A Maritz scheduler talked me into doing a gas station shop/audit and I'm kind of freaking out. I hope it won't be a total nightmare. She gave the general guidelines and wanted to know how I knew so much about them if I'd never done one before. I told her I'd heard a lot of stories.
This is a night shop for a yellow station. I hope I don't screw it up. I bought my safety vest today and am waiting for the paperwork to arrive.
Any BASIC tips to improve my chances for success? I already assume that I should block out a big chunk of time for photo editing and shop submission. I hope I don't regret this one.
Okay, the shop part is like any other shop. Remember to get the receipts. The audit part is dead easy because you have your instructions right there on a clipboard. Just go through everything in order, take the pics in order, take the pump pics in order of pump number if possible. Take two pictures of everything you have to photograph. Make sure you test your camera settings; I think you have to put the date and time stamp on the picture. If you forget or your camera can't do it, you can add the date and time using a program called timetophoto (there are others). Be sure to put fresh batteries in your camera before you start.
These shops are time consuming but not actually hard. It's a little overwhelming the first time because you're learning new terminology and have to figure out what kind of pumps they have (I think that's the shop where you have to identify them). Take all your paperwork and instructions with you. Take your time. It will likely take at least an hour the first time.
Review your pictures before you leave the site, double check the list of required photos, remember to check for credit card applications.
The first one is the hardest and they get progressively easier as you get more comfortable with the paperwork and get your own routine. I know that I was nervous doing my first one and it took me a long time but by the fifth one it was taking half the time and the anxiety was gone. Just remember that everyone is nervous and apprehensive the first time and do take 2 piks! Good luck - it is really not that bad.
I've done a bunch of these and I was in the same shoes. I was so nervous before the first assignment....but it is not too bad. I like to take more photos than I need...just in case I mess up on some. I upload them to my computer and choose from there. The uploading to the assignment does not take long at all as long as you pick up the ones you want to upload.
Now, I actually like to do them but would only accept them if there's a bonus... since it is time consuming.
My advice would be similar to what the others have said. However, I would advise that you learn to be discriminating: Use commonsense in your approach.
Unless the station is a completely ruinous operation, these "yellow" stations are typically found to be clean and nicely maintained (at least in my experience).
As the information you are given says, "this is not a white glove audit".
In the first gas stations that I did, I went out of my way looking for problems that were in reality, very minor and a complete waste of my time and energy, not to mention all the photos I took. I was told and now realise that I was being overly "picky" as one editor commented.
Example: While one trash can was almost full, the others were not. Do not mark it as overflowing, it simply was used more than others. The attendant is on a schedule to maintain the trash, they cannot run out and maintain ASAP.
On the other hand, if they were all overflowing with trash laying about them, then they were not being properly maintained on a regular schedule.
In other words, obvious signs of neglect will be apparent whereas a maintenance problem from a recent incident is not. Use your discernment. Don't be an overbearing, controlling arse about it.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/15/2014 01:08PM by Tatjana.
Pictures Pictures Pictures- They are BY FAR the most important thing to the client and MSC. Make sure you get all your pictures. It's very easy to overlook a "no" picture. I did a two-day route throughout Maine last weekend and realized when I went to enter the first day's reports that I missed ONE freakin' picture. Knowing full well that it would get kicked back, I had to backtrack to the station to get it.
When doing a route, I have a photo organization system I use where I create a shared folder on my iPhone for each shop. Then, after taking all my pictures for that shop, I double check the pictures by putting them all into that locations shared folder. Once I get back to my computer, all the photos are already on my computer and organized by shop and ready to report. Staying organized is vital if you're going to do gas shops in a route.
Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
Your photos do not need a time/date stamp for this client. Try to familiarize yourself with the POP standards ahead of time. Use a checklist for your required photos - the counter with employee and both genders' restrooms are potential trip-ups. Remember to ask your knowledge question to the attendant and the cashier based on the POP present on site. Don't forget the goofy little "demographic" questions at the end of the form. Take extra photos of the pump islands and lot - if you forget something you needed, you often can cut it out of the extras that you took.
When I first signed on for these at this company I was horrified. Not so much for the shop because you do get exact instructions and a sheet with exactly what you need. Plus it's revealed so there is no sneaking around.
I was horrified becuase the company was sooooooooooooooooooooo specific about everything!! Signing up and going through the qualifications for the company was harder than any shop I have ever done.
