The puzzling “roles and responsibilities” of doormen in New York City

The building where we live now is the only building where I’ve had doormen. In fact, when I first moved to New York, I never thought I’d ever live in a building with doormen, but alas, here we are. Having doormen seemed like a weird urban luxury, one that is almost like a false security because even with doormen manning your front door, strangers and crazies somehow manage to make their way into all types of buildings. Doormen take breaks, and when those transitions happen, that’s when things slip through the cracks.

But when I did think of doormen when I first moved here, I thought that they handled people coming into and out of units (guests), as well as packages. That’s not actually the case in a lot of buildings, including ours. The security desk and porters in our building handle packages and deliveries. The doormen only handle people coming in the front door – residents and guests. Anyone with a delivery comes through the security entrance and not the front entrance. It’s the way we’re set up. So the “scope” of doormen in our building is less than in other buildings where they also manage packages and deliveries.

It’s also confusing when you move from one doorman building to the next, and the doormen don’t do the same things, so you need to reset your own expectations. For example, I was coordinating a Buy Nothing group pickup on Sunday, and the person I was picking up from told me that although she lived in a doorman building, the doorman “doesn’t like” holding stuff for pickup, so he gives her attitude when she asks. So to prevent this from happening, she just leaves the item with the person’s name on it in a conspicuous place in the lobby, and the person can just pick it up. It’s not necessarily the safest option, as literally anyone could swipe it, but she said she’d never encountered problems with this before.

Another person said she left an item for me in a bag with my name on it with the doorman. When I went to pick it up, the doorman didn’t check anything anywhere and simply stared me in the face and said, “I don’t have anything being held for anyone, no.” I stared back at him, also dead in the eye, and said, “I know there is something here with my name on it in a brown bag. Can you please check?” And I refused to move. He stared me down for a few more seconds, then went to the back room, immediately saw a bag with (gasp) my name on it, and said, “Well, what do you know – here’s a bag with your name on it right here!” And he handed it to me.

Sometimes, I wonder what kind of fake authority people like to assert when in situations like this. Is it so much more fun and fulfilling for them during the day to just sit there and play on their phones instead of actually doing their jobs?

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