Need Advice. While Completing a Gas Station Shop I was Threatened and Literally Chased off Property

I would like other shoppers input on how to handle this. I don't want to name the client or the MSC just yet. The shop was going smooth in the beginning. After purchasing my gas I handed the Letter of Authorization to the pump attendant (the only other person present at the station) and politely explained that I would be taking a few pictures of the station (I've done over 200 of these shops with no issues).

The employee was polite at first until I took my first picture of the pump. All of a sudden, he became aggressive and started taking pictures of my license plate. I calmly asked him why, making sure to speak in a soft tone, as I wanted to de-escalate the situation. The employee immediately got very close to me and started demanding my drivers license so he could take a picture of it. I tried to explain to him, calmly, that I didn't want to share my address with him and that I'm not required to do so. The employee began getting angrier and started screaming "ID! Drivers License! Give me!" (He didn't speak English very well). He claimed he wanted to see my name and picture and compare it to my credit card. For whatever reason, I actually flashed him my ID, hoping it would calm him down but he tried to snatch it out of my hands.

At this point I told him if he didn't want me taking pictures of the station I would respect his wishes and leave. He basically told me that I couldn't leave until he took a picture of my drivers license. I back away from him and get into my car. At this point he's on the phone with someone and yelling in another language. I quickly speed out of the gas station while he's yelling at me to come back.

How should I handle the report? I obviously can't submit the shop as I don't have all the required photos. I don't want to let the shop expire as it will hurt my rating. I'm concerned if I contact the schedulers or project managers they might not want me completing future shops for them as they might view this as a failure on my part. At the same time, I want to make them aware that one of the employees is unstable and potentially dangerous. I felt legitimately concerned for my safety as I was the only person present at this station. I'm also slightly concerned with the fact that he has a picture of my license plate. I don't want the next shopper to be treated this way. There's absolutely no reason for someone to react this way over a mystery shop.

Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 05/22/2019 01:44AM by Jbrz123.

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You’ve done 200 of these? Contact your scheduler. The MSC needs to bring this to the client.

Hard work builds character and homework is good for your soul.
That is simply a declined audit. When that happens to me I just leave and don't worry about it. I don't argue with them and spend time going back and forth. I just leave and mark it on the report as a declined audit. If it's a decent MSC they will pay your full fee.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
You're absolutely right I should have left earlier. I guess the reason I didn't immediately leave is because this wasn't a Maritz shop where there's an option for "declined audit." The MSC isn't as responsive as Maritz and in the back of my mind I was concerned about completing the shop.

It seems like there's little communication with the franchisee that these audits take place and it's left to us to explain to the franchisee why we're taking pictures of their property. All we have is a boilerplate letter to present to someone who may not be able to read English. We're supposed to secretly take pictures of the station but it's impossible to do when you're the only customer.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/22/2019 02:14AM by Jbrz123.
Have they changed this to a reveal? Used to it was unrevealed. They know the location is likely going to see you and the locations are supposed to know what's happening. You should only reveal yourself if asked. Unless they have changed it. I've never actually done one of these but I've done 2-3000 of a very similar audit for Alta360. For theirs I just NA'd the audit portion and explained it was declined in the comment box.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
The shops are still unrevealed but it's difficult to covertly take photos when you're the only customer or it's a smaller station. Usually they'll just ignore me but once in a while I'll be approached. In my area some of the small scale owners are very protective of their stations and don't like the surprise. Pretty much every owner who has approached me has been completely unaware of the mystery shop program and I've had to explain it to them. I understand their hesitation as I would also be wary of strangers taking pictures of my property if I had no idea why.
The closest I came to this was a debrand about 5 years ago in NJ where everything is full-serve. I presented the letter inside the convenience store as required, and was told that I could not take any photos. I said OK, and as I walked out took a few photos anyway. I almost had all I needed outside when the manager (?) came out and spoke to the pump attendant in another language and told me that they were calling the police. I got in my car, figuring I could complete the photos from there. A few minutes later, the police arrived and went inside. I drove across the street and got the required long view of the station. They were so out of compliance that it wasn't funny. If I hadn't known that is was a debrand, I would not have been able to tell from the look of the station. I reported what had happened, and got paid the full fee. Now that I am older and wiser, I would have just left earlier. A month later, the MSC offered to triple my fee if I went back. I said no.

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
I haven't done one of these, but curious, if it is an unreveal, then what is it you gave the attendant? I agree, report to your scheduler and I would have left right away. Never know about people these days. Better safe.

