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. I needed a break after page 82, where the narrator was distraught over not being able to spend the rest of his life hanging out in parks in Copenhagen smoking marijuana, and having to return to the US to work after his money ran out. I put the book down for a few days, then dove back in, but tapped out three pages later when the narrator complained about living expenses in New York City being too expensive, and the difficulties of getting a job outside of the one field where he has actual experience.
I've got to confess that I just couldn't keep reading after that. Newsflash: most people who work in hospitality don't do it because they really get off on showing up to work ten minutes before their shift and waiting on other people all day. They do it because they are adults who other people are depending on to be responsible. I try to finish every book I start, but at that point, I figured that the author wasn't treating his readers with any respect, so I didn't feel compelled to read on.
on December 8, 2012
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.
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.
on January 3, 2013
Amazon won't allow post links (and with good reason) but do google his recent Lifehacker article ("Confessions of a Hotel Insider"). Rude and obnoxious ... not someone that deserves your money (or should work with customers directly).
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. He repeatedly calls in 2 days sick (counted as 1 sick day by the union because it is 1 "illness") on either side of a weekend, thus creating a 6 day vacation "out of thin air." The author tells readers how to get in-room movies and minibar charges taken off the bill (basically lie outright to the hotel), even going so far as to tell the reader how to steal them by checking in to a room, emptying the mini bar, and then quickly requesting another room. This practice bothers me because it drives up prices for the rest of us unwilling to lie or steal. How would the author like it if everyone stole copies of his book instead of paying for them? I am in an industry that books room blocks at major hotels several times a year, and seeing abuses like this being performed by guests makes me angry. The hotel has to raise room prices to cover such losses, and honest guests coming in later end up paying for it. This whole attitude that the hotel somehow owes it to them really disturbs me.
The author repeatedly makes it very clear - in so many words - that he couldn't care less about customers unless money is involved, preferably a "Baby Brick" (a $20) or a "Brick" (a crisp $100). He complains on and on about the attitude of guests, and then almost brags about how he gets back at them in passive-aggressive ways such as giving them a worse room, a higher rate, by "key bombing" them, etc. "...that's just the beginning of the ways I can and will punish guests. I am a God of Instant Karma." As a paying customer this attitude is quite disturbing to me, and should also disturb others in the industry who actually care about customer service.
Later, after complaining about hotel management and guests for chapter after chapter and seeing how far he can push the rules, Tomsky finally gets called in for his last (of many) write ups, and blames his union rep for not standing up for him. After copping an attitude for most of the New York section of the book, he suddenly cares about his job? Suddenly he "loves" the hotel? He is upset about losing the struggle, but judging from his work ethic he has really been gone in his mind from the hotel for a long time. Even after being confronted by management about his bad attitude he gives himself a long weekend, calling out sick the next Monday and Tuesday and drowning his sorrows in caviar and $17 cocktails. What's more, he turns to a hotel guest, whom he is now dating, to take him away to another city and "pay for [his] life," after receiving a similar offer from another guest couple to help him relocate in South Africa. Really? He goes on to lay part of the blame for his termination on his new Spanish-speaking union delegate's not being able to follow his dismissal proceedings. His former delegate, by the way, is unavailable after taking two months off work for family medical leave when her husband spends 2 days in the hospital and she takes advantage of the situation "as any union member would" by going on an extended vacation to the Dominican Republic. Are we actually supposed to be sympathetic to these flagrant abuses and their results? The author's entitlement mentality wears very thin very quickly.
I have run many business conferences all over the country. Most hotels and their staffs are wonderful. Without a doubt, however, the most difficult and expensive shows to put on have been the ones in hotels where the staff have the same surly, snarky, and entitled attitudes as the author of this book. Needless to say, we will not return to those properties. They give an otherwise good industry with hardworking employees a black eye.
The last part of the book comes across as a long self-indulgent telephone call from a spoiled, disgruntled child seeking a sympathetic ear. Grow up Mr. Tomsky. If you do not respect us as readers or customers, don't expect us to respect you after this garbage. Work is hard and no one owes you anything. Please, call someone else.
on January 10, 2013
This inside view of hospitality doesn't provide much practical ( or ethical) pointers for navigating the hospitality industry as a consumer. The author's tips include how to steal from the minibar and pay-per-view systems, and advice that tipping everyone-- including the front desk-- will keep them from doing nasty spiteful things to your room and belongings. Seriously? But most of the book is a disdainful smack to the very people who keep the industry alive. I kept reading to find the redemption, but sadly, the author seems to wrapped in his own sense of entitlement to bring any pathos to bear. Too bad because this could have been a great book.
The title is funny, but it's just the beginning of this factual, entertaining, and even informative look at the hospitality industry.
Jacob Tomsky graduated from college with a philosophy degree and a college loan. Without really intending to pursue a service career, he initially took a job in the Big Easy as a valet at a pricey restaurant viewing it as a temporary job and way to take a stab at getting that looming loan down. Before long, the innocent valet comes to the realization that his job is the pits. With that he rushes off two apps to hotels in New Orleans in search of more meaningful (I.e., more lucrative) employment. What follows next is a chronicle of life in the hospitality industry.
