Has this ever happened to you and What tips do you have for taking pics so as not to draw attention

Recently I was doing the debit card research task where you go to a shop, take a pic of the counter, any signage indicating a fee/min., pic of the outside, and a receipt if you made a purchase based on the guidelines. I went to the store, took a pic of the payment counter, asked about an item behind the cashier, asked if there is a min/fee/surcharge to use a card and he says no. I snap one more pic for good measure. As I am going to the exit, a manager asked me if he could help me and I told him no thanks. Once outside, I walk a little bit and turn to take a picture of the store and continue walking to my vehicle. I think it is better to take a pic after you leave and not before so you don't draw suspicion upon arrival.

I go to my car in the strip mall, start the engine, and attempt to finish uploading the info as I typically do. Before I get to input anything, the manager approaches my car and asks me why I was taking pictures. I just looked at him like I didn't know what he was talking about. He says they have it on surveillance. I basically told him I don't know what you want from me. He isn't happy with my reply and says if I want to know something just ask. I tell him I don't want to know anything. I told him I asked the cashier about an item and I decided not to get it.

He was clearly frustrated in that he wasn't going to get any answers from me and I started to get mad that he was wasting my time ( I did not use foul language and was polite the whole time, but enough is enough ). He moves away from my car and I proceeded to exit the mall which seemed like an eternity. I wasn't nervous during the confrontation. I was disappointed that it took place.

I was curious if something like this has happened to others here and what did you do? Is there something in the camera settings where instead of your last picture appearing on screen, it just appears dark so it wouldn't show up if you were being watched on camera? I suppose the problem with that is you can't see if the pic is good or not until you get back to your car, but I am not looking at the recently taken pic unless I am walking the store. Speaking of settings, I have the shutter on mute and the flash is OFF. When trying to take a pic in this environment, I hold it so that it looks like I am texting. Like some here have said, people take pics all the time and cashiers don't think twice about it.

Sorry for going on so long about it.

Create an Account or Log In

Membership is free. Simply choose your username, type in your email address, and choose a password. You immediately get full access to the forum.

Already a member? Log In.

I use this when there is no way to do this shop without being totally weird.


Me: I'm gathering data on debit/ credit cards. Do you have any fees or minimum purchase amounts?
Employee: gives whatever info
Me: thanks so much, is it OK for me to snap a picture to prove I was here? You know, gotta get that paycheck with Christmas coming up!
Employee: sure

(I've done LOTS of these & every employee has been totally cool with it)
That's why I don't do those shops for what they pay. If I was In that situation, I would probably have told the guy straight up what I was doing, especially since he volunteered to answer any questions (and he "passed."winking smiley

I've been "busted" on rare occasions, and they are friendly about it almost every time when I explain why I am there. (I avoid competitor shops, btw.)

But you seemed to have handled it well enough. One trick I have used in the past is to use the volume button to snap the pic instead of tapping the screen. Less obvious.
Oh, this is awful, but I lie a LOT.

"Photos? Oh, yeah, my friend wanted me to pick up something for her, but you didn't have the exact thing, so I took some photos. If she says one of them will do, I'll be back later. Thanks so much!" Or even, "I can't afford to buy the wrong thing, so I took some photos for my better half. When I'm sure it's the right thing, I'll be back, thanks so much!" With a smile and a wave, of course!

And even "Your things are so unusual! I took some photos to send to my daughter. I hope that's OK?"

smiling smiley
I did with a gas station shop before they changed the guidelines so you didn't need as many photos. The manager followed me outside and badgered me about why I was taking photos. I eventually told him I was mystery shopping the store and he had just failed completely. The guidelines said I could reveal myself if need be.
@mystery2me Thanks for the photo tip. I never knew that one.

What do you mean by (I avoid competitor shops, btw.)?
I meant that my positive experience in being up-front when busted by a manager may not have applied if I was gathering business intelligence for one of their competitors. Most shops are done for a business' internal use. But competitor shops are different, and usually consist of price checks or car negotiations.

And when I said I am up-front when busted, I was referring to covert audits like the one you were doing. On a mystery shop where I am evaluating service, I never reveal what I am doing.
The first rule is to depart the area before you upload or write anything. If you do that the manager would not have gotten to you.

Based in MD, near DC
Shopping from the Carolinas to New York
Have video cam; will travel

Poor customer service? Don't get mad; get video.
One time I got clocked in Lidl (some of their employees are really aggressive about pictures). I told her I'd never been in one before and was taking pictures of all the cool different products so I could remember later and make a shopping list.
My iPhone shoots HD video, and I just extract my photos from that. Completely undetectable and 100% covert as I just hold it lightly in my hand at waist level.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/18/2022 03:39PM by ColoKate63.
A non-mystery shopping friend got hassled for taking pictures in a Walmart. He was researching different fitness supplements. Since they tend to be on the spendy side, he wanted to see what they had and study on his choices before he pulled out his wallet. The manager was furious at him for taking the pictures and ran him out of the store. He was pretty bummed about the experience, but I know I have seen mystery shops wanting pictures in Walmart.

