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Porters, Handymen, and Doorman, or PHD's Blog
  Revenge of the Doormen  
By Maureen Callahan  this article appeared in December 27th 2005 New York Post

Writer Ann Marie Sabath thought she had a great relationship with one of the doormen in her West 57th Street condo – that is, until she under-tipped him last Christmas.

The change in his attitude toward Sabath – who considered him “one of my favorites” – wasn’t immediate; she didn’t suspect anything was wrong until over six months later, when she pulled up in front of her building and he refused to help unload her car (technically not in his job description anyway).

And that’s when it hit her: He was exacting revenge for Sabath’s stingy holiday tip.

“The tipping you do during the holidays will make your life pleasant or make it hell,” says Sabath, author of books about business etiquette. “Our reputations precede us by what we give.”

And according to former doormen who spoke to The Post, she’s not paranoid – in fact, she could’ve had it much worse.

“When doormen get stiffed, they secretly keep a list – who gave, who didn’t, how much,” says Peter Grech, resident manager of Turtle Bay Towers and president of the Superintendent’s Technical Association.

Revenge, Grech says, usually kicks in by late January: “Doormen will give tenants every opportunity,” he says. “There are some people – oh, this is one of my favorites: ‘I’ll catch you later!” A doorman would rather you say, ‘Look, I’ve got hard times right now, here’s a plate of cookies.’”

But cheapskates and misers, he says, can expect the following:

“Keys will ‘temporarily’ be misplaced, maybe holding up your housekeeper an hour so she can’t get in. Sending packages back. Dry cleaning tags will mysteriously fall off. If two tenants stiffed, you’ll mix up their dry cleaning. If  someone says, ‘I need a favor,’ you ignore it.”

The worst offenders, he says, get “Krazy Glue in their locks.”

If you think that sounds cruel, stories from the other side of the door are just as callous. Michael Morris, president of Concierge Service International, recalls the time that a building resident wrote out checks for all of the doormen – only to have all of the checks bounce.

“He must have known they would bounce, but he never mentioned it again.”

Another tenant worked for a large clothing company. In lieu of a holiday tip, he announced that he would be giving the doormen nice clothing from his company. Sure enough, he showed up a few days later – with a pile of irregular clothing in tow, sizes small and medium.

“They didn’t fit any of the guys,” laughs Morris. “That said, most people recognize that tipping is something you need to do.”

Indeed, Grech insists that a code of honor does prevail – doormen don’t expect lavishly tips just for doing their job. They never expect tips from the elderly. But if there’s a doorman in your building who routinely goes above and beyond for you throughout the year, you owe.

“Sometimes a doorman’s job is practically being a secretary, especially if a tenant’s running a small business out of his apartment,” he says.

The main targets, unsurprisingly, are the rich.

“The people who are wealthy, the doormen ill get back at then,” Grech says. “When doormen get a $5 tip, they’ll send it back. Sometimes they’ll send it back with another dollar and say, ‘Here, you need this more than I do.’”

In true New York holiday cheer, says Grech, a good chunk of those wealthy tenants will snort, “Good!” and never tip again. (Some, he adds, do feel bad and send back a proper amount.)

This time of year tends to cause madness – and anxiety – inside of doormen-serviced buildings.

“There’s almost a feeling [among doormen] – it starts around Dec. 1 and gets a little crazier, then peaks from the 15th to the end of the month – it’s a drug, says Peter Roach, resident manager at La Residence condo on the Upper East Side.

“The money that’s flying around affects the personalities of the guys,” he continues. “it’s no different than an anesthesiologist shooting them full of drugs or dopamine. I’ve seen the nastiest doorman on the Upper East Side suddenly walking around whistling ‘Silver Bells.’”

Unlike Grech, however, Roach firmly believe there’s never an excuse for exacting revenge on a tenant – no matter how rich, cheap or miserable he or she may be throughout the year.

“You can’t have doormen going to war over a few dollars,” he says. “You have to get over it. You still get a paycheck. And the money that they’re getting overshadows the deadbeats – especially because there are people who double their tips,” he says.

But for at least one tenant, namely author Sabath – the revenge strategy worked.

“Think about it: A $100 top – it’s a matter of going to one less play a year,” she says, sounding a bit like a Sally Struthers voice-over in a starving-children PSA.

“[Now] I feel like, can I afford a little bit more? Of course I can!” she says. “My level of awareness is raised! I never realized it was that big of a deal.”

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