The Hook Weighs In…

A recent 20/20 report ( “True Confessions: Hotel Horrors.” I love their flair for understatement)  extolled the virtues of outwitting the hotel service industry by employing a series of “tips” provided by a ten-year veteran of the industry. 

Some of these reflect my own philosophy; namely, that tipping hotel staff will ensure they go that extra mile for you. Although, truth be told, a positive attitude can yield the same results – but you didn’t hear that from me!

Getting back on point, there is a fine line between being a shrewd traveler and a devious one, and some of these tips? Well, they erase that line completely…

  • MINI-BAR CHARGES: All you have to do is tell the front desk you ‘never touched the minibar’ and they will wipe away the charges.
  • IN-ROOM MOVIES: Watch The Dark Knight Rises, call down to the front desk and tell them the movie just froze in the middle or it turned off suddenly, and they’ll delete the charge from your bill.
  • HOTEL ROBES: Call up and tell them your room is missing a robe. Then shove the extra robe right in your suitcase.
  • SCORING A”FREE” ROOM UPGRADE: Wrap a twenty-dollar bill – or even a fifty – around your credit card when you hand it over to the clerk and you’re golden.

Now it’s my turn.

Where do I begin? To be fair, the expert in this situation has a few things right: Tipping hotel staffers – especially valet and housekeepers – can mean the difference between an unforgettable trip and a nightmare that turns you onto an agoraphobic. If you feel your budget is too tight to allow for “extras” like tipping, then reconsider the wisdom of leaving your house in the first place! Seriously, tipping is a vital part of the hotel experience and if you’re going to sweat the small stuff then your budget needs some tweaking.

Now here’s where I think the 20/20 report veered off the road and into dangerous territory:

  • RAIDING THE MINI-BAR – LITERALLY!: Sure, you can lie to the front desk, but deception is a slippery slope and I’m not so sure you should be muddying the moral waters of your life anymore than you have to. If you’re concerned about the price of snacks, then hit the Dollar Store before you leave and stock up on no-name snacks from Korea.
  • PIRATING YOUR IN-ROOM MOVIES: I’m not familiar with American tracking systems, but here in Canada we can instantly see whether or not you watched Christian Bale’s last romp in the cape and cowl or if you ran into problems immediately. Most people will only employ this tactic when they want to ensure Batman XXX doesn’t appear on their bill… Either way, I don’t recommend trying to score a free movie. My advice? Watch movies – especially dirty ones – at home, you’re on vacation!
  • SWIPING HOTEL ROBES: Do I even have to say anything? You want a robe? Buy a cheap one at Walmart.
  • SCORING A “FREE” ROOM UPGRADE: Again, speaking as a Canadian, I can tell you that most hotels have incentive programs that simply require a few minutes of your time at home to enroll and they’ll allow you to score that upgrade without having to imitate an old-time Vegas high roller. And at my hotel you can get that upgrade for the price of your “bribe”. That having been said, it never hurts to tip anyone, so go ahead and make that poor clerk’s day.

To sum up, let’s assume that two million people decided to follow this expert’s advice and you’re one of them. And then this happened:

  • You lie, cheat and steal your way across the North American hospitality industry.
  • Hotels begin to see a rise in operating expenditures.
  • They raise their rates.
  • Fewer people take vacations.
  • Hotels begin to layoff staff to offset this slump.
  • Out of work hotel workers – like your hot cougar neighbor Mona – spend more time at home and less time shopping and sustaining the economy.
  • The economy suffers – again.
  • You get laid off.
  • The pressure builds. You and your spouse begin fighting.
  • Your spouse begins an affair with your hot neighbor Mona. In this case, gentle reader, your gender is irrelevant; Mona is an equal-opportunity adulterer…
  • Mona steals your spouse, the bills pile up and you end up fellating a shotgun.
  • Your children vow bloody vengeance upon 20/20 and their expert. They storm ABC headquarters.
  • 20/20 airs a story entitled: “True Confessions: Hotel Horrors Part 2.”

I know you’re laughing, but most of this could actually happen – I’m pretty sure.

As a fifteen-year veteran of the hospitality industry I can honestly say these tips will not benefit anyone – in the long run. If you want to save a few bucks while traveling, educate yourself; use that computer for something other than surfing Facebook, keeping up with the Kardashians and tweeting. Seek out deals. And finally, ask the right questions of the people serving you – bellmen, doormen and the concierge know how to score the best bargains, legally!

