Sunday, April 12, 2015

In My Ears: "Heads in Beds" by Jacob Tomsky

In My Ears: Heads in Beds:A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky, 2012, download.

Nonfic written by a guy who is dedicated to providing excellent customer service but whose comments are often contradicting and he sometimes comes off as a real dickhead.

Tomsky is a military brat who attended college in New Orleans. He graduates with a degree in philosophy and then bitterly complains that he has a degree in philosophy. He takes a job as a parking valet in a newly opening luxury hotel in New Orleans.  Tomsky never names names, Tomsky is a pseudonym and he calls himself Tommy throughout the book, and I presume the hotel is a Ritz-Carlton since he names a manager Ritz.

The hotel is big on high end service. Staff are thoroughly trained and supported by management, during a pre-opening celebration the staff are cheered by management as they enter a ballroom.  Valet works suck balls. The multi-story parking garage has no elevator and valets have to run up each garage level in Louisiana's summer heat and humidity. Tom gets a job offer to work the front desk. He takes the job.  He does well. A bellman resigns on the spot and Tom is offered to either take the bellman job - bellmen earn a shockingly high income with all the tips - or run a shift as housekeeping manager.

Tom takes the housekeeping job and his stress level accelerates with 10-12 hour days for lower pay than desk staffers. Tom burns out. Tom's bank account built up because he had no time to spend. Tom goes to live in Europe for six months (maybe it was a year) and comes back to the U.S. Tom moves to New York, finds an apartment and tries to get into publishing. No go.  Tom gets depressed, Tom drinks, Tom is close to getting kicked out of his apartment and applies to a hotel. Tom gets hired.

New Hotel is in Manhattan and is poorly managed but still a luxury hotel with expensive rooms. A private equity firm buys the place, renovates to look modern, and doubles the room rates. Tom chafes under the new owners. Tom and other staff are often written up as management try to kick out old staff. Tom gets a two week suspension (or so) and writes this book.

1. What to say. This is a straight foward memoir of life working in a hotel. Tom likes some of the job but gets in a rut and starts to really hate the work. But, moving to another hotel would mean loss of seniority and going back to third shift hours.  Hotel pay is excellent as well, desk staff, bellman, valets, and doormen receive plenty of cash tips.
2. Tom gives lots of advice on how to receive upgraded services at these hotels. Well, that means nothing to me.  Man, I stay in chain places. Hell, I'm cheap enough I will sometimes sleep in the van rather than get a room along the interstate.  Advice from Tomksy on asking for upgrades at the desk and tipping bellmen means nothing to me.
3. Stories of staff misbehavior. Sex, drugs, booze. Staff work together and start sexual relationships. When Tom managed housekeeping he'd walk in on cleaning staff screwing in the rooms. He had one co-worker who'd be lending or booking rooms for prostitutes. One manager was a big booze hound. Two valets in New Orleans starting choking each other outside the hotel entrance.
4. Relationships Tom developed with customers. Those customers grew to be people Tom very much liked and enjoyed visiting with.
5. New York as a big change from everywhere else he lived.
6. Bellmen's skill at getting tips from hotel guests.
7. Bellmen and doormen who'd make so much undeclared income off tips they could buy second homes in the Poconos.
8. The strength and importance of unions. The NY hotel's new owners hire in a major asshole as manager. The guy's goal for personnel management seems is to make people angry and quit work, or do something and get fired. The union contract stayed with the hotel and protected the staff from asshole actions.
9. At an early point in the book Tom says something like, "You may think I'm a real jerk." I said, "Yeah!" out loud.
10. I adjusted to the guy. After working and learning at the New Orleans hotel he knows how to treat guests very, very, very well. He can be an ass - to be fair, that might just be the way he wrote the book - but he lets you know where he's coming from and I stopped thinking he was a complete jackoff.

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