The dos and don'ts of staying at a hotel


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First aired on The Current (27/12/12)

Jacob Tomsky is a veteran of the hospitality industry, and in his new book, Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality, he reveals the highs and lows of working in the business and offers practical advice to help optimize your hotel stay. In a recent interview on The Current, he shared some of those tips with guest host Laura Lynch.

Tomsky started as a valet at a luxury hotel in New Orleans and worked his way up the ranks, spending 10 years in the business. For a number of years he worked as a front-desk agent, and then was promoted to housekeeping manager. "That's when I got up inside the rooms and that's when I really began to see what happens in hotels."

In his book, Tomsky displays both a passion and a disdain for the industry. "It's an exciting career," he said, citing advantages such as flexibility, good starting pay and benefits, and congenial colleagues. But it also involved "long hours, working every holiday, part of my job was to be screamed at. It's a very difficult job both physically and mentally," Tomsky said. "I loved it, but it also kept me from sleeping."


Tomsky believes there are key dos and don'ts, including when it comes to dealing with valet parkers. "There's a huge turnover in that position, and there's very little responsibility that they have as far as guest interaction so they care very little about your vehicle," he said. "I was witness to people stealing change out of the vehicle, stealing items, presents at Christmastime, scratching cars, wrecking cars, joyriding cars..." His advice? Do a walk-around of your vehicle, so that if there are any damages after you turn it over to the valet, you can bring it to the attention of the hotel.

Tomsky also suggests tipping the front desk agent. It's not standard practice, he acknowledged, but doing so can make a difference, because of the amount of control they have. Even a small gratuity could make sure that you get the best room available at your price point.

As for behaviour that's ill-advised: don't yell at them, and don't talk on your cellphone when they're dealing with you. And although the front-desk agent wears a name-tag, don't address them by name when you first step up to the desk. It's overly familiar, and "it makes me feel subordinate," Tomsky explained.

When it comes to the cleanliness of the rooms, Tomsky explained that although housekeeping staff do work hard, "there a few things that are not cleaned properly or almost impossible to clean properly."

Case in point: the mini-bar glasses. "Those glasses are cleaned in those rooms, and they're cleaned with what the housekeeper has available," he said, adding that it may involve filling the sink with water and using shampoo, or cleaning with furniture polish. "It's important that it's spot-free," Tomsky said. "Furniture polish leaves a nice streak-free, spot-free glass." So it's a good idea to rinse out a mini-bar glass before using it.

Tomsky is now on a book tour, so he's enjoying the opportunity to experience hotels as a guest, rather than an employee. "To stay in the hotel for someone who works in the hotel is a dream," he said.

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