Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Anatomy of the Tip: Heads in Beds

Jacob Tomsky's (relatively) new memoir Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality is a good read. I plowed through the whole thing in less than 24 hours, which is something I don't do with too many books these days.

In part, it's just good writing. Tomsky manages a deft blend of his personal life story with the insider details of  the hotel industry to keep the thing zipping along, and despite more than his own fair share of hijinks and questionable behavior, he still comes off as quite likable.

As a frequent traveler, none of the behind-the-curtain insights particularly shocked me, but it was good to get the perspective from the other side of the check-in desk. And, I picked up a couple of new tips that I will put to good use on my many more upcoming days on the road. (Boston and Philly coming up this week and, no, I did not book on Expedia.)

More than anything, though, Heads in Beds is a detailed exposition of the ins and outs of the hotel tipping system--what to tip, when, why, and how. And the schemes and intrigues the various hotel staff roles use to extract more of the folding green from patrons, and what the ramifications are when they can't.

There's been a big hullaballoo recently about tipping in restaurants, with a snowball starting to form of people declaring it's time for that ancient practice to be retired. I haven't heard much of anything about the tradition of tipping in hotels, but I bet we will soon (and, per Tomsky, it sounds like the wheeled roll-aboard suitcase is already starting to chip away a bit at that institution.)

More than anything, Tomsky's memoir fueled my lurking sense that, considering all the unintended consequences that spin off from the practice, if tipping in restaurants goes the way of the buffalo, then hotel tipping won't be far behind.

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