Monday, December 3, 2012

The Doorman's Guide to Fucking with Guests

I spent most of my high school and college years working in a hardware store. For some odd reason, adults used to approach me - a pimply-faced, spiky hair, smelly, hungover idiot - to consult their home improvement needs. This always made me laugh, because I'm not mechanically inclined, nor did I ever give off the impression that I might be. People would ask me a question, and I would literally turn the package around and read the directions in front of them, and repeat what I just read. Seriously, what the fuck do you expect from some kid working for beer money? Even my managers would laugh when people complained about faulty information from "those kids you have working here."

I loved working there, because I got all of my friends jobs after I got hired. We would show up late, have light bulb fights in the basement, and do as little as possible. It was the best. Most people we knew were waiting tables and working shitty on-campus jobs, and we were having a blast and getting paid for it. We thought we had the perfect set-up to get us through school, until 2002, when a little cult classic called Super Troopers premiered in theaters. It wasn't till then that realized was that there was so much more that this job had to offer - the sport (and art) of fucking with people. 


The classic bit in Super Troopers is the "meow game". The premise is simple - you have two employees and one customer. One employee tries to fit meow into the conversation as much as possible. If this sounds stupid (which it probably does to someone who hasn't seen the film) I urge you to click the link and watch the 90 second clip. It will have you howling. We played this game at work every day, mastering the art of keeping a straight face. 

This evolved into a game that we called "Tom Foolery". Again, the premise is simple. Two employees, one customer. You both try to make each other laugh, and the first guy to laugh loses. We would say awful things to each other, fart loudly, and do everything humanly possible to make the other guy laugh. There were no winners, only losers. 

A couple examples of my loses: 

-Helping a customer pick out a color for her bathroom. We're looking through swatches, and she thinks that I care what shade of lavender would go with her fucking cactus or whatever the hell she has in there. I see my buddy creep around the other side, and prepare myself for a showdown. 

He makes his cell phone ring, and answers. 

Buddy- "Hello? Oh, hey Phil!" 

Using quick thinking, I decide to start talking to drown him out. 

Me- "So, you may want to use a semi-gloss finish in the bathroom because the steam from the shower tends to make the flatter glosses peel." 

Customer- "But I don't like the way it shines in the light"

Buddy- "You got the job? That's great!!! Oh man, I'm so happy for you!" 

Me- "Yes, but it's necessary if you don't want to paint again in a year." 

Buddy- "How much are they paying you?" 

Customer- "The semi-gloss is just so expensive." 

Me- "I think it'll be worth it for you." 

Buddy- "Are you SERIOUS?!? $18 an hour just to jerk off ostriches?" 

My face went flush, and my chin began to quiver. The customer was either oblivious, or pretended to not hear him, and keep flipping through the purple section of the Benjamin Moore swatches. I held it together, ever so briefly, till I saw my buddy's dumb head slowly emerge from the other side of the aisle like Elmer Fudd lurking behind a tree. His eyes locked mine, and his face was as cold as Dolph Lundgren's in Rocky IV. I completely lost my shit. The customer stared at me in disgust while I cackled like a hyena and slowly staggered away. 

- The same friend walked up to me at the beginning of our shift and simply said:

"I'm going to draw a picture of a cock and balls and show it to you later." 

Me- "Fine, whatever. Weirdo." 

Not thinking anything of it, I went on with my day doing what I usually did at that time - mostly strolling around the aisles, pretending to rearrange things, and smoking cigarettes in the basement. Though in a stroke of genius, every time a customer would ask me a question, he would appear, with a piece of looseleaf paper on a clipboard. He went hours without showing me, only letting me see him draw, as if he were sketching a nude model. 

The funny thing about it was I never once saw him helping a customer or stocking shelves throughout the entire day. Hell, I didn't see him at all. He would only appear, stone-faced, while I was mid-conversation with a customer, to let me know that he watch etching the perfect cock and balls to show me at some mystery point in the day. He spent the entire day just following me around, haunting me. I felt anxiety every time I spoke to someone, just waiting for him to finally flip the clipboard around and show me a despicably graphic image of the male anatomy. 

