I've been traveling a lot this year. I distinctly remember proclaiming that I would not travel much this year but would, instead, use it as a "gearing up" kind of running start into bigger projects next year.
So much for that.
On my most recent trip, I picked up Heads in Beds by Jacob Tomsky in an airport convenience store. "A reckless memoir of hotels, hustles, and so-called hospitality," it's a lesson in how to be a better hotel guest and, in turn, get the most out of your hotel experience. All told from a hotel veteran.
So, you are thinking this is going to be about housekeeping having sex in your bed and bellman rifling through your luggage, aren't you? Fine, there's some of that. If you like salacious behind-the-scenes stories, Heads in Beds delivers. But, come on, it's so much more than that.
Heads in Beds should be required reading for MBA's about to embark on a lifetime of travel. Bloggers? This book should come as a "gift with purchase" with your domain name or, at the least, your first conference pass.
Set in New Orleans and New York, follow "Thomas" as he enters the hotel industry as a valet and works his way up to housekeeping management and front desk.
Learn the art of tipping, take to heart reminders of the importance of kindness, and above all, pay mindful heed to choose your battles. Spoiler alert: none of your battles need to take place at hotels.
Think tipping is... difficult? Maybe a little embarrassing? Tomsky takes the mystery out of the entire transaction.
Uncomfortable around bellman? I blushed when I read his account of the problematic and ignorant phrase, "I don't want to bother him." Damn, I've said it. And meant it. Tomsky ushers the point that no one is bothered here and delivers it right to your door.
He, um, hasn't left your doorway, yet, because you should totally tip him. It's his job. Tipping him is worth it, as the book convincingly explains.
I was raised to tip and tip well. My dad carries uncirculated two dollar bills with him everywhere for tipping and I have learned to do the same. I don't let my luggage hit my driveway without double checking that my wallet is full of ones, fives, and a couple of tens just in case service calls for it. And always the crisp two dollar bills.
You can take care of yourself? Sure, but you can't gain access to the world of upgrades and extras that hotel staff can. $5 at the right time can transform into a better restaurant recommendation or a better view or, at the very least, not the room with the running toilet.
Honestly, what surprised me is that $1 and $2 tips seem to genuinely count for something. I can't quite tip $20, yet, so it's good to know that my tip isn't seen as an insult.
But booking on Expedia? Man, I might need to rethink that.
I loved this book and would love for you to read it. Gulf coast locals, you may particularly appreciate it:
Although the hotels and guests are amalgams of his experiences, I am convinced that the New Orleans hotel is The Ritz-Carlton and the outrageous hotel guest, star of 80's teen movies that meant a lot to a lot of people, is John Cusack. I lived in the French Quarter while Runaway Jury was being filmed and we all heard unbelievable stories about his behavior while there.
Not to mention that it was at The Ritz that Paul McCartney sat in one night (his assistant came into my stationery store the next day and relayed stories of his night), another story of the New Orleans hotel in the book.
Oh, and "Mr. H?" Has to be Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman also came into the stationery store on the last day of production and spent hours as his staff checked him out of the hotel while he bought them all wrap presents. The stories in the Quarter around Hoffman were nearly universally generous.
But I could be wrong.
Travelers, pick it up and let me know what you think. It's cynical, sure, and I think some book reviews take Tomsky too seriously. Does he sound bitter? Occasionally, but what shone through more for me was his enduring love for the industry despite the problems. Regardless, grab your grains of salt because the takeaway, unlike the minibar, is priceless.
Rummage Blog is the quick-and-dirty version of Megan Jordan's full-length personal blog, Velveteen Mind.