Inspector 580 keeps her identity a secret but reveals how she rates hotels and restaurants for AAA Diamonds.
For almost two decades, Inspector 580 has been reviewing hotels and restaurants for AAA—900 a year, she estimates. She’s one of the 50 scouts who determine the famous AAA Diamond ratings.
The latest Four and Five Diamond award winners are being published in January. Inspector 580 keeps her identity a secret but reveals all when it comes to hotels and restaurants.
Q Is it tricky deciding how many Diamonds to award?
A It’s very clear. We have a detailed checklist covering about 100 things, including the type of bathroom tiles, the quality of the carpets, the lobby seating, and the artwork.
Q Travel, hotels, restaurants—sounds pretty glamorous.
A I hear that all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job. But when you’re inspecting, you run your hands over every flat surface. You look in toilets and showers and behind furniture. Sometimes instead of a meal at a Five Diamond restaurant, all you want is a good cheeseburger.
Q Seen anything shocking?
A A dead mouse floating in a toilet. But that’s the exception.
Q Have standards changed?
A Absolutely. AAA updates its guidelines about every five years. Travelers expect the same amenities at their lodging—like wireless Internet and iPod docks—that they would have at home. We call it amenity creep.
Q Are Yelp and TripAdvisor making property inspectors obsolete?
A When guests write about their personal experiences, you don’t get the entire story. People have told me they respect AAA because we use rating guidelines. Each property is judged on its own merits.
Q When you’re on vacation, do you stay in Five Diamond properties?
A When I’m on vacation, I go home.
Learn more about Diamond ratings at AAA.com/diamonds .
Photography by Sean Arbabi 
This article was first published in January 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.