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“Heads in Beds”: Required Summer Reading for Travelers

heads in beds coverby Holley Dey  ©2013 OnTapBlog all rights reserved

Five months too late, that’s when I found Jacob Tomsky’s Heads in Beds.  Coulda, shoulda read the book earlier.  Here’s why.

Times Square was bustling before the holiday and so was the hotel lobby.  The long check-in line snaked single file to the front.  At the desk the clerk confirmed my internet reservation, offered me two key cards but no bellman.  Carried suitcase, camera bag, computer and handbag to room 824.  Neither room key worked.  Returned to lobby dragging suitcase, camera bag, and computer with handbag falling off my right shoulder.  Asked an available desk clerk to re-program the room keys, but was curtly directed  to rejoin the check-in queue where I fear that the expression on my face may have alarmed other guests.

A few chapters into the book, what I learned: Reservations made via discount internet sites rank low on the luxury hotel’s priority list.  A well placed, upfront tip at the desk can change attitudes and rapidly improve service.  Might even move your discounted room away from that elevator bank.

Finally settled into my room, I opened my computer and was immediately hit with an extra one day charge for accessing the internet.  Paid it with a sense of indignant resignation.  Incurred a second charge when I logged into my email account the next morning, some twelve hours later.  Made yet another visit to the front desk where I began to protest.  After all, even in New York a day is twenty-four hours long, isn’t it?  I had begun to wax eloquent when I was abruptly interrupted by the clerk, “MA’AM, I’VE ALREADY TAKEN BOTH CHARGES OFF YOUR BILL.”

Huh?  Is it really that easy?  Well yes, it is.  The desk clerk doesn’t care.  You didn’t eat the Milky Way from the mini bar?  Never watched that adult movie?  No problem.  All it takes is a simple, “I didn’t watch the movie.  Please remove the charge.”  The desk clerk doesn’t want or need to hear you wax eloquent.  (Although, honestly, had I not been ready to discuss in detail the earth’s daily rotation on its axis, I’m not sure that both charges would have been removed.)

Before Jacob Tomsky was an author, he was a new college graduate with a degree in philosophy and loans to pay.  Seems that it was an off year for philosophy majors; Jacob took a job as a valet parker for a New Orleans luxury hotel.  Young, smart and eager to advance, he rose quickly through the ranks to front desk clerk and then housekeeping manager before burnout necessitated a months’ long travel break.  Savings depleted, Jacob then settled in New York City where the only viable job offers came from the service industry, returning the avid traveler to the front desk, now at the “Bellevue” Hotel.

During his ten years in the hotel business, Tomsky saw it all – sex, drugs, lies, and then there were the guests!  He learned the inner workings of the hotel, how to keep thejacob tomsky lobby running smoothly and customers happy while doing his utmost to minimize on-the-job frustration and maximize the twenty dollar tips in his pocket.  He went from sneakers to dress shoes, Dr. Pepper to whiskey, newbie to hustler in the space of several years and some 250 pages, never losing his humanity or his union card.

Heads in Beds is an often hilarious tale told from behind the desk and behind the scenes of the hotel industry.  There are valets with fists up, housekeepers with nylons down and managers passed out on the ground.  There are stories of celebrities, hookers and athletes.  There are trade secrets released and travel tips offered.  Ever wonder how to avoid that pesky last minute room cancellation fee?  Your answer is here.  Ever marveled at the sparkling mirrors and glassware in the hotel bath?  You may be surprised to know what produces that shine.  Want to empty the mini bar or watch a free movie?  No problem!  Jacob tells you how.  He also explains when and whom to tip and what to expect for that courtesy.  First priority?  Remember that the front desk clerk controls your hotel destiny.  A room upgrade, bottle of wine and/or late check-out are all in play for players.

What I took away from Heads in Beds:

1.  There is hope for our children.  If Jacob could turn an impractical college degree and life at the front desk into a book this well written, this entertaining, and ultimately this human, then maybe your child and mine can also find their way in this world.

2.  I will never again drink from the “sanitized” glass in a hotel bathroom.

3.  I have new empathy for the hotel staff, especially the valets, bellmen and housekeepers whose work often goes unnoticed, well, unless there is a complaint to be made.  Heads in Beds puts a face on people who are nearly invisible when their jobs are well done.  I plan to tip more often, and more generously.

4.  Profanity can be a term of endearment?  It’s New Yawk, people.  If  you don’t believe me, go to a baseball game and listen to the faithful advise the team from the cheap seats.  Cursing = love.  There’s plenty of love in this book.

Summary:  RECOMMENDED.  For an easy summer read, a book that will keep you laughing but leave you thinking, pick up a copy of Heads in Beds.  Oh, go on, do it.

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