@Jbrz123 wrote:

The shops are still unrevealed but it's difficult to covertly take photos when you're the only customer or it's a smaller station. Usually they'll just ignore me but once in a while I'll be approached. In my area some of the small scale owners are very protective of their stations and don't like the surprise. Pretty much every owner who has approached me has been completely unaware of the mystery shop program and I've had to explain it to them. I understand their hesitation as I would also be wary of strangers taking pictures of my property if I had no idea why.
@Jbrz123 wrote:

The shops are still unrevealed but it's difficult to covertly take photos when you're the only customer or it's a smaller station. Usually they'll just ignore me but once in a while I'll be approached.

I know this is a bit off the subject and not to nitpick, but were you approached or did you do a reveal proactively? In the OP you stated you did a reveal, then you say you get approached. I'm not trying to be critical, just giving a bit of advice. I've done 1000's (literally I did 450 a quarter for 2 1/2 years) of audits just like this. I know in the beginning you think OMG there's no way they're not gonna see me I'm just gonna go ahead do a reveal. I've found it's much easier not to. Doing the reveal sets you up for being declined and adds 2-3 minutes at minimum to your audit. You say you've done 200 of them? At 3 minutes each you've worked 10 hours too long with no extra pay. If you just take the photos and forget about them seeing you or not you'll save another 2-3 minutes. So now you're up to 20 extra hours. On top of that, when they see you, 1 of 3 things is going to happen. They're gonna think, hrm, that's the auditor, or hrm, why is this person taking photos I should call the manager and ask what to do, or hrm, why is this person taking photos I should go ask them. Most of them will be #1, so no problem. The ones that are #2 will take long enough to call and find out that you're the auditor or find out they should do something that you'll likely be done with your audit so it's a moot point. I've found that when #3 happens you say "oh, I'm from petroleumfillingstationbrand doing your audit, do you need to see my letter of authorization, it's in the car?" 95% Will so no, it's ok. A few will ask to see it. Even less will get upset and ask you to leave.

Be friendly. Act like you belong. Assume they will see you and don't worry about it if they do. State who you are in a way that makes you think there's no way they would bother to see your LOA since you offered it and it's right over there 20 feet away in your car.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
They give you a Letter of Authorization in case you are approached. You're supposed to take an overall photo, a Price ID photo, a gas pump photo, and a restroom photo. Usually you can snap these photos without anyone questioning you but it's not always possible.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/22/2019 03:21AM by Jbrz123.
@myst4au wrote:

The closest I came to this was a debrand about 5 years ago in NJ where everything is full-serve. I presented the letter inside the convenience store as required, and was told that I could not take any photos. I said OK, and as I walked out took a few photos anyway. I almost had all I needed outside when the manager (?) came out and spoke to the pump attendant in another language and told me that they were calling the police. I got in my car, figuring I could complete the photos from there. A few minutes later, the police arrived and went inside. I drove across the street and got the required long view of the station. They were so out of compliance that it wasn't funny. If I hadn't known that is was a debrand, I would not have been able to tell from the look of the station. I reported what had happened, and got paid the full fee. Now that I am older and wiser, I would have just left earlier. A month later, the MSC offered to triple my fee if I went back. I said no.

My original post happened at a gas station in NJ! I think this is an NJ phenomenon with the full service pumps. What did you say to the police? I feel like I'd have trouble explaining mystery shopping on the spot.

You couldn't pay me enough to do an NJ debrand shop the branded ones are hard enough!
@bgriffin wrote:

@Jbrz123 wrote:

The shops are still unrevealed but it's difficult to covertly take photos when you're the only customer or it's a smaller station. Usually they'll just ignore me but once in a while I'll be approached.

I know this is a bit off the subject and not to nitpick, but were you approached or did you do a reveal proactively? In the OP you stated you did a reveal, then you say you get approached. I'm not trying to be critical, just giving a bit of advice. I've done 1000's (literally I did 450 a quarter for 2 1/2 years) of audits just like this. I know in the beginning you think OMG there's no way they're not gonna see me I'm just gonna go ahead do a reveal. I've found it's much easier not to. Doing the reveal sets you up for being declined and adds 2-3 minutes at minimum to your audit. You say you've done 200 of them? At 3 minutes each you've worked 10 hours too long with no extra pay. If you just take the photos and forget about them seeing you or not you'll save another 2-3 minutes. So now you're up to 20 extra hours. On top of that, when they see you, 1 of 3 things is going to happen. They're gonna think, hrm, that's the auditor, or hrm, why is this person taking photos I should call the manager and ask what to do, or hrm, why is this person taking photos I should go ask them. Most of them will be #1, so no problem. The ones that are #2 will take long enough to call and find out that you're the auditor or find out they should do something that you'll likely be done with your audit so it's a moot point. I've found that when #3 happens you say "oh, I'm from petroleumfillingstationbrand doing your audit, do you need to see my letter of authorization, it's in the car?" 95% Will so no, it's ok. A few will ask to see it. Even less will get upset and ask you to leave.

