Gas Station Shops

I'm almost embarrassed to admit that in the 5+ years I've been shopping, I've never done a gas-station shop. That's mostly because they're few and far between in my area, scattered all over the county. Not worth it to try a route of them. (And I am signed up with what seems to be the biggest MS provider of gas-station shops.)

Anyway, there's a station that gets shopped in a town I have to be in every week. There's one listed for August. It's a mystery with reveal scenario. Says it's an inspection with required photos to check the site branding, marketing elements and condition. Pays $12.50, which, since I'd be doing it on my way home and have to pass by it anyway, doesn't sound too bad, based on what some of you say about these shops.

Are these difficult or time-consuming? I know many of you could do these in your sleep, but for a newbie? This may be a dumb question, but since I can't see the details unless get assigned, are the required purchases included in the fee, or are they reimbursed on top of the fee? I can't make that out in reading the overview.

TIA!

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.

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I did my first of these a few weeks ago (yellow brand). It's not that time consuming at all. Even for a newbie, you can expect about 20 to 25 minutes on site, perhaps longer if you have to wait for pumps to be free. The gas and CS purchase are in addition to the fee.
I disagree. I've done hundreds, and the FIRST one for any new brand or new MSC (especially branding!) always takes me 45 minutes on site -- or longer. And the report, unless you are one of those wunderkind that use on-site apps for reports, takes me an hour. Even after doing hundreds of them! And if it's one that wants a photo of both sides of every pump, expect to take 80-100 photos if it's a large station!

But then, I am a tech dinosaur, and slow.

I can do a simple mystery shop for a gas station in well under 15 minutes.

Ask for a bonus. Don't tell them you'll be in the area anyway.

I won't do a reveal gas station for less than $30 -- and feel abused and mistreated (and kick myself for taking it so cheap!) at that rate.
I have done tons of basic gas mystery shops, but never an audit. The reason is I figure that I would not be able to mystery shop that location until the employees forgot me. If it’s a location that you visit every week, I would see if there are ever straight mystery shops available and try those. You can do the same location over and over, rather than once in a long while. Audits are also more time consuming and base pay is similar to regular gas shops. $12.50 is not enough, negotiate for a big bonus if you choose to do it. Plenty of people like doing these, those that like it the most are well compensated. I’d like to see $40-$60 for an audit if I did one. I have gotten more than that for a heavily bonused out of the way gas station, no audit. Simple gas station shops run 8-15 minutes on site and 10-15 minute reports, for comparison. Some require a few photos and some don’t require photos at all.
Thanks to all for your replies! I think I might be better off trying to do a couple of straight mystery shops first, then the more involved audits.

We don't have any BP-branded stations around here, which is where I think a lot of shops are to be had, right? I've seen some straight mystery shops for places like Circle K, but the closest one is around 35 miles from here. So there are just a very few others that I find anywhere near me. If I go across the border into Maryland, there are many, and I could easily create a route. But until I do a single one, I wouldn't be comfortable with a route.

I'll keep looking for a good "beginner" shop!

I learn something new every day, but not everyday!
I've learned to never trust spell-check or my phone's auto-fill feature.
I won’t do revealed shops in areas I frequent. But not because it burns me for doing mystery shops there for a while. The employees at gas stations and convenience stores tend to be mobile and next month they’re working at a big box retailer or restaurant where I shop. Even encountered one who began working at an apartment community I went to shop. Not sure if she recognized me, but since I never do revealed shops, she probably wouldn’t have known I was a shopper. Probably.
I always advocate trying the revealed gas stations. I find them somewhat enjoyable. If its the same company that has most gas stations they have an app which makes it much harder to screw up. I like being outside and they arent that hard.
@ceasesmith wrote:

And if it's one that wants a photo of both sides of every pump, expect to take 80-100 photos if it's a large station!

What in the...??? I know you're a veteran and have done more than your fair share of these, but if you're still taking 80-100 pictures (or if you ever were to begin with) then you are absolutely positively doing this wrong. That is absolute insanity and I guarantee the MSC is not expecting you to do even half that... even for a big station.