If you made it through the qualifying round and actually have been approved to shop for them.... the shop is easy peasy.
Good luck and don't forget to post your experience, good, bad or other wise here for people who come in after in the same position....
> I remember my very first gas station. OMG..I was
> nervous. I took 174 pictures. I spent hours on the
> Now? I'm there for 40 minutes with about 50
> pictures and the report takes about 45 minutes.
> I know not all gas station shops are the same. I
> do a lot of this brand of station around these
> I am an expert now, hahaha.
50 pictures?? How awful are these gas stations??? Even POP gas shops don't require 50 pictures... though I haven't shopped all brands, yet. When I find the one that requires 50 pictures I'm dropping that one tout suite.
Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
I signed up for one of your type of shops, then had to cancel after they sent the materials to my Indiana address, not Kentucky one. I was overwhelmed.
I have performed exactly one, on the other side of the town where I live in Indiana. First, it was a different company. Second, I had a large resolution setting on my camera which created problems with uploading as they had a limit. Third, they did not like my overall photo, and wanted one picture with both the signboard, fuel islands and store in one picture. That was difficult as the entrance to the gas station was on a side road and the store and fuel pumps were on the rear of the building with the sign board on the main street and away from the front. In order to catch a picture of all, I would have had to sit on the front porch of a house across the street. And no parking on the side, this was a national highway.
I went on a Sunday to get the overall picture. First tried from a bank across the street. No dice and I didn't think lingering there would be wise. Found a business parking lot to the back, perfect. While I was taking pics, a local drove through the lot past me, eye balling me. Then he pulled up beside me. He asked what I was doing. I didn't answer and asked why did he want to know. He explained that there had been a number of break ins in the community, including his house and he was wary of strangers.
We had a chat and I calmed his fears. But these are the things that I try to avoid.
Do not read so much, look about you and think of what you see there.
Richard Feynman-- letter to Ashok Arora, 4 January 1967, published in Perfectly Reasonable Deviations from the Beaten Track (2005) p. 230
If we're still talking Maritz, I find them to be very forgiving when it comes to overall photos. If it's not safe to get an overall photo then it's not safe. I've had several kicked back that I had to explain. I'm not standing in the middle of a 4-lane highway to take a picture even if I'm wearing a safety vest.
They get it.
Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
I had one for Maritz where the place was a hangout for the local thugs. I did the overall picture from across the street with a telephoto lens and the camera set on high resolution [16MP]. I then resized that image in Photoshop. Using the original, I then cropped it close to get the building, adjusted the lighting because the building was shaded by the canopy, and submitted it for the building picture. I included the explanation with the submission and it got kicked back. I simply replied, "Read the reason I included with the submission." No problem then.
Have PV-500 & willing to travel.
"Answers are easy. It's asking the right questions which is hard." (The Fourth Doctor, The Face of Evil, 1977)
"Somedays you're the pigeon, somedays you're the statue.” J. Andrew Taylor
"I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn't learn something from him." Galileo Galilei
> MF gas audits are @ $35 in some areas. I would be
> interested to hear your comments on how they
> compare to Maritz gas station audits. In my case,
> I can now complete the red station (MF) site-visit
> in 15 minutes, but it takes me 45 more minutes to
> report the shop, link the photos, and select and
> edit the photos.
I have done both. I got to the point that I could do the MF red stations in 15 minutes too. I did way more of Maritz' gas station audits but I never got it below 45 minutes.
As to uploading photos, I found MF's website was way more cumbersome. It would regularly crash and sometimes it lost photos. However, it would allow you to flip the photo in the right direction and didn't require a particular dimension.
Re Martiz photos, it took an extraordinarily long time to do their photos because they have those specific photo dimensions and the camera I had couldn't generate photos that size. And they don't have any tools that allow you to flip the photo. That meant pulling each one into photoshop, flipping it to the right direction, resizing it, and renaming it. If I had an extraordinarily large station (e.g, 20 pumps) it was lots and lots of work.
Also, I don't know where you live, but where I live, the Maritz audits never go for more than $20. I have seen only one bonused and it was way up in the mountains. It was never enough money. I could have done 10 other small shops in the time it took to do the Maritz audits.
Call me crazy but I went and bought a new camera just for Maritz and their picky clients who want photos a particular size. Now my camera takes them that size automatically. It was an investment because Maritz gives me about 75% of my work. They have some nicely bonused routes around here. Now the photo part is easy peasy. I'm still working the learning curve on what is compliant and what isn't.
