He doesn't have a name and he doesn't have a reservation. Yet, the Peabody hotel will escort him to a guestroom on the spot.
All he has to say is: "I'm with AAA."
The unidentified man is an undercover hotel inspector who hands out AAA's Diamond ratings.
"All of our inspectors are anonymous," said AAA spokeswoman Jessica Brady.
Without any advance notice to hotels, 50 men and women criss-cross the country inspecting 60,000 hotels, motels, restaurants, and attractions every single day. AAA's Diamond scores range from one to five: one for budget and five for luxury.
"No matter what you're spending, you know what you're getting for your money," Brady said.
The inspector who has been dispatched to evaluate the Peabody immediately meets with manager Marshall Kelberman.
"I stand politely in the background," he said. Kelberman said the Peabody is relishing its four-diamond status.
"Those diamonds are iconic," he said.
The hotel's rating is actually the accumulation of many individual evaluations. As the inspector makes his way around the hotel and through the rooms, nearly everything -- even the mundane -- is under the microscope.
(SCROLL DOWN to see how ice buckets are rated.)
Beds. Lamps. Alarm clock. Ice bucket.
"We're rating the ceilings, the corridors," he said.
Pool. Gym. Laundry.
"All that goes into the rating," he said.
Judging a hotel room might be a matter if personal taste. But AAA has objective standards for each item that is under evaluation. And regardless of whether it's a full-fledged resort or a no-frills interstate motel, the inspection is no different.
One by one, the inspector punches his ratings into a tablet computer. If he printed the report, he said it would span 40 paper pages.
"Honestly, people don't realize there are people who do this every single day," he said.
At AAA-rated Five Diamond properties, the process is completely anonymous. The inspector books a room, spends the night, and evaluates everything under the hotel's radar. The hotel's management learns about the inspection after it's over.
"If they know we're coming, then the evaluation would be skewed," he said. "We want to see it how the guest experiences it."
AAA's Diamonds are not forever. Each property is re-inspected yearly.
Kelberman, the Peabody room manager, said he welcomes the unannounced visitor.
"I've learned some of my best room inspection techniques from following AAA inspectors over the 25 years I've been at the hotel," he said.
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