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How to turn your local bodega into an extension of your building

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Your neighborhood bodega: home of cheap but mediocre coffee, occasional purveyor of really good sandwiches, and lifesaver for those late-night moments when another six-pack or bottle of Nyquil is in order.

But did you know that your corner store can also substitute for a doorman or storage room?

The best way to get this started, according to several bodega workers we spoke to, is to become a regular customer. The person behind the counter is way more likely to do you a favor if he's used to seeing your face, regardless of whether you're a big spender or not.

Hassan Salahi, who mans the register at Salahi Deli Grocery in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, for example, says you just have to ask, and he's likely to accept packages or hold keys for you, free of charge. (Customers have offered him tips before, he says, but he doesn't take them.) The only no-no for him? If a package is really big.

Of course, not every bodega worker will do the same. Mo, who works at a bodega on the Upper East Side, says he's only held packages a couple of times for people "I've known forever." Each time, they offered him about $5 as a thank you. Sometimes, he says, he'll hold a Sunday newspaper for someone he knows well, but he always insists they pay in advance, and bring their receipt with them. And the owner doesn't like when they accept packages from people, Mo says.

A good rule of thumb is to make your favor as hassle-free as possible. Below, some examples of how you can take full advantage of the corner store:

1. No concierge? No problem. Friendly bodega workers will often hold packages or dry cleaning for you until you get home from the office. This way no one at work has to know about your Zappos (and Gilt and Amazon....) obsession.

2. Bypass that no-pet policy. If your building bans furry friends and you're craving a cuddle, many bodegas have resident cats you can befriend. You can't (and probably won't want to) take it home with you, but at least you can get a little dose of pet time.

3. A built-in security guard. If you live on a non-doorman building and a block that's not too well lit, having a bodega downstairs can make you feel less isolated (many are open 24 hours). Also, chances are, if you know the people who work there, they'll keep an eye out for you.

Related:

Here's what makes a great bodega -- and why you should care

Living next to an all-night bodega: Ear plugs, black-out shades and a little patience

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