4 – April – 2020. We are sheltering in place like everyone else. We have gloves, an n-95 mask, hand sanitizer, bleach and lysol wipes and spray bottles of all sorts of cleaners. And we have soap, lots and lots of soap. So lucky me, I get to be clean, safe AND I get to render some opinions. The motel renovation continues and I benefit. Chris is picking products for the motel and samples came in. First perk for me, I get to test. First “perk” for Chris, he gets to hear my opinion, whether he likes it or not. So lucky him!
I am one of those people. I care, so Chris will hear what I have to say. I care about the quality of the soap. I mean, also, that I am one of those people who have often offered an unsolicited opinion on these matters. I give this with or without the expressed interest of the person for whom I am rendering the glory of my thoughts. This has been especially true of restaurants and hotels. I’ll ask “I’d be glad to be a secret shopper and let you know how it goes!” It’s like I thought I was doing a favor when the other personal knows damned well I would have offered an opinion (or two) regardless- I shouldn’t need a free room or meal to do so, and perks haven’t make my loose lips more fluid. Well, maybe the time a friend had us try drinks at his new bar and lounge – maybe those free items helped lubricate the free flow of opinions and ideas….. maybe. Free helps, but most of us will offer “thoughts” regardless of perks. Guilty as charged.
Chris is headed down a new path with a very talented team. I am now on the outside of that talented inner circle, I am also on an inside track and seeing the other side. I have a new perspective. I have come to realize that as a “secret shopper” the most I can offer is a genuine first hand account of my experience for that moment of time. I’ll not offer any unique perspective on staff, reception, bedding, lighting, or whatever that has not been through through, debated, planned and experienced by people who do this for a living, like as a career choice. They even went to school for this hospitality stuff. Who knew they would know more and see more than I do as a casual hobby traveler. I offer my apologies to all those to whom I made this generous offer – you valued my opinion with gracious gratitude even though I offered nothing you had not already seen, nothing terrible unique to you. Hindsight… it’s the better part of 2020.
“Honey,” I’ll ask, “do you want to know what I think about x?” I see it on his face- he knows he is going to get the opinion or thought eventually, one way or another. “Sure”- he says forgivingly – “what’s on your mind?” I mentioned recently that I was being hired to speak on a panel of industry folks discussing technology in this new work from home culture – Chris responded, “They know you’ll give them those thoughts for free, don’t they?” – Why buy the cow when the milk is free indeed!
My approach to opinion giving is adjusting and evolving. These are uncertain times. When the property is ready to open, who will come to stay and when will this be allowed? What impresses me is how Chris and the team think and rethink (daily) how to pull this project off on time, in scope and within budget as the very sands beneath them shift. So sure, my opinions are still welcomed, but I am now also looking for increasing ways to cheerlead and find creative revenue streams, no strings attached. My approach to almost everything these days is adjusting and evolving. Opening a motel in the days of virus transmission and fear will require some of that same flexibility and evolution. These past two weeks have shown me that and a lot of resilience.
Meanwhile, my hands are cleaned. My face is moisturized and my head is shaved. I get to look at hotel products and think of how gleeful my mother would have been that they come in carry (snatch and grab) bags that can be reused! I get to help my husband by organizing my options and opinions and providing feedback, whether or not he wanted them. Moo- this cow has milk and serves it up warmly.
Wash your hands. Stay safe. Wear a mask, and plan ahead to book a room. We’ll have them (and some great) soap waiting.
A matrix of options and opinions, whether he likes it or not- I’ll offer them up!