Do what you will with this. I intend to revisit this report soon; 20/20′s expert, Jacob Tomsky, also goes after hotel staff in his new book and interviews. He says he supports his former colleagues – and he does, to a point – but he also claims that bellmen smash bags when they’re stiffed and that housekeepers don’t wash glasses with soap and water, they use furniture polish! This may be true in some cases, but I’m concerned about those of us that actually take pride in our work.



Benjamin Wallace is a new friend but a true one. Like Vina Kent, – and Jo Bryant before her – he’s come through with helpful tips and contacts where others have  brushed me off, in a friendly way, of course. Check his site out. He’s blazing a new trail for dumb, white husbands everywhere…


A shout-out to my blog buddy, Kristen Lamb and her best-selling tome, We Are Not Alone: The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. Give it a try, folks. You won’t be disappointed…


A fellow bellman and artiste/filmmaker extraordinaire, Joseph Mancini, has created a new digital presence to share with the world. Show him some of that awesome devotion you’ve bestowed upon yours truly and check his work out, okay? I appreciate it, folks. Until next time, stay cool…

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About The Hook

Husband. Father. Bellman. Author of The Bellman Chronicles. Reader of comic books and observer and chronicler of the human condition. And to my wife's eternal dismay, a mere mortal and non-vampire. I'm often told I look like your uncle, cousin, etc. If I wore a hat, I'd hang it on a hat rack in my home in Niagara Falls, Canada. You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.
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74 Responses to The Hook Weighs In…

  1. People should read your book instead of that steaming pile of.. Paper. How to rip off hotels, what a great way to kill an economy that is already suffering! Idiots.

    • The Hook says:

      Unfortunately for me, the author of that book has a major publisher behind him with an army of PR people to book him on every show from 20/20 to Fox News!
      I’ve failed miserably at landing myself a spot on Steven and Chris, Breakfast Television, etc., etc….

      • Diane C says:

        I think we Canucks in your blog readership should inundate Steven and Chris with emails demanding to see you on their show!

  2. mairedubhtx says:

    I think hotels give away perks to customers simply because they don’t want a fight or (heaven forbid) a scene on their hands at the front desk where others can see. Unfortunately, the TV industry has just encouraged people to do just that–make a scene and score perks and put the industry in a terrible position. They will lose money and be put in the position you describe (maybe not with Mona but certainly looking at cut-backs). It’s the TV industry that is to blame on this one and should be ashamed of itself for encouraging people to lie and cheat and steal to save a few measly bucks. They’ve done it before and they’ll do it again but it doesn’t make it right. It’s a shame it’s happened to your industry.

    • The Hook says:

      As you’ve said, it happens everywhere – eventually. 20/20 simply needs to provide a counter-point to this story.
      But they won’t.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Who uses the mini bar anyway. Just coz it’s there doesn’t mean u have to use it. It’s 1am and my witty response just went out the window… like the idiot who wrote so called tips.. (not you)

  4. twindaddy says:

    All 20/20 cares about is getting idiots to watch. They don’t care what their report does, or even if it was accurate. It’s all about ratings. Which is sad for a news magazine. What happened to integrity?

  5. I had no idea theft and blatant lying were so prevalent in the hotel industry, but with people like that guy encouraging it, it’s no wonder. Thanks for an interesting read that was wrapped in your humor. I was enlightened and entertained.

  6. gatesitter says:

    20/20 and the rest of our media should be ashamed…the Disney connection is interesting. Like your thoughts on the snowball effect that the cheating can have. Thumbs up!!!

  7. Well said. On the other hand, I was once listening to a ‘music channel’ sample on the room tv (they give you a few minutes free, then go straight to charging if you don’t cancel- which of course requires cumbersome steps). I called up the front desk and they did remove the charges; I wondered what would have happened had I switched stations!
    “I will eat this Toblerone and I will not pay!” – Homer Simpson.

  8. Blown says:

    My dear Rob, I can really imagine you see the worst of all worlds during your daily experience. Not so hard to imagine though… Makes me sad, but I guess with time we get used to “mankind”…

    btw, did you see that story about hotel door lockers? Feels quite bad… More trouble in sight I assume…

  9. The Hook says:

    Thanks for the comment – and sympathy, my friend.

