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Heads In Beds

A memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality

by Jacob Tomsky

Delightfully cynical combination of a memoir and how-to-beat-the-system manual.

"There are simple ways to get what you need from a hotel without any hassle whatsoever. It's all in the details - in what you need done, whom you ask for it, how you ask them, and how much you should tip them for doing it....Come on, now, calm down, you fragile thing ...take my hand ... good ... ok now put some money in it ... very good ... thank you. Now that's a proper hospitality business transaction."

If you need to resolve a problem, keep in mind that the front desk person you are complaining to is not the cause of the problem. Try to remember that a cultured person should make every effort to hide his frustration from those who had nothing to do with its origin. So briefly outline it, offer a solution if you have one, and then ask who you should speak to to have it resolved. And get the desk guy's name: "Thanks for your help. I'll stop by later to make sure everything's been taken care of. Tommy, right?"

GM's have two personas, just like the President. He must be loved by the people, the voters, in this case the staff. But he must be feared by management, his cabinet. It's about kissing babies in public and cracking heads in private.

Housekeepers use furniture polish to give mirrors and glassware a streak-free finish. Quick and efficient but over time it causes a waxy buildup that requires a deep scrub. Oh, and if your glass of water tastes a bit lemony, you know why. Probably more hygenic than a wipe with hopefully untouched hand towel from the last guest. Either way, sorry about that.

If you ask for another pair of slippers or a rollaway bed in your room, it's the houseman who delivers it. Drop a few dollar bills on him, and ask for for a few more pairs of slippers. They make great gifts for people you don't really give a shit about. If the word gets out that every time a houseman knocks on your door he gets a few dollars, they'll deliver the whole contents of the housekeeeping closets. Want an extra pillow to take on the plane, nail files, hand lotions etc? All yours.

You can avoid paying anything for minibar charges. The attendant has to examine the fridge each day and make a note of what is missing. He might not notice the bag of cashew that went on Monday until Wednesday, and then it gets put on your account, even though you only arrived Thursday. Then the records have to be transferred to the hotel accounting system with all keying errors. So just dispute the charges "I never had that". Don't need an elaborate alibi - desk guy doesn't want to know your sad story - he's already taken the charge off your bill and got you moving.

If you really want to rort the system, ask for a no-smoking room. Carry your own luggage up to the room, go to the minibar and clean it out. Stick every single thing in your case. Then lie on the bed and smoke a cigarette. Call the front desk and ask to be moved. I mean, it smells like someone just smoked a cigarette in here! The hotel will send up a bellman with a new set of room keys, and the minibar will never be traced to you. Moving rooms the same day you check in leaves almost no trace. When the attendant finds the empty bar, maybe next day or the day after, he'll restock it without question. (Often enough, guests ask for a minibar to be cleaned out in advance, perhaps if teenagers are to use the room, or bands' sidekicks).

Housekeepers are trying to get through their rooms ASAP, so they give a perfunctionary knock and blast on in. But every so often, they walk in, spray bottle in hand, to face an older gent who didn't feel the need to either shout out a warning OR secure the front of his robe properly. There are now three entities in the room: the housekeeper, the man, and the man's penis. Two of these entities are rather pleased with the current situation....

There is always a better room. If you want to separate yourself from the discount pack, call the hotel a week ahead and ask what sort of room you have booked. But you can get bumped from that if some VIP turns up. So when you turn up at the front desk remember that being polite and requesting a nice room can give you some mileage, but nothing beats laying a twenty on the desk and saying, "Give me something nice."

The doorman expects a five, the bellman expects a ten, but they can't do a thing for you. But drop a twenty on a desk agent, you create an obligation. Even if he can't give you an upgrade, he'll put you in the best room available. If he can't do much, he'll add something else - a late checkout or free movies. He will do whatever it takes to deserve the money, and then a little bit more in the hope that you'll hit him again.

But if you don't tip you might expect some retaliation. If someone really upsets the staff (racist or rude) they might be 'key bombed'. That involves having both your room keys set as 'initials'. As long as you just use one key it will keep working. But as soon as you use the second key, it will deactivate the first. So at some point you will be locked out of your room, and have to trudge back down to the front desk to get new keys. And since the staff have access to your room at all times, they can do some serious damage if they choose to get upset with you.

When you start to think of moving into management ranks, take time to analyse the managers you have now. Pay attention to the way they treat you and the rest of the staff. Particularly watch how their attitudes either cause or eliminate problems. Start thinking about that now, and you'll figure out what sort of manager you want to be.

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