The art of checking in

Tips for your next hotel stay from a long-time hotelier.

Image of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality
Author: Jacob Tomsky
Publisher: Doubleday (2012)
Binding: Hardcover, 256 pages

In his new book, "Heads In Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality," long-time hotel employee Jacob Tomsky details the highs and lows of making your stay comfortable...or nightmarish.

"I’ve worked in hotels for more than a decade," writes Tomsky. "I’ve checked you in, checked you out, oriented you to the property, served you a beverage, separated your white panties from the white bed sheets, parked your car, tasted your room service (before and, sadly, after), cleaned your toilet, denied you a late check-out, given you a wake-up call, eaten M&Ms out of your minibar, laughed at your jokes and taken your money. I have been on the front lines, and by that I mean the front desk, of upscale hotels for years and I’ve seen it all firsthand."

Tomsky says the person at the front desk of the hotel holds the key to the success of your stay, and that a $10 or $20 tip can be the difference between a great stay and a disaster. Upgrades, late check-outs, early check-ins, amenities, free room service -- all of these are under the control of the person checking you in.

"The bellmen are tipped, the doormen are tipped, concierge are tipped, maids are tipped, room service is tipped," laments Tomsky. "The front desk is the only position that is non-tipped, so a little gratuity can go a long way."

Tomsky's Tipping Recommendations:

  • Valet: $1-2
  • Bellmen: $2 per bag
  • Frontdesk Agent: $10-20
  • Housekeeping: $5-10 (tip upfront, put it in an envelope with a note of appreciation)

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk covering sustainability news spots and features.
Image of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality
Author: Jacob Tomsky
Publisher: Doubleday (2012)
Binding: Hardcover, 256 pages
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The next time I read a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as much as this one. I mean, I know it was my choice to read, but I actually thought youd have something interesting to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you could fix if you werent too busy looking for attention.

So many of the previous comments are disturbing. They sound overwhelmingly like they come from entitled, uptight, cheap, privileged people who understand nothing about the service industry or tipping. Have none of you ever worked in service? Evidently not, as your naive, resentful comments illustrate.
Firstly, the author is writing about LUXURY hotels, not Motel 8. Service is what makes the experience. Anyone who thinks that it is not customary to tip these workers is deluded and definitely deserves whatever hotel misfortune befalls them.
Secondly, and most importantly, on a human level, it's sad that none of you can relate to working in this environment! No one used to be a barista, a waitress, or a hotel clerk? Seriously? You can't understand anything this author is talking about? Additionally, the discussion about bribing vs. tipping is ludicrous. It's not that serious! Bunch of pansies! Don't act like an asshole and you won't get treated like one, and if you want special treatment, TIP. Simple.
Cheap bastards.

These recommendations make little sense. You don't always deal with the same maid or front desk agent or valet. Do they all know how generous I've been? Really??

Taking M+M's from the min-bar is theft, and the customer has to pay for it on checkout. If that was his only transgression, he would just be a petty criminal. But with his other pranks and actions, he is a mean-spirited, unethical, petty criminal. This guy seriously needs to examine his personal values. He is certainly in the wrong business, as he seems to be anti-service and resents the customer.

Since I didn't bribe the cleaning maids before I spent the night, I guess that is why I didn't get my room cleaned at 2 out of 3 hotels this past year. Note to hotel owners; the two hotels that didn't clean my room, I don't ever plan on going back. As for the one that did clean my room, I am already a repeat customer. The one maid did get a tip and the front desk was informed that cleaning rooms must now be a rare thing in the hotel business.

Uggh. So many of you are fools. Particularly fabaile and deckhand.
This story was not about morality but about economics--indeed like almost every story on marketplace. Call these payments tips, bribes, prostitution, whatever. But his economic logic is quite sound. All of your comments come from some Utopian la-la-land. "Bribe" those to whom you wish to receive good treatment.

Thumb your nose at him all you like. I'll take the room with with a view. You can have the one next to the newborn.

I do not usually reply to stories I hear on Marketplace but this time I could not hold back.

A few definitions...at least the way I was taught.
A "tip" is a gratuity for exceptional services rendered. It is at the discretion of the customer and is considered a thank you. A "bribe" is money paid in anticipation of service rendered. It is coersion. Also, I know I would get fired from my job if I were to accept a bribe.

So here are my thoughts as I heard this story....

#1 This guy is advocating that I pay what amounts to a "bribe" to the front desk for checking me in. How come? Isn't that their job? Most of the work is really already done since I am enrolled in their frequent stayer program. So I am greasing their palm for what? Handing me the key? What country is this story from anyway?

#2 Do I need to worry that I will be treated lesser or differently at a hotel if I do not speak correctly to the check in person? or if I am not appropriately perceived as a "homophile"? What happened to being professional in our business dealings?

#3 Why did Marketplace give this guy air time? I usually hold Marketplace reporting up as an example of how to report on money and business in a balanced and interesting way. I think you missed the boat on this one. And, as for the book that is promoted in this piece, I went and read some of the reviews. I wouldn't spend my hard earned "tip" money there if I were you.

Oh ho ho! What fun to potentially separate guests from their inhalers, heart medication, or epi pens, just because you don't like them!

Reminds me of the grand old time I used to have in the ER leaving surgical tools inside patients who forgot to tip me on their way from the ambulance to the operating room.

Ah, high jinks!

Like another person here, I too immediately thought "bribery," which we once ended up doing about 30 years ago at a luxury hotel in Kashmir. Despite the appearance that the hotel was almost empty, the front desk clerk said there were no rooms. We sat in the garden to collect our thoughts, naively, until the manager came out and asked what we wanted. Desk clerk then got a dressing down. I thought tips were for service after the event, not before (except in Russia, where it's the only way to get anything done.) The US is not quite third world yet.


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