Taking pics inside a fast food restaurant-Tips needed!

On a recent shop I was required to take a pic of the condiment bar in a casual restaurant up close. This proved to be impossible. There was an employee cleaning it up, restocking, etc for the entire 35 minutes I was there. I had thought I would just carry my phone over and pretend to be texting, but they were RIGHT THERE. I ended up taking a pic from my table and zooming in because it was my only option without blowing the entire shop. Luckily my table was close, and I got an ok pic, but I don't know if my shop will be accepted because it wasn't exactly what they wanted. Any tips in this situation? I did write all of this in my report.

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I wouldn't have taken the assignment in the first place. Taking a picture inside is always a difficult thing. If it is a MS situation I could risk it and at most I don't get paid the fee. But if I have to do it in a place where I have to spend money for the meal, the risk of losing money is too big.
Said that, you have done the same thing I would have done in your place. Maybe in addition I would have taken off the shutter noise from my phone and took some pictures while walking to the area, hoping that one shot would be acceptable.
Situations like this are one reason I prefer using my Nikon D60 with the zoom lens. Since I usually have someone with me, even if it's separate checks, I can be pretending to take their picture while I'm really shooting over their shoulder and getting the condiment bar.

Have PV-500 & willing to travel.
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Taking pictures inside a restaurant is always tricky that's why I don't take shops like that unless it's a revealed audit.

Gold Certified
Shopping in San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles
I have done that particular shop several times and have no problem getting the picture. I have also been lucky. 35 minutes cleaning the salsa bar seems extreme to me.

Here is what you do. You use your smart phone to perform the timing while in line. As soon as you pay, continue to hold your phone or place it face down on your tray of food. Before placing it face down, open the camera feature. When you get to the salsa bar, act like you are checking your phone. Grab a salsa cup with one hand and snap the pic with the other. Immediately lay the phone back down on the tray and get a cup of salsa. This trick has always worked for me.

The other option is to take your food to a table and return to the salsa bar. Pretend to be texting up until you get to the salsa bar and then snap your picture.
I find it's even more difficult with a DSLR regardless of lens attachment.. more people notice you are walking around with professional equipment and depending on the lens, you may end up cutting off some parts of the menu because it was not tilted properly.

For smartphones, I just pretend like I am texting and taking my photos when the employee is preparing the order. I would only do this kind of shop again if it were revealed.. people including employees do notice you taking photos and there's just more hassle involved than it's worth for $5-10.

Silver Certified ~ Shopping all of Toronto and beyond
The one problem with smartphones is that darn click when you take a picture. My solution, is called The Silent Camera. What a lifesaver. No one knows I am taking pictures from the noise at least. I do have to agree though that I have stopped taking menu audits and such because there is no way to do that without being noticed unless it is an actual menu, and not one of the boards.
I have done this lots of times with my iPhone. You put the phone on silent (the little button on the left side) and it won't click or make any noise. I have never seen any employee clean more than five minutes. I usually try to take it when I'm scoping the salsa. It takes a second to click - silently, of course.

Not my circus - Not my monkeys @(*.*)@

~Polish Proverb~
Just from iPhone use only, I am sure all smart phones have this capability, click where the camera faces the opposite direction, hold the phone to your ear as if you are answering a call and press the button on the side of your phone to take a picture. I have done it dozens of times. Practice at home until you perfect the angle, but you should be able to get a good shot if you are in close proximity. Otherwise, just act as if you are texting someone and take picture when you are near the bar area. Trust me, people are not watching your every move as much as you think they are. If you weren't shopping a place, do you pay attention to what everyone is doing on their phone? Worst case scenario, someone actually calls you out....You could tell them that you are getting take out for a co-worker/spouse/friend and you did not know what they wanted so you were sending them their options. I actually did this tonight (not on a shop) when I picked up take-out and had no idea what extras my son wanted on his burger. I even took a picture of the options in front of the waiter because I did not want to text all that information. There was never a moment of awkwardness.
Thanks for the ideas. I am not sure why the employee was right there the entire time. He would stock salsa, wipe up, sweep in front of it, go back to wipe, etc. I frequent this location often, and I do know the manager here is a stickler for clean and organization so she may press that onto her employees. It was also right during prime lunch hour. I appreciate the suggestions. I don't have an iPhone, in fact my cell is kind of a piece of crap, so my options are limited on it. I wish I could do the talking on the phone thing but it doesn't even have a way to turn the camera around. 2 more months and I get a new one though. Thanks again!
My daughter and her friends are always taking photos of food in restaurants, they facebook it all the time and I have to admit I've photoed a few fancy plates for myself so I'd have no problem just going up and taking a photo and if an employee were working on it saying, "great job" love the way you've got the colors organized. People are weird, I'd just be one more.
I use a regular camera and thankfully now have one which is rather small, but still noticeable compared to a cell phone. If I have a guest with me I generally will just mention to my guest something along the lines of sending my xxx a photo of the menu, bar, etc so they can see it, let me know what they want me to pack for home etc. I would rather be overheard saying that if an employee is near so they will just ignore me and go back to work than have them be suspicious. With no guest I might just conversationally mention the above to some stranger next to me. I often see conversations with strangers at a drink station.
When MSC first started requiring photos on shops, I was nervous as you know what. Then I realized: they are intentionally putting us at risk of being exposed. Therefore, I don't let it bother me anymore. I know I won't get paid if I don't take the photos, and I'm not foregoing my salary, so I take the photos. If I get caught, I was just doing my job. Try not to pay me and there will be problems. I have been identified twice now. I was paid both times without incident.

That doesn't mean I am not covert. If it is a sit down restaurant, I ask to be seated in a quiet area away from a lot of traffic. I try to just use my phone for photos since it is less obvious. The less suspicious you act, the less attention you draw. Don't look around before you take the photos. Just take them. If it's the salsa bar at Moe's, I'm texting at an angle. People text all the time, so if you are using your phone, you can usually make it look like that's what you are doing. I've turned the sound and flash off my camera phone.

Same goes for asking for names. I try three times. After that, if I still don't have a name, I log the steps I took to obtain a name and explain why I was unsuccessful. Of course you are going to be identified as the shopper if subtlety doesn't get you anywhere. It's not my problem. The corporate suits want a name, get them a name. Yesterday I had to place a pre-call to a college bookstore. The girl wouldn't give me a name. I called back, she still refused. I called a third time (now I'm certain she thinks I'm a stalker). I tried to play it off, "Hey I think I just spoke with you. What was your name?" Not happening. The girl flat out refused to give it to me. I explained in my report. I can't make her give it to me. I can't tell her, "Listen, I am a shopper, and you are going to lose points if you don't tell me your name." I did what I could do, and that was it.

We all run into scenarios from time to time that we know would never play out in real life. That's not our problem. The client is paying us to do as we are told. If you just can't get over the anxiety, don't take the job. I used to second guess myself all the time: "Gosh. This is stupid. I'm going to get identified." Now, I psych myself into it by not caring. I have my orders, and I am going to fulfill them as discretely as possible.

Shopping since 1995; full-time since 2009. Blogging about shopping on www.myfrugalmiser.com.
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