How to recognise a hotel inspector

Hotel inspectors are not ordinary guests, nor do they behave like ordinary guests. For a start no ordinary guest, at least no ordinary guest at our hotel, sleeps in a hotel room 5 nights a week and 48 weeks in a year. Therefore the hotel inspector develops their own eccentricities that normal guests do not have. One AA inspector told me that he liked to take home lots of free goodies every week - anything from chocolates to plastic shower hats. Another objected to us using large bars of soap in the bathrooms because it was wasteful, but at the same time said the Tourist Board required us to change towels every day irrespective of whether they needed changed or not.

The first contact with the inspector is when the reservation is made. They are naturally reticent to give the details that a hotel may ask for when taking the booking - like a phone number. A recent inspector told us she was ex-directory and refused to give it. Such abnormal behaviour alerts one's suspicions. The AA actually make their inspections through a body that announce themselves as the "AA Hotel Booking Service", which would be fine for the inspectors anonymity if we got masses of reservations from this body, but we do not, in a year we only got one, that was for the AA inspector staying anonymously!

The booking is invariably for one person for one night. From a cost point of view the organisation concerned has little alternative, but they are not our "normal" customer. Our guests tend to come in pairs and stay several days - this is Cornwall. So one person staying one night is another odd point

They arrive mid afternoon, again odd for someone pretending to be a businessman, since businessmen put in a whole days work before they check in to a hotel - that is unless they are a hotel inspector, or work for the government. :-)

They will want to check the hotel facilities, and will order afternoon tea. They then disappear till dinner time. One of the problems an inspector has is contact with other guests. In a reasonably friendly hotel like ours, guests tend to chat to each other, and ask questions like "What are you doing in Cornwall?". To avoid telling lies, or getting sucked into a maelstrom of deception, the inspector has to avoid contact.

Their choice of dinner has to be something that tests the kitchen, avoiding things like melon or salad, steak or fresh fruit salad. Although they may ask questions about wine - to check if I know anything about the subject- they will only have something modest themselves. Depending on the current largesse of their employer, it can be a glass of house white or a half bottle of the cheapest on the wine list.

After dinner it is smartly off to the bedroom to avoid those embarrassing conversations with other guests in the lounge. Then they keep a careful eye on the clock so that they can check reception opening hours. Ours are 08.00 until 23.00. So we can expect a call from the inspectors room at 08.01 or at 22.55 for something inconsequential, just for them to check we are there. It may be for a morning cup of tea at 08.00 or for a bottle of water that they do not drink at 22.55. For hotels that claim 24 hour room service the inspector sets their alarm for say 03.00 and rings for a ham sandwich, recording how long it takes to arrive.

Usually they have a latish breakfast, as they have nowhere in particular to go until the next hotel. A loiter while other guests check out, then pay the bill and introduce themselves. Then the morning to fill in inspecting us as there is nothing much else to fill in the day

I never know whether to look shocked, embarrassed or bewildered. As I have known since they made the reservation that they were a hotel inspector, we have both been acting out a charade. Do they know, that I know, that they know, that I know, that they are a hotel inspector? They probably do.

If all else fails, I have this overwhelming urge to be like Basil, and just go "arghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh"


And if you want to stay in a really nice hotel by the sea in Cornwall, Corisande Manor Hotel, Cornwall

Corisande Manor Hotel, Newquay, Cornwall

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