Tips from a Doorman: "Be honest from the beginning about what you want. Be clear, and be friendly."
It's been a couple of months since BrickUnderground's anonymous doorman penned his last post. We've yet to find a worthy replacement, and we've missed hearing stories straight from the front lines. So we've up and started a new column, Tips from a Doorman.
The new series will feature interviews with assorted New York City doormen, in an effort to get the inside scoop on the intriguing life of a Big Apple doorman. Because in New York apartment buildings, doormen don’t just open the doors – they pick up your packages, keep track of your friends and family, and they sometimes keep intimate secrets.
In our first installment, we speak to Eddie, a 46-year-old doorman who’s been working at the same rental building in the East 80s for 27 years.
Do you work the day or night shift?
I work every shift, but usually the day shift these days.
Which do you prefer?
The night shift, because you’re by yourself and you can just do your job. You don’t have to deal with the crazy people all the time ... the residents I mean.
Have you ever been in danger while working the night shift?
Once, about 20 years ago, someone broke into the building. The police were looking for him. We were in the basement and we were standing next to all these drop cloths. I happened to kick them and he was right there, hiding behind them.
What’s one of your strangest or funniest memories as a doorman?
I remember I once got a call from a woman who lived in the building who asked me to come upstairs because a bird had flown into her window. When I got there, her kid was screaming and it wasn’t just a bird, it was a big, black crow. I was scared s---less, but I had to pretend I was fine for the kid’s sake. I had to tackle him with a blanket and get him to go out the window. Luckily, he did.
What’s the best part of your job?
The people in the building. You become a part of everyone’s family. But the truth is that it’s better to be in a co-op or condo, where there’s a board and tenants that really care about their building.
What’s the worst part?
Working with the other doormen. People just don’t get it. They don’t get that this is a privileged job. All you have to do is be nice to people. If you’re nice to people, you get it back tenfold. Most other doormen are also really competitive.
Do they compare Christmas tips?
They try to. I don’t get involved. I always pretend I got less than I did.
What kind of tips do you expect at Christmas?
Honestly, people think that everyone on the Upper East Side has money, but I know a lot of the people are hurting. I’m doing better than some of them. I appreciate anything small if they can’t afford much, even a coffee.
But how much do you consider to be a good tip?
$40 is good here. But $10? Come on, I can barely get a Starbucks for that. But honestly, it all feels like found money. We already make good salaries, we have good pensions, and have a very strong union.
Do doormen keep records of which tenants tipped them, and how much they gave?
I don’t, but I know people do. People can be such brownnosers. There’s a doorman next door who has a list of his tenants’ kids’ birthdays. I always tell people that the friendly season is from November 15 through January 1, when the doormen want your tips. If you don’t give it to them, they’ll treat you like s---.
Do you expect people to tip you throughout the year too?
Not really. I have this one woman who gives me a $1 any time I do anything. If I bring her a package or help her with her bags, she hands me $1. That’s nice, but not necessary.
Can – and will – a doorman give prospective tenants the inside scoop on a building?
Yeah. When someone’s looking to move to an apartment I like to tell them about their neighbors on top, bottom, and at both sides. It’s important for them to know if someone’s really loud or something. I kind of feel like I’m Robin Hood. I try to help people, I really like helping people. If I wasn’t here, I think I’d probably be in the Peace Corps.
What makes someone a good tenant in your eyes?
They have to be honest from the beginning about what they want, like “I want you to always buzz before sending my mom up.” Just be clear. And be friendly.
What makes someone a nightmare tenant?
Thinking they’re better than me, not talking to me. Some people yell all the time. But the nightmare tenants are what make it interesting. I had this one tenant who lived here for years, a rich guy, and he’d never say hello. Then one day I offered him a free New York Times that we had left over. It bonded us from then on. Believe me, he could afford a paper, but he appreciated the gesture.
Do you ever have to cover-up secrets or salacious activity?
Yeah, definitely. It’s happened. It’s funny though because we used to have a mirror down in the lobby and sometimes I’d see a guy come to pick up a girl and he’d be staring at himself in the mirror for a while just totally full of himself, I’d usually tell the girls afterward about that.
So the doorman sees everything.
Yeah, people often ask me how their nannies are, too, and I tell them. I had to tell a family once that their daughter was hanging out with a bunch of bozos. It was the right thing to do. It’s just a human thing.
BrickUnderground's 2011 Holiday Tipping Guide
Best of Brick: How to concierge your doorman
7 tipping rules for doormen and residents
10 Manhattan doormen talk tips