Review: Heads in Beds

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. He’s checked you in, checked you out, separated your white panties from the white bed sheets, parked your car, tasted your room-service meals, 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. 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 grown up staying in hotels of varying levels of luxury…mostly less expensive ones, but as I grow older, they have tended to get nicer. The Hubs and I like to treat ourselves to a fancy weekend once a year (we are due for one soon), especially if we have points on our rewards card. It’s always fun to live how The Betters do, if only for a few days.

Heads in Beds is a snarky tell-all of the back of house of those luxury hotels, in New Orleans and New York. Oh, what lovely things the Bellmen and Front Desk clerks and housekeeping staff all think of us guests.

The good news–I now know a ton of secrets on how to get fun upgrades, like how to get a room with a view or wine sent up on a special occasion. The bad? I also feel like an awkward cheapskate, since tipping doesn’t come natural to me, and I never have a huge bankroll of cash laying around–even on our fancy weekends. I’ll have to up my game a little bit though…conservatively.

How do you feel about tipping on your vacations? Do you make it rain, or does it stress you out? Heads in Beds gives some pointers on the best places to tip and how…although I do wish there would have been some scale for those of us who don’t have such serious bank. Still, it was an interesting book, and if you travel often, one you should definitely pick up.

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