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Heads in Beds

The book hoteliers aren’t going to want guests to read


Jacob Tomsky, a former hotel employee, wrote a funny, revealing look at the soft underbelly of the hotel industry: “Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality.”

The real power center of a hotel is the front desk. If you’re rude to the desk clerk, don’t be surprised if your room with a view overlooks the rooftop air conditioning unit instead of the ocean. Same goes if you’re condescending toward your spouse or yell at your kids while standing at the front desk.

Heads in Beds

The other position you don’t want to cross in a hotel lobby is the bellman, or as author Jacob Tomsky defines them: Employees who want to be tipped for rolling your bag the last 20 feet after you’ve schlepped it 2,500 miles. And you really don’t want to know what happens to your car once you turn the keys over to the valet. Just be sure you tip generously.

Tomsky is a philosophy major who stumbled into the world of hospitality, because, well, he has a degree in philosophy instead of business or computer science. 

His take on the industry is being compared by reviewers to “Kitchen Confidential” by Anthony Bourdain, the 2004 book that provided an unsavory description of what went on in the kitchen and coolers of white tablecloth restaurants.

Like Bourdain before him, Tomsky gives an insider’s view of what goes on inside housekeeping, the valet service and guest bedrooms. He also provides some tricks of the trade, such as how to avoid ever paying mini-bar charges again: Claim you looked in the mini-bar, may have touched something, but you never ate it. The same goes for movies: “I accidentally clicked on it, but I didn’t watch it.”

Booking a room through an Internet site, he contends, will earn you the least desirable room. How do you get an upgrade? By tipping, he says.

Hoteliers may not like the book, but it’s a fun read for anyone who has ever stayed at a hotel. 

Especially fun was learning the hotel lingo, such as:

Perfect sell — Putting a head in every bed.

Walking a guest — Finding a booked guest another room at a neighboring hotel because you overbooked. According to the author, 10 percent of guests are no-shows, so hotels overbook in order to achieve the perfect sell. 

VC — vacant clean (room).

VD — vacant dirty. (Somehow that one’s easy to remember if you employ word association techniques to it.)

Pre-reged — Alerting the front desk you’re on a red-eye flight and want a room when you arrive. In essence, you need to book the room for the previous night in order to ensure you’ll have a clean bed for your head when you check in.

BYOP — Bring Your Own Pillow people. This is the workers’ pet peeve, because as Tomsky points out dramatically, “Hotels provide pillows!”

They also provide an interesting back story, even if it is one man’s view of an industry that is centuries old. 


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