How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?
"Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."
-- Abraham Lincoln
@walesmaven wrote:

The first rule is to depart the area before you upload or write anything. If you do that the manager would not have gotten to you.
That's what I always do when I want to upload something from a shop on to my phone while I'm there, if it's a mystery shop. If the parking lot I am in is large enough, I drive to where I cannot be seen. Otherwise, I'll drive a block or two until I find another parking lot.
@GinnyLynn wrote:

A non-mystery shopping friend got hassled for taking pictures in a Walmart. He was researching different fitness supplements. Since they tend to be on the spendy side, he wanted to see what they had and study on his choices before he pulled out his wallet. The manager was furious at him for taking the pictures and ran him out of the store. He was pretty bummed about the experience, but I know I have seen mystery shops wanting pictures in Walmart.
WOW, that surprises me! All of the many, many, many (probably several hundreds) of times I have been in my area Walmarts since merchandising and mystery shopping since 2005, I don't EVER seem to have had managers who give a lick about anybody taking pictures....customer or vendor!! I can remember back around 2010 having to do some sort of adjustments on TV displays in a WM, that required me to climb up on top of a counter! Couldn't find a manager, so I just did it!! No one said a word!! Even today, when I do a quick phone gig and take a photo or two, no one cares....shoot, there aren't enough employees working in a Walmart to pay attention to their customers anyway!!
Wales shared her first rule now; for mine. Be sure you are being satisfactorily compensated for occasionally encountering male bovine CACA*.

*Shopper Bob acknowledges Ginny Lynn's contribution to this post.
Yea, guysmom, after years of mystery shopping, I was scratching my head at his experience, but it was likely a case of the aforementioned male bovine CACA. Of all the times when I could have been confronted for taking pictures, he wasn't even a mystery shopper and he got hassled for it. I stopped short of asking what he was wearing at the time. He is serious into bicycling and some of those folks dress mega brightly if they are going to be on the road. He was not likely blending in, which we mystery shoppers go to great lengths to do, and can surely make a big difference in a lot of things in this business.

How many legs does a dog have if you call the tail a leg?
"Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn't make it a leg."
-- Abraham Lincoln


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/18/2022 09:05PM by GinnyLynn.
I say I'm doing a vlog.

@luckygirl0100 wrote:

I use this when there is no way to do this shop without being totally weird.


Me: I'm gathering data on debit/ credit cards. Do you have any fees or minimum purchase amounts?
Employee: gives whatever info
Me: thanks so much, is it OK for me to snap a picture to prove I was here? You know, gotta get that paycheck with Christmas coming up!
Employee: sure

(I've done LOTS of these & every employee has been totally cool with it)

"There's so much trouble in this world; surrounded by miracles" - Citizen Cope
I dim the brightness of the screen for my camera or timer so it's not as obvious to others what I'm doing. You will still be able to make out what you're doing even when the screen is almost black .

I also practice holding the camera and clicking the shot with the same hand's thumb, so it's not obvious. (I know, not easy with all cameras.) I flip back and forth between the camera and my message app, reading and sending text messages to family and friends, and taking photos. There are blogs that have new jokes every day, so smiling at one can keep me looking distracted even though I'm taking photos at the same time.

For the manager, I would have simply whipped out the camera and showed him what I photographed--providing whatever professional commentary I could think of on the fly. ("You know, if more stores oriented their credit card machines like your store does, more people would tap rather than swipe..."(
These are some great camera tips. Thanks.

I tend to jack up the brightness level on my camera, so dimming it would help. I think I need to practice more taking a picture with my left thumb by pressing the volume button.
@Momomomo wrote:

These are some great camera tips. Thanks.

I tend to jack up the brightness level on my camera, so dimming it would help. I think I need to practice more taking a picture with my left thumb by pressing the volume button.

Turn off the camera sound too!
@mystery2me wrote:

That's why I don't do those shops for what they pay. If I was In that situation, I would probably have told the guy straight up what I was doing, especially since he volunteered to answer any questions (and he "passed."winking smiley

I've been "busted" on rare occasions, and they are friendly about it almost every time when I explain why I am there. (I avoid competitor shops, btw.)

