Curbed interviewed a native New Yorker and 16-year veteran of the hotel industry, an ex-bellhop who divided his career between two highbrow hotels in Midtown. Last year's tell-all contained a few gems, but there are more where they came from. Here are but a few of his stories:
We bellmen check people in, carry the bags up, bring them to the rooms, check them out, store the bags for them, and hand them off to the doormen, who will show them the best way to the airport. A good bellman is a concierge, too.
I worked the night shift. It's from 3 in the afternoon till 11 at night. So I did the check-ins and check-outs. I did checked bags. But later in the shift, when we're standing in the lobby at 7 or 8 o'clock at night, we already know guests passing by because we checked them in. They'll stop and ask for recommendations for dinner, or say, "We want to go Macy's," or tourist sites like the Empire State Building. We send them in the right direction and give them advice.
Once I had guests, a couple, and they asked me for advice about Italian food. I was born and raised here, so I know New York. I sent them to a place. They came back and said it was exactly as I described. We talked about the fact that I'm half-Italian. I said the best Italian food is the city was probably at my house. I offered an invitation, thinking they would never say yes.
But we went to Brooklyn to my Italian family, and they stayed for dinner. They said that was the best restaurant in New York. This was very unusualit happened once in my whole career. They were there for a good two hours, took a taxi all all the way to Flatbush. The cab ride alone cost $45 one way. It was unusual that they saw Brooklyn, especially where I sent them. It was fun, and they loved it. They saw the other side of New York. I'm nice to people, but there are limits. I don't think you would find a story like this in New York. I never invited another guest to my house again.
They gave me a nice tip, but I made much bigger tips doing nothing things. That time wasn't about the money. The biggest tip I ever got was $1,000. A guest asked me to go next door to a restaurant to tell me what a lady was doing. I don't think it was anything romantic, but i think he just didn't want to stick his nose in and see her, because he was a big shot. I thought he would give me $100 like always, but then I saw he was counting out 10 $100 bills.
I broke my back for other people and I would get $10, but that's the way it is. I would give it my best, and sometimes people stiff you, and sometimes a tip is ridiculously high for doing almost nothing. That guy who gave me $1,000 would give me $100 when I opened the door for him. He had too much money. He was a Wall Street guy.
Some guests gravitate towards drugs and sexI don't want to elaborate, but illegal stuff. There were those two good stories, and some others were the bad ones. Like let's say a guy asked for a prostitute, he would come to a bellman to look for guidance. Sex and drugs, sure, I could handle that whenever it came up. Absolutely, I obligebut they can fire you easily. When the bellman checks you in, the guest might tell him what they want. Of course, the hotel is not condoning that by any means.
I've met up with guests after workmen and women who wanted to go to a certain place, a bar or something, and they asked me to meet them there, share their New York experience. We've had drinks, and had a good time. When they're on vacation, they want to party, and the sky's the limit. These guys and girls, they go clubbing. Easily over 10 times, I joined guests outside the hotel at different places in the area. One time a female guest invited me to meet her after work at a bar I recommended, and then when I arrived, she kissed me right on the mouth as if we were together or had been married for years. She had some drinks in her.
If a guest is smoking marijuana in a room, and guests in an adjacent room called downstairs complaining, security would come up and either tell them to stop, or change their room to a different room on a different floor. At which point the bellman comes to help them move. I'm the middle guy. I'm more on the guests' side than I am on the hotel's side. It has a lot to do with the tips. I've gone across town for a package. More than once. We have full run of the hotel and even go outside the hotel, for the guests.
There are guests who do say, "I'm by myself. I want a girl," and ask the bellman. There's a time when the bellman and the guest are both in the room, and a guest may ask for sex, drugs, or a prostitute. They say, "I need this. I want that."
There are times when guests go out and try to obtain these things on their own and come back complaining that they got ripped off. People who want to do things that are, let's say, illegal, when there are drugs or prostitution or some kind of a funky thing you cannot find online. Who's going to help them? The guy that's from here: "You want to go here? Let me show you something better."
The doorman has to stay at the door. But the bellmen, there are six to eight working in a large hotel at one time. It all depends on the bellmen and doormen. In a team of 10 bellmen, there are two or three who might do anything. Some bellmen are willing to do that, to go the extra mile. They're going to get money out of it. I've had a bellman come up to me and say, "This guest wants this. Can you help him?"
There are also bellman that are really experts at, say, certain sports, like what teams, where they are playing, and at what time. One time I had checked in people from Boston, wearing their Red Sox jerseys. I'm bringing them up to the room. They said, "We're going to the game tomorrow." I said, "Oh, I hope your team wins." And they were angry and said, "You call yourself a Yankee fan?" I don't follow baseball. There were guests who wanted to know when a game was on tonight, and I would say, "I don't know," and and turn to a bellmen who knows. We all know each other.
[The sex- and drug-related requests] are totally not commonplace. Most of the time people are checking in are businesspeople and families. A lot of businesspeople carry their own bags. They're mixed up with their work, and they don't want to do any partying. But one time, guests said they were partying in the East Village, at a club. They wanted to buy a little something, but when they bought it, it was no good. So they came to us. It's illegal on so many levels, the hotel's as well as the law. But guess what? People are doing it.
I've had a few high-profile guests, and for sure they were doing drugs in the hotel. They were even high as they were leaving. Even political and royal families.
Now I am out of the hotel industry. I left last year after working 16 years altogether at two different hotels in Midtown, a luxury and a three-star. I'm going back to school to study computer technology. I'm glad to be out of it. It was fun, but I did it long enough.
· 'Let Me Grab That Bag For You': Confessions of a Bellhop [Curbed National]
· Hotels Week 2014 [Curbed]