  10. I LOVE reading your blog because it reminds me of the crazy people I used to have to check in at my lovely convention hotel here in Colorado (and all of the other hotels I worked at in other places).

    Anyway, I worked as Front Desk Night Auditor 3rd shift for several of my positions and all anyone had to to was ask nice for an upgrade and, if one was available, I would give them a free upgrade. Granted, I couldn’t do it all the time but it always made me feel pretty good when the Guests walked away from me happier than when they walked up to check in.

    • The Hook says:

      So you’re one of the good ones? Good for you!
      I really appreciate your input; I need more people with a hospitality background to weigh in on this one. Thanks!

      • LMBO – I always thought I was one of the good ones 😉
        I guess it’s just very easy for me to treat people the way I would like to be treated.

  11. JackieP says:

    Since when is it ok to lie and steal??? 20/20 should be ashamed! No wonder hotel prices are so high in a lot of places. Can’t blame them. I myself wouldn’t even think of any of this stuff to do. Stealing is stealing.

  12. The phrase ‘what goes around comes around’ springs to mind with this kind of advice, Hook. Your nightmare scenario could actually be more of a prediction if more people try to steal from the system…

  13. Loved your comment regarding ‘a positive attitude’….!
    Money may buy most things, though it can’t buy true respect, my dear Hook; as well you know.!
    Need anything be said about the 20/20 report except: What fools do generally has a way of reaching back to them in some way or another…!

    • The Hook says:

      But this guy is laughing all the way to the bank! He has a major publisher behind him, tons of media coverage and people are actually paying attention to him – in large numbers!
      But I have all of you and that ain’t bad…

  14. Ray's Mom says:

    Lying, stealing oh my! These same “honest” people probably work in government somewhere that encourages equal opportunity for all. I can hear the excuses, I didn’t know you charge for that stuff. It is ok to steal, according to some morally challenged people – as long as “they” are not the one who is billed for the unpaid charges of these international thieves. What do you think would be the outcry from 20/20 and their audience if hotels created a line item surcharge on bills for theft? HUH? I can see it now – TV cameras blazing as they (20/20) storm the hotel with a bogus billing charge.

  15. MishaBurnett says:

    I’m rather appalled that an alleged news program would give advice on how to steal from a hotel–what’s next, “Shoplifting, Do’s and Don’ts”?

    When I’m travelling, I use service workers as auxiliary trip planners–I ask the servers in restaurants and hotel staff where the good shows are, what they would take a friend from out of town to do and see, the best routes around town. This is a premium service, and I pay for it. I tend to tip 20% at home, and I go higher out of town.

  16. Cayman Thorn says:

    I much prefer your tips to theirs. And I never did understand the fascination with stealing hotel robes. I thought that jumped the shark with “Beverly Hills Cop”.

  17. MissFourEyes says:

    And I thought I was bad for stealing the mini bottle of lotion. Not shampoo, just lotion.

    That last part should be what they teach in Economics classes. Tipping is important for the whole economy! Maybe even for marriage counselling.

  18. It pisses me off that people do this. Makes ones faith in humanity shaky. In my professional experience, the majority of my customers lie.

  19. What’s the point of all these petty dodges? I really don’t understand people.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      I think some people get a charge from the idea that they are getting something for nothing–even if it’s something they don’t particularly want. It’s not the money, it’s the thrill of “sticking to the man”, even though it’s not “the man” who ends up bearing the cost, it’s the employees who don’t get raises and the other customers who get charged more.

  20. Simona says:


  21. MishaBurnett says:

    Hey, Mr. Hook, could you write a piece on how to figure a reasonable tip? It’s easy (relatively) for me to figure out what’s reasonable when I can base it on a percentage of the bill (servers, cab drivers, and such) but how do you figure a tip for a service when you aren’t handed a bill? Is there a rule of thumb ( X dollars per X minutes ) or something?

  22. TBM says:

    I didn’t even know I had a neighbor named Mona…now I’ll keep a close eye on her. I’m not a big advocate on stealing and lying. Not sure people should be promoting–makes me wonder about the integrity of the show.

    • The Hook says:

      20/20 is a great show but they really should have added a counter-balance to this segment. The sensational aspect really makes little sense when you consider the Disney connection. What if everyone who watched this segment stole from The House of Mouse?