Finally, about an hour after lunch, I was mixing paint for an old woman. Sure enough, he was there, ready to reveal his masterpiece. And a masterpiece it was. 

I'd never seen something so offensive in my life. The detail... the veins... the placement of the pubic hair. It looked like something out of an animated Tim Burton homo-erotic nightmare. I actually gasped before my laughter came to the surface. The woman picked up on it immediately and turned around, but he was gone, like Batman. Once again, I completely lost my shit. I went and found him later on to get a better look at this atrocity, and he told me he threw it out. Some part of me still thinks he enjoyed drawing it more than he cared to admit.

What made him so dominant in our little game boils down to a few things (in his particular case, it was mostly his lack of fear of being fired, which is not a luxury that we all have). If you want to excel in fucking with guests and customers, here's a few tips that will prevent you from getting caught:

The basic rules of improvisational comedy will always apply here. This is the first thing you learn in an Improv 101 class, wherever you go. If you're not agreeing with either the guest or your partner in crime, then you're going to be noticed quickly. At first, it may be tough to resist the urge to disagree to create conflict, but that isn't what your want to successfully fuck with someone.

For example, if you and a partner want to double-team a customer, you need to be in agreement from the start. If the customer asks your partner a question, and you say "I'm sorry, he can't hear you. He's deaf", then your partner says "No, I'm not! No hablo ingles", then he has just sabotaged the game and made you look like an asshole. Always be in agreement, it will be more fun.

Same goes for when you do this by yourself. If the customer is treating you like you're stupid, then by God, be really stupid. It will only piss them off more. (More on this later, when I explain "This Doorman is an Idiot). If the customer talking down to you and treating you like an indentured servant, crank up the niceness and become overbearingly helpful. A person like that is looking for a conflict, and when you don't give it to them, they've been defeated.

You have to eliminate any reason to get fired. If a guest with an attitude approaches you with a ridiculous demand, you can't expect to say something like "errrr baby dildos!" and expect to keep your job. If you're being overly-nice to someone who is treating you like garbage to the point where it enrages them, what can they say to management? "I was being a twat and he couldn't have been more helpful! AAARRRGGGGHHHH!!!!!"

The most difficult task in this is the key ingredient in successfully fucking a customer - selling it with a straight face. Most people don't have that skill. On many levels, I don't either. I break character and laugh in improv scenes and sketches all the time. However, it's easier to keep a straight face when your job is on the line. In the hospitality industry especially, you can get away with almost anything with a smile. If you want to tell someone off, it's very easy to so with a genuine smile on your face.

Like the other day, when some asshole got out of a cab and yelled "YO, you gonna give me a hand or what?"

I very calmly walked up to him, and with the warmest, hospitable smile, said "Sure, it would be my pleasure. And my name is _____, not 'yo'" while pointing to my name tag. He knew I was biting back at him, but what could he say to my manager? "I was rude and he introduced himself to me with a smile. I want him fired!!!"

Another example is the fat slob that said "well I just had to open my own door" to impress her friends while I was busy helping another guest. I turned to her, with the most upmost urgency, as if she had just fallen off a ladder, asked "did it hurt?" Of course, I had to sell it like I was just reciprocating a fun banter. Again, what could she say to management ? "I was being condescending to the doorman to impress my awful friends and he expressed concern about my safety. How dare he do that?"

In both of these examples, I kept one simple thing in mind - making sure that the guest was in the wrong first. Always make sure you're teaching them a lesson, and that they would have to tell a lie to get you in trouble. If that's the case, it will almost always keep you from getting in trouble, and that you will come emerge triumphant from the situation.  

With these tips in mind, I urge you to play some games that I've created and play on my own, because I'm a troubled young man:

Can You Take it Again?

