I know it sounds so smarmy but…I’m a professional tourist, there I said it. Have been for over 20 years. That’s right; I get paid to travel. All of my expenses…airfare, car rental, hotel, meals, even tips are covered. Professional tourist…that’s the mission when you work for the premiere travel organization of North America. How do I provide valuable, reliable travel information for AAA members? I go get it first hand…anything less is chit-chat.
From world class to po-dunk, I have conducted over 10,000 professional evaluations. I’ve rubbed elbows with celebrities and heads of state…Gloria Estefan (got a signed photograph for my daughter), King Carlos and Queen Isabel (she kept him waiting in the lobby but I loved his tie!), Janet Reno (must have 3 PM tea), Carlos Slim (sure looks like world’s richest man), Don King (his trademark hound’s tooth sports coat was a bit tight) and Johnnie Cochrane (got a photo of my wife with him and his companion)…to name few. But hold on there—I’ve also been stranded at night alone in the jungles of Yucatan, have ridden out a 7.2 earthquake on the 42nd floor of a hotel and have stayed at places where if you want a hot bath in the morning, the first thing you do is go outside and chop wood. How do you get a job like that?
The work does have its technical aspects, it has to. With a reputation like AAA’s, you don’t just casually glance at the 50,000 + hotels, restaurants, attractions and campgrounds that want to be AAA Approved. These are places of people's toil, where they pour their hearts and souls into their work. Our task is serious, complex and has consequence. We use published guidelines, classifications, training, industry standards, and a rock solid inspections program. We use Diamonds for ratings…1 Diamond is good, clean but basic—5 Diamonds has all the creature comforts and is as luxurious as it gets.
Still, at least a couple of times a week, I’ll get asked the same question by the entire professional strata…chefs, lawyers, pilots, AAA members—you name it. “How do you get a job like that?” At times they add, “Oh, it must be sales” or “Is it just part time?” or “I bet those hotels and restaurants treat you real good.” Nope, nope and nope. I’ve always evaluated full-time year ‘round, no sales of any kind and we certainly don’t accept anything from the properties—that’s just basic, common-sense for someone evaluating someone else. All AAA Approved listings get evaluated but what’s cool is that they never know when we’re going to show up. Surprise!! That’s o.k. because we want to see a property the same way you would see it. In hotels for example, when they’re taking a long time to get me a list of rooms to inspect and I notice the housekeepers scurrying out in different directions, I know they’re going to TRY to touch up the rooms before I get there. When that happens, I’ll ask to see the rooms in the reverse order of their list so I can get to the last ones before the housekeepers, or I’ll just ask to see random rooms and beat them at their own game…I’ve been doing this a long time. So how did I get a job like this? Well, I’ll tell you the same thing I’ve told everyone else: I must have been very good in my previous life.
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