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Doormen and Concierges All Have Their Hands Out This Season

December 23, 1992

NEW YORK (AP) _ It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas at one New York high-rise: The doorman’s vest pocket was bulging with white envelopes full of tax-free cash.

There are a lot of hard cases in the building, ″but I’ve managed to break the ice with all of them,″ said Michael, who spoke only on condition his last name was not used.

’Tis the season when palms are extended all over Manhattan - and they don’t necessarily belong to the poor.

Tipping at Christmas is common all over the country. But if you forget to tip in New York City - especially the concierges, doormen and supers at apartment buildings - you’re likely to pay for it, pal.

Tenants say they have heard horror stories of UPS packages mysteriously ″disappearing″ or repairs not being made on time, among other incidents.

Manhattanites depend on service people more than almost anywhere else on the planet. They pay dearly at Christmas. Hairdressers, newspaper carriers, dry cleaners, the maid, the personal trainer.

You might get away without tipping one of them. But ignore the staff where you live at your peril.

″I tip everybody,″ said Ellen Wojcik, 37, a flight attendant who lives in a high-rise on the Upper East Side and has handed out $170 so far this year.

″When I first moved here (seven years ago), I thought it was some sort of joke that we were supposed to tip everyone in the building. Even the mailman,″ she said. ″But people said, if you don’t, ... watch out, maybe stuff won’t get taken care of. So now I do.″

Just approaching Manhattan’s concierges about Christmas tipping is like talking to someone from the CIA. When the question is posed, eyes dart nervously about.

Mostly, they say they just started last week and don’t know anything. If you’re lucky, they’ll pull you aside like Deep Throat and give what one doorman called ″the real skinny.″

Use their full names? When pigs fly. These guys pocket up to $5,000 every Christmas and they don’t need the IRS on their tail.

Michael, like most doormen and concierges interviewed, keeps a list every year of what each tenant gives him.

″I’m not saying it should make a difference but it does,″ he said. ″I keep track of what they gave me last year and if it goes down this year.″

Michael considers $20 acceptable - but just barely. He rarely gets more than $50 but said he’s insulted by anything less than $15. As of Tuesday, he’d made $3,100.

For tenants, it’s just one more reason to get stressed at Christmas. At Worldwide Plaza near the Hudson River, residents receive a list with the names of all 31 building employees on it.

″I hate it when they do that,″ said Bruce Lynn, 37, a publicist who lives in the high-rise. ″It’s like reminding you that you have to give them something. It’s like hitting you with a sledgehammer. It ought to be the kind of thing where you give something because they deserve it.″

Ask any concierge, doorman or super. They’ll all say they deserve it.

Mark Stevens, building manager for the Dakota on Central Park West where celebrities like Yoko Ono live, often takes his staffers aside and reminds them not to take the tipping so seriously.

″My attitude is, I’m paid to do a job,″ he said. ″But there may be some people who are upset. I tell them, it doesn’t matter if you get $1 of $10. It’s all gravy.″

Few of those interviewed shared Steven’s graciousness.

A doorman at the prestigious San Remo just down from the Dakota groused about the ″peanuts″ some of the wealthy people in his building dole out.

″We’re not getting what we deserve, to put it bluntly,″ he said. But then he stopped himself and laughed. ″Of course, we’re always crying. We get $20, we want $30. We get $30, we want $40.″

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