A day in the life of a Manhattan doorman

By S. Jhoanna Robledo  | November 28, 2016 - 2:59PM

In our "day in the life" series running this week, we check in with the men and women who keep New York City's rentals, co-ops, and condos safe, clean, and secure, and who ought to be on most everyone's tipping list. Our first check-in: A Manhattan doorman who keeps track of visitors and packages in a 140-unit building:

How the day begins and ends

I work in the mornings, so basically [I start the day] addressing everyone in the morning, and [dealing with] the packages. We get maybe 100 packages a day—here we have 140 apartments—but it depends on the time of the year. Right now, with Christmas, we get more than 100. Every day. I check whatever came in the day before and whatever comes in during the day. I just make sure everything is in order, that [the boxes] are really for here, that they’re marked for the right apartment, the right tenant, logging them in and making sure everything’s on the list. [Also], there are a lot of keys [to various rooms and apartments], so I make sure the keys are being distributed properly.  Of course, I have to pay attention to the visitors: the housekeepers and the nannies, the cleaning people, any construction in the building, any projects.

The midday is the lull, but here [these days], since we get a lot of packages, we’re always busy with that. When I leave, I make sure the next doorman knows if there’s anything happening the next day that he needs to know about, to make sure he transition goes smoothly. I’ve not really had any [security issues], maybe some domestic issues, but we don’t really get involved in that. I say: Call 911. And [once I leave], I'm good at letting [any work stresses] go. You have to learn to separate. Obviously, this is my job, so I'm going to do the best I can, and once I'm not here, I enjoy my private life. 

On tipping season

It’s tipping season, but personally from my experience, you can’t really expect anything. It’s welcome, but it’s not like you have to. For me personally I don’t feel like you have to tip. It’s really appreciated when you do, obviously, but just knowing that someone actually took the time to fill out a card, and actually go buy a card or a bottle of wine, that I appreciate. I can see [if people think cold hard cash is what matters to doormen], but I’m only speaking for myself, I can’t really speak for anyone else. I personally don't [keep tabs on what people give me from year to year], but I'm sure there are people that do. This building is really transient ... what's the point of keeping tabs if they're going to move out after a year or two? I used to work in another building where they did a pool, which I personally thought was a little unfair, like everyone would get the same... It's not fair if someone has 25 years there, and someone just came in three months ago... And I think that put pressure on the tenants, like they had to give. It made me uncomfortable. I didn't like that, putting pressure. You have a choice. If want to, you do it, and if you don't, you don't. My advice [to residents curious about tipping] would be to do it individually. You don't have to give the same amount to everyone, because obviously, not everyone works the same for you, the tenant.

You get what you get and you don't get upset

You never really know [what someone is able to do financially]. It might seem like they have the ability, but you never really know what’s going on unless they express it, like “Look, this year I can’t,” which happens. People will go, “I’m sorry, this year so-and-so happened, and right now I can’t, but in a few months...” That’s appreciated, of course.

What residents may not know about a doorman’s life

I think people don't realize that we're not your personal doorman. I'm not here personally for you. I work for everyone... People don’t realize how hard it is to work with people, and everyone has a different personality, and you never know what’s going on in their heads. You have to be good with dealing with people. In this building, we have a wide range of everything, from students to over-80-year-olds to kids, and from every nationality. It’s New York, it’s a little bit of everything.

Here we don’t get too many kids but there are a lot of students. There are a few that I’ve seen since, well, conception—literally, they’re in the bellies—and now they’re toddlers. One example, there’s a kid here who’s probably around two years old and sometimes he stays with his grandma, and when he does, he makes his grandma come say good morning to me and he’ll come by. That’s heartwarming!

During the day, it’s pretty easy, with people rushing out and they just say "good morning" and leave. But lately, especially after the election, the people seem to be in really, really bad moods. People are really depressed, like if a parent died! Now people are starting to talk, but the first few days [after the election], no talking. Now, they want to vent. It’s like a grieving process. I used to say I am an old-school bartender without the drinks. People come in and just want to talk. When family members die, that’s the hardest. You can’t really describe it.


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