The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Saturday, December 20, 2003  

Things Are More Subtle Here

It’s that time of year. Christmas. The “holiday season.”

Hands are outstretched. Hands you haven’t seen all year -- and yes, I’m talking to you, Mr. or Ms. Newspaper Delivery Person, you who cannot be relied upon to arrive here every day -- are asking for a year-end “gratuity” or a “gesture of appreciation.”

In other words, a tip. In cash, which as Yogi Berra once said, is as good as real money.

This is not a bad thing. It’s not evil, nor is it nefarious or unjustified. But here and there at least, it’s just a little out of control.

In my first building in New York we were practically extorted for a Christmas tip by a motley collection of “doormen” and “porters,” men who only arose from their seats when their legs became cramped.

An almost-threatening note was distributed in early December detailing the required customary gratuity, based on numerous factors including the number of residents in each unit and certain imaginary “special services” that may have been provided during the year. And they took names. If one were to decline to contribute, they would know about it. No big deal considering these guys never once opened the door, but a matter of consequence when it came to a backed-up sink.

At my second building in New York, where the doormen would do anything for you -- including hauling boxes of books your ex practically dumped on the sidewalk, holding his hand out the whole time for still more cash -- a similar notice was posted near the elevators. At that building, famed for its out-front topiary, I gladly distributed monies at Christmas. When you own two bulldogs, which I did at the time, and said doormen, on request, will take your bulldogs for a walk (my maid did it too), you do things like that.

Now I see that at my present residence, in which there are, I’m guessing, roughly 100 apartments, a “tip box” has been placed at the front desk, where the door-people/security guards sit.

That’s new this year.

I’m not sure what I will or can do for them. But I appreciate the gesture.

It’s subtle. Suggestive, even, rather than demanding. So different from New York. So very Philadelphia.

And that’s a good thing.

[Note: The post previously was published at TRR: The Lighter Side of Rittenhouse.]

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