Heads in Beds
A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality
By Jacob Tomsky
(Anchor, Paperback, 9780307948342, 320pp.)
Publication Date: July 30, 2013
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In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential and Waiter Rant, a rollicking, eye-opening, fantastically indiscreet memoir of a life spent (and misspent) in the hotel industry.
Jacob Tomsky never intended to go into the hotel business. As a new college graduate, armed only with a philosophy degree and a singular lack of career direction, he became a valet parker for a large luxury hotel in New Orleans. Yet, rising fast through the ranks, he ended up working in “hospitality” for more than a decade, doing everything from supervising the housekeeping department to manning the front desk at an upscale Manhattan hotel. He’s checked you in, checked you out, separated your white panties from the white bed sheets, parked your car, tasted your room-service meals, cleaned your toilet, denied you a late checkout, given you a wake-up call, eaten M&Ms out of your minibar, laughed at your jokes, and taken your money. In Heads in Beds he pulls back the curtain to expose the crazy and compelling reality of a multi-billion-dollar industry we think we know.
Heads in Beds is a funny, authentic, and irreverent chronicle of the highs and lows of hotel life, told by a keenly observant insider who’s seen it all. Prepare to be amused, shocked, and amazed as he spills the unwritten code of the bellhops, the antics that go on in the valet parking garage, the housekeeping department’s dirty little secrets—not to mention the shameless activities of the guests, who are rarely on their best behavior. Prepare to be moved, too, by his candor about what it’s like to toil in a highly demanding service industry at the luxury level, where people expect to get what they pay for (and often a whole lot more). Employees are poorly paid and frequently abused by coworkers and guests alike, and maintaining a semblance of sanity is a daily challenge.
Along his journey Tomsky also reveals the secrets of the industry, offering easy ways to get what you need from your hotel without any hassle. This book (and a timely proffered twenty-dollar bill) will help you score late checkouts and upgrades, get free stuff galore, and make that pay-per-view charge magically disappear. Thanks to him you’ll know how to get the very best service from any business that makes its money from putting heads in beds. Or, at the very least, you will keep the bellmen from taking your luggage into the camera-free back office and bashing it against the wall repeatedly.
Jacob Tomsky is a dedicated veteran of the hospitality business. Well-spoken, uncannily quick on his feet, and no more honest than he needs to be, he also is the founder and president of Short Story Thursdays, a weekly, email based short story club. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, O Magazine, The Daily Beast, and other venues. Born in Oakland, California, to a military family, Tomsky now lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Praise for Heads in Beds:
"Heads in Beds is Mr. Tomsky’s highly amusing guidebook to the dirty little secrets of the hospitality trade. But it is neither a meanspirited book nor a one-sided one.... [H]e winds up sounding like an essentially honest, decent guy. And his observations about character are keen, perhaps because he’s seen it all.... If this were simply a travel book of the news-you-can-use ilk, it would be of only minor interest. But Mr. Tomsky turns out to be an effervescent writer, with enough snark to make his stories sharp-edged but without the self-promoting smugness that sinks so many memoirs.... Heads in Beds embraces the full, novelistic breadth of hotel experience.... [Tomsky] is no longer a hotel employee and now, with good reason, thinks of himself as a writer."
—Janet Maslin, New York Times
"For those of us who'd rather live in good hotels than in our own homes, oh Lordy, is this ever a horrifyingly good time. It's the sort of equivalent of WebMD for hypochondriacs: You know you're learning way more than is good for you, but you just can't stop reading. Tomsky, who may be an even better writer than a hotelier (and he's a damn good hotelier) has worked every job and every shift; he takes us into the bowels (sometimes literally) of the hotel business, with all the pomp and circumstance, the hidden filth, and the fears and aspirations and secrets of guests and staff alike."—Judith Newman, People (4 Stars)
"For the uninitiated, staying at a luxury hotel can be a little intimidating.... [But] front desk raconteur Jacob Tomsky is here to help. His sharp-witted, candid new book, Heads in Beds, demystifies the world of high-end hospitality.... Coarse, smart and wickedly funny, the author delivers hilarious caricatures of the hotel guests and colleagues he has encountered over the years.... Tightly written and laced with delicious insider tips."—John Wilwol, Washington Post
"A wonderfully indiscreet veteran of the hospitality industry, Jacob Tomsky knows his way around a hotel."—PARADE
"Room upgrades. Free movies. Late checkouts. Jacob Tomsky promises readers the keys to the hotel industry kingdom in his tell-all book, Heads in Beds. The one-time philosophy major has spent more than a decade working in the industry and, like room service, he delivers the goods.... Beyond tips, Tomsky has packed his book with outrageous anecdotes about guests...[and] the hotel staff too.... Tomsky has only worked at hotels in New Orleans and New York, so readers may wonder if his tips will work anywhere else. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. But his stories are so good, it almost doesn’t matter."—Jessica Gresko, Associated Press
“Jacob Tomsky is a star. The kid writes like a dream. Heads in Beds is hilarious, literate, canny, indignant and kind—revealing an author who manages somehow to be both a total hustler and a complete humanitarian. I love this book. Keep an eye on this writer. I’m telling you, he’s a star.”
—Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
“And I thought I had it bad when I worked in restaurants! Heads in Beds is a hilarious, informative, and naughty peek at what really happens behind the glitz and glamour of the hotel experience. Not content with dispensing advice on how to get a better room or avoiding the vengeful wrath of bellhops, maids, doormen, and front-desk clerks, Tomsky also spins a touching yarn on how he kept his dignity and humanity intact while dealing with insufferable guests, Expedia wannabes, predatory hotel managers, conniving coworkers, and the occasional pervert. After reading this book, you’ll become either a better-educated hotel guest who constantly receives great service—or realize why you always get that noisy room by the elevator shaft. As a survivor of America’s dysfunctional hospitality industry, I highly recommend this book.”
—Steve Dublanica, author of the New York Times bestseller Waiter Rant
“In pulling the musty curtains back on the seedy hotel business, Heads in Beds provides first-rate insights for all grades of travelers. But the real revelation here is Jacob Tomsky, whose writing combines presidential suite talent with rack-rate, smoking-room, vending-machine-down-the-hall edge.”
—Chuck Thompson, author of Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer
"Readable and often engaging.... [W]hen the author is passionate about his career and is able to express his passion on the page, it can be a joy to read... hilarious."—Kirkus Reviews
"Comparisons to Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential (2000) are inevitable…. [B]oth Tomsky and Bourdain purport to expose the underbelly of service industries with which most readers are familiar, hotels and restaurants. But where Bourdain is all rock ’n’ roll, egotistical bluster, Tomsky is surprisingly earnest and sympathetic; there are, after all, no television programs called Top Desk Clerk. He wants your respect, not your adulation…. Indeed, it would be easy to pen a book about crazy hotel guests. But this memoir succeeds, instead, in humanizing the people who park our cars, clean our hotel rooms, and carry our luggage. You will never not tip housekeeping or your bellhop again. Tomsky fell into hotel work and proved to be rather good at it; the same can be said for his writing."—Booklist
"Those who want a hotel up-grade, who must make a same-day room cancellation without getting charged, or wonder why hotel water sometimes tastes like lemon Pledge need look no further than Tomsky's memoir, a collection of stories, memories, and secrets about the hospitality business. Bouncing around various hotel jobs...for more than 10 years, he's got the skinny that would make most travel sites blush.... But this is more than a collection of trade secrets; it's a colorful tale filled with vibrant characters from crazy bellmen to even crazier guests. Tomsky is a solid storyteller who is able to intricately detail all the insanity surrounding him."—Publishers Weekly
"With incredibly witty, from-the-gut prose, Mr. Tomsky provides an inside scoop on the good, the bad, and the incredibly ugly happenings that go on behind closed hotel doors—as well as front desk antics that happen right before your untrained, naïve eyes.... A very fun, entertaining read. It is incredibly relatable, not only for a consumer, but also for anyone who has worked in a public-oriented service industry. Despite his brash language, or perhaps in spite of it, the author comes across as sincere and personable with the patience of a saint—or at least he’s really good at faking it. Though it seems he was very good at this job, it’s about time for Jacob Tomsky to move on to bigger and better things. If this book is any indication, writing will be his next calling."—Renee C. Fountain, New York Journal of Books
"Tomsky shines in...this funny and profane memoir."—Nathan Gelgud, Biographile
"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...[and] shares five-star advice for your next check-in."—Gina Angelotti, Metro
"Heads in Beds is at turns hilarious, sad, too revealing, naughty, frightening and wildly fun. Tomsky proves to be a smart writer. His voice is warm and accessible, but he's also pleasantly snarky and potty-mouthed. He lets the reader see him at his smarmy, smooth-operating best and his filthy, fed-up worst. (And the book includes lots of tips, like how to eat and drink everything in your minibar for free, how to get extra amenities, and all of the things a hotel guest should never say to a front desk agent.)"—Alli Marshall, Mountain Xpress