A review of “Heads In Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality” by Jacob Tomsky.
Perhaps the best, and only good one-liner of the entire book comes on page 14: “hotels are methadone clinics for the travel addicted.” I could relate instantly when reading this line and had high hopes that this would be a good read right up my alley.
In the introduction, Tomsky says, “To protect the guilty and innocent alike, I have deconstructed all hotels and rebuilt them into personal properties, changed all names and shredded all personalities, creating a book of amalgams that, working together, establish, essentially, a world of truth.” I think the key word to this author’s note is “essentially.” As you read the book, which is excruciatingly slow, you’ll see that Tomsky drops names like Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson (of Beach Boy fame) when it’s convenient and references the Ritz Carlton and other hotels when it suits him. He talks about his first job as a valet at Copeland’s in New Orleans – there’s actually a Copeland’s in New Orleans. Doesn’t seem like he tried very hard to protect anyone if you ask me. In fact, follow the facts, do the math and you can make some really good assumptions about which hotels he’s worked for.
If you believe Tomsky, everyone in the hospitality industry is out to make a buck and will hustle a guest if it means making an extra dollar or two. Not feeling gratuitous? Watch out! Tomsky tells how unhappy hotel employees like to pay these “cheap” guests back. If you’re rude or insulting, these angry agents will make your stay a living hell. How do they do this you ask? According to Tomsky they use your toothbrush to clean the floor, assign you to a room which will ensure your phone rings all night long (don’t ever stay in a room that starts with a 1 followed by the area code of the city you’re in. In New York, Tomsky would assign guests to room 1212 ensuring that when a guest forgets to dial the 9 or 8 or whatever # you need to dial they ring your room 1-212-555-5555.)
Tomsky goes on about the hotel valets for what felt like chapters and mentions them over and over again. I’m just not that interested in the valets! Tomsky tells of squealing tires, crashes, scrapes and dings and of course, how to tip appropriately. There are stories about fights, sex, drugs (lots of drugs), lies and theft. Tomsky shares his personal escapades which include cocaine use, excessive alcohol abuse, anger counseling, love affairs and as the title alludes to, hustles. Lots and lots of hustles.
Tomsky is the king of the hotel hustle, according to himself. If he hasn’t been taught the hustle by a bellman or valet, he’ll invent it himself. While most of his hustles are pulled on guests, many are aimed at the hotels he’s working for. Throughout the book, Tomsky shares these hustles and some so-called “industry secrets” with the reader. Read the book and you yourself can learn how to steal from the mini-bar, watch in-room movies for free, and hoard amenities from the housekeeping carts and more.
Want an upgrade? Free wine? A fee waived? Tomsky says there’s no need to give an explanation, make up a story or beg…just tip the front desk agent. If you believe Tomsky, you should tip the front desk before anyone else…after all, they are the ones who control the computers.
Ever been charged for a mini-bar item you didn’t consume? It was probably Tomsky, or someone like him. He claims he’s eaten M&Ms right out of your mini-bar which is why hotels never argue about removing mini-bar charges from your bill – because they know their employees are thieves.
Tomsky comes off as racist and filled with hate as you read his descriptions of hotel guests and employees who are, unlike him, not white, don’t speak English or are in any way different. He frequently reinforces stereotypes and makes fun of foreign speakers. In Chapter 2 he mocks a couple from Japan writing, “‘Contrack.’ We Sweep Rye Hee On Froor.’” The mocking is unnecessary in retelling the story and says more about the author than the industry. Tomsky uses unnecessary and gratuitous vulgar language throughout the entire book.
If you believe Tomsky’s claims, you’ll never drink out of a glass in your hotel room again (wonder why the glasses never have water stains? According to Tomsky they use furniture polish to clean them), never forget to tip anyone – and I mean ANYONE – or complain again. The fact is, the book should probably be called Hotels: Who to Tip, How to Tip and How Much to Tip.
Perhaps my efforts to purchase the book should have been a forewarning. In one of the largest Barnes & Noble in the US, no one had heard of the book, could find the book or even tell me where to begin looking for it. Their computer said it was in New Arrivals, it wasn’t. The manager said they moved it (and by it, I mean the 1 copy they got) to travel. It wasn’t there. Someone else said it was moved to a special section because all of the holiday books were out – nope. I finally found someone who told me they took it off the sales floor because they only got 1 copy and needed to make room for new books. I ended up downloading the book from iTunes.
Self-described as a veteran of the hotel industry full of industry secrets, Tomsky has only worked for hotels for the past 10 years – according to his own website. Veteran? I don’t think so. Full of industry secrets? I’m sure some of his claims are true. Frankly I think his twitter profile is probably the most accurate self-description …Czar of bullshit. At least that’s how I felt after reading his book.
In my opinion, there’s a reason booksellers didn’t stock up on this one – it’s not a good read.