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Book Review: ‘Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality’ by Jacob Tomsky

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When Jacob Tomsky graduated from college with a useless degree in philosophy and no clear ambition in life, he stumbled into the hospitality industry He started as a valet at a luxury hotel in New Orleans and ended up staying in the hotel business for more than 10 years before he wrote this book, from New Orleans to New York, from valet to housekeeping manager to front desk. His intense love-hate relationship with his job led to this funny and revealing book.

headsinbedsMuch of the book is angry. While Tomsky made good money over the years, especially when he learned how to “hustle,”  he never had time to spend it on anything other than booze except when he broke and took a year off to blow it all. He worked long hours and basically had no life outside of the job (unless you read closely and hear about all the free tickets to Broadway shows and after-parties that he took advantage of. He had to have done that in some free time.) He often felt miserable and that he and his fellow employees were treated with contempt by management and guests.

However, this is not a condemnation of the hotel business as a whole. Tomsky was happy in New Orleans. There the hard work was tempered by the feeling of being part of a big extended family. Even in New York he loved his hotel and enjoyed much of his work until his hotel was sold to a corporation which truly sounds utterly horrible, one that did not care about the workers or the guests and only cared about the money.

There are some amusing stories in here and, for travelers who are interested in getting the best rooms and free upgrades and services at luxury hotels, there is some good useful advice, mostly centered on tipping lavishly and treating hotel employees like fellow human beings, not your servants. Some of the other advice is morally ambiguous at best but reads like small acts of rebellion from a disgruntled insider. (Tomsky started writing this book while on suspension for “anger issues.”)

The book is an entertaining look behind the scenes of the hotel business and worth picking up for that reason. it is not a tell-all about guests, famous or otherwise, and it does not always present a sympathetic picture of the employees. But it is honest and eye-opening and definitely worth picking up.

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About Rhetta Akamatsu

I am an author of non-fiction books and an online journalist. My books include Haunted Marietta, The Irish Slaves, T'ain't Nobody's Business If I Do: Blues Women Past and Present, and Sex Sells: Women in Photography and Film.