Once again, the team at ehotelier has read an article in the popular media promoting Jacob Tomsky's book Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality (Doubleday). Back when this book was first published, Larry Mogelonsky, one of our feature contributors lamented the content of this book, saying he had "yearned for a proper introduction to the struggles and strife of the line staffer so we could elucidate even a few opportunities for management to improve." Instead, what he got was "unbridled sensationalism to cover the tracks of what appears to be an envious personality." We published Larry's article, considering it an important rebuttal of a slanderous portrayal of the hospitality industry. At ehotelier, we strongly oppose any publication that serves to trivialise and degrade the professionalism of our industry and as this book continues to provoke the interest of the media, we at ehotelier feel that it is time to hear the opinions of hoteliers on this matter. Do we have a united voice in expecting that a staff member such as this is but an aberration in an industry in which high standards of professionalism are the norm?
A Quick Summary of Offences
Let's take a look at some of the conclusions Jacob Tomsky has come to and suggestions he makes after his stint in the hotel industry:
"You don't have to pay for the minibar." Mr Tomsky explains that all you need to do is deny using anything from the minibar and "Never, ever, will the hotel accuse you of lying". I imagine using this tactic in my local corner shop, wandering around consuming packets of chips and drinks from the fridge, and then telling the shop keeper that I didn't have anything and walking out. What Jacob Tomsky is suggesting here is tantamount to theft. As in any business, when goods and services are used, they must be paid for and taking them without paying for them is stealing. The fact that a hotel staff member does not engage in an interrogation session over the minibar each time a guest checks out is simply evidence that he/she has been trained well enough to appreciate that the guest does not want to be treated as a criminal, and nor should they be – unless they are one.
Organise opportunities to steal from the minibar of other people's rooms. Mr Tomsky's words of wisdom: "Go up to your room unaccompanied. Immediately open the minibar and shove every goddamn item into your suitcase. Then: smoke a cigarette on the bed. After: call down to the desk and complain about the smoke smell in the room. Request to be moved. Go to your new room, close the door and get fat and salty and drunk on your suitcase of snacks. They will never trace that minibar to you." When one realises that Jacob Tomsky is not joking here, one wonders how he can be encouraging such morally objectionable behaviour, given that he himself has worked in the industry.
"Steal an in-room movie." Mr Tomsky says "Even those of you who blushed when I offered up [stealing from the] minibar might find yourselves morally creative enough to steal a movie." If you do find yourself ‘morally creative enough', Mr Tomsky assures you that "Watching a movie and claiming you never watched a movie has no negative effect on the hotel's revenue stream. It just doesn't have a positive one." Following that line of thought, I suppose the same goes for not paying for your meal in the hotel restaurant – really, the hotel has bought the food anyway, so there will be no negative effect on the hotel's revenue stream if you don't pay for your meal – there just won't be a positive one. Go figure.
Bribe hotel staff to get upgrades. Mr Tomsky's advice: "Walk up, smile, give them your credit card, drop $20 on the desk and say, "This is for you. Whatever you can do for me, I'd appreciate it."
Last time we looked, the definition of commercial bribery was the following:
Commercial bribery is the giving or offering to give, directly or indirectly, anything of value to any private agent, employee, or fiduciary, without the knowledge and consent of the principal or employer, with the intent to influence such agent's, employee's, or fiduciary's action in relation to the principal's or employer's affairs.
Even if this practice does occur in hotels, we would like to see the guest try it or the employee accept it in front of the General Manager.
It is regrettable that Mr Tomsky's book and subsequent articles promoting his book have portrayed the hospitality industry as little more than an unregulated circus. Our hospitality industry operates to rigorous standards, and is managed by highly trained professionals, trained internationally by teams who are proud to deliver the ultimate levels of guest satisfaction and pride themselves in quality, attention to detail, and loyalty to the properties they work in. Anyone supporting the thoughts of the author of this book is operating in direct opposition to the success of the industry.
United, We Will Never Be Divided
It is not only the advice that Mr Tomsky gives in his book to steal from and lie to hoteliers that has ruffled our feathers here at ehotelier – it is the way he dehumanises and divides the employees in our industry, treating them as mindless servants.
Reading through Jacob Tomsky's book, no staff member goes unscathed. He refers to a minibar attendant as "a slow-moving gentleman or lady pushing a cart of snacks. They are like mole people." He advises guests to refuse help from the bellman, avoid talking to the manager when one's intention is to lie about one's booking; he provides strategies for hoodwinking the front desk… even the guests are targeted maliciously – "That's just the beginning of the ways I can and will punish guests."
In his article, Larry Mogelonsky asks "Are Mr. Tomsky's experiences at the (name changed) Hotel Bellevue endemic to our industry? Are your front desk team members taking tips to modify guestroom assignments? Is your bellman corps in cahoots with the front desk? What goods are ‘leaking' through the back-of-house? And what is your valet team really doing with guests' vehicles?" If such practices are truly a regular occurrence in our industry, what can be done to stop them?
What kind of a world would we live in if we were to follow Jacob Tomsky's advice? Answer: a friendless world; a rampantly unprofessional world in which litigation is surely the only solution. At ehotelier, we have a bird's eye view of the hospitality industry as one built on friendships and teams working together in a highly professional environment. A friendless, unprofessional world is not the way we would describe the hospitality industry. We would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. You can comment to [email protected] or on our Facebook page.
Anne Edwards combines her love of language, travel, and different cultures as Editor in Chief of ehotelier.staging.wpengine.com. Prior to this position, Anne lectured in Cross Cultural Studies at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School in Australia and currently consults to the Australian Federal Government on subjects such as Leadership and Building Productive Partnerships. Anne has travelled and worked internationally for twelve years, holding various positions in the field of education, most notably as linguistic advisor to the Crown Princess of Thailand for two years where she sampled some of the best hotels in the world. Her love for travel spans the freedom of wandering on a shoe-string budget to the finest standards of service in world-class properties. As Editor in Chief of one of the largest hotel news sites in the world, Anne has a birds-eye view of what is happening in the industry internationally.