November 18, 2012

"And if you’ve been having trouble accessing your room with your key card, it means you’ve pissed off someone at the desk..."

"... and they’ll re-activate your key card when they see fit. (It’s called 'key-bombing.')"

A new book purports to be to hotels what Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" was to restaurants, but the author doesn't seem to have Bourdain's style and charm or the enthusiasm Bourdain had for his subject. This character sounds like a disgruntled employee, out to hurt the employer he hates, and he's no longer even in the business.

How many times do you want to hear that there's probably semen on the bedspreads? Wasn't that revealed in countless local TV news reports decades ago?

The guy worked for 10 years in a 3-star hotel in NYC. I'm sure that place was quite disgusting... or not. Who cares?

45 comments:

edutcher said...

We never had that problem, although I try not to tick off the maid.

Those poor women work hard.

John said...

Sounds like BS to me.

However, I will be very careful not to leave any faxes laying around.

Faxes? Really?

If I HAD to send or receive a fax I would not know how to do it anymore.

I think my printer will send/receive faxes but I need a landline. Used to have 3, including a dedicated fax line for business. Haven't had any for several years.

This guy sounds seriously out of date.

John Henry

Balfegor said...

NYC hotels in my experience offer mediocre service. I don't stay at the super expensive ones, though, since the mid-to-bottom hotels are already so expensive, and I feel embarrassed passing on such expensive bills to clients. I tip the maids though. Because, contrary to the impression this ex-hotel worker has, they are servants. If they weren't, they wouldn't be entitled to a tip.

Tokyo and Hong Kong offer excellent service. Other than the Grand Hyatt, I have never had good service in a Seoul Hotel -- the "service" in the other Seoul hotels I've stayed at is purely superficial.

bandmeeting said...

Bourdain's book was about 80% fiction and from what I read in the Post this morning this one is going to come in at about the same percentage.

Just one example: He talks about how they have to stand behind the desk, stay away from other employees and look attentive for hours on end. He then states that as soon as you leave your room he is going to rush up there and go through your stuff. Which is it? Stuck behind the desk or roaming the hotel at will?

The lie about the guest with the bag of sex toys? Why didn't they still have the bag? The whole thing sounds made up.

ndspinelli said...

I agree w/ your assessment comparing this guy w/ Bourdain. While Bourdain is curmugeonly, he loves the kitchen and speaks eloquently about how hard working and vital Hispanic workers, mostly illegal, to the industry. He's done a show w/ his former sous chef going to his hometown in Mexico.

Having worked in both kitchens[family biz and others] and hotel biz[2 college summers in Wildwood, NJ as a desk clerk and The Drake as house dick], there are better stories than what this guy relates, assuming these are his best ones. I could not relate more interesting stories than Bourdain, and he has a great writing style.

somefeller said...

The Drake as in the Sir Francis Drake in San Francisco? If so, I bet you have some good stories. Great hotel with a colorful past and present.

EMD said...

I have my key-card not work multiple times, but I can't fathom how I've upset the front desk when I just thank them graciously and go to my room and not bother them again. (Except when the card does not work.)

Tyrone Slothrop said...

I work at a four-star hotel which must remain nameless, but it rhymes with Fitz-Shmarlton. We have a tradition and culture of service so deeply embedded that antics such as those described in the article are absolutely unthinkable. A hint of any such misbehavior would end your career, and it would be your fellow employees who would see to it.

campy said...

The Drake as in the Sir Francis Drake in San Francisco?

More likely The Drake in Chicago.

Rustling Leaves said...

EMD- Perhaps they could be spying on your computer through the hotel network, reading your commenting on blogs. If your political persuasion or opinions do not fit their taste, then your room key mysteriously stops working or worse.

Alex said...

Tyrone - oh come on, we all know that you service employees take a dump in the guest room toilet during the turnover.

Rustling Leaves said...

The only places I have had terrible hotel experiences were in urban beachtowns.

Balfegor said...