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Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
According to my records, I have completed the grand total of 16 stations in 15+ years. They paid from $25 + $1 + $5 to $84 + $1 + $5; that is why my total is so low. I well remember my first such shop; I was on the property just short of an hour. I do agree that as one became more acclimated to the requirements, the work would become less time consuming. My fees, though, prevented me from becoming proficient with the shops.
I use the app and take one photo of each side of each gas pump. With the app you don't have to take a lot of extra photos. The only extra ones I take are of things that are non-compliant, sometimes I"m not sure the one I took will be good enough, usually due to glare and poor eyesight. It takes me 2 minutes to snap a couple of extra photos if they are even needed. So far they haven't been. I just like to ensure that I won't have to return. Even taking photos of every fueling station the longest I have been on a lot was 45 minutes. 8 gas pumps-16 photos. of gas pumps.
The required photos vary but there is lots of overlap in brands. They usually want forecourt or 45 degree angle, gas island, c store, all of the pumps, the MID, the front counter, an overall from across the street and a shot of you in your safety vest, Shell wants you with your tablet or printed instruction book. Valero wants a view from each side of the lot plus the front and Shell wants photos of the bathrooms and all of the food and c-store.
I used to make my own cheat sheet to make sure I didn't forget anything but the app makes that unnecessary.
For those of you who are interested but afraid, here's how it goes for the BP ones I am currently doing. You pull in, go inside and check the bathroom. Make a small purchase. Go pull up to a gas pump and get 6$ in gas. Pull into an empty parking place, get your vest and letter. Take the letter to the CSR and put on your vest and pull up the app on your phone. The app walks you through the entire audit frame by frame telling you what to look for and what to take a photo of. Once you are finished fill out a cure sheet (short and sweet) and give it to the CSR. Bid them adieu and get on to the next one.
I prefer mystery shops, but I will do the audits if I have time, am near there anyway, or receive an astounding bonus offer to go to the hinterlands and audit a station. Recently, I trotted off to do the well-paid audit-- only after consulting all available weather reports. The client specified that there should be no precipitation in the images. What would the client have done if the weather were inclement on the day of the deadline?

Luck is helpful In a perfect audit, each pump is clear just when you want to inspect it; there are multiple stalls or there is no line for the restroom; the place is clean, tidy, and maintained; and lighting conditions are favorable.

Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June.- Al Bernstein
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I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born. - Ronald Reagan
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@CoffeeQueen wrote:

For those of you who are interested but afraid, here's how it goes for the BP ones I am currently doing. You pull in, go inside and check the bathroom. Make a small purchase. Go pull up to a gas pump and get 6$ in gas. Pull into an empty parking place, get your vest and letter. Take the letter to the CSR and put on your vest and pull up the app on your phone. The app walks you through the entire audit frame by frame telling you what to look for and what to take a photo of. Once you are finished fill out a cure sheet (short and sweet) and give it to the CSR. Bid them adieu and get on to the next one.

I don't understand the concept of the cure sheet. It's not like they don't know which pumps aren't working. If *I* know which pumps aren't working then they certainly know already

Also, Of the thousands of gas audits I've done over the years across nearly every brand, I've been asked for a LOA exactly once. I'm at the point where I don't even bring it with me anymore... They all know this happens.

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Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
I do take LOTS of photos. Mostly because some of these stations are hundreds of miles away, so if I miss something, I can't go back and take an extra photo. I'm old and shaky, and I use a digital camera -- so sometimes I take 3 photos to make sure I have one good one.

Comes from the old days of being a photographer -- I thought absolutely NOTHING of taking 80 photos of a swan on a lake to make sure I got the RIGHT one. And that's when you had to pay money for film, LOL!!!

Last month, I took 35 photos of an untended, 2 pump "station" over 400 miles from home.

Not one photo had the MID in it.

