Tomsky, Jacob. Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality.

NY: Doubleday, 2012.

Sometime in the ‘90s, the author found that his recent university degree in philosophy hadn’t really been his best decision when it came to earning a living, and he was parking cars at Copeland’s in downtown New Orleans. Valeting didn’t have much of a future, either, so he managed to get himself hired for the opening of a brand new luxury hotel on Chartres Street.

(He disguises all personal and hotel names so I have no idea which one it is, though I live in south Louisiana.) After a few months, he was promoted to the front desk — his first step up to what became lifetime bondage to the hospitality industry. After a another promotion to Housekeeping, and the physical and mental exhaustion that ensued, he took a year off in Europe, then found himself in New York — a very, very different milieu from NOLA, and even from behind the agent’s check-in desk. Along the way, he describes all the ways in which hotel staff at all levels attempt to hustle and generally screw over (a) the hotel company, (b) the guests, and (c) each other. The hotel, in turn, tends to do the same thing to its employees, especially when it’s run by a private equity outfit for whom the Bottom Line governs every living breath. And the guests have their own ways of getting even in ripping off the hotel, by scamming the minibar, not paying for movies, and outright stealing.

While there’s a certain amount of humor here of the heavily cynical variety, the ultimate effect is of weariness at the low regard in which everyone involved holds everyone else. And New York — which the author came to love and where he apparently still is slaving away — comes across as the last place you would ever want to try to earn a living by serving the public. Moreover, I have a daughter who has been in one sector of the the HRM business or another for twenty years and her varied experiences have almost nothing in common with the author’s. I happened, quite by chance, to read this slightly unsettling memoir while on a three-week road trip, staying at a different hotel every couple of days. It caused me to regard the staff at each establishment, especially the front desk, with a suspicion I had never felt in the past.

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Published in: on 24 October 2014 at 5:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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