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Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality Hardcover – November 20, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 995 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2012: 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, Heads in Beds is an entertaining peek inside the places people go to get away, and the stunts they pull when they get there. --Jon Foro

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.

From Booklist

Comparisons to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential (2000) are inevitable but not entirely accurate. Yes, both Tomsky and Bourdain purport to expose the underbelly of service industries with which most readers are familiar, hotels and restaurants. But where Bourdain is all rock ’n’ roll, egotistical bluster, Tomsky is surprisingly earnest and sympathetic; there are, after all, no television programs called Top Desk Clerk. He wants your respect, not your adulation. Sure, he tosses off a few requisite f-bombs, instructs readers on how to steal from hotel minibars, and name-drops Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, more so because he seems to feel the genre demands it. Indeed, it would be easy to pen a book about crazy hotel guests. But this memoir succeeds, instead, in humanizing the people who park our cars, clean our hotel rooms, and carry our luggage. You will never not tip housekeeping or your bellhop again. Tomsky fell into hotel work and proved to be rather good at it; the same can be said for his writing. --Patty Wetli

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Ed 1st Printing edition (November 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385535635
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385535632
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (995 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,118 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Did it not occur to the author that at least three of the tips on the list of ways to get the most out of your hotel stay were illegal? Watching a movie and indulging in the minibar and then saying you didn't do either of those things is outright theft. Saying you didn't get a robe when you did and then stealing the extra is lying and theft.

What kind of morally-bankrupt, selfish person blatantly lies and then steals and then tells other people that it's an excellent way to get something for nothing? Did you give one thought to the poor cleaning woman who will come under fire for not stocking the room properly? Actions have consequences. Are you so hard up for a bathrobe that you're willing to risk a hotel cleaning woman's job?

Shame on you Mr. Tomsky. You've not given us a how-to book to hotel stays. You've given us a lesson on your own selfishness. You are one of the reasons hotels are now so expensive. Who do you think ultimately pays for your so-called freebies? The next guest down the line.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Prior to my current vocation, I worked in hotels and resorts for 10 years, serving people, making money, and having all sorts of fun- I love it and it was hard to leave. I can tell you- the tone of this book and the things that are happening and have happened is just an attempt to cash in on the whole "Waiter Rant" snarky tone in memoirs today.

The author of this book comes across as entitled, snobbish, and horribly detached from customer service. The reason most people stay in those jobs is because they like the interaction with people, the money is secondary, and the location is a perk. Attracting drifters and those who can't settle down is a secodary aspect of the profession- and they don't last long. From past experience, anyone with an attitude half as nasty, condescending, and vitrolic as Tomsky's would be out of a job so fast they wouldn't have time to drop the key off at the front desk on the way out.

This book isn't so much a tell all as it is a mash-up of a "10-things-they-won't-tell-you" lists, "Waiter Rant's" pissy attitude, and some of the good ole "look-at-me-I'm-serving-rich-people" melodrama thrown in for good measure. Nothing special or spectacularly revealing here.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm conflicted about HEADS IN BEDS. I really wanted to like it. I spent some time in hospitality myself, and I think there are great stories to be told from both sides of the check-in desk. And there are some interesting stories in this book, at least in the 85 pages of it that I got through before putting it down.

And why did I put it down? Mostly, because a memoir needs a likable, or at least, engaging, narrator and Tomsky comes across as neither.

An example: early in the book, he decides to impress us by giving us some historical context for the development of the hospitality industry. I guess he and his editor thought that three paragraphs of history was too dry, so Tomsky decided to spice it up. "So in 1794, someone, some ---hole, built the very first 'hotel' in New York City..."

If Tomsky really feels that way about whoever opened that hotel, I've got to ask, why? What did he ever do to him to earn that kind of vitriol. And if he doesn't really feel angry enough towards him to use that word, then he's the worst kind of literary poseur: a YouTube commenting keyboard warrior with an agent.

Tomsky does this quite a bit. It's one thing to have the profanity and pseudo-tough guy language in your dialog. It can even come out of your narrator's mouth when speaking out loud. But when the narrator uses this kind of language to talk directly to the reader, it's trying too hard to be edgy.

He does this throughout, and it feels completely inauthentic to me. It makes me not trust the narrator, and that's the kiss of death for a memoir.

What finally killed the book for me was the narrator's sense of entitlement.
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Format: Hardcover
I have worked in the conference planning industry for over 10 years now and have dealt with my share of hotels. I was looking forward to reading "Heads In Beds" to get some additional insight into working with these properties. In my experience most hotel employees are good, hardworking people who genuinely care about customers. The book starts out fairly interesting with a few good ideas, but by the end the author has become so jaded and annoying, with such a horrible entitled attitude, that I just wished for the whole thing to be over. I have a second job where I work for tips too and this book is just embarrassing to those of us who actually care about our jobs and realize that the key to maximizing your tips is actually caring about the customer and taking pride in your job.

First, the good part of the book. A few of the ideas presented are helpful. Tip the front desk clerk upon check-in. Tip the bellman. Mostly just tip. (Interestingly enough, he does not mention tipping the room maids, but they should be tipped too). You would be shocked at the number of people who either don't know to tip or who simply ignore it. People in these industries depend on tips to feed their families, and I firmly believe everyone should hold a job where they are dependent on tips for a year to see what it is like.

The book quickly slips into a sense of bitterness and entitlement, however. Early on author Jacob Tomsky tells the union organizer for his New York hotel that he is afraid unions will lead to "laziness" at the hotel. He finally signs for his union card and later begins to take advantage of the situation himself.
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