heads-in-beds1[xrr rating=3.5/5]Heads in Beds might be the perfect book for travelers, but read it at least once before the trip even begins. Author Jacob Tomsky (little Tommy Jacobs as he tells it to protect the innocent) has spent over 10 years in the hotel business, processing valet tickets, checking in guests and navigating around unruly bellmen. Heads in Beds, a hilarious memoir of his time in the industry, proves to be equal parts tell-all and compendium of all the advice a hotel guest should need to make the most of that overnight stay.

Tomsky goes into great detail about ways to utilize the system to your advantage, explaining how cold hard cash should prime just about every exchange between guest and hotel employee. These instructions aren’t about exploiting a business unfairly – somebody’s always getting paid, but an extra crisp “brick” in the right hand can mean free bottles of wine waiting in your upgraded suite, a view of central park, a room away from the elevator or a late checkout. His focus on aggressive tipping comes off a bit tasteless at first, yet Tomsky manages to frame these trades of wealth and services as a graceful one, essential to making an often inhospitable working environment into a lucrative venture for the hotel staffer, and prioritize regulars over one-time clients in a way that doesn’t cause the latter to suffer. Then again, Tomsky also explains how to clean out a minibar for free or order up the entire movie library before having them all struck from your bill, but doesn’t even attempt to justify either.

When he’s out from behind the front desk, Tomsky heads up a short story club, and this passion for storytelling is evident throughout Heads in Beds. While Tomsky offers up all manner of advice and revelations regarding the inner workings of hotels in New Orleans and New York City, most of the book focuses on the short anecdotes that flesh out all this dirty laundry and surprising advice. While frequent travelers will study Tomsky’s recommendations and log them for their next stay (“What are we looking for in our agent? Someone who is efficient and not at all nervous, almost bored.”), Heads in Beds is as entertaining as it is instructional. Tomsky recounts his experiences with a sharp wit and natural eye for detail that makes for a brisk read, focusing on memorable characters including “the Gray Wolf,” stack-slinging Jersy mafioso or quirky celebrities like Brian Wilson and his handlers (described reverently in the book as being in a sad and perpetual fog). Those lobby doors barely conceal all manner of transgressions, committed by guests and employees alike, and Tomsky provides an uncomfortable look at many of them.

Tomsky also explains how he ended up as a valet in the first place (“My degree was garbage stuffed inside a trash can of student loans…So someone, some asshole, suggested I earn some money in hospitality.“) and provides a firsthand account of the sad transformation an old-school New York operation undergoes as it loses its soul to a private equity buyout. Favorite customers, coworkers and thinly veiled celebrities all provide fodder for Tomsky’s hilarious observations, often as asides from his advice or the portions of Heads in Beds more focused on Tomsky’s personal route through the ranks of hotel employment. While Heads in Beds should be mandatory reading for anyone who logs regular nights away from home, his candid observations will be meaningful for those who never have to risk drinking from hotel glasses (apparently Lemon Pledge polishes them up nicely) or face the bleaker realities of service-industry employment.

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