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An Extra Set of Books

Working in hotel room service was the most fun job I've ever held. I had access to the entire hotel, and my job was to make anything the guest wanted happen. I pushed that envelope a few times.

The guests could be the best part of the job on any given day, or the worst part of it. Calling down to room service two minutes before closing asking for well-done steaks and demanding food we’ve run out of was typical. It got me in trouble with cooks who were almost finished cleaning the kitchen. You never know what they’ll do to the food! I’ve only given a guest food I knew was bad or expired once. One of those two-minutes to midnight calls came in and the guy demanded our fresh dinner rolls. I told the guest we were out, but he continued to demand them.

As his patience (and common sense) started to run out, he yelled, “I better get dinner rolls with my order,” and he hung up on me! Like I’m really going to go out of my way to please him after being yelled at? I found three dinner rolls, under the stainless steel kitchen preparation area. They could have been there for weeks or months, missed the broom every night. They were WAY under the counter! I needed a long handled broom or something to knock them out. They were devoid of moisture, and would have dented walls had I thrown them. This guy demanded dinner rolls, he got 'em...

My first goal of Room Service was getting the food right. When I started I didn’t know the difference between a side salad or a chef salad. Later, I discovered food was the battle; you won the war with liquor. I started to drink wine, I bought wine books, and learned everything I could about wine. A $30 bottle of wine was like selling two more dinners for me in room service! For me it was all about sales, 15% was automatically added to room service bills. Any cash tips beyond that was cash for drinking, when my shift was over.

I'm an autodidactic wine expert. I started with writing an abbreviated wine list, using wines easiest to pronounce. My first goal was to sound like an expert, then become an expert - fake it until you make it! I expanded my wine knowledge to the whole wine list over the next year. After I learned the wine list my sales skyrocketed. When I asked to transfer to the fine dining restaurant I was denied, because moving me would drop room service liquor sales more than I could increase them in the fine dining restaurant. I was upset, but the started to learn the fine dining menu anyways.

Money from alcohol sales was in itself intoxicating, especially when working with Muslims. Despite Islamic rules (Sharia Law) prohibiting consumption of intoxicants, they drank great quantities of very expensive booze.

In order to make even more money, I started to learn as much about Scotch Whiskey as I could. I tried to be in the right place at the right time to hear about new expensive items. After I learned how to sell Scotch to the Muslims at our hotel I started earning even more money. One day I learned about Royal Lochnagar Special Reserve, and how distributors limited Minnesota to 2 cases, and we had one complete case between the hotel and the co-owned liquor store. My goal was to sell a bottle before the fine dining restaurant could sell their first shot. I sold it the next evening for $300. At my height of room service scotch sales I was selling $350 dollar bottles of single malt scotch like IHOP sells pancakes.

I’d try to catch the long-term Arab drinking people right away. The gal who worked room service opposite my schedule off could never figure out why she NEVER made a big alcohol sale to the rich Islamic customers. I would work the guest, explaining how I had knowledge and access to more liquor. I also played on their fear and distrust with dealing with women. When I earned their trust I was the only one these rooms would place alcohol orders with. I’d let them know what nights I was off, so they could order double up their orders from me, and not have to order expensive alcohol from the other room service staff.  I created a small monopoly!

I had a guest order a 1976 Château Latour to go with his Fillet Mignon. He also requested a refrigerator in his room. The next afternoon he showed up to the restaurant for lunch. I asked my supervisor to make sure he was well taken care of. The waitress was on break, so my manager gave the table to me. I served him lunch and asked if I could present a selection of white wines for his fridge, since I wouldn't be there that evening. He agreed and the Matre d' from the fine dinning restaurant and I presented 4 wines. He replied,

"I'll take three of those, two of those, three of those, and two of those. Can you also add two more bottles of your choice to make it a case. I'll be attending a party in New York tomorrow, and I don't want to show up empty handed."
That was an $800 case of wine. I took it up as room service, so I got the automatic 15%. The waitress was upset, because she thought she had a chance at that sale. She was delusional in that thinking! I made it up to the waitresses by up-selling their tables with wine when I wasn't busy.

One night a group of three guys checked in to our most expensive suite - called The Four Seasons. After they settled-in, they ordered some food and a bottle of gin. The hotel only had a very abbreviated liquor list on the room service menu. I explained my job to the new guests, and told them to ignore the menu and ask for whatever they wanted. If we didn’t have the booze, I’d get it. If the meal wasn’t on the menu, I’d have it made. When I go off-menu, the price went up substantially. When my sales go up hotel profits go up. They asked for 2 bottles of Johnnie Walker Blue (Blue went for about $118 at the require store at the time), and to make sure their mother didn't find out about their alcohol purchases.

I retrieved the bottles and tried to hide them in my room service area while the food was being prepared. Every time I came back to my work area, the bottles were on an elaborate booze presentation table being set-up. I finally caught my manager who was going to teach me the proper presentation for a couple $275 bottles of Scotch (each). I had to tell him to stop, because they don't want their mother to catch them drinking. I explained Sharia Law to him.

That room ordered liquor from me exclusively, earning me thousands in liquor sales. I learned their patterns. If I was coming up on time off I would call up and ask if they wanted me to stock their cabinets. I'd stuff an assortment of Single Malt Scotch, craft beers, and cases of Avian water into the refrigerator and cabinets. That Evian water was $3.50 a bottle, by not doing discounts, each case was $42 in additional sales. That weekly restocking tab was about $2,000. It was all my revenue, as I back-storied the room to prevent my colleagues from earning any of those sales.

Another couple of Arab guys stay with us on a regular basis. They liked expensive and rare wines. After a few visits they ended up with my home phone number, and they would call to request rare or outrageously expensive wines. I could usually get any wines requested with a phone call, as the hotel owner also owned a fantastically stocked liquor store. They would request me to drive their rented Lincoln to the Indian Casino (Treasure Island), in order to play some cards. I did it totally off the Radisson's books. They always started me off with $500 seed money. Playing $100 hands of Blackjack is an adrenaline rush! I quickly learned to squirrel that cash away, and it wasn't strange to return from the casino with an extra thousand.

The hotel kept an extra set of books. Many of the Arabs would overspend their credit cards with enormous $150,000 weekends. This was never a problem since their government's consulate always guaranteed the bill. Bills were submitted to their embassy for payment. The problem was, they refused to pay for alcohol. The second set of books was always created for submitting alcohol converted to food so the embassy would pay.

The only Islamic rule rich Arabs actually follow, away from home, was refusal to eat pork. They couldn’t get enough expensive booze. They’d constantly ask me about drugs and prostitutes. I know we had hookers in Rochester, I just didn’t know where or who they were. I could have made buckets of cash as a pimp to the Arabs. Instead I’d point them to the escort section of the Rochester, MN yellow pages.

Always keep an extra set of books when dealing with the Qatar or EAE embassy!