Lee Goforth, executive secretary of Durham Life Insurance Co. in Baltimore, recently booked so many hotel reservations that a wizard dropped in to shower her with candy.
In April, after another big booking month for Durham, the Easter Rabbit came by to offer its appreciation.
"We had a good laugh about it," Ms. Goforth says. "The rabbit didn't talk, he just went around our office and waved at everyone."
The wizard, rabbit and a handful of other characters were actually costumed sales representatives from Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel. During the first week of each month, a member of Radisson's sales staff dons a rented costume to take award certificates and candy to members of Radisson's Hospitality Club who have booked the most overnight stays at the hotel.
Most hotels in the area have hospitality clubs that thank frequent users with awards and coupons, Radisson Convention Service Manager Randall Bishop says.
"But we wanted to stand out with ours," he says. "Competition in the hotel industry is really stiff."
"We needed a competitive edge," he adds. "We wanted to be recognized and remembered. We wanted to say we value loyalty to our hotel."
Radisson's Hospitality Club, which started using costumes in the spring, develops seasonal themes. Corporate members of the club have been visited by a horse in honor of the Preakness race, and by a looney tourist with short pants, big tie and sunglasses in the summer.
"We come up with the ideas ourselves, tying it to a holiday or whatever is going on in the city," Mr. Bishop says. Creative ideas for costumes seem to have come easily so far.
Rutledge Costume in Baltimore supplies the hotel with many of
TC its get-ups. Co-owner Anita Rutledge says the Radisson is one of several area corporate and organizational clients who play dress up for their employees, customers and others.
"Heublein Corp. and Citicorp use costumes to motivate their people," she says. "Legg Mason honored a secretary by putting her in a cape, scepter and crown for a day. And C&P Telephone wants 13 gorilla costumes for Christmas, although I'm not sure what for."
One corporate client recently asked her to help him "be" the Macy's parade for a holiday antic, Ms. Rutledge says.
"We also have walking Christmas trees and the like for the holidays. And I just got a purple fur suit with a gold horn and gold lame spines down the back. We're adding an eyeball and wings to make it a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people eater. I'm sure someone will be coming in wanting to use that," she says.
The costumes aren't cheap to rent. The Radisson in Baltimore spends from $30 to $70 to rent each outfit from one of the area's costume supply houses.
But Mr. Bishop says the benefits, in good feelings and added revenue to the hotel, outweigh the cost.
"The secretaries love it," he says. "They take you around the whole office to show you off. It's a fun time for everybody.
"A lot of people have seen us [awarding prizes] and they become interested in joining our club."
As a result, he says, membership in Radisson's Hospitality Club has increased. More members in the club means more potential revenue for the hotel.
The members now expect some zaniness once a month from Radisson, Mr. Bishop says.
"The Christmas costume comes next," he says. "I don't know yet what it will be, but I do know we won't be doing the typical Santa Claus."