said I’m in the preliminary stages, he put me on hold and returned quickly with a web address where I could find more information about building permits.
  3. Went to Municipal Building, took escalator to lower concourse level.
  4. The concourse level was very confusing and crowded, with many different services all happening in one place—a revenue department section, an area for paying violations, and the like. After a few minutes, I found the correct line for  the Licenses and Inspection part of the concourse.
  5. I jumped in a line and waited for about four minutes. Representative quickly handed me a form.

Time Spent: 20 minutes

Takeaways: Customer service was very helpful and quick and I received the necessary paperwork for my permit.

Lightning Bolt Rating:bolt_32x32bolt_32x32bolt_32x32bolt_32x32bolt_32x32

Photo: Flickr/r. nial bradshaw

Previous entries in this series:

The Philadelphia Citizen will only publish thoughtful, civil posts. We want to be a communal space. But that doesn’t mean you have a First Amendment right to be an idiot. Send us an insulting, offensive and/or wildly off-topic comment and not only will we refrain from posting it -- we will laugh at you before we hit delete.

Recent Tweets
@THEPHILACITIZEN

@thephilacitizen @@thephilacitizen
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Brink’s work is, fundamentally, about school reform, in at least one sense: https://t.co/KN7Lf1964E #phled 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Don't let Trump bring down the arts, writes @PhilaCulturFund's Barbara Silzle. Art is action! https://t.co/XtNnL1rag9 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
RT @myphillypark:Happy Earth Day! Sign up today to volunteer in Philly's parks on 5/13 for LOVE Your Park! https://t.co/QMzZKjsRSa https://t.co/843UIvqAvO 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Members of the project have baked for orgs that serve refugees, immigrants + the homeless. How you can get involved: https://t.co/YdXEIZ7bJx 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Our second round of Philly Corruption All-Stars trading cards: The 1980s edition. Collect them! Trade with friends! https://t.co/DzIG5mYe89 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
A few places to start: Follow @GreenworksPhila, plant a free @TreePhilly, support local sustainable businesses:… https://t.co/jNyNAzo4Rm 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
RT @LDCphillyPAC:Great event with a great cause Veterans and Civic Engagement - The Philadelphia Citizen https://t.co/NO89CIBXrT via @thephilacitizen 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
8 simple actions we can all take to make Philly greener on (and after) Earth Day: https://t.co/feXwkBFHkL 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
This! 👩🏽‍🔬👨🏿‍🔬 Plus more civic-minded events happening in Philly this weekend. https://t.co/jwNvdhFmLX 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
Commit to caring for our city beyond Earth Day; register for a @loveyourpark clean-up on May 13:… https://t.co/QvD3Eiibez 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
#EarthDayPHL Action: Sign up for a local service like @BennettCompost to compost your food scraps and yard waste:… https://t.co/NWajYpWIIY 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
#EarthDayPHL Action: Put some houseplants in your home to help filter harmful indoor air pollutants:… https://t.co/KvHJIFbflb 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
How to accomplish this? Grow your own food by starting or joining a community garden. Links on how to get started:… https://t.co/7KmWmm1IgK 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
In the #SolutionOfTheDay, a Texas collaborative works to divert prison sentences for the mentally ill: https://t.co/X9NpucHoFL 
The Citizen
@thephilacitizen
8 ways to make Philadelphia greener on (and after) Earth Day: https://t.co/feXwkBFHkL https://t.co/hd2ffUEKEd 

LOAD MORE

Be a Citizen Editor

Suggest a Story