The author, who asked to remain anonymous, worked as a doorman/bellhop at a boutique NYC hotel from 2004 until 2006. Here now, for Curbed's Hotels Week, he shares some tales.
"If I give you fifty dollars, will you go get me cigarettes?" asked the naked woman in the hotel room doorway. My answer, after picking my jaw up off the floor, was "absolutely." And not just because she was naked. It was about 2 a.m. and I was the only doorman (or bellhop) working at this chic, Manhattan boutique hotel. A pack of cigarettes meant a three-block trek to the bodega, leaving the front door abandoned. But $50 was a serious tip, especially on an overnight, and as a hotel doorman, every motion I made, every word I spoke, was fueled entirely by the desire for cash.
From the moment you check in, the hustle begins. What seems like friendly four-star service is a carefully orchestrated plan. A doorman is waiting for you to arrive and immediately grabs your bag. Before you have a chance to say, "No, I can grab this tiny, wheeled piece of luggage myself," he's already loaded it onto a cart and introduced himself during the short walk to the front desk. The bag is then handed off to the bellman, whom the doorman introduces you to and pauses just long enough for you to realize a tip is expected. The doorman may not stand there with his palm open, but he might as well. At that point the bellman has your bag(s) and you're with him through the rest of the check-in. After the awkward elevator ride, he gives you the long, unnecessary hotel room tour—"And this is the sink"—that you never needed. His time and service is worth a buck or two, right? Right.