Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, by Jacob Tomsky.
These were my first glimpses into the lives of strangers, something I was coming to realize was a side effect of this business (or perk, depending on the predominance of your voyeuristic tendencies). Want to know what people are really like? What their strange habits are? How they treat people when no one they deem important is watching? Ask their desk agent. Basically, ask their servants: because that is what we are, an army of servants, included with the price of the room.
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.
First off, everyone has pseudonyms in this book - even the author. Instead of going by Jacob Tomsky, he decides to call his character Tommy Jacobs (get it?). He starts off in the hotel business kind of by accident: he graduated from college with a degree in Philosophy, only to find (surprise!) that there's practically no jobs suited for that major, so he takes a valet job at a New Orleans hotel to pay the bills. He eventually graduates to the front desk, then to a manager of housekeeping job, and then later moves to NYC, since he has always had the "travel bug" was surprised he lasted in New Orleans so long.
Many years into his career, he starts to become a "hustler," as he calls it - being able to make money from tips while also providing good service to the hotel customers. But he also begins to get sick of the hotel game, yet doesn't know what else he can do with his life - he's worked too hard to start at a new hotel and get the crappy work shifts, but he's getting sick of the hotel he's currently at also.
This book was funny. I seriously don't remember the last time I laughed so much during a fiction book, even if it was a comedy. I would love to see this made into a movie, though I'd have to think a bit to 'cast' it. When Tommy (Jacob, the author) starts it he's around 22 and when the book ends he's in his early 30s, I believe, so it spans about ten years of time. Some of the tips he reveals I already knew about - if you grease a front desk man's palm and say "Anything you do for me would be appreciated," you have a good chance of getting a better room than you maybe were initially assigned - but some of the other tips and insights I did not know about.
I would recommend this book to anyone that has ever stayed in a hotel, really, or anyone that wants a hilarious, smart read.
5 stars out of 5.
*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.