OPTION 1: Stalk New Brands
Since CitizenM was a new concept (and not just a new property flying the flag of an already-established brand), the company took great care in making sure the property and all its features would be well-received by guests. They recruited test-sleepers and charged them with the oh-so-difficult task of staying overnight (for free) as a kind of dress rehearsal for the hotel.
And it wasn't just a one-night thing: CitizenM actually conducted their "test-sleepings" for about a month prior to the opening, so lots of lucky people were able to participate.
Yesterday, we spoke with some folks over at CitizenM and here's what they had to say about their test-sleeper recruitment process:
We recruited our "Guinea Pigs" from our database - people (local/Dutch) who subscribed at the citizenM website at a very early stage, also movers and shakers from Amsterdam and of course our friends and families, who turned out to be the most critical and honest visitors.
So here are your options: date some big shot hotel developer to make sure you fit into the "friends and family" category, or -- and this one may be easier -- keep up-to-date on the hotel happenings in your neck of the woods (we'll help you with that part). As trendy mid-priced brands like Aloft, NYLO, XP, and Element keep popping up all over the country, there's a good chance a cool new boutique-y brand may just launch in your area.
Find out when a hotel is opening and, a month prior, don't be afraid to call their offices and ask them some questions about how their stuff is being tested.
If you remember, Aloft did test-runs of their shizz in a warehouse near their White Plains, NY headquarters (and also in Second Life). With the publicity that sort of "prototyping" and testing received, more hotels are bound to take a cue from Starwood and test their concepts on customers before launching.
OPTION 2: Become a Secret Shopper
If you're dying to score free stuff in the hospitality industry, here's another option worth considering: become a secret shopper.
Hotel (and restaurant) chains regularly commission secret shoppers -- usually through third-party companies -- to go "undercover" and act as regular consumers to evaluate their products. It's a form of quality control, really, and the job usually requires fairly extensive feedback on the secret shopper's end.
But if you've got a keen eye for good service or you're set on testing out a hotel just for kicks, you can get a free night in a hotel and the reporting-back part shouldn't bother you. You can do it in your spare time -- and make a bit of extra cash while you're at it.
The Mystery Shopping Providers Association, the largest trade group representing mystery shoppers and mystery shopping companies, is a fantastic resource for new and veteran undercover customers.
For newbies: the MSPA site can help explain how to obtain your mystery shopper certifications, how to sign up with companies, and it even has a cool search tool to help you find mystery shopping gigs in your area (you can narrow it down to hotel/hospitality jobs too). You can live the dream, man.
Got a suggestion on how to score a gig as a bed-tester/test-sleeper? Got advice on how to skyrocket to the top of the mystery shopping world and land the coolest mystery shopping jobs? Let us know in the comments!