Thursday, February 7, 2013
Behind the painted smiles on the faces of hotel front desk agents lurks something powerful. Insult them, needlessly complain, or threaten the person and he or she has the power, with a few keystrokes, to put you in a small room right next to the ice machine. Following what appears their I’ll-do-whatever-I-can-to-fix-this-for-you-sir attitude, you’ll have no idea you were just downgraded.
This is just one of the many insights and take-aways provided by Jacob Tomsky in his service industry tome, Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality (Doubleday, 2012). Tomsky teaches us to never mess with hotel employees, the same way you should never offend someone handling your food.
Heads In Beds elicits Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential and Steve Dublanica’s Waiter’s Rant as it unflinchingly strips the veneer from the hotel service industry. Like those two revelatory works, this is also a story of conflict within a man who has a love-hate relationship with hotels and the people who fill them.
“I kind of miss the business,” says Tomsky, who now writes full time. “I especially miss the people, I miss having an occupation and the money. Seeing crazy people, too. I miss that stuff.”
He highlights relationships with certain guests he meets as if he was talking about a favorite aunt or uncle or a childhood friend. Ginger Smith (who may have been a high-class escort) let him borrow her diamond-bezeled Rolex after Tomsky lent her (only) his ear. After he emailed a Belle of the Ball cocktail recipe to the Bekkers, they offered him room and board at their South African estate.
Then there were those who challenged hotel staff. Mr. Hockstein (who was nicknamed “Cockstein”) accidentally left his bag of sex toys in his room, came back to find they were missing, and rudely confronted Tomsky about the whereabouts of his “bag of personal items.” Had he taken a nicer tact, Tomsky might’ve acknowledged he knew where the bag was. (Word had gotten around the hotel, via the laundry attendant who found it, Tomsky writes, “at the speed of heroin in the vein.”) Instead he assured Hockstein no one knew anything of the bag, or its contents. In another episode, a disgruntled bellman totally stiffed by a pro athlete after lugging countless bags to his room urinates in the athlete’s cologne bottle.
The glut of Monterey County hotel employees will enjoy Tomsky’s unapologetic and probing views. It may even inspire some to apply. There’s often no degree required, and the starting pay is competitive.
“I’ve worked with many managers who were rocking just a high-school diploma,” Tomsky says. “It’s a very interesting business and you have to be ready to deal with all kinds of people.”
Including guys like him.
HEADS IN BED: A RECKLESS MEMOIR OF HOTELS, HUSTLES, AND SO-CALLED HOSPITALITY (Doubleday, 2012) by Jacob Tomsky is available at local bookstores and www.amazon.com (in print and e-book). Learn more at www.jacobtomsky.com