Just finished reading a rather ‘juicy’ book called Heads in Beds, and it brought back so many fun memories of my days working the front desk of a major Orlando hotel. At the time I was there (many moons ago, ahem. . .) it was officially listed as the largest hotel in the South East, but of course that was then and newer/bigger/more spectacular ones keep being built all the time so that anymore I’m not even sure they bother trying to keep track of that sort of thing. Regardless, I wanted to share a few thoughts from this smart and sometimes revealing read along with a memorable story of my own time of hotel service.
First of all you should know that this book is one man’s experience with working in hotels, and to be honest, he encountered more of the hotel hustles and nasty side than I ever did, and in this book he was certainly willing to reveal all those salacious details. (That is, after all, what sells in the mainstream book market, right?) In fact, the quote from a People Magazine review of Heads in Beds is on the cover and pretty much says it all, “A horrifyingly good time. You know you’re learning way more than is good for you, but you just can’t stop reading.” With that fair warning, you should only read this book if you’re interested in scandalous back-of-the-house details about hotels (SOME, not all!), and the tall tales that are spun from this subject matter. His colorful stories about reckless valet drivers, hard-hustling bellmen, devious front desk procedures and questionable management practices are definitely representing the worst side of the hotel industry. Some who read this book might be shocked; others might shrug and share their own versions of ‘things I’ve experienced from my life as a road warrior” because certainly any of us who travel a lot have and will see questionable things on those journeys.
For instance, I could tell you about the time I had positioned myself safely behind the marble countered front desk as I had to explain (again) to an unhappy guest that there was no room reserved in his name, nor did we have any openings that night (I wisely refrained from adding ‘week and year’ as well. . .) This is a standard spiel when you work the front desk of a busy resort hotel and something that is rarely met with anything good in the outcome, so you know where this story is going, right? You can pretty much be assured that whoever is on the receiving end is not going to be happy. At all. But on this occasion, not only was my guest unhappy about the situation he was blaming me for personally ruining his life. Yes, his entire life. After patiently listening to his ‘colorful’ rampage for much longer than I thought was necessary (I’m patient, if not forgiving), I was taken by surprise when he quite abruptly picked up his suitcase and – wait for it, you know it’s coming – proceeded to send it shooting over the front desk with my head as the target! Now, I’m not normally such a fast mover, but that day I must have eaten my Wheaties because all I heard was the whoosh! as that 40+ pound projectile whizzed by my ears.
“Okay then, anything else I can do for you today, sir?”
Yeah, good times at the front desk that day! But honestly, that was the worst situation I ever encountered in that job (thank heaven, right?) and certainly not the norm. On most days, it was business as usual in the hotel and my guests were not inclined to use their suitcases as weapons of mass destruction. That’s not to say that we didn’t have our share of oddballs, prima donnas, and questionable guests at check in, but heck, this was a hotel placed at the center of the ‘happiest place on earth’ so most people were leaving Mr. Grumpy behind (perhaps back in NYC where he’s tolerated?) and came to us with reasonable levels of happy expectations.
On the other hand, Jacob Tomsky, author of Heads in Beds, saw life differently from his perspective at a NYC front desk. So differently, he decided to write a tell-all and share what he thinks is SOP in the world of hotels. I beg to differ, but still I enjoyed this book for the glimpse inside his version. SPOILER WARNING: for some reason he thinks the liberal use of foul language adds to his storyline when, in fact, I felt it brought the believability factor down a notch. But if you can get around all those ‘f-bombs’ that were flying mighty high on numerous pages, you might enjoy this trip into a wacky and somewhat skewed version of hotel hospitality.
friends. . . .no really!