Zip -- $100 out the window!!!
@Hoju wrote:

@CoffeeQueen wrote:

For those of you who are interested but afraid, here's how it goes for the BP ones I am currently doing. You pull in, go inside and check the bathroom. Make a small purchase. Go pull up to a gas pump and get 6$ in gas. Pull into an empty parking place, get your vest and letter. Take the letter to the CSR and put on your vest and pull up the app on your phone. The app walks you through the entire audit frame by frame telling you what to look for and what to take a photo of. Once you are finished fill out a cure sheet (short and sweet) and give it to the CSR. Bid them adieu and get on to the next one.

I don't understand the concept of the cure sheet. It's not like they don't know which pumps aren't working. If *I* know which pumps aren't working then they certainly know already

Also, Of the thousands of gas audits I've done over the years across nearly every brand, I've been asked for a LOA exactly once. I'm at the point where I don't even bring it with me anymore... They all know this happens.

I agree about the Cure Sheet. I feel like they have to give us something new to do every once in awhile to make the client think they are worth the money.
As far as the LOA in my area there is a lot of turnover. New owners, new CSR's. So I always take one and hand it to them.
Last week I had a new owner who thought he had to tell me everything he was planning to do with his gas station. Chatty Kathy's are the worst. He ate up 20 minutes of my time talking about his new planters.
Also last week after I had finished and took them the cure sheet, one guy popped on his name tag and asked me to take a picture of him in it. I informed him that I had already submitted the report electronically. hahahaha
I sometimes like the chatty ones as long as they’re not trying to make excuses or bribe me. I appreciate an owner or employee that takes pride in their station. I don’t let them waste my time, though. If they want to follow me while I jog around their propert for 20 mins, go nuts. Lol

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Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
Once upon a time, I did both revealed and unrevealed gas station shops. The ones where you had to visit the restroom. Gross! Creepy! Dirty! Disgusting! In the "back" room - 0ooh! I stopped doing them because so many stations are old and disgusting! How the employees can stand those restroom is beyond me! Now, I refuse to do revealed jobs because the pay is too low and I am not that desperate for income. Occasionally, I will do an unrevealed job ONLY if the station is relatively new, a.k.a modern restroom. Most Valero and Circle K seem to be okay.
You know you’re not required to actually USE the restroom, right?

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Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
Shoppers' still are supposed to walk in and close the door as though they were going too! I can't be the only person who has visited old, rundown, grimy, dirty gas stations with equally dirty restrooms! $7-8 is NOT enough money to do these jobs. Why don't these uber-rich gas companies demand better of their franchises?
Gas station audits are super easy, IMO, and a great way to build a route and/or use them as fillers while waiting for the required time between shops or killing time waiting for your kid (she goes to HS 45 minutes from home so I often have time to kill when she is at extracurriculars, picking up from camp, etc). It's gotten so that I max out the self-assigned limit and they call me at month end with bonuses (I only do two of the four brands that this MSC has). It's pretty much all I do any more. I can be on and off site in 20 minutes easily. I highly recommend doing them (just not in my area, tee hee!) . Once you do a few you will find that you will take a max of 30 pics for even the largest station. I do some of them on the app because one type is easier that way, the rest I just take the pics, make my cryptic notes on the list for the month, and move on. I normally don't use the app because it slows me down...I'd rather do more locations and report them later from my recliner than spend extra time on site (it adds about 10 minutes for me) and do few locations (plus I don't kill my phone battery from being online). I also have found that focusing on my phone is not all that safe and I can avoid idiot drivers who somehow can't see my bright yellow safety vest! Just try to do them in the same order each time as there is less likelihood of missing a required picture. The other thing is to remember that this is not a white glove audit, use common sense. The more you do, the easier they will become and the bonus is, no narratives to write, plus the gas is reimbursed up to their limit and you can stock up on snacks and drinks (and you know which gas stations have the cleanest restrooms). One thing to remember, though, if you end up doing a bunch in one day, buy a gas card for that brand. Otherwise, your credit card company will shut you down after two sites no matter whether you call them ahead of time.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/02/2018 05:51AM by KarenMSW.
Just some comments on the comments. I think the 1st audit will be time consuming as the guidelines have to be followed. And the guidelines for each brand and type of shop is different. One requires a photo of the attendant's torso showing the uniform and ID. Another wants a photo of the counter, not the employee. A third doesn't ask for either. All the ones I do require a photo of each pump, except diesel pumps for one brand. One does not ask for a shot of the canopy or building, the others do. One wants a pic of the pumps from a 45 degree angle, the others, not needed. There's more but my point is these are very detailed shops and take time and several stations to become routine.

