Update on Project Activities
This week we primarily focused on finalizing and prototyping our project documents. We created our handout that we handed out to folks on El Camino Real on our first survey session, and we finalized and printed out our survey. We also digitized our survey so we could reach more folks during the survey period. Our site is under construction, but we linked and posted our contact information on the site. This was a pivotal week in beginning our survey period, and we will continue to iterate on our documents as needed.
What We Observed and Learned
Our survey field was mostly in the rain from 3pm-5:30pm on Friday, which proved beneficial because of decreased store traffic. Sales and customer interactions took precedent over survey interactions but any interruptions in survey completion were simply breaks not endpoints. Employees mostly responded positively to our requests, despite being on the clock. This might have to do with the mom & pop style management near California Ave in Palo Alto.
Stores broke down into two categories food and retail services. Interactions with the former were heavily influenced by the presence of customers since food preparation demands full attention and hands on meal assembly. One individual mentioned that he couldn’t complete the survey because the store was shorthanded and he needed to cover multiple roles. Retail however proved more flexible because cashiers or receptionists typically had less demanding tasks to complete. Perhaps an added benefit was the customer service focus intertwined within these roles. Several individuals even asked follow-up questions about survey purpose. Overall nobody rejected brochures after declining to complete the paperwork.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Moving forwards, we plan to expand our survey areas to other stretches of El Camino. This will require significantly more planning than our first field day, which was readily accessible. Seeing as none of us have cars, we plan to use Caltrain to commute to our next few survey locations. Furthermore, after testing the survey on each other and on actual workers and receiving no negative feedback, it would be helpful to meet with Chris and Adina again to discuss next steps. We also need to establish continued contact with business organizations, to allow us to reach more people. Though we sent an initial email this week, we have yet to receive a response and should follow up soon.
Overall, the structure we had of having a field day of about 3 hours seem like a manageable and effective time commitment. However, there are certain things we must do to make our survey more streamlined so we can collect an adequate number of responses. None of the people we talked to today had any problems with the survey when we asked— however, it was certainly slow going. Over the span of 2.5 hours, we collected 5 confirmed survey responses, and handed out 6 additional brochures. It is very unlikely that all 6 of the people we gave brochures to will fill out the survey on their own time— with luck perhaps 1 or 2 will. However, this puts as at 6-7 responses per trip, which means a significant number of field days in the future.
Some ways to streamline this process we decided on after our first day are as followed:
1. Avoid verbal surveys if possible— the person we spoke to at Pieology agreed to take the survey verbally, as she needed to have her hands clean to prepare food. However, administering the survey this way took over half an hour, using a significant amount of her time. Moving forward, it may be helpful to leave the survey for food workers to take when their shift ends and picking up the survey the next day. We could also ask if any folks are on a break and are able to complete the survey then.
2. Pick slow moving times— though we were unhappy about the rain at first, it proved to be a huge blessing. Almost all of the businesses we visited were nearly empty, allowing workers time to complete the survey. Moving forward, we should keep this in mind, visiting stores during slow hours, on rainy days, and entering stores that appear more empty or slow moving. One thing we noticed is certain stores— such as repair shops or food places— have more constant work, as even when there are not customers, workers must still complete tasks. It would be best to offer these locations brochures, while focusing on in person surveys at empty retail locations.
3. Use incentives— something we are considering looking into going forward, mentioned by the economic planner who visited class, is offering Yelp reviews to locations we visit. This way, we can make sure that the survey is a reciprocal relationship, and make sure people have a good experience filling it out it.
4. Splitting up— conducting the survey really was a one person process. Moving forward, it might be more useful if the people out in the field that day start at a central location, then work outwards in opposite directions, allowing us to cover more ground.