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Non-doorman buildings that want to staff up their lobby have two choices: Pay a union doorman more than $70,000 a year including benefits, or hire a security guard for about $15 an hour (or $31,000 a year, with benefits covered by the security company that technically employs the guard).
Given that it takes four employees to provide 24/7 coverage, choosing a security guard can make financial sense, especially in smaller buildings where the cost will be shared among fewer owners. It may also make sense as an in-between measure: Once you hire a doorman, the union makes it almost impossible to eliminate the position and revert to your no-frills status should your building's financial situation deterioriate.
Yet doormen are motivated--and compensated--to deliver more than the competition.
“The doorman is employed by the building—he’s a union guy and he’s not going anywhere, because there’s no advantage to moving to another building where the set wage is the same and he’d be the last man on the totem pole,” says Daniel Wollman, who heads up Gumley Haft, a managing agent that works with about 80 co-op and condo buildings in Manhattan.
“A doorman is a part of the fabric of the building," says Wollman. "He has a much more proprietary interest than a security guard getting paid $15 an hour and though it’s his job this month, it might not be next month. A security guard is just a rent-a-cop. He just sits there."
In fact, says Wollman, many security guards don't even call upstairs to announce visitors.
Doormen, on the other hand, do much more than simply announce guests: They hail taxis, open doors, take packages, and may perform some light maintenance work, for example.
“If money isn’t an issue, I’d rather have a doorman," says Wollman. "He’s about as good at security as a security guard and performs 10 or 20 other functions.”
If your building's bottom line dictates hiring a security guard, do some due diligence first.
"Interview the companies and find out what the backgrounds of the guards are," advises Wollman. "Do they work at Gristedes and Starbucks, or do they have a law enforcement background? Get some assurances on the consistency of who your guard is going to be, so he's familiar with the people in your building. And interview the guy yourself."
If your building has a security guard, are you satisfied? Can you share any advice?