As a mystery shopper, you’re already used to business owners being on the lookout for you. You expect questions about your identity and you’ve developed a repertoire of answers. Still, some questions are harder than others. For instance, why would you stay in a hotel when you reside in the same city?

First off, most hotels hold policies against booking local guests, said Mystery Shopper Magazine. The purpose of a such policy is to avert negative press – no hotel wants to be known as an affair hotspot, for instance. And yes, hotel owners are well aware of the likelihood a local guest is there to write a service report.

Know hotel policy

As a mystery shopper, pretending to be from another town isn’t a realistic option, since you’ll be asked for your ID at the front desk. You don’t want to take a mystery shopping job at a local hotel unless you’ve verified that you’ll be able to complete it. It’s a good idea to check out the fine print on a hotel’s website before booking your stay.

If you luck out and can take the job, be prepared to explain why you need a hotel so close to home. It isn’t an absolute certainty the staff at the front desk will ask, but they might. Remember the golden rule of less is more. You don’t need to volunteer any information unless prompted.

Be believable

Fortunately, a backstory for this type of assignment isn’t too difficult. There are plenty of perfectly believable reasons for renting a hotel room a mile from your home: pest fumigation, leaky roof or any sort of remodeling that would require leaving the house for a night or two.

Make sure to plan how you’ll answer any follow-up questions, and definitely develop a backstory that matches up to the timeframe of your stay. You might raise an eyebrow if you say your entire bathroom is being redone but you’re only staying for one night. Twenty-four hours isn’t a whole lot of time to replace fixtures and set grout. On the other hand, it’s a perfect reason for a three-night stay.

Don’t be scared

Prepare well but, as the Mystery Shop Maven reminded, do not over-think your answers to the point of being so nervous you think everyone else is on to you. If your story makes sense, no one will suspect you of being a secret shopper.

Checking in is probably the only time you’ll be asked about the reasons for your stay. If you can jump that hurdle, the rest of the assignment should be smooth sailing, especially because it’s easy to conceal note-taking at hotels.

Sit back and enjoy your stay!