Over the next ten years Jacob's career goes from valet to front desk and almost every point in between. He introduces his reader to stories from the trenches and a large cast of characters that range from a crafty head bellman Alan(aka the "Gray Wolf") to Julio the night manager who pulled a disappearing act for hours on end as he conducted business of another kind. In the world of hotels, luggage takes a whacking, employees sample room service, and amenities are carried off like contraband. For the most part hotel employees are often poorly paid, treated badly, and angry.
The reader also learns that hotels can be very different. In New Orleans things were far more relaxed than in New York where check-in becomes a five second process of shuffling in the cattle/guests and being optimally productive while not even being provided a stool.
Tomsky offers tips on getting the most out of your hotel in regard to perks. Pretty obvious stuff actually but it's always good to be informed and even better when you are not.
I received this book at 8 a.m. and took to it like Grant took Richmond and shot through it in 3 hours. It was honest to an extreme point of bluntness, interesting, darn funny, and well written.
This is a fact and anecdote driven book that is perfect for a do nothing day.
on December 27, 2012
*Sigh* -- here we go again with another supposed tell-all insider account of the grubby goings-on behind the scenes of some service sector. After the last of these I read -- was it called WAITER RANT, or something? -- I felt like I never wanted to eat in a restaurant again. I'm sure if I had read Tomsky's book all the way through, I'd feel like I never wanted to stay in a hotel again, either. (That's right, I didn't read the whole book, and wouldn't if you held a gun to my head.)
It appears that the author is filled with self-loathing for working in the service industry (so beneath his brilliance, you know) and then turns that outwards in the form of contempt for all the customers and managers he has to deal with. Break any of his unwritten rules (for instance, he really, REALLY resents people who 'snap' their credit card down on the counter -- or who have the temerity to address him by the name printed on his nametag) and you'll be the victim of his petty vengeance. And he would like us to believe that pretty much every other person working in every hotel in America is just like him, only not as smart.
A one-star rating might seem extreme, but I just don't see any redeeming features in HEADS IN BEDS. Just maybe, it might serve to alert some hotel owners and managers to some of the scams and abuses to which disgruntled employees are prone, but I doubt it's novel or significant even in that regard. There's a practically infinite number of more worthwhile books out there to spend your time and money on. Give this one a miss.
on January 3, 2013
Leeching from the popularity of better written "insider" memoir pieces the author relates many exaggerated tales about his alleged experiences as hotel staff in New Orleans and Manhattan establishments. The quality of the writing is on par with filler articles in online magazines or posts in gripe forums for customer service workers. The stories are pretty much what you might imagine, and the "insider" tips are just underwhelming.
What turned me off the most is that much of this book comes across as pandering diatribe against stereotypes of bad customers. It feels like the poorly written diary of a teenager who is just realizing that work is hard, and people can be unpleasant. While it reminded me of some foolish and irresponsible things that I did when I worked in jobs I didn't appreciate, the arrogant tone that pops up throughout the text just makes Jacob Tomsky out to be childish and unlikable. The conflicting ethics he advocates make him out to be still irresponsible and unwise.
I wouldn't pay to read this. This guy has nothing important or interesting to say.
on January 10, 2014
I'm surprised Tomsky survived in hospitality as long as he did, because his take on the hotel industry is not what the hotel industry is all about. Tomsky seems to have a bone to pick with his former places of employment and many of his coworkers. How a guy like him can go as far as he has in hospitality is beyond me. Hospitality is a fleeting thing in Mr. Tomsky's hotel career. I've worked in hotels for 15 years and never have I been as vindictive in my thoughts towards guests as Tomsky has been. He also recounts his stories as if they are definitive. For instance, he states that all front desk agents on the day shift start out on the overnights and work their ways to the day shift. Perhaps in specific hotels with low turnover in New York City that are hard to get in to, but certainly that is not the case for 99% of hotels in the rest of the world.
Tomsky spends at least 1/3 of the book making hotel employees look like greedy panhandlers and hucksters, which is not the case at all. I've worked for Hyatt, Sheraton, Intercontinental, Kimpton and independently run hotels, and never have I had an experience like Tomsky's, nor have I worked with people like Tomsky. Well, maybe I have, but most of those types quit after a few weeks or were hastily canned (and deservedly so). I have a feeling he was fired from a few of his hotels and now has a bone to pick.
If you want to tip a front desk employee, go for it, because it's a tough job. But really kindness is far more valuable since hotel employees spend a good portion of their day being yelled at and belittled by people. Tomsky doesn't care if you're nice, he only wants your money, as you can tell, seeing as he wrote a book just to make a few bucks and make the hospitality industry look like it's full of misanthropes. Money comes and goes. Reciprocated kindness is priceless.
He also seems to fetishize the bell staff, as if they are the only staff members that matter. It's very weird how much time he spends writing about the bell staff.
Please be assured, hotel employees are NOT at all like Jacob Tomsky. He knows nothing about hospitality and frankly, is quite narcissistic (he just HAD to write about living la boheme in Paris, sheesh). He also name drops quite a lot, including his experience with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys.
The most offensive thing about Tomsky is that he makes it out as if hotels do not value their guests, only their money. That is an outright lie. You don't speak for the hospitality industry, Jacob. You only speak for yourself.
Jacob, I'm dissatisfied with my guest experience. I'd like to speak to your manager.