Before I moved into my first rental apartment, my dear Jewish mother gave me this advice: “Whatever you do sweetie… make sure to shtup the super. This way he’ll take care of you!”
WHAT?? I knew very little Yiddish, but in my world, shtup meant to have sex; and I couldn’t believe my mother was suggesting I hustle myself to get good service in a New York City apartment building. I mean, I know we New Yorkers will go to great lengths to be taken care of, but this was a bit extreme.
After a good laugh, I discovered that my mom thought the word meant to tip. So yes, in her world a good shtup to the super would ensure he would look out for me. I took her advice and slipped him a fifty.
I guess I was good at shtupping because it seemed he always looked to get shtupped when he helped me. A fix here and a fix there and this guy looked for his fix as well. I didn’t mind offering up a small tip for his help until it came time to move out. He wanted a big farewell payoff.
Long ago, before painting my apartment an ecru color with one yellow accent wall, I had asked him to come take a look at the swatches beforehand to make sure painting the walls would not affect my security deposit. He told me I would be fine as long as I primed the yellow wall before I left. Easy enough--or so I thought!
A few weeks before moving out, I asked him what he thought I needed to do to help guarantee the return of my full security deposit. He told me that the ecru color was unacceptable and my ENTIRE apartment would need to be painted over.
He explained that the company could withhold $1,000 of my $2,200 deposit, but if I gave him $400, he would use it to pay off the painter to do an extra coat. He said it would be “between us” like he was doing me a favor. Feeling used but unwilling to gamble the thousand bucks, I gave in.
Then it came time to dispose of my rugs.
I asked if it would be okay to just leave them in the trash room. When he paused and gave me a look, I knew what was coming. Yep… it would take another $50 to pay off the sanitation workers to take the rugs. Ka-ching! I was his human ATM…. and despite my street smarts and savvy, I paid up.
I knew I was paying him off for my apartment inspection and to look the other way on a few other things I was sure he would find if he searched the apartment. But I also figured that if I didn’t get my full deposit back, I could tell the management company exactly what was “between us!”
I handed him my key and an envelope with the cash, and I watched him sign off on the inspection. I knew the guy I had always shtupped my mom's way had shtupped me my way, but I take it as a lesson learned. I have never encountered another super like him again, but next time I do, I won't take it lying down!!
Jill Urban is the real estate reporter for NY1 News.