Kent State welcomes bestselling author

Kelsie Britton

Kent State University welcomed New York Times bestselling author Jacob Tomsky as the 2015 guest lecturer in the Schwebel Lecture Series Thursday at Oscar Ritchie Hall.

Tomsky spoke about his decade long career in hospitality and gave his unique perspective on the hotel industry to a crowd of faculty and students studying hotel management.

“You have not chosen a boring career,” Tomsky said. “You are not settling for a 9-5 life. You have not picked the infomercial of jobs.”

Tomsky read excerpts from his humorous bestselling memoir Heads in Beds, and spoke about what he’s learned from interacting with guests through the years.

“Service is not about being upfront and honest,” he read. “Service is about minimizing negatives and creating the illusion of perfection… Lie, smile, finesse, barter, convince, lie again, smile again.”

Tomsky, who was named one of Global Guru’s “World’s Top 30 Hospitality Professionals for 2013”, shared accounts of his run-ins with celebrities, from Mariah Carey to Seth MacFarlane, while working the front desk at a downtown Manhattan hotel.

“Chris Brown actually skate-boarded through the lobby like an annoying twelve year old,” Tomsky said. “I watched Lady Gaga scream at someone over the phone and she was dressed like some kind of clown cop. Morgan Freeman walked into my hotel and it sort of felt like God was in the lobby.”

Tomsky also shared insider secrets of the hotel business — Housekeeping will wash minibar glasses with furniture cleaner when nothing else is available, and how hotels “cook” rooms at 125 degrees to kill bed bugs.

He told students they will eventually develop a tough skin and become extremely skillful at interpersonal interaction.

“You will know how to not take anything personally ever again,” he said.

Tomsky’s best advice for students getting started in the industry is to pay attention to bad experiences with upper management and customer service and to learn from them.

“I think a lot of times people take the bad experiences and write them off,” he said. “I wish I’d paid a little bit more attention and turn those negative experiences into something useful later.

Lee Schwebel, vice president of marketing and corporate communications at Schwebel Baking Company, said Tomsky was selected to be the 18th Schwebel Lecture Series speaker for being “funny, irreverent, and genuinely kind.”

“We’re grateful that Jacob said yes,” Schwebel said. “We were looking around, and we thought, ‘Yes, Jacob is the guy.’”

Polly Zilhaver, sophomore hospitality management major, said she appreciated Tomsky’s knowledge and honesty.

“It was very informative. I’m doing a housekeeping internship next semester so I’m a little nervous because of all the stuff he talks about in his book,” Zilhaver said. “But I’m also excited because he also talked about the good side of it, too.”

And as for Tomsky’s opinion of the Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center?

He loved it.

“It was fantastic. The service was great. It was very modern. With beautiful wallpaper.”

Contact Kelsie Britton at [email protected].