I don't take anything close to 80 or 100 pics. More like 20 to 25 and after having done hundreds of them can easily whip through them in 20 minutes. And that's walking, not jogging. Walking a mile or two a day is good exercise.

I don't use my phone camera or the app either. I can take one handed pictures with my digital camera which is about the size of a pack of cigarettes or a deck of cards. More than once the camera has slipped only to be saved by the strap around my wrist. And I also prefer to upload the reports at home in my office relaxing and watching the Mets lose again. Except on Battle Bot wednesday.

Also, I only do revealed and set up mini routes of 5 or 6 or 7 a day. I like to leave after the morning rush, around 10 am and return sometime around 2 or 3 pm. Routes can be very profitable if negotiated properly.

Some of the restrooms can be pretty seedy but not many, at least around here where there seems to b a gas station at every corner. I think the competition keeps them clean. Some of the restrooms are so small that I have to leave the door open and stand halfway outside to get a good shot. I don't think there is a requirement to step inside and close the door.

I think a majority of managers, owners and some attendants take pride in their work and the appearance of the station. Most are friendly, some not so much.

Finally, I think the shops are set up by marketing people that come up with ideas at a conference table. A little field work would probably provide more logical and effective report requirements. But that is a topic for another discussion.
I agree with LIJake - 20-25 pic max. I also agree the first on could be 25 - 45 min but after that I can do one in about 20 min which includes the survey. There a few that are a little longer. I have done 100's of these as well. super easy.
I usually have to put my start time in a few mins earlier and my end time a few mins later so satisfy the "This should take you a min of 20 mins" requirement.

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Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
I really like the walking part. I've walked so much the past 2 weeks that I have blisters. But I prefer making 20-30$ an hour doing it to paying a health club a monthly fee to use their equipment. Heck I sometimes do it for $15-20. I really look at all my work that way. How much am I getting paid to exercise?
Well, It's more of a brisk walk. smiling smiley

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Seriously, nobody cares that you're offended.
MF gas stations, mystery shop, a few questions, two pictures, no narrative.
Alta 360, mystery shop, 49 questions, each requiring a photo if something is amis and 49 NARRATIVE SLOTS.
Same base fee. MF, I can buy anything in store, Alta, water or candy.
What a shitty deal.
It depends on the station for Alta. had one that I was thinking of last month or maybe the month before last that was the same station but two different MSCs. It was 3 stations within a mile of each other on my way to a city 20 miles down the road. Thought about grabbing them from both MSCs but did not do it. turns out I could not justify the mileage involved. Even with the three places that could have been six shops. I would have done one group on the way through town and then several hours later would have done them over again on my way home.
I had to make a 4 hour round trip to pick up the kiddo at camp last week (I actually considered leaving the previous day, paying for a hotel, and doing the 12 locations with bonuses the next town over...next year's plan). As it was the end of the quarter, the bonuses were nice, on top of the fact that a smallish city half-way to my destination had 10 locations in the same town. The only extra expense I had was the doggy day care for the pooch. It more than made up for the gas that I was spending anyway, plus my perpetually famished teenager had snacks and drinks to tide her over until dinner! I'm still kicking myself to see one location that I literally drove past still sitting on the board since I didn't see it in time to pick it up. Not 5 minutes past that exit I ended up in a huge traffic backup from a nasty traffic accident - I could have taken the time I crawled along on the highway and made some money. Oh well...
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