Re: Alex:

Actually, I think US workers at one point had a high reputation for service. Gone now, mostly in favour of self-absorbed indifference or worse, an old-world chiseling peasant resentment. But I can easily imagine that the qualities that underpinned that reputation survive in some places.

ndspinelli said...

somfeller, Campy is correct, the one in Chicago. The celebs I met were nice, particularly Bill Cosby. They had elevator women when I worked there in the early 80's. Cosby would always GEREROROUSLY tip them. The housekeepers[some had worked there for 40 years] told me a $100 tip was the norm from him. But beyond that, just a gracious man. He was genuinely interested in knowing people. He wanted to know some of my stories. That's what a good comedian does, learn about people. He loved this story.

There was a tv show back in the early 80's called, Chicago Story. It only lasted a year or two. However, it had some big name stars as guests. Now, the housekeepers in our hotel were drilled not to ever let a person in a room w/o a key. I got a call from a frantic housekeeper saying a man had just walked into a room she was cleaning and he looked like a homeless man. I rushed up there and found this guy who indeed appeared homeless[he didn't smell it though..which made sense a few minutes later]. This guy was frantically looking through his fairly messy room saying.."I need to find my script." I got his attention and told him he simply didn't look like a Drake guest and he didn't have a key. He paused a minute and smiled. He told me he is a disorganized man, lost his key and the script for a show he had a role. He smiled more broadly, realizing my incredulity was warranted. The man asked me if I liked movies. I told him I loved them. He then asked if I had ever seen the Maltese Falcon and I said, of course. He framed his smudged face and smiled and I laughed. It was Elisha Cook the great character actor who played Wilmer Cook in that classic movie. Mr Cook then shook my hand and thanked me for my good work protecting his room. He tipped the housekeeper apologizing for scaring her. A class act and a real gentleman.

Rustling Leaves said...

Isn't there a word for "if you don't give me money, then I will do something to harm you"? Oh right, that is called extortion. Tipping is the proper thing to do, but a lack of tipping does not justify some kind of retailiation (or if they think they deserve more because they percieve you to be rich).

somefeller said...

Ah, different Drakes. Sounds like both are great places.

Alex said...

Service staff justify spitting in customer's food if they don't get tipped or some other perceived "diss". That's the American culture for you. I'd rather just do away with the chain restaurant industry altogether. One thing I can say about the Asian take-out industry, they give great and courteous service.

Methadras said...

Service industries in general are going to see a massive decline as people retreat back into their own boundaries and find other ways to entertain themselves. With this kind of stuff going on, peoples levesl of distrust will only continue to grow.

LarsPorsena said...

Blogger ndspinelli said...

I agree w/ your assessment comparing this guy w/ Bourdain. While Bourdain is curmugeonly, he loves the kitchen and speaks eloquently about how hard working and vital Hispanic workers, mostly illegal, to the industry. He's done a show w/ his former sous chef going to his hometown in Mexico.
________________________________

I remember that one. Bourdain asks the question "Why are the best French chefs Mexicans?"

Rustling Leaves said...

I am not so sure that extortion is such a great thing to brag about. Tips are a courtesy. Not getting one is no reason for retaliation against the customer.

LarsPorsena said...

"..He then asked if I had ever seen the Maltese Falcon and I said, of course. He framed his smudged face and smiled and I laughed. It was Elisha Cook the great character actor who played Wilmer Cook in that classic movie. Mr Cook then shook my hand and thanked me for my good work protecting his room. He tipped the housekeeper apologizing for scaring her. A class act and a real gentleman.."

-------------------------
The stuff that dreams are made of.

Leland said...

What's the point behind "key bombing"?

Key card doesn't work, the annoying customer comes back to the front desk to annoy the employee; and they don't go away until the key card works. The employee can delay, but only as long as another customer is not in queue.

I can see "key bombing" an attractive customer that you want to return to the front desk. Perhaps you can even assist them in showing how to get the card to work in the door.

Freeman Hunt said...

I'm with Leland. Key-bombing makes no sense. They can't "re-activate your key card when they see fit." There you are at the desk, waiting.