Be friendly. Act like you belong. Assume they will see you and don't worry about it if they do. State who you are in a way that makes you think there's no way they would bother to see your LOA since you offered it and it's right over there 20 feet away in your car.

I was approached. I keep the LOA in my back pocket when I'm taking the pictures. This was done in NJ where the gas stations are full service (you're not allowed to pump your own gas) so if you're the only customer at the station they might ask what you're doing on the forecourt. You're absolutely right though it's much easier to take the photos and leave then it is to have to hand them the LOA. I think some of the non-compliant stations are more wary of the auditors.
Many of these open audits of gas stations, your authorization letter tells the manager or person in charge if they do not allow the audit, they will have their gas supply cut off. I don't argue with them at the first sign of aggression, I would just leave and report it. No more gas deliveries for them.
I was in my car when the police arrived. They went inside, presumably to find the manager. I lost no time driving away. I never spoke to the police.
@Jbrz123 wrote:

@myst4au wrote:

The closest I came to this was a debrand about 5 years ago in NJ where everything is full-serve. I presented the letter inside the convenience store as required, and was told that I could not take any photos. I said OK, and as I walked out took a few photos anyway. I almost had all I needed outside when the manager (?) came out and spoke to the pump attendant in another language and told me that they were calling the police. I got in my car, figuring I could complete the photos from there. A few minutes later, the police arrived and went inside. I drove across the street and got the required long view of the station. They were so out of compliance that it wasn't funny. If I hadn't known that is was a debrand, I would not have been able to tell from the look of the station. I reported what had happened, and got paid the full fee. Now that I am older and wiser, I would have just left earlier. A month later, the MSC offered to triple my fee if I went back. I said no.

My original post happened at a gas station in NJ! I think this is an NJ phenomenon with the full service pumps. What did you say to the police? I feel like I'd have trouble explaining mystery shopping on the spot.

You couldn't pay me enough to do an NJ debrand shop the branded ones are hard enough!

Shopping Southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware above the canal, and southwestern NJ since 2008
I still have my favorite where the manager or owner of #@!(* Mobil station with one old style crank pump after reveal tells me get off my property or I kill you in some broken English Arabic. I needed one picture of the only pump and an overall for the shop if not denied. If denied I still needed an overall. While I left drove up the road turned around parked across the street and took overall shot needed. While needless to say the station is no longer Mobil.

Shopping Western NY, Northeast and Central PA, and parts of Ohio and West Virginia. Have car will travel anywhere if the monies right.
I guess the good news about auditing some of these less than attractive stations is that I have drove by later and they are no longer branded.
I've only had 1 declined audit out of over 100 with Maritz. But it was a calm decline and wasn't a big deal, although the employee stood outside until I left the property. I still got paid, but they called me up a month later and wanted a detailed verbal explanation to pass on to their client.
I have not done the shop described and stay away from non-reveal shops. However, I have done thousands of gas station audits, most of them for Maritz. There are only 3 stations that are on my "don't return" list because of obnoxious managers. I have not been cursed at or physically threatened.

There were a few occasions where the attendant was not familiar with the mystery shop and either refused it or refused to allow pictures At this point I would have already presented the LOA. I have an Id clipped to my vest, which I would not yet put on. Therefore I have a 2nd ID in a small leather fold out wallet along with a copy of my drivers license with my address and license # blacked out as this is info that the attendant does not need. I will present this to the attendant if he refused the audit or is reading the LOA and seems confused and explain that this is a routine inspection, will take about 20 minutes and has been done before. Under no circumstances will I hand the wallet & ID over to the attendant but will rather hold it up for him to read.

i have made my own ID's rather than use the one provided by the MSC. My ID has my picture, name, title and shopper number as well as the MSC and client logo's. This usually solves the hesitation but if the attendant still refuses, I politely explain that I still have to turn in a report and will simply explain that the inspection was refused by him and is therefore incomplete. I can't think of any instance where the attendant didn't relent at this point.