The station I did last night is co-branded with 7-11. I'm confused about how to answer some of the questions about store associate uniform and 7-11 branded pump toppers. My trusty manual doesn't mention co-branding. Maritz isn't open til 10 am on Saturday and I'll be on my way to my f.t. job by then.
I do a yellow station in my area. Maybe it's the same brand. If that's the case, the information you need is on Page 45 of the manual under Requirements, about half way down that section. Hope this helps.
Mary Davis Nowell. Based close to Fort Worth. Shopping Interstate 20 east and west, Interstate 35 north and south.
Here are some tips that I have learnt whilst performing gas station shops:
1) Always remember that these are not "white glove" audits. Meaning, of course, that what may seem an infraction by you, is really not. Therefore, use your objectivity and understanding in taking those photos.
2) There really is no need to take so many photos of infractions. Two per each is enough. Besides, you really shall no be able to upload all of them anyway. Therefore, make sure your photos of the most egregious infractions are specific and correct. Those shall be the ones in which you shall wish to upload. In the comment area, explain any other infractions (if you wish). But, be aware, that you should have a photo if asked to send later. However, I have never been asked to do so.
3) Regarding the photos: I review my photos before leav ing the station. I upload them to my laptop and do so then. This is when I name them as well as re-orient them with my MS Office viewer.
4) Re-sizing: My camera takes photos in the correct size as required by the MSC. I believe it is referred to as an "Email photo" size in my camera's menu. I have set my camera to that size and, after uploading to my laptop, found that the size was correct. The laptop program reports the size when one hovers the cursor over the picture. The size can also be found by looking at the properties of the photo. Most of the digital cameras in the past few years have this option.
5) Re-sizing programs: There are numerous free re-sizing programs available. Go to CNet.com and do a search for them. However, since I was (and still am, albeit most infrequently) a shopper for CORI/Stericycle, I have used their free re-sizer program as the default when needed. The program is free if you sign up to do shops for that MSC. Afterwards, it becomes transferrable from computer to computer.
6) Mandatory photos: These are the photos absolutely required by the MSC, regardless of infractions. Make yourself a worksheet, a "cheatsheet" if you will. On this sheet, make sure you list required photos prominently as well as other required data. It becomes a huge help. Check them off as you review the photos whilst at the station.
My first one went fairly well. I took way too long (the report asked why so long) because I was nervous and it was cold out.
When I arrived at the station, an old guy was tying up his horse to the bollard near the air pump and a few people got out of their cars to go meet the horse (and the guy.) Thankfully, the guy and horse left and the crowd cleared out so that I had the pumps and forecourt mostly to myself after I did the shop/reveal.
I took a load of photos and was glad for the extras when I got home. I found the trickiest part to be keeping track of the required POPs on each pump and juggling my guide, clipboard and camera. I did not look very smooth or confident.
The audit hasn't been kicked back and I didn't get any clarification requests, so I'm hoping it was accepted. Phew, I'm glad that first one is done. I think I might like to try some different brands and maybe a day shop.
The time it takes to do a station depends greatly on three main factors:
(1) the requirements (some clients require photos of each dispenser (front and back)) and a busy station can make this requirement very time consuming.
(2) the station footprint (how large is the lot) and the elements therein (separate auto/diesel canopies, multiple price signs, car wash/service bays
(3) the maintenance level of the management/attendants--the better the station is maintained, the less time it takes
Stations with smaller footprints can generally be done in 15-25 minutes; stations with larger footprints can take 20 to as much as 40 minutes especially if they're poorly maintained.
Most shops require a certain number of base photos of elements like the pumps, both gas and diesel, the canopy, the price sign, the store exterior, the restrooms, an overall photo and a picture of the counter/register with or without a picture of the attendant. The blue/red stations require 10 basic photos, assuming all elements are available. The yellow stations require two copies of six different photos but they only use the best one of each so forgetting to take one is not that big of a deal. I generally take two copies of the main elements (overall, price sign, canopy and exterior store) because I can use those photos to help during the debrief in case I overlooked information like which dispensers were out of order or which pump did not have credit card applications present. I can also blow up and crop these photos to get other required photos that I may have neglected to take when I visited the station.
One buzzard to another while circling high overhead (paraphrased), "Patience hell! I want to shop somewhere."