But you seemed to have handled it well enough. One trick I have used in the past is to use the volume button to snap the pic instead of tapping the screen. Less obvious.
I use the volume button about 90% of the time to take pictures, even if it is a revealed audit. I have gotten used to it.
@walesmaven wrote:

The first rule is to depart the area before you upload or write anything. If you do that the manager would not have gotten to you.
Absolutely! That's SOP for any mystery shop. It is even mentioned on some client guidelines. Even on revealed audits, I want to leave quickly when finished so the manager does not have time to prolong the shop with excuses, complaines, etc.
I have told them I have a very jealous husband and take pictures to prove where iam at ????
I turned off the camera click sound on my phone. And if my cover isn’t already blown, for whatever reason, I show them the pics, and tell them that it's easier for me to see, and I can enlarge the pics to see what the tag or the prices say. I'm old and have to wear 2.50 magnification reading glasses to see anything closer than my hands at the end of my arms. So price tags on shelves near the floor and on the higher shelves are difficult for me to see.
Great tips here. Sometimes when I know that taking a photo discreetly won't be possible, I'll ask if I can take one to show my son, husband, etc., the product before I purchase. This works well on cell-phone shops and mattress shops where I need to remember the exact recommended model as well as the brand. I think once I said I was doing a research product for a class I was taking. I used to fret mightily about taking pics under what I thought to be odd situations, but everybody takes photos of everything these days, so I'm not sure most employees notice or care.

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 once had to take a photo of the counter at a mall pizza shop showing the food offerings with no people in the way. This mall was very busy and I had to wait a long time to get a shot when someone moved up and the next person did not notice so there was a break in the line. I snapped my photo and the staff came out and told me photos of their food was not allowed. I told them I was picking something up for my daughter and wanted to show her what was available. They told me if I did it again they would call mall security on me and have me escorted out of the mall. Well I never did that shop again. It was years ago and I see those same shops go begging for shoppers every month.
I think that the locations (whatever it might be, food, convenience, gas station etc.), that get upset with pictures being taken, must have gotten a bad report in the past.

Why would a location that is hitting on all cylinders mind if someone took a picture to show that to the world?
Trying to take a "discreet" photo of a convenience store front today, an a-hole woman customer getting gas, got out of her car and yelled at the top of her lungs, "Are you taking pictures of my car?" Yikes, her car was not in the picture at all. I just shrugged and said, "No." She wanted to know what I was taking pictures of. Really lady..why do you care? I got out of there fast..so much for discretion. I knew I should have taken the photo before I went in, but at least the shop was finished at that point.

*****************************************************************************
The more I learn about people...the more I like my dog..

Mark Twain
Some years ago, I was doing a very small gas station in a rural area. The site was one where they have the "Live Bait" sign out front and inside, a room in the back next to the restrooms where they have bubbling tanks of minnows and other fishing paraphernalia.
After taking the restroom photo, I went outside and began taking photos of the pumps, mid and the overall.
An older gentleman wearing a hat with lures in it approached me and asked what I was doing taking photos of his truck.
Feeling a bit sassy, facetiously, I replied that it looked so classic, what with all the rust and the fishing gear stored in racks set up in the bed. I was being sarcastic.
It was lost on him.
He grinned and held up a pack of shortie beers, "My cabin is just up the road on the lake. You wanna come up and have a couple of beers with me?" He winked and grinned again. This time I noticed the missing teeth along with the yellow ones.
"Oh," I said. "Thank you, but my kids are at the Pig doing the shopping. I have to leave now and pick them up."
After that experience, I vowed to act a bit more professional.
I've been asked by a number of gas station customers why I'm taking pictures. Sometimes I tell them, "Everyone needs a hobby." The guy outside the men's restroom looked so concerned. I find just being matter-of-fact and acting as if what you are doing is perfectly normal. If YOU don't feel weird about it, they will feel less weird vibes. Having said that, the job that wanted detailed item, upc, price tag, shelf pics of EVERY single variety of a certain product...I just couldn't...there is NO way to be chill and low-key doing that in view of the cash lanes. And I shop the location a lot, so I definitely don't want to draw attention to myself.
I used to do a lot of the gas station shops with six photos. Normally, I have never had an issue. But twice in one day, I wat "outed." At the first, I looked inside and saw no one at the counter so I got a few of the required photos. The cashier had been in the bay with the lights off and had seen me. He asked if I worked for the company and I told him I didn't. He looked me right in the eye and said, "Then you're the mystery shopper."

I shrugged and said, "Do you have a bathroom because I need a picture of that too." We both laughed and he let me in.


20 minutes later, I went to another station that only had fuel. I was filling up and started taking the pictures. To avoid suspicion, I usually take pictures of everything around and get the six pictures in the middle of them - businesses across the street, houses, the empty street and then the six I need. But the manager came at me, repeatedly demanding "Why you taking pictures?" I asked "Why not?" He kept after me while I tried to get in my car and drive away. A little scary.
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login