If you work in hospitality, you know the competition among hotels is stiff and constant. In sports, you can size up the competition by looking at stats; with hotels it's not so easy. If you've worked for competitor hotels then you know them; if not, while you know yours, the rest are a mystery. So, aside from visiting their websites, how do you learn about the hotel supplies and amenities other hotels offer? Be a mystery traveler. Book a room at one of your competitor's hotels. It's a great way to explore hotels in the area and size up your competition, to see which hotel supplies and amenities they offer and which they don't. Playing guest also helps you evaluate hotels as a whole, from the call center when you book your room to the front desk when you check in to the décor and hotel supplies in the guest room itself. Once you've decided to size up other hotels, book your room. When you call to make your reservation, how many times does the phone ring before it's answered? Are you treated with respect by someone who's delighted to help you? Do they promote any of their amenities or ask if you need any special accommodations? Is theirs a competitive rate versus other hotels? With the room booked, your next step is packing. Of the beauty and hotel supplies you'd normally use, are they offered as amenities by your chosen hotel? Preview your chosen hotel by comparing its web presence to yours and those of other hotels. Do they highlight their amenities and hotel supplies or have better pictures than your site? As you're checking in, check out the exterior details. Do the main areas look, feel and smell good? How are you received when you check in? Ideally, you're warmly welcomed. Are the plants water, walls and sign clean and well lit? Windows, walls, floors and the foyer, when cleaned with quality hotel supplies, should sparkle while plants should be lush and green. Ideally, the check-in process is quick and easy. Pay attention to whether or not they're organized and efficient. Is the area cluttered? On the way to your room, is everything well-kept and attractive? Is the elevator working? Are hallways inviting, painted in modern hues? Are plants, art or other hotel supplies decorating common areas? As you enter your room, what's the first thing you notice? The smell, the carpet, the hotel supplies or maybe none of those things. Hopefully your 1st impression is a good one. Are the comforters or bedspreads attractive and in seemingly good repair? When you visit hotels, do you enter a guest room and walk it, exploring the accessories and hotel supplies [out], or do you sit on the bed and "take in the room"? Wear white socks and do the sock test on the carpet. Explore the bathroom and note which amenities, such as complimentary toiletries the hotel offers. If you're not pleased with your room, what are its deficiencies and how do they measure up to yours? Once you've 'played the guest' and personally evaluated hotels, and their hotel supplies, in your area, you'll be better able to determine where you lack and where you outshine competitor hotels. There are areas where you can't affect changes; however, hotels can improve guest services and upgrade hotel supplies, among other things. Being a mystery guest is a great opportunity not only to really experience hotels and gauge genuine reactions but to see things from a different perspective. Seeing other hotels, what would you change? Which hotel supplies [out] would you nix or begin offering? Being a mystery guest can be a fun, beneficial learning experience that will help you improve your hotel, your hotel supplies and, hopefully, put you a step ahead of competitor hotels. Jill Jankoski is an administrative professional with more than 15 years of experience whose passion is helping small business owners build their businesses. To find out if she might be able to assist you, please contact her.