After the party, it’s the hotel lobby…. and that’s where things get real. Jacob Tomsky’s hilariously irreverent memoir “Heads in Beds” chronicles the all-work, no-sleep, but never dull lifestyle of the young hotelier and the innermost workings of high-end hotels. “I hope to train people,” Tomsky says. “Either they’ll realize our struggle and be kinder or they’ll be terrified of us, and they’ll be kinder.” He shares five-star advice for your next check-in.
If “service is about minimizing negatives and creating the illusion of perfection,” what are some ways hotels cater to a vacationer’s fantasies?
In a hotel, you essentially have servants — people who get you things, clean things for you. Invisibility is also an element. You go out to get lunch and magically when you come back everything’s perfect; there’s a feeling of luxury that comes from not seeing who’s working for you. And extra amenities — lint rollers, deodorants, slippers — there are so many things hotels have to make you feel at home, but those aren’t things you actually have at home.
Tip, pg. 73: Don’t get too comfortable. “Messiness looks like trash to housekeepers.”
How might you persuade a guest to take advantage of the hotel experience?
Make a connection with the front-desk agent or doorman and anytime you enter the lobby, they’ll call you by name and ask if you need anything. Take bell service so you don’t have to deal with your luggage. Indulge in movies and the minibar. [Disputing these charges] is pretty much a victimless crime; hotels pay a set rate for cable. And there are ways to avoid mark-ups. If you want room service, but it’s like $49 for a burger, call the front desk or get online: Many restaurants deliver to hotels. Call room service and say, “I’m going to eat in my room, can you send up plates and silverware?” You’ll get your opulent setup — they might charge you a small fee — and then eat take-out.
Tip, pg. 32: Watch plenty of porn. “The systems have changed, and [hotel staff] can no longer see the movie titles [or] have access to your specific fetishes.”
What’s the tipping standard for a hotel?
The rock bottom for bellmen and doormen is $2 a bag. I also think going under $5 is a bad idea; give $5 to the doorman and $10 to the bellman. It’s important to have them on your side (obviously, with access to your personal items). If you’re checking in and you have no cash, there is an ATM around. And not having change sounds like a horrible excuse. Some people feel weird about tipping; that’s one thing I’d like to get rid of. I remember I was walking through a hotel lobby and this lady was like, “I want to thank you for what you did for me.” I still have no idea who she was and I’m pretty sure I didn’t help her, but she gave me a dollar, so I said, “Thank you.” That’s when I knew I was a full-on hustler [laughs]. It’s not uncomfortable [to accept tips] for little bits of service. You look bad if you don’t tip, but you don’t look bad if you try to tip.
Tip, pg. 53: Take home the embroidered bathrobe. “Once you’ve dropped money on a houseman, anything his department has to offer is yours for the taking.”
Any advice for solo travelers?
If you have a doorman [at your hotel], that guy’s like the ambassador to the 20-block radius. Introduce yourself. Don’t talk their ear off; the doorman’s not really going to be your friend, especially during a two-night stay if you’ve never been there before. But he will help you find your way around. Ask questions and then tip small amounts for the information.
Tip, pg. 105: You don’t have to be so self-sufficient. “In case you didn’t know: hotels provide pillows. It’s a standard hotel worker pet peeve to see BYOP guests.”
What are some key words guests should use to get on the good side of hotel staff?
Start sentences with “I understand.” Like, “I understand that you are really busy and there are not a lot of rooms available, but if there is something …” Just be aware that there’s a huge difference between demanding and requesting. Using those words means that “I understand that I am not guaranteed what I am about to ask for.”
Tip, pg. 42: Complain thoughtfully. “Before approaching any employee, try to pinpoint exactly what the problem is … and then, if possible, what solution would make you feel satisfied.”
How has “being all things to all people” affected your life outside of hotels?
I’ve learned to be a chameleon. Being able to read people and adapt myself to them for our mutual benefit is a life skill. There’s no reason not to alter your personality just a little bit based on the person you’re dealing with. That’s called being polite.