  23. Jo Bryant says:

    What sort of sick idiot is this person ?? It is like eating a meal in a restaurant and then dropping a fly/cockroach/spare finger on the plate to get out of paying. People amaze me.
    Love that you give me a shoutout Hook !!!! Just love it.

    • The Hook says:

      Actually, this expert is, by all accounts, an amazing writer but his “tips” baffle me. He has everything going for him: a publisher, an army of editors and publicists, endorsements (no-doubt paid for) from well-known writers and tons of press, but he’s doling out advice that is unoriginal – people have been pulling these scams for years in small numbers – and unethical. He praises hotel workers in one chapter and then suggests they spray drinking glasses with furniture polish in the next!
      I’d literally kill to trade places with this guy and yet, I’d never follow the path he seems intent on traveling.

      And you earned the shoutout, Jo – and then some!

  24. Caroline says:

    Gonna have to say that your list makes much more sense. The author’s just encourages people to cheat the system–they already do enough!

    • The Hook says:

      I have to admit, I was a little giddy when I saw your gravatar on my dashboard, Caroline. Your smiling face brightens my day!
      But don’t tell anyone I used the word “giddy”, okay?

  25. 20/20 lost its’ way a long time ago.
    The author and that anyone paid attention to him is appalling.

    • The Hook says:

      He’s getting plenty of attention these days! I’m man enough to admit I’m more than a little jealous; I’ve been striving for the success he’s currently enjoying and I seem to be stuck in neutral while he races along. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure he’s earned his place, but I simply want to join him up there at the top! The bottom sucks!
      And a lot of people appear to agree with you as far as 20/20 is concerned…

      • If he’s high profile ( so it seems) that’s why you are slogging along – need to think how to reposition yourself so as to appear different – and better…email FOX your blog post – you might be surprised – they like to show differing opinions. (Shepherd or M. Kelly?)

  26. lolabees says:

    I saw that story, and it pissed me off too. It’s all about sensationalism. Great, let’s just teach society that we can get ahead by lying, cheating, and stealing. No wonder why so many people are so entitled and awful to deal with if you’re in a service industry! 😉

  27. I’m amazed that they would advocate such sleazy little tactics so openly. That’s tacky and disingenuous, to say the least. No wonder the hotel & hospitality industry is so stressful. It’s hard enough to deal with honest customers, and then you add this on top of it? Meh.

  28. dinkerson says:

    You know, I guess I haven’t understood just how broke and desperate some people really are. Or I might’ve simply thought that those people don’t try to plan costly trips.

    When I go to a hotel, which is half of the nights out of the year, I factor the cost and plan to spend accordingly. That being said, if the valet adjusts my car seat, the tip is going to show my frustration. And if the hot water heater doesn’t work, I expect my bill to be adjusted. I don’t look for ways to “save cost”, but I do have some level of expectation that I’ve developed over years of non-stop travel. And who really wants one of those hotel robes? I mean… really.

    Thanks for calling this bastard out on this, Hook.

  29. One of my best friends works at a hotel and she tells me how people try to scam them all the time. Some of them are really crafty and some of them are really not. These days with Groupon and Deal Find, it makes no sense trying to scam a deal when they are so readily available to you.

    I have to say though- I love the little soaps at hotels. Is it terrible if I take those?

    My mother used to love taking airline cutlery. Till today, when I go home to visit my parents I eat ice-cream with a spoon that says “Indian Airlines” on it.

  30. leah says:

    Another reason I’m glad I haven’t replaced the tv. I’m not missing anything 7 months later….boo 20/20..shame on you.

  31. munchow says:

    Yes, I was laughing, but nevertheless I got your point. Anyway I have never liked people who try to benefit from something they haven’t deserved. I think it would be sad, not only for the hotel business but equally for themselves, if people try to follow these suggestions from “True Confessions: Hotel Horrors.” Keep the guard up, my friend!

  32. renxkyoko says:

    We always left something in the hotel room. But we were told by the tour manager that they had already taken cared of tips for the guys who carried our baggages. In fact, we never saw them. We left our bagages outside our hotel rooms and proceeded downstairs for breakfast or to leave. But we always gave tips to servers, gosh, even the serenaders.

  33. I have never had a BAD experience in a hotel that wasn’t righted right away! I don’t understand why 20/20 would waste time doing a report about that but hey! they did a report on Breaking Polygamy because we know it’s SO mainstream now!!

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