Always tip. If you can’t tip, be nice. And if you can’t manage either, you might be better off unwrapping a new toothbrush every day. That’s just one lesson to be learned from Jacob Tomsky’s gonzo account of his years as a front-desk clerk at hotels in New Orleans and New York. From the glad-handing doormen to the unsung workers in the “back of the house,” Tomsky exposes the machinery and machinations that make luxury hotels run (if not always smoothly), advising his potential guests about whose palms to grease (and how much) in order to get that coveted park-view upgrade. Informative and mildly salacious,
is an entertaining peek inside the places people go to get away, and the stunts they pull when they get there. --
Amazon Exclusive: An Essay by Jacob Tomsky
When I started working in hotels the computer screens glowed in one color, alien green, and the monitors were the size of boulders. We used to confidently toss comment cards in the trash (or, as we referred to it, file them in the “T” file) making them disappear forever. I used to cash checks by picking up the phone and speaking to another human being. Music in the lobby was usually provided by a piano player, who would swivel his head at passing guests with a ridiculous, pasty-looking smile as he tapped out non-offensive cover songs played with a non-offensive classical flourish.
Now, mid-volume, beat-heavy techno seeps from recessed speakers built into the lobby’s crown molding. The screens are flat. You can’t manage to direct anything from Trip Advisor into the “T” file and all the guests want to hook up their iPad to the toilet or whatever. And if you pay with a check I still have to pick up the phone, which is extremely irritating because who pays with checks anymore? Stop it.
But all of that change means nothing. Because I’ll tell you what hasn’t changed: The front desk agents, the bellmen, the doormen, the housekeepers, the room service attendants, and the managers. Hotel employees are still version 1.0 and I guarantee if you brought me to a bar and sat me next to a front desk agent from 1897, we’d over-drink and swap the same type of hilarious stories about the same type of insane guests. Hospitality, no matter how slick it gets, will always be a business run by people who serve people. It will always be about service. It will always take a person to explain that, no, you cannot hook up your iPad to the toilet but you can use it to control the lights and wirelessly play music through the in-room speaker system. And guests still, and hopefully will forever, hand me physical comment cards, which I will continue to throw in the trash.
During all these renovations (while I said things like, “Wait, they made the internet wireless? It’s in the goddamn air now?”) I was always writing. I grew up reading novel after novel and that’s all I wanted from life, to give back and write something good. After years of hotel work and relocations that took me from New Orleans to Paris to Copenhagen and ultimately New York City, I finally conceived the idea for Heads in Beds. I put everything I had into it, all my knowledge of the industry and the writing skills I’d developed since I was a child. I truly hope you find it funny and informative and that it helps you navigate the crooked halls of hospitality. That has always been my goal, to write something good.
That and hang out with a front desk agent from 1897.