While doing the revealed portion of the audit I wear a vest and name tag which makes me appear semi-official and helps to avoid any customer objections. To answer your question Jb, I would submit the information and pictures you were able to obtain and provide detailed comments, much as you did in your post, concerning the exchange with the attendant. It seems you handled the situation as well as possible and I would expect the MSC to be understanding.
I did one of these for a local convenience store. It was a reveal shop and when I presented the employee with the letter of authorization he got really defensive and did not want me to do the shop but decided to ask the manager who readily agreed. The employee was still really aggressive toward me UNTIL another customer treated me rudely. This employee went nuts on the guy and by the time I left I think I had a new best friend.
Had a situation with a yellow station a few weeks ago where the attendant declined. I had done this station before, and had returned to my car ready to drive off and go to my next station. Then it occurred to me, since it was a "calm decline" and not someone acting like one of the nutcases described in this thread, I would load up the Maritz app, and showed him his station on my list. It worked, and along the lines of what cindy above said, it was almost like I had a new best friend after.
You tried way too hard. I get out of there at the first sign of aggression. I don't care if the MSC doesn't like it. It isn't their lives on the line. And do I want to work for a company that doesn't care about my safety? Uh, no. There are 3 stations in my area that I won't return to for any price. And I've told them that. Of course they still get offered to me in bundles but I just remove them.

When an attendant declines because they are new or whatever, I don't bother trying to convince them. I just leave and mark it declined. It's the station owners or managers responsibility to let new staff know these audits happen.

I enjoy awkward questions and uncomfortable silences. This gas station pavement is $%^@*#& hot.
Agreed. And trying to talk them into it is a waste of time and money.

Option 1 - spend 5 minutes talking them into the audit. Spend 20 minutes on the audit. Spend 20 minutes doing the report. Make $25.

Option 2 - drive off. Spend 5 minutes on a report. Make $25

Why in the world would you do option 1????

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
Or perhaps option 3: spend 5 or 10 seconds explaining the reason for the incomplete inspection is the attendant's refusal. And then finish the job you are paid to do. Or walk out and proceed to option 2. However, I don't think the MSC will look too favorably on numerous incompletes.
It's rare that it happens. Between all clients I've probably done 3000 gas station audits and I've had less than 10 refused.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
@LIJake wrote:

And then finish the job you are paid to do.

Once the audit is declined I have finished the job I was paid to do.

There are reasons that a body stays in motion
At the moment only demons come to mind
Perhaps I'm being a bit too altruistic. But I prefer to take another 7 seconds and say " i have no problem with that but I do have to submit a report and I'll just indicate that you refused." At that point it is either option 2 or 3.
I’ve done hundreds of gas stations. If I felt threatened or was told no when I did the reveal, I would leave immediately and submit with a note. An “overall” photo can be done in 2 seconds from across the street as I drive away.

I’m not going to waste my time or breath trying to cajole some employee into allowing their own inspection to take place. It’s not my problem. I submit quality work and expect to be paid when the odd situations come along.
@bgriffin wrote:

Agreed. And trying to talk them into it is a waste of time and money.

Option 1 - spend 5 minutes talking them into the audit. Spend 20 minutes on the audit. Spend 20 minutes doing the report. Make $25.

Option 2 - drive off. Spend 5 minutes on a report. Make $25

Why in the world would you do option 1????

I hear ya. I just didn't want to go through the whole "explain in detail" ordeal and then possibly being questioned on it later.
@bgriffin wrote:

Agreed. And trying to talk them into it is a waste of time and money.

Option 1 - spend 5 minutes talking them into the audit. Spend 20 minutes on the audit. Spend 20 minutes doing the report. Make $25.

Option 2 - drive off. Spend 5 minutes on a report. Make $25

Why in the world would you do option 1????

I tend toward Option 1. Maybe that's just my personality, but I have selfish reasons too. I agree with LlJake that some MSCs will notice a lot of incompletes and it could affect my ability to get future assignments. Also, I don't want the stations in my area to possibly lose their branding over a refused audit -- that's less potential income for me. Lastly, I'm likely to return to that station in the future, and I want things to go smoothly next time. It usually takes me less than a minute to convince them, unless they have to call a manager. I just politely tell them I am happy to leave, but I will not be returning and the station will automatically fail the audit. That usually changes their tune. Of course, if they become at all belligerent, I go straight to Option 2.
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