Customer Review

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hustling the punters, 10 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality (Paperback)
"Service is not about being up-front and honest. Service is about minimizing negatives and creating the illusion of perfection. Here's how it's done: Lie. Smile. Finesse. Barter. Convince. Lie again. Smile again." - Jacob Tomsky in HEADS IN BEDS

Having realized that a degree in philosophy doesn't, in today's job market, put much sustenance on the table, twenty-something Jacob Tomsky enters the service sector. HEADS IN BEDS is the author's account of his ten years in the hotel industry in New Orleans and New York in the valet service, as a front desk agent, and as a mid-level Housekeeping manager. He began to pen it when, as he states:

"(Management) also tacked on a three-week unpaid suspension, trying to starve me out. Those three weeks were like an extended mental leave for me and, coincidentally, gave me the time to embark on this project it seems you might be enjoying ..."

Gee, you think?

The best - or at least most practically useful - parts of this book are the ways, according to the author, that the hotel customer can game the system, e.g. negate minibar and in-room movie charges, avoid a same-day cancellation penalty, insure the immediate availability of a room even on an early morning arrival, or the best way to bribe the front desk agent to add an extra level of service.

Somewhat surprisingly, nothing is said about what I would think are two of the more important and/or profitable hotel operations: food service and event/convention planning. Thus, HEADS IN BEDS isn't a comprehensive look at the biz.

I did find the book particularly instructive on at least one point. If Tomsky can be believed when he asserts that the average guest treats his/her hotel room like home, then their treatment of the former would indicate the average guest is a domesticated pig. That observation has raised my sensitivity towards the plight of the housekeepers and I've vowed to tip more generously in the future (though my wife and I try to leave as little residual mess as possible when we stay anywhere away).

The most useful parts of the book aside, Tomsky's narrative is largely self-indulgent to the point of being occasionally whiney. It's all about him. How he unwound during a year's sojourn in Europe between New Orleans and New York gigs. How he couldn't find a job outside the lodging industry. How he suffered from the absence of a steady paycheck. Once employed, how he benefited from unionization. How he managed to fall for and hook-up with a frequent-stay female guest. How he deflects (from himself) a guest's anger in the face of unmet expectations. How he was frequently screwed over by hotel management for perceived infractions. And, most important of all, how he hustles a guest for big tips.

HEADS IN BEDS isn't a bad book, and I might have been more generous - well, maybe not - except that Tomsky's personality, self-absorption, and cynicism just got wearisome. Others will perhaps be more forgiving. In any case, since I'm not posting this review anonymously, I guess the best I can hope for is that he's never the front desk agent at one of my favorite hotel chain's properties. Or at least that he remains in New York City while I vacation elsewhere.
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