Sunday, November 10, 2013

Apologies to All Except Those Who Key Bombed Me

I recently read a memoir called Heads on Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-called Hospitality by Jacob Tomsky. While this is an engaging tale, complete with crisp dialogue and admirable reflection, ultimately this book changed my perspective on hotel stays.
Hotels are wonderful places; they offer shelter, make your bed, clean up after you, bring you food, provide entertainment, and accommodate your myriad quirks. If I had enough money, I’d live in one. I’ve stayed in thousands of them over the years. As a kid in h sixties and seventies I grew up in a mobile family who enjoyed world travel in some first class hotels, such as The Mandarin in Hong Kong where a console next to the bed controlled the drapes, the TV, the music and the lights. There were phone extensions in the bathroom.
When we lived overseas, my family, along with many Americans in the community hung out at the Hotel Intercontinental. We paid for membership to use the pool, and often dined poolside, where my brothers and I signed the check to our account. We used the conference rooms for school dances and weddings, shopped at the hotel patisserie, pharmacy and gift shops, and made this hotel a western respite from living in a Third World country. This hotel was the ultimate comfort zone.
But the rate for an overnight stay reaches far beyond the list price. I always knew to tip the bellmen, the luggage guys, and the maids. What I did not know is it’s also crucial to tip the front desk clerk.
How could I, a world traveler who had circled the globe twice before her junior year in high school, not know this? There are thousands of front desk clerks out there drawing skull and cross bones next to my name. My apologies to all of you, except those of you who key bombed me. Key bombing, according to Tomsky, is where the front desk person makes you a set of electronic keys but only one of which these works. If you inadvertently slide the dead key in the slot, it will deactivate the working key. Thus, if you are traveling alone, you must shlep your crap all the way back down to check in and get a working key. The clerk will smile broadly and apologize profusely, all the time typing a note about what a cheap jerk you are.
I’m not a fussy guest. I am pleasant to whoever checks me in. I’ve worked in service professions, so I know people are high maintenance. I even worked in a hotel dining room while in college, and drunken solitary males often left me a room key as a tip. Waitresses shared tips with the busboys, who kept the dining room clean. We also tipped out to the bell boys who delivered room service, even though a tip was added to the room bill. So I know about tipping.
If you have woken in the middle of the night to a clock radio blaring at two am, your drapes will not stayed closed, the toilet runs after every flush, your pee stream has more water pressure than the shower, or it looks like someone had sex in that bed an hour before, the front desk knew about it before he or she booked you in that room. You were rude on check-in, you slapped your kids, or you stayed on the phone during your entire transaction, and/or you did not tip the desk person. Think about it; the front desk guy is like the ship’s captain. He or she can decide if your journey will be bumpy or smooth. Handing the clerk a ten or twenty along with your credit card will guarantee an upgrade of some sort, be it a quiet room,
It’s so obvious. Why didn’t it occur to me before I read this book?
From now on, all desk clerks can expect a ten or twenty wrapped around my credit card. More when I become a rich and famous author.

I recommend ALL of you who travel to read this book. You will enjoy it for story as well as information. It will change how you perceive your next hotel stay. And by all emans, tip the desk clerk.