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Heads in Beds
Cover of Heads in Beds
Heads in Beds
A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality
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In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential and Waiter Rant, a rollicking, eye-opening, fantastically indiscreet memoir of a life spent (and misspent) in the hotel industry.

In the tradition of Kitchen Confidential and Waiter Rant, a rollicking, eye-opening, fantastically indiscreet memoir of a life spent (and misspent) in the hotel industry.

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Excerpts-
  • Chapter One Chapter One

    I am standing on St. Charles Avenue, uptown New Orleans, a few months out of college and a few weeks into summer. It's already extremely hot in the full sun. Which is where I have to stand: in the sun. Next to the valet box. All day.

    I took a valet-­parking job at Copeland's restaurant to shake off my college-­loan laziness, to climb out of the educational womb and stand on my own two feet as a moneymaking, career-pursuing adult. Educated in the useless and inapplicable field of philosophy, I quickly deduced that my degree looked slightly comical on my already light-on-the-work-experience résumé. Perhaps it was even off-putting. To a certain eye, hell, it probably made me look like a prick. But I had to start somewhere. So I started at the bottom.

    This job is not good enough. Why not? First of all, I'm parking cars. Second, we have to turn in all our tips. I imagined I'd get off the first night with a pocketful of ones to take to the French Quarter, not that you need much money in New Orleans. As it turned out, however, attached to the valet box that houses the car keys, like a wooden tumor, is a separate slot for us to jimmy in our folded tips. All of them. Attached to that box, like a human tumor, is the shift boss, back in the shade at a vacant umbrella table, sipping a noontime drink that most definitely contains alcohol. It also has chipped ice and is sweating in his hand, sweating in a much different way than I am sweating.

    A lunch customer hands me his ticket. I find his keys easily in the box and take off at an impressive run. His car is not easy to find: the valet company has not rented a nearby lot to service the restaurant, and so we, certainly unbeknownst to the clients, just drive around the area and try to parallel park the vehicles as close to Copeland's as possible. Once the vehicle has been parked, it's up to the valet to draw a silly treasure map on the back of the ticket so another valet can locate it. My co-­worker Chip draws every treasure map like this: #*. Every single one. And finding the car is never easy. But I bring it back and slide up to the curb, holding the door open, the car's AC pouring like ice water on my feet, and receive a neatly folded bill from the customer.

    "It's damn hot out here, son. This is for you running like that."

    It's a twenty-­dollar bill. Chip, now back and posted by the valet box, holds a salute against his brow, trying like hell to make out the bill. I walk up to the tip tumor and start to wiggle it in when Chip says, "No. No! What are you doing, Tommy? Don't you keep a dollar handy to swap it out with? Please don't put that twenty in there. Please. It's for you. That dude told you it was for you."

    "Actually, it's for Copeland's Valet Parking Corporation," the human tumor says, setting his drink down wet on the valet box.

    "Are you seriously drinking a mudslide?" Chip asks.

    I use a car key from the box to vanish the bill completely and post up next to Chip. Back in the sun. The shift boss sinks back into the shade.

    "I am way too old for this. Sharing tips? Forty percent to management leaves 60 percent of the tips to us, divided over twenty runners, on a check, with taxes taken out, and guess who's running the math, guess who's counting up the tips? A grown man drinking a goddamn mudslide." He must have been talking to himself previously because now Chip turned to me: "You think he's gonna turn in that twenty? Or just keep it for himself? We never get good tips out here. You know what I heard? There's a new hotel opening up downtown. You heard that? It's supposed to be luxury." He said the word as if it were mystical...

About the Author-
  • Jacob Tomsky is a dedicated veteran of the hospitality business. Well-spoken, uncannily quick on his feet, and no more honest than he needs to be, he has mastered every facet of the business, worked in many departments, and received multiple promotions for his service. Born in Oakland, California, to a military family, Tomsky now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

    www.doubleday.com
    www.jacobtomsky.com

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 10, 2012
    Those who want a hotel up-grade, who must make a same-day room cancellation without getting charged, or wonder why hotel water sometimes tastes like lemon Pledge need look no further than Tomsky’s memoir, a collection of stories, memories, and secrets about the hospitality business. Bouncing around various hotel jobs—bellman, housekeeping manager, front desk attendant—for more than a 10 years, he’s got the skinny that would make most travel sites blush. Follow his advice and you’ll be drinking from the mini-bar and watching in-room movies for free. But this is more than a collection of trade secrets; it’s a colorful tale filled with vibrant characters from crazy bellman to even crazier guests. Tomsky is a solid storyteller who is able to intricately detail all the insanity surrounding him. Agent: Farley Chase.

  • Kirkus

    December 15, 2012
    Kitchen Confidential for hotel-goers. Tomsky is the ultimate hotel lifer. He's performed virtually every task that a hotel worker can perform, including room service, maid service, car service, concierge service, etc. (If nothing else, his debut memoir teaches us that it takes quite a few people to run a hotel.) Despite the many frustrations involved with the tasks of his job--not to mention having to deal with the exasperating clientele--Tomsky found a happy home in the hotel world. To many readers, this may not seem like a glamorous profession. However, when the author is passionate about his career and is able to express his passion on the page, it can be a joy to read about (see Kitchen Confidential). In his debut, Tomsky doesn't quite hit the top level, but he provides an enjoyable chronicle. From the opening bit about his adventures with valeting, it's clear that Tomsky worships at the altar of Anthony Bourdain, arguably his era's finest service memoirist. The comparisons between this book and Bourdain's work are inevitable, and Tomsky's didactic and sometimes overly lengthy explanations slow the book down. For many readers, the behind-the-scenes stories about hotels are intrinsically less interesting than those about restaurants, but the author's anecdotes are at best hilarious and at worst, mildly entertaining. Ultimately, Tomsky's enthusiasm for his profession and keen eye for detail keeps his book from becoming just another backstage look at the service industry. Lacks the spark of Bourdain's work, but readable and often engaging.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    September 15, 2012
    Comparisons to Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential (2000) are inevitable but not entirely accurate. Yes, both Tomsky and Bourdain purport to expose the underbelly of service industries with which most readers are familiar, hotels and restaurants. But where Bourdain is all rock 'n' roll, egotistical bluster, Tomsky is surprisingly earnest and sympathetic; there are, after all, no television programs called Top Desk Clerk. He wants your respect, not your adulation. Sure, he tosses off a few requisite f-bombs, instructs readers on how to steal from hotel minibars, and name-drops Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, more so because he seems to feel the genre demands it. Indeed, it would be easy to pen a book about crazy hotel guests. But this memoir succeeds, instead, in humanizing the people who park our cars, clean our hotel rooms, and carry our luggage. You will never not tip housekeeping or your bellhop again. Tomsky fell into hotel work and proved to be rather good at it; the same can be said for his writing.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2012, American Library Association.)

  • Janet Maslin, New York Times "Heads in Beds is Mr. Tomsky's highly amusing guidebook to the dirty little secrets of the hospitality trade. But it is neither a meanspirited book nor a one-sided one.... [H]e winds up sounding like an essentially honest, decent guy. And his observations about character are keen, perhaps because he's seen it all.... If this were simply a travel book of the news-you-can-use ilk, it would be of only minor interest. But Mr. Tomsky turns out to be an effervescent writer, with enough snark to make his stories sharp-edged but without the self-promoting smugness that sinks so many memoirs.... Heads in Beds embraces the full, novelistic breadth of hotel experience.... [Tomsky] is no longer a hotel employee and now, with good reason, thinks of himself as a writer."
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Heads in Beds
Heads in Beds
A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality
Jacob Tomsky
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