Dec. 5, 2012 at 9:29 AM ET
Maybe you’re the hotel guest who refuses to stay in any room where the digits don’t add up to nine. Or the one who will flash a bit of flesh for an upgrade. Or the one who brings along his own winged, multi-legged “evidence” to score a free room.
Jacob Tomsky has seen it all.
Not finding much use for his philosophy degree, he spent years working at hotels, where his job as a front desk agent made him feel like a “key monkey” during low moments, and a fixer the rest of the time.
“We can improve your life with a keystroke. We can keep your secrets and flood your room with wine,” Tomsky writes in his new book, “Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality.”
But show an attitude and he can take revenge in many ways, from assigning you a suite where the phone will ring non-stop to giving you keys that suddenly stop working, he warns.
Tomsky, who is now a full-time writer, recently revealed some of his insider tips to NBC News. The following is an edited version of that interview.
Q: When you book a hotel room, knowing what you know, what are the things you would not touch?
A: The mini-bar glasses. House keepers are only provided with cleaners to clean other aspects of the room so they’ll often put some hot water in the sink and then put the mini-bar glasses in there with shampoo. Also, they want them streak-free so they’ll often use some kind of furniture polish just to really get the shine there. I would definitely recommend rinsing out the mini-bar glasses.
The remote is touched by people a lot and it’s also very hard to clean properly. The duvet covers are clean, but the blankets inside or any extra blankets that you find in the closet – those aren’t often cleaned, so I would try to avoid touching those.
Q: You write that reservations made through Internet discount sites, like Expedia, were almost always slated for the worst rooms in your hotel. Can you explain?
A: Those are going to come in with a thousand other Expedia reservations and the hotel is aware that you chose the hotel possibly based (only) on price. But there is a way to get around that: Establish a connection with the front desk. If you call ahead, we can tell you what the reservation is.
The minute you do that, you’ve already lifted yourself out of this pool of discount-seeking masses and that can dramatically improve your stay.
Q: Would you advise leaving tips for housekeeping?
A: I definitely would. It’s one of the most difficult jobs in a hotel, it’s just so physically demanding. They work really hard and the sad part about them is that if they do their job well you never see them.
I recommend tipping up front, because when you tip at the end and you check out, there are a lot of people that go into an empty suite the minute you check out. That creates an opportunity for the money to go to someone else.
Price-wise, it depends on the property -- $5 a day is nice. Definitely make sure it’s in an envelope and marked “Housekeeping” because if you leave a $5 bill on the desk, they’re going to assume it’s yours.
Q: You mention guests can usually get around paying for items in the mini-bar or in-room movies. How?
A: I don’t advocate thievery and stealing, and I don’t do it myself, but it is a fact of the business that those are the most disputed charges on any bill. So if you ransack the mini-bar and claim that you didn’t have any of those items, they will remove it. They’d never want to accuse a guest of lying. Movies cut off all the time and freeze in the middle and people misorder them, so that’s also removed.
Q: Do you feel bad revealing this?
A: This isn’t something that I would do, it’s just a fact. I’ve had a certain backlash but I’m not too worried about it. Never be afraid to dispute the charges. It’s important not to just assume that it’s a perfect bill. Mistakes do happen.
Q: How much of a profile does each guest get? If you’re difficult, is that noted somewhere?
A: If I get screamed at for no reason at check-in, I’m going to put notes in the reservation for other hotel employees that this guest is unreasonable. We will mark up your reservation with the good and the bad.
Q: Have you seen people’s behavior in a hotel get worse over the years?
A: (Frustration with flying) has increased and people bring that to the front desk. There’s a lot of rage that they build up by feeling totally powerless by sitting on the tarmac and now here they are, master of this hotel. The air rage comes directly to the front desk.
Q: You write that it’s common for guests to expose themselves to housekeeping or hold loud lovemaking sessions – is that new?
A: It’s always been like that. Hotel rooms are often very sexy places. Any place you put a bed and a lock, you’re going to have human beings get naked.