There's nothing worse than a group of people who think that because you work in a hotel, you have mastered the art of taking the group photo. There's always one fucking asshole in every group that refuses to let any picture of them with the slightest double-chin hit the internet. I had an ex-girlfriend who used to do that. It drove me insane. She would ask some schmuck off the street, minding their own business, to take a picture of us. Once they took it, she would grab the camera, look at it, and if she didn't like the outcome, if her face wasn't in the right angle, of I wasn't ever-so-fucking-delighted to be in the picture, she would hand the camera back to the stranger and ask "can you take it again?" It made  me incredibly uncomfortable, and I broke up with her. (Mostly for other reasons, but that particular quirk was certainly in the top ten.)

I'm sorry, if you want me to take a picture of eight girls in tight dresses and high heels doing the kissy face, a couple of you are going to be disappointed with the outcome. My photography skills has nothing to do with your inability to suck in your gut. Unless it comes out blurry, you have one shot at taking a nice picture with me. Once you ask me to take a second picture, you are going to fall victim of "Can you take it again?"

The premise is, once again, very simple: Take as many pictures as possible before they take the camera away from you.

Take one, look at it, and say "hang on, let me try that again." Take another, "No, that one is no good."

Point to someone in the group. "you keep shutting your eyes, man."

Keep making up excuses to take another picture.

"Sir, I think you should smile. Everyone else is smiling."

Anyone can do it!

Excuse to give management if there's a complaint: "I was just trying to take the perfect picture for the guest!"

Doorman Personal Best: 11 pictures

Over-Direction 

Ever have someone ask you for directions, then before you could get two words out, they start in with the "uh huh, where? okay. how many blocks? a right, and then what?". I hate that very much, because you know they aren't going to process a fucking word you're saying.

Once this starts, I engage in "over-direction". Say they want to go the Duane Reade that's located three blocks away:

Me- "Okay, it's very simple. You walk to the end of the block. When you get to the corner, wait for the walk sign, then cross the street, and walk to the next corner and do the same. When you get about halfway down that block, you're going to see a halal car and a taxi stand. That means you're going the right way. Make a right, not a left, then keep walking straight. You'll see a homeless man with a yellow coat. Don't look him in the eye. If you get to the Chipotle, you've gone too far. Once you do that, walk back up and half block and you'll be right there."

They usually walk away before I finish. This usually works better with a partner, who can time how long you go before they get confused and walk away.

Excuse to give management if there's a complaint: "He didn't seems to understand my initial directions, so I just provided him with more detail."

Doorman Personal Best: 45 seconds

This Doorman is an Idiot!
(Only to be pronounced the way Jerry Seinfeld delivers a punch line.)

This is my personal favorite, and you can play if you're ever in the business of having to write people's name down (e.g. hostess).

Whenever I valet a car, I need to take down the guest's name before I give them a claim ticket. If they're an asshole right off the cuff, I engage in "this doorman is an idiot.)

Me- "Last name, sir?"

Guest- "Smith"

Me- "Spell it, please?"

Guest- "S."

Me- "F"

Guest- "No, no. 'S'"

Me- "'F' Yeah, that's what I said."

Guest- "NO! 'S' like 'Sam'"

Me- "Oh, ok!"

(Cross out aggressively.)

Me- "Okay, 'S' like 'Sam'"

Guest- "M'

Me- "N"

Guest - "No! 'M' like 'Michael'"

Me- "Michael?"

Guest - "YES!"

Me- "Oh, ok. Why didn't you say so?"

(Writes Michael on the paper. Shows guest a bunch of cross-outs and the name 'Michael')

Me- "Like this?"

Guest- "NO! NO! NO! My last name is Smith!!!"

And so on...

If you were in that position, and a doorman was doing that, wouldn't you want to yell "THIS DOORMAN IS AN IDIOT!!!" to the person next to you? I would.

This is a game for more experienced players, because keeping a straight face an being able to play dumb convincingly is integral. This only excuse you could really give management is that they guest was mumbling and being aggressive, making you nervous. Though most of the time, they snatch the pen and paper out of my hands and write it themselves. I've also never been timed, so but I'd say I've hovered around the 60 second mark a few times.

Want to try? You can! Give one of these games a shot, and email me your story at TBoneHotel@gmail.com to be shared in a future blog! 

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