07/30/2013 08:43 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2013

Everything I Know About the Hotel Business

Let me try, although it's definitely, without a doubt, no question about it, impossible, but, still, let me try to list in one paragraph all the things that, after years in the hotel business, shocked me about working in the hotel business.

Once you've worked in service it changes you and you will always be a better customer and more tolerant when dealing with other servers in other situations. Everyone you see working at a hotel, their feet hurt. Most hotels forbid facial hair, with the exception, absurdly, of mustaches. (Why would they want hotel workers with mustaches?) After years of slinging heavy luggage, bellmen and doormen often suffer knee and shoulder problems. The remote control in the room is hard to clean and, hence, disgusting. Front desk agents are often not allowed to sit or have access to stools, therefore, after a long 14-hour shift, their feet pulse and ache like they were balancing on two raw, bruised hearts. Bellmen will do anything for a tip. Cleaning a hotel room is exhausting and cleaning 15 of them, every day, five days a week, makes housekeeping one of the hardest jobs in the world. If a hotel has a 1-800 number for reservations it's 1,800 percent likely you'll be connected to a reservation headquarters manned by agents who have never set foot inside the property you're booking, yet they're expected to answer detailed questions about specific rooms and features; information you will take to heart. If you see a hotel employee, that means we are absolutely not on vacation, but, if we see you, there is a good chance you are absolutely on vacation. Housekeepers, in a pinch, will clean the minibar glasses with furniture polish if nothing else is available. We pretty much know everything going on in every room. Usually, when someone says the phrase, "my pleasure," it's probably not. If a guest has mistreated me and violently screamed at me for something that wasn't my fault, I have called the hotel and asked for their room number, from a pay phone, at 2 a.m., and screamed and mistreated them back, out of nowhere, anonymously.

Let me take a breath here. That last one was a hell of a learning experience for me, that I would actually do that, in my life, for real.


Bellmen can spot a bill, and its denomination, from way across the lobby like tigers can identify prey across the plains of the Serengeti. So can I. All of our feet always hurt. One thing we do during downtime is watch the revolving door spin in and spin out strangers all day. People want to be treated exactly how they want to be treated, but they won't be upfront and tell you how they want to be treated, so you have to figure that out, at your own risk, of course.

Humor and enjoying the company of my coworkers -- that's what gets me through the day and nothing else. Humor. Cashing a check for a guest is always a pain in the ass. If you hear music in the lobby, try to grasp the fact that the songs you hear are on infinite loop so, after four years of working in that lobby, those songs will drive front desk agents bonkers. For example, if I randomly hear one of those songs off-property, let's say at a restaurant, it will ruin my meal. Sometimes when I tell a guest I'm going to the back office to check on something for them, checking on a request that I know is impossible, I am really just taking a moment to sit in a chair and breathe deeply and center myself before raising myself up from the comfortable seat to go tell the guest the inevitable bad news, that I already knew for a fact I was going to have to tell him/her but he/she wanted me to play the little game of "going in the back to check," which allowed me a moment's rest, which I'm going to need because, when I relay the bad news, the guest is going to start screaming at me and ask for the manager, who will then give him/her the same bad news, but he/she won't scream at the manager for some reason. We get screamed at a bunch and our feet are usually hurting a bunch. The staff, more often than you would believe, has sex with each other in the vacant rooms.

Maybe another breath after that one.



Tipping the front desk agent can get you upgraded faster than any other method. The concierges often get kickbacks from restaurants and from booking certain activities and city tours, so, in effect, the direction they steer your vacation in may not have much to do with the direction you want your vacation to go in, at all. Bellmen hate wearing those gloves because they are hot and uncomfortable and slightly demeaning, but they are forced to wear them. On a related note, wearing a nametag is also pretty demeaning. On an extremely related note, I've worn a nametag my whole life.

You know, people's lives completely fall apart in hotel rooms and then they come down to the lobby, experiencing the first real moments of deep devastation and they cry and wander around, lost, crying and we watch them from behind the front desk and have no idea what is happening and there is nothing we can do.

Well... I can't do it. It's impossible to explain all that happens or can be learned from working in a hotel. Because everything that can happen in the world happens in hotels, so there is always more to experience.

And that right there is why I love the goddamn hotel business.