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At Keystone College, majoring in hospitality business management means a lot more than just reading textbooks and taking notes in class. Students in Assistant Professor Brenda Lidy’s Hospitality 2130, Customer Service for Hospitality Majors class discovered that fact recently when they took part in what can best be described as a “secret shopper” field trip.

“At Keystone, our goal is to educate our students both inside and outside of the classroom.”

~ Professor Brenda Lidy

The Secret Shopper Project

The students checked into several downtown hotels in the city of Scranton, ostensibly as regular guests who needed a room for the night. Hotel employees, however, were never told the students were actually part of Professor Lidy’s class and were there on an anonymous scouting mission. The 12 students spent the better part of a day at the hotels, including staying overnight (not at their own expense by the way).

During that time, they had a chance to observe and take notes on every aspect of the hotels’ operations, ranging from the cleanliness of the rooms, the quality of the food, and the courtesy of the service.

“We really looked at everything and took extensive notes on what we liked and what we thought could be done better,” said sophomore Amanda Martin. “Other than the general manager, no one suspected that we were doing this as part of a college class. It was really interesting and a lot of fun!”

“It was really interesting and a lot of fun!”

~ Sophomore Amanda Martin

After the visits, representatives from each hotel came to Ms. Lidy’s class to listen to the students’ findings and recommendations. While the hotels received excellent grades overall, the students did have some constructive observations and suggestions of their own.

“I think this experience was not only helpful for the Keystone students but it enabled us to take a look at how we operate our hotel on a day-to-day basis and make changes based on the comments we received,” said Luke Menifee, front office manager at the Hilton Downtown Scranton Hotel and Conference Center.

“At Keystone, our goal is to educate our students both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Professor Lidy. “By having them visit hotels as ‘secret shoppers’ and then report their observations, they’re really able to gain first-hand experience that will supplement what we discuss in class.”