Fiction.

Rustling Leaves said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

Perhaps it is best to stay away from businesses that have chip on the shoulder employees.

Best to stay away from whole states then. Maybe entire countries, worlds, galaxies.

Shawn Levasseur said...

From Merlin Mann,

Mann's Assumption:

assuming that everything in a hotel room has at one point been in someone's rectum.

Robert Cook said...

I worked in a hotel across from LaGuardia Airport in New York for 8 years (two decades ago), and we had only just started using keycards before I left there. However, I never knew of anyone at the desk or--to the extent I ever heard--anywhere else in the hotel doing anything to guests in retaliation for their being difficult. There were problems in the hotel, as in any business, some of them as a result of incompetent or uncaring employees, some of them deriving from other causes, but, on the whole, the people I knew and worked with there--as is true most anywhere I've worked--were interested in doing a good job and meeting the needs of our customers, (or "guests").

In short, I find it hard to buy this story.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

You should tip the maid/housekeeping, especially if you plan to stay for more than one night. We always try to keep our hotel room as neat as we would our own home.

Those gals and guys work hard and they don't get paid much. Leave a tip.

ndspinelli said...

DBQ, Absolutely!

Robert Cook said...

Tipping the housekeepers is all well and good, but don't you think they should simply be paid more by their employers so they don't have to rely on tips?

barry bonds said...

I've stayed in numerous hotels and never had any problems. The hotel always takes a backseat to the place I'm visiting, anyway. I'm not visiting a hotel, after all, just sleeping there.

Balfegor said...

Re: Robert Cook:

Tipping the housekeepers is all well and good, but don't you think they should simply be paid more by their employers so they don't have to rely on tips?

Mmm ... nope. Why would I? The maids get tips because they're servants, not because they get paid low wages. They'd get tips even if they were making $80,000/year. The two have literally nothing to do with each other, from a social standpoint.

Andrew X said...

Folks, not only do I have 20 years Front Office experience, I stand behind a (obviously not-busy) Front Desk as I write this....

"Key-bombing". Never heard the term, never saw or heard of anyone doing it in 20 years. Why not? Simple. What the hell is accomplished? The guest just comes back to YOU for a new key, that's now one more minor aggravation when you more often than not are already busy. Hey, maybe SOMEONE, somewhere did it, and came up with a cute name, but I have never seen it happen. Keys do go bad or get re-coded for all sorts of harmless reasons.

Two relevant facts - These keys are signal fragile (ALWAYS make sure your name is on the room, or you WILL get locked out until yourn roomate arrives), and the simple reality is... we very VERY rarely take action against someone who ticks us off... that isn't how it works. We we will do is simply withhold all sorts of ways we can solve your problem or make things better. If you act like an ass, we will simply say "Gosh, I would SO like to help you, but I'm so sorry, there's just nothing we can do. It's all so awful, I know."

If you are genuinely kind of heart and spirit, and act that way, I think you would be amazed at just what virutally any front office agent can do for you in a pinch (and I'm not even mentioning tips, etc here).

So that's the lesson folks. Just be a decent person, and you might be amazed at how much better your trip gets all of a sudden.

20 years, talking here.

Robert Cook said...

I've never thought of hotel housekeepers as "servants," except in the sense that all of us who work for wages are servants to those who pay us. They're not servants to me. One could only say they're "servants" to (or on behalf of) those who pay them...in other words (and to come back to my first point), they're "employees."

So, why shouldn't they be paid well enough by their employers to not have to rely on tips?

However, even granting your view of them, why do servants warrant being tipped, as opposed to those of us who are not (or, more accurately, who do not think of ourselves as) servants? Why isn't it appropriate for all of us to be tipped for our work?

If you think tipping has nothing to do with the income those receiving the tips are otherwise making...you just have no clue.

Balfegor said...

RE: Robert Cook:

However, even granting your view of them, why do servants warrant being tipped, as opposed to those of us who are not (or, more accurately, who do not think of ourselves as) servants? Why isn't it appropriate for all of us to be tipped for our work?

You tip them because of the master-servant relationship. If you have personal servants, you don't just pay them wages -- it's proper to give them extra consideration, whether in money or hand-me-downs, or even just leeway beyond the four-corners of the contract when they encounter personal trouble. It's much attenuated in that most of us don't have personal servants anymore, but tipping is the afterimage of that relationship. One tips drivers, waiters, valets, housemaids, bootblacks, etc. because their jobs are servants' work. Tipping isn't just a form of charity. If you're not working as a servant, you don't get a tip even if your wages are low. If you are working as a servant, you get a tip even if your wages are high.

Robert Cook said...

Hotel housekeepers are not your servants, Balfegor, or mine, and we or any guests of the hotel are not the housemaids' masters. (And I doubt that housemaids and other such service employees who work for private employers are typically tipped by their masters, to use your term.)

The housemaids are employed by the hotel to keep the hotel's product--rooms to let--maintained.

Given that the hotel's profits depend on the work the housemaids are paid to do for them, why should the hotel not pay the housemaids a wage that frees them from dependence on tips...on the largesse of the hotel's guests?

Mike said...

Even the nice hotels I stay at have horrible glassware, usually because the same towel used to clean the bathroom mirror and counter is used to wipe out the glassware. So one of the first things I do upon arrival is the dishes. The worst thing you can do is tip off the hotel that the glasses are smudged or have bacon lip marks. That will only set you up for even worse things to come. Pun intended.

ndspinelli said...

Robert Cook is Mr. Pink[Buscemi] in Reservoir Dogs. Both of them adhere to the bullshit boilerplate philosophy on tipping. They're really just cheap bastards.

Alex said...

Hey I liked Mr. Pink and I agree with his notions on tipping. It's for the birds.

Robert Cook said...

Actually, I believe in tipping. I've worked in restaurants and a hotel, and service personnel rely on tips...because they're paid shit.

My point is: why shouldn't they be paid a decent wage to begin with?

Alex said...

My point is: why shouldn't they be paid a decent wage to begin with?

It's a combination of several things.

One - the restaurant industry successfully lobbied the government to waive the minimum wage for waiters.

Two - America has a built-up cultural expectation that you have to tip 15-20% regardless of QOS.

Robert Cook said...

Alex,

You're missing the point. The answer is: restaurants and hotels pay their service staff shit wages because they can get away with it.

And no one here--stalwart champions of capitalism all--seems aroused by this. "You should tip the housemaids because they work hard and they're paid shit."

And...? (Blinks of incomprehension or indifference.)

What about others in our work society who are paid shit but who can't rely on tips to mitigate their meager pay: migrant workers, day laborers, retail clerks, etc.?

Do we just accept as unavoidable that many must work hard at miserable wages? That's just the way it is? You know, don't you, that we're all facing this as our future. Or, if not us, (if we're at an age where we may--may!--be able to retire in the not too distant future), our succeeding generations do.

All you who decry public assistance programs acknowledge in your comments that public assistance is necessary for many in our society, many who work jobs, who maybe hold more than one job, yet who are paid so poorly they can't make it without public assistance. You would leave such persons to the vicissitudes of individual customer generosity.

Some here who condescend to admit that unions might once upon a time have served a purpose now declare that purpose to have been accomplished and that unions are now no longer necessary, but simply a hindrance.

Yes, they are a hindrance, to the wage-payers who destest having to deal with their workers in a negotiation for acceptable pay and benefits, rather than simply say, "Take it or take a hike!"

ndspinelli said...

Robert Cook, Then, you are one of the people who don't use, "Why aren't they paid a better wage" as an excuse for being a cheapskate. Kudos. I've even heard people say their "principled" cheapskate "philosophy" was going to help people get better wages.

Robert Cook said...

ndspinelli:

You are talking the purest of horseshit, sir.

Do you not know how to read, or do you just prefer to ignore (or to pretend to ignore) what I have posted?

I think you very well know better and just prefer to argue dishonestly.

Robert Cook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.