Published by Doubleday
Publication date: November 20th 2012
Genres: Book Clubs, Debut, Memoir, Non-fiction
Jacob Tomsky graduated from college with a degree in philosophy and no idea what he wanted to do. It is summer in New Orleans and before jumping a career and all that entails he decides to take a job at a new hotel as a valet—to test the working waters. With his personable nature and quick mind, Tomsky rapidly moves from valet to the underworld of housekeeping management while still in New Orleans. It is after he leaves there and spends a year in Europe, feeding his travel fetish that he decides to get a “real” career and heads to New York City to take on the world of publishing. Six months later, broke, with no publishing job in sight, and about to be kicked out of his apartment, he wearily sends out resumes to the only world he knows, hotels. Within a week he’s been hired by an upscale but slightly rundown Manhattan hotel. And everything he already thought he knew disappears in vapor to be replaced by a New York state of mind.
It was at this very point I realized my life of constant relocation had led me to this nexus of relocation, this palace of the temporal where I could now stand still, the world moving around me, and, conversely, feel grounded.
Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality is the hotel version of Kitchen Confidential Updated Edition: Adventures in the Culinary Underbellyby Anthony Bourdain. It goes behind the front desk and beyond the lobby to induct the reader into how a hotel operates and, more importantly, what hotel staff thinks about you. Quick hint: if you’re nice but not chatty, hit the front desk prepared when checking in/out, and use a bellman you’ve got nothing to worry about. If you’ve ever copped an attitude, stiffed an employee, or threatened to “tell management” you might feel a bit queasy while reading. You’ll learn about such things as “walking a guest” (not great but could work out in your favor), how the mini-bar really works (or doesn’t), and the best way to clean mirrors (it’s not Windex), and key bombing. Tomsky even thoughtfully provides appendices that list Things a Guest Should Never Say, Things a Guest Should Never Do, and Things Every Guest Should Know. He does all this with prose that is sharp, funny, and spot-on with his recreations of not only management personalities but union types and New Yorkers of all varieties.
If you’re thinking that this is an exposé and every urban myth you’ve heard about hotels is true, stop. Heads in Beds contains as much information to potentially help you as it does to warn you and by-and-large the message is: treat people the way you want to be treated. Hotel staff is not there as a vocation, it’s a job and while they will do their utmost to keep you coming back to their hotel, acting like you’re a raja or they’re your therapist is a massive mistake. Tomsky is wry, sly and erudite enough to keep you firmly attached to the book until you finish it. Not only is it educational, enjoyable and often profane, if you take it on your next trip and set it on the front desk at your hotel, who knows, you might get an upgrade.