doorman

The weekend of January 30th through February 1st was arguably the busiest weekend in the history of the Phoenix-metropolitan area. Based off of ABC News, the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport had the most traffic in history on February 2nd after the weekend with about 80,000 travelers who departed the state (double the normal amount) and travelers were asked by TSA to arrive 3 hours before their scheduled flight to ensure they wouldn’t miss their flight.

Businesses saw this crowd coming weeks in advance, including the night club industry. Two weeks before the weekend arrived, my friend who is the lead server at a prominent nightclub, presented the opportunity for temporary employment as a doorman.

Based off of Wikipedia, “a bouncer (also known as a doorman, door supervisor or cooler) is a type of security guard, employed at venues such as bars, nightclubs or concerts to provide security, check legal age, to refuse entry for intoxication, aggressive behavior or non-compliance with statutory or establishment rules.”

At the end of the weekend, select employees would be extended additional cash if they did a good job. The one and only rule was to not accept bribes. If an employee was caught taking a bribe, that employee would be fired and sued by the hotel for damages.

I was scheduled to work 3 days for shifts ranging from 10 to 16 hours a day. Each day I hustled to help set up for the night as quickly as I could and staying by my bosses’ side, so I could help him out with any manual labor that he needed. All the other workers talked and lollygagged the entire time, taking double the time I would in order to complete the work.

The first two nights I was yelled at by the staff for following their orders of not letting anyone into an entrance and by the drunk patrons for following the orders of the staff. I was offered bribe after bribe to not follow the rules. My fellow doormen would leave their posts and then entrances would be wide open. I worked harder than ever to help manage the crowds and to enforce the rules by taking care of the posts they had left.

During the day after the parties, my fellow doormen would talk about taking hundreds of dollars of bribes, abandoning posts, not following orders and doing nothing to help the nightclub. However, every night when the work was over, the boss would tell everyone that we had done a great job, and nobody was fired.

My final day, I had a post with another doorman at the 50,000 dollar table reservation access point next to the DJ stage. At our entryway, only “hot girls” and servers were allowed in. The doorman boss told us to direct all guys to his entrance, and if we did a good job he would “take care of us.”

As soon as there was a lot of traffic on the dance floor my partner doorman began taking bribes. I asked him if he was going to split the money. He told me he would, but I had to bring in people too. At this point I took a bribe and allowed 2 guys entrance.

As soon as it was 2AM, my doorman partner said he had to use the bathroom and left his post. I didn’t see him the rest of the night. My doorman boss came over to my post before giving me “my