Most shoppers have seen, or have some degree of familiarity with, the Planet Fitness shops. The ones where you go to the gym to inquire about a membership and, between the tour and the free trial, you’ll spend anywhere from 30-60 minutes there. This isn’t that shop. This shop tracks the progress of construction prior to the opening of the facility.
Several months ago, there was a discussion on Mystery Shop Forum about these shops. Some shoppers expressed concern about being on a construction site without proper safety equipment, specifically a hard hat or work boots. These shops generally don’t occur until the building is up and the work being done is the interior walls and floor/ceiling.
I had the opportunity to pick up one of these shops and I took the opportunity to talk with a couple of shoppers who had done these before. They were adamant that professional camera equipment [i.e. a DSLR] would not be required. Also hard hats were not required. Depending on the location and weather, you might want to have a pair of shoes/boots in the car that you wouldn’t mind if they got muddy.
Although I was told I wouldn’t need my Nikon D-60, I brought it [with a Speedlight external flash], along with a Kodak point and shoot and my cell phone. My assigned location was a remodel inside a mall and, as I had this article in mind, I did want to see how the pictures would turn out with the various cameras. Having been inside a finished Planet Fitness, I knew there would be some wide open space.
The reporting is minimal. Virtually no narrative, although there is a comment section. You’re mostly attaching pictures to the report. Paint, or a similar basic photo editing program is almost a necessity for this assignment. Virtually all my cell phone photos needed to have the exposure lightened. My cell phone is about two years old and is an LG. About 60% of the point and shoot camera photos also needed some adjustment. I even had to make a few adjustments with the Nikon as the Speedlight wasn’t powerful enough in a locker room with no lights. I would recommend to anyone, not just shoppers taking this assignment, practice taking pictures in very dark, low light conditions. Make sure your equipment can give you useable images.
Lighting will also be very uneven, especially early in construction. If the location is nearing finishing, e.g. being painted, a cell phone camera should be satisfactory as there will usually be enough lighting installed for photography. My location had about 50% of the framing up and about 30% of the sheet rock up. There were only a handful of lights from the previous businesses left hanging so lighting was an issue. Each location, especially when it’s a remodel of an existing space, is different. The main gym at the location I shopped, was about 300 feet long and 70 feet front to back. If you have a square space, 145 feet on a side, you’re still looking at roughly the same square footage [21,000 sq.ft.], but you won’t have nearly the distance to illuminate.
There are a couple of things I wish I had been told to bring. First a simple dust mask. Although the drywall hadn’t been taped yet, there was still a significant amount of dust in the air. I’ll buy a surgical mask on my next uniform shop and keep it with my camera equipment, should I get more of these shops. The second thing was a baseball cap to protect my hair from the dust. Also a can of compressed air is good to have so you can clean the front of your lens [or your skylight filter] after the shop.
On the plus side, it’s almost impossible to mess this assignment up. You have a Letter of Authorization and you can bring the checklist along. I used about a dozen of the 35 or so pictures I took. I admit, I took more pictures than were necessary, because I was using three different cameras.
Like I was told, you don’t need to be a professional photographer to do this job. Your job is to document how far along the crew is in the construction at this location. Just make sure you know how to get the most out of your equipment so you can have a successful shop, especially if you’re relying on your cell phone in low light situations.