Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Doorman's Guide to Tipping in a Hotel


As far as I'm concerned, there are only three reasons to tip someone. As much as I bitch and moan about people stiffing me for a variety of reasons, it really boils down to three categories. Remember these three notions, and you will keep those around you very happy and ultimately make your experience all the better. The only reason you should ever tip anyone, for anything, is if they provide one of three things:

1. Manual labor.

2. Using their pull to benefit you. 
3. Letting something slide. 

Manual Labor


The manual labor is what I bitch about most. I make less than $12 an hour as a base, which, living in New York City won't get you a hot meal, let alone a share in a three bedroom apartment in East Harlem. I NEED to be tipped in order to survive. Not to mention that I'm a herniated disc away from losing all of that tip money and becoming homeless. If these assholes who come from all over the world to shop can tell me about the 200-store mega outlet in upstate New York, they probably know a thing or two about America. Meaning they should know that it's customary to tip one or two dollars per bag. Seriously, I'm heaving your 150lb luggage into the trunk of a car and risking my health in the process. If I don't use my legs the proper way, I could be out of work for 2 months. All for what? So you and your jerk-off family could go make some insane profit on these clothes back at home? Fuck off.

Now, sometimes my help is unwarranted. There are days where I'm desperate for money and will just grab any old bag and assist the guest against their will, only to get huffy when they don't give me a tip. If service is refused and the person goes ahead and does it anyway, it doesn't warrant a tip. I've seen bellmen force luggage out of a guest's hands, load it into a taxi, then berate the guest into giving them a tip. That isn't service, it's a bullying scam. Whenever I handle bags from a guest, I always say "May I?" or "Do you need a hand with those?". If the guest says yes, they are accepting the service I'm providing and should therefore compensate me for my manual labor. Is it different if someone is physically unable to carry their bags? Of course it is. I don't expect a 90-year-old woman with a walker to throw me a twenty bucks for helping her out. But for a perfectly capable, healthy grown man to drop his suitcases in front of the door and have me carry them in without a tip, or many times, a "thank you", is where the line is drawn. If you want to come to America to shop for seven days, then expect us to lug these fucking bags all over the place, you best be taking care of us. 

If you accept help from a doorman or bellman, it's customary to tip one or two dollars per bag. If you're not going to abide to those customs, then don't bother tipping at all. I'd rather be stiffed than someone hand me 50 cents or a dollar for lugging ten monster suitcases. What that tells me is: "I understand that you work on tips, but I don't deem your time or body worthy of compensation, so go fuck yourself." It's easier to tell myself that the person I'm helping is too ignorant to know that tipping is proper than some smug fuckhead who is just looking to get rid of his pocket change so he doesn't have to dump it into the metal detector bin at the airport. 

If you ask the doorman to hail you a taxi, it's customary to tip one dollar. If you are going ask a man to walk out into traffic, risk getting struck by the savages that drive the city streets, and not give him anything for it, then you've done wrong. Most people that come to my hotel are terrified to walk into the street and hail themselves a taxi. As well they should, because it's fucking dangerous. Would you ask a friend or relative to walk out into the middle of a busy Manhattan avenue in the pouring rain, at night, dressed in all black? No. The doorman is taking a huge risk for you, and should be compensated accordingly. 

Using Their Pull to Benefit You

I spent a year working as a hotel concierge, and my biggest beef would be that people assumed that the money they're paying for their stay included an information box in the form of a human being that opened doors to all the wonderful and exclusive things in the city. Don't get me wrong, a hotel concierge is generally very well-taken care of by many of the places that they book with. But there are certain things that a concierge will do with their own pull. If a concierge can get you Book of Mormon tickets an hour before curtain, throw them a few bucks, it's no easy feat. Same goes for doormen and bellmen. A good hotel employee knows their city inside and out and will be able to throw plenty of ideas at you if you are willing to work with them. The best way to spot the difference between a concierge that knows their shit and someone who is a slave to restaurant commissions is to request a specific cuisine. If you ask for Thai food and they keep pushing an Italian restaurant, then your night out isn't in their best interest. They're likely fishing for kickbacks that they get from the restaurant that they're trying to force on you. 

If the concierge can give you a good suggestion that's specific to what you've inquired about and they could get you a table at a peak time, then a tip should be warranted. Give them $2 for the effort and if the restaurant turns out to be everything they promised, throw them a five on the way back. If the restaurant sucked, let them know it. Feedback is always welcomed. The key to asking about restaurants with a concierge is being specific. If you approach me saying "where am I gonna eat?" without any idea about what you're in the mood for, then guess what? You're eating at a mediocre, overpriced joint in Times Square and I'm pocketing 5 bucks a head for your party. 

Same goes for nightclubs. If your concierge knows their shit, they can give you several clubs in every neighborhood in the city. But if they can only give you one place with a comp card, then you're going to end up in a tourist trap and the concierge pockets his easy commission. For example, there's a club in the city that's been around for over 20 years. It is, by no means, a "hot" club. It's a mainstay, like "Margaritaville" is in Jamaica. They give every concierge a stack of "free admission" tickets where they put their name on the back (VIP Compliments of _________ at the ____________ hotel.) Think you're special? You're not. The club accepts the tickets and gives the concierge a monthly kickback for every person they send. Sure, you got in for free, but if the place sucked and you're still paying $18 for a drink, what did you really save? Make sure the concierge knows that you're ready to give them a nice tip, and they'll go the extra mile for you. A hotel employee doesn't see you as a guest that they want to welcome with open arms, they see you as an opportunity to make rent and pay bills. If I know someone is going to slip me a ten, I'm going to call my hook at a popular club and make damn sure that I get them in. If I know for sure that I'll be stiffed, I still need to make my money, and I'll make it. 

Finally, have you ever checked into a hotel with a reservation that you made months ago, only to find out that the hotel has been overbooked and they gave your room away? Now you have to spend your romantic getaway in a double twin-bed room, and you're wondering why? Because the person that was there before you put a twenty under their credit card and made sure that they locked up that king bed. With Expedia and all of the other websites, along with travel agents and people making telephone bookings, high-volume hotels get overbooked every day. There are only so many rooms a front desk agent can give away before they're sold out. Sure, it sucks to have booked something six months in advance only to have someone give your room away, but money talks. If you don't want to lose your suite, make sure you get to the hotel early and lock it up. This means always getting a morning flight coming in, even if it means spending an extra few bucks to do so. Get there before check-in and announce yourself, grease the front desk agent, and they'll put a hold on that nice room for you. Once 3pm hits, rooms go quickly, and if you decided to cut costs by getting a later flight, then you're probably going to miss out on the room that you had your heart set on. 

Letting Something Slide 

Do I really tip bartenders $1 for every time they pop open a drink that's already 4 times what I should be paying for it? No. I tip bartenders to enable my binge-drinking and turn a blind eye to my acting like a boorish pig for a few hours. Ever stiff a bartender? What happens? They ignore you. Why indulge some sloppy asshole if you aren't getting paid for it? 

Short of destroying property and physically assaulting someone, almost anything can be hushed away with a few bucks in a hotel. I recently went to a bachelor party for a few days and stayed in a beachfront spot with a swim-up bar. Upon arrival, I showered everyone from the front desk agents, to the bellmen, to the bartenders to security with fives and tens. From there on out, everyone was at my disposal. We got a super loud and drunk at the pool every day and instead of the staff finding it obnoxious, they found it hysterical. They befriended us. They were at our beck and call whenever we needed something. Perception of hotel staff changes once they see that you're a bit generous with your dollars. I'm not telling you to chug a 40oz naked in the lobby while slapping women's asses, but bad behavior is more likely to be excused when you're a good tipper.

To valet a car in my hotel costs $35 per 24 hours. The $35 is a flat fee, and applies even if someone only keeps it in the garage for a couple of hours. If someone only needs to stash the car somewhere for a short period of time, they wouldn't want to pay that much money to do so. Who becomes your best friend? The doorman. Throw him a ten, and have him watch the car for you. It saves you $25 or driving around for an hour trying to find a parking spot. 

Not a guest in the hotel? I'll set up two scenarios for you. 

Scenario 1: 

Person in car- "Can I leave my car here for a few hours?"

Doorman- "No."

Scenario 2:

Person in car with twenty in hand- "Can I leave my car here for a few hours?"

Doorman- "Sure, just leave me the key and make sure you're back before midnight."

It's that simple. I used to get into Manhattan nightclubs when I was 17 without a fake ID. How? I gave the security guard my ID with a twenty folded underneath. A doorman isn't looking to protect the front of the hotel from illegal parkers, he's looking for any opportunity to make his money. 

When I moved into my apartment building, I basically did it by myself in the middle of the day. On the last run, I had no one to sit in the car while I loaded my stuff in to make sure I didn't a ticket. All I had to do was walk into the building, introduce myself to the doorman, let him know that I was moving in, hand him a twenty with my car key, and he took care of everything. Now, every day, he makes eye contact, greets me by name, and lets me get away with being on the roof with my friends during after-hours. Whenever I have a guest, I just let him know so they don't have to go through the hassle of signing in. When I have a package, he brings it up personally. We talk shit about the Mets and Yankees and I get him a coffee when I go to Dunkin Donuts. You know what he does? He assures that I'm comfortable living in my home and I never have to worry about anything. When my mother came over to see my apartment for the first time, he helped her to my door with the bags of goodies that she brought for me. It's a two-way system. Come Christmas time, my roommates and I will pool $100 each into an envelope for him and next year, he'll be just as good. Yeah, they have to perform certain duties because it's in their job requirement, but a doorman can be your best friend if you need him to be. All it takes is a little appreciation from your wallet, because we gotta eat too.

In the end, tipping is about getting someone to notice you. A hotel employee sees hundreds of people per day, but will always remember those who took care of them, and, more importantly, those who didn't. I had a guy stiff me after unloading 10 suitcases out of his truck and into the lobby. Then I had to valet the vehicle. No "thank you". Nothing. A couple of days later, he needed to store the truck for an hour in the middle of the day. Instead of hanging onto his keys and watching it for him, I made him valet it again for another $35 dollars, then made him wait 40 minutes to get the car out when he came back. When he finally got his truck and needed directions, I played dumb and pretended that I didn't know where he was going. I did. Had he thrown me a ten on the way in, I would have made his life a lot easier. 

This all might sound really expensive. Think of it as an investment in your time. If you try and lift your own luggage and end up giving yourself a hernia, you may want to rethink that decision to give the doorman a couple of dollars to do it for you while you're staring at your bedroom ceiling for 6 weeks. 

I feel like I've covered just about everything, but if I didn't, you can ask me at TBoneHotel@gmail.com. 


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