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Heads in Beds'

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Quality service . . . at a price

At one time or another, the service industry has claimed everyone, and may again. It is a giant industry that operates in the open and in the dark like black ops. If assistance is needed, somebody is waiting to help, either with reluctance or insane enthusiasm. And the bane of any service worker's existence is that one guy demanding the impossible, and then turning their frustration onto them. Jacob Tomsky has seen it all, and in 'Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality' (Vintage, $15) he tells all.

A veteran of the hotel hustle, he spent over a decade working in hotels down in New Orleans to New York City. From valet to front desk to housekeeping manager, he's seen hotels through various transitions: grand openings, renovations, changes in management and staff and unionization. Some changes were for the better, others for the worse. But he's always been there behind the desk, smiling as you come in ready to burn your key, to please you or frustrate you to the end of your wits, because, as he put it, he 'comes with the land.'

Much of what makes 'Heads in Beds' a great read is the voyeuristic spirit. Hotels are the way stations for travelers, transients and miscreants of all kinds. For some people a hotel is a mere addition to their home, and they treat it as such. Tomsky does not shy away from this point - in fact, he takes it to the bank. Blurring the faces of the less than fortunate, he shares stories that will delight, horrify and make you laugh out loud. And without a doubt, some encounters reinforce the adage that the truth is stranger than fiction. It reads like a diary that you cannot stop reading. 

But it is much more than just an expose on the weird and embarrassing habits of hotel guests. He does not skimp on the different ways to work the system. Let's face it, as Tomsky might say, quality service comes at a price. Anyone who has worked in the service industry knows there are good and bad customers, and how to tell the difference. Here his veteran knowledge comes in handy. Throughout he provides a list of dos-and-don'ts as a guest (yes, a guest) at a hotel. Yelling at desk clerks about mistakes Expedia made in booking your room. Demanding upgrades for no reason other than your own righteous self-entitlement. Or any of the other conceivable ways in which you can just plain be rude and obnoxious. Anyone daring to violate the golden rule just may discover the ticking time bomb that is room 1212. The right tip to the right person will gain you the keys to the castle and much more. So take notes.

Tomsky writes with an unabashed style. Clear and concise and full of attitude, he harnesses all the speed, slickness and fast-talkin' style of the New York hustle he grew into. He humanizes the people who work ceaselessly to keep the hotel industry afloat. Too often it's easy to forget about them, whether it is a hotel, or a restaurant or a retail store. They are people with families and bills, and they find a new voice with Jacob Tomsky.

'Heads in Beds' is a must-read for the frequent traveler. You are guaranteed to learn a trick or two for that next big vacation or business trip. It's also a great read for anyone who has greased cogs of the machine that is the service industry. It will prove to be cathartic and infinitely relatable. 'Heads in Beds' is currently available in hardcover. A trade paperback edition will be released July 30. 

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