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April 19, 2015

Heads in Beds


Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky
Nonfiction – Travel
2012 Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group
Read by the author
Finished on March 12, 2015
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)


Publisher’s Blurb:

In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential and Waiter Rant, a rollicking, eye-opening, fantastically indiscreet memoir of a life spent (and misspent) in the hotel industry.

Jacob Tomsky never intended to go into the hotel business. As a new college graduate, armed only with a philosophy degree and a singular lack of career direction, he became a valet parker for a large luxury hotel in New Orleans. Yet, rising fast through the ranks, he ended up working in "hospitality" for more than a decade, doing everything from supervising the housekeeping department to manning the front desk at an upscale Manhattan hotel... In Heads in Beds he pulls back the curtain to expose the crazy and compelling reality of a multi-billion-dollar industry we think we know.

Heads in Beds is a funny, authentic, and irreverent chronicle of the highs and lows of hotel life, told by a keenly observant insider who's seen it all. Prepare to be amused, shocked, and amazed as he spills the unwritten code of the bellhops, the antics that go on in the valet parking garage, the housekeeping department's dirty little secrets—not to mention the shameless activities of the guests, who are rarely on their best behavior. Prepare to be moved, too, by his candor about what it's like to toil in a highly demanding service industry at the luxury level, where people expect to get what they pay for (and often a whole lot more). Employees are poorly paid and frequently abused by coworkers and guests alike, and maintaining a semblance of sanity is a daily challenge.

Along his journey Tomsky also reveals the secrets of the industry, offering easy ways to get what you need from your hotel without any hassle. This book (and a timely proffered twenty-dollar bill) will help you score late checkouts and upgrades, get free stuff galore, and make that pay-per-view charge magically disappear. Thanks to him you'll know how to get the very best service from any business that makes its money from putting heads in beds. Or, at the very least, you will keep the bellmen from taking your luggage into the camera-free back office and bashing it against the wall repeatedly.

I’ve worked in hotels for more than a decade. I’ve checked you in, checked you out, oriented you to the property, served you a beverage, separated your white panties from the white bedsheets, parked your car, tasted your room service (before and, sadly, after), cleaned your toilet, denied you a late checkout, given you a wake-up call, eaten M&M’s out of your minibar, laughed at your jokes, and taken your money. I have been on the front lines, and by that I mean the front desk, of upscale hotels for years, and I’ve seen it all firsthand.

And so begins Jacob Tomsky’s humorous and, at times, irreverent memoir, Heads in Beds.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Tomsky narrate his tell-all book about the hotel industry, and I’ve made a mental note of some of his secrets for making my next hotel stay more enjoyable. My husband and I rarely stay in 5-star luxury hotels, opting for the predictability and comfort of the Hilton chain, specifically Hampton Inn. We have, however, both stayed in some very posh hotels over the years and one of my all-time favorites is The Peninsula in New York City. My daughter and I spent a full week there in 1996 and we were treated extremely well, thanks to a friend who was good friends with one of the sales associates. It definitely paid to know someone behind the front desk!




Tomsky’s book is highly entertaining and the appendices (Things a Guest Should Never Do) share some customer tips that are not exclusive to the hotel industry. I found myself nodding my head in agreement, recognizing similar situations as an employee of a major bookstore.
Do not snap the credit card down on my desk.

You know this one, where you press the card down with your thumb and use your index finger to bend the front corner of the card up and then release it so it snaps authoritatively and loudly on my desk? You just made me hate you!

and
Do not continue your phone conversation during the entire check-in.

Can you imagine how it feels, as a human, to be part of someone else’s effort to multitask? While you say to the phone, “uh-huh. Yeah. Yeah, well, I told her they wouldn’t go for it. I know these people,” I get the lift of an eyebrow, side-glances, brief and uninterested head nods thrown in my direction indicating your main focus remains on your call, perhaps a moment where you held the phone slightly away from your ear to benevolently allow me 5 percent of your attention. That call will end in five minutes. But because you treated me like an automatic check-in machine, this room I’m giving you will plague your whole stay. And also I key bombed you.

and 
“My credit card declined? That’s impossible. Run it again.”

Man, don’t make me run it again. If your CC declines once, it will, without question, decline again. Your card is not a crumpled old dollar, and the banking system is not a stubborn vending machine. That’s not how the banking system works. You need to call your bank.

And, no, you can’t use my phone.
 and
“They told me I should ask for an upgrade.”

Who the f*** is they? Oh, they. Well, they told me to remind you to tip the doorman.


Final Thoughts:

This is a great audiobook! I listened to it over the course of three days, often times bursting out laughing, other times fumbling for a pen & paper in order to take notes. However, like Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential, this audiobook is not for young ears or for those who are easily offended. Tomsky is a bit crass at times and drops more F-bombs than the saltiest of sailors.

12 comments:

  1. As long as he doesn't talk about bedbugs, I'd be interested. I like books like this, the behind the scenes look. Although, sometimes I subscribe to the 'less is more' attitude about certain things. I do understand about customer service annoyances though. Had that in the library. Felt the same about the woman who argued with me about a charge for a book her kid had ruined as she slung her real Coach bag up on my counter and informed me that she paid my salary. I was unimpressed. LOL

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    1. Kay, it's funny. I thought bedbugs would be mentioned in this tell-all, but it never came up! Go figure! ;)

      I'll bet you don't miss dealing with "difficult" library patrons, do you? This is one big reason why I don't move up to a management position at B&N. I do not want to have to deal with all the customer complaints. When someone becomes argumentative, I just pass them off to one of my managers. ;)

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  2. :) I'd forgotten about Waiter Rant! This sounds so entertaining, thanks, Les!

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    1. Jenclair, I've never read Waiter Rant, but it sounds entertaining, doesn't it?

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  3. I had the same exact thought as Kay! You hear about all of these documentaries about the cleanliness of hotels (or lack thereof) and some things I'm just not sure I want to know! LOL! Sounds like a really fun book, though, especially as I really enjoyed Kitchen Confidential and you compare the two throughout.

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    1. Trish, there was never any mention of bedbugs. Kind of makes you wonder why, huh? I stayed at a hotel in Nashville a few years ago (for a wedding) and one of the couples in our group had bedbugs. I spent the next week paranoid that my mosquito bites might be from bedbugs. I kept my luggage in the basement for a week (I never bring a suitcase up to the bedrooms to pack anymore!) and checked our mattress for signs of bugs for days after my return. I now check the mattress of any hotel I stay in. Paranoid? Maybe just a tad, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. I know too many people who have had to deal with this awful infestation! Anyhoo... ;) I think you'd enjoy this book, especially on audio!

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  4. I enjoyed this in print a couple months ago...now I want to read Waiter Rant!

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    1. JoAnn, I want to read Waiter Rant, too! I'll bet it's hilarious, as well as informative.

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  5. I've been meaning to try this one, but I think I'll wait until out 3-day NYC hotel weekend is over LOL

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    1. Diane, ah, yes. I'd probably wait until after your trip (which you're on right now, I'm guessing).

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  6. Like most things were you are asking for service, I suspect it all comes down to treating people the way you would want to be treated - with respect, with attention, and with kindness. Also, that twenty never hurts!

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    1. Kindness certainly goes a long way, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it seems that too many people are in too big of a hurry to even bother with simple etiquette. "Please" and "thank you" aren't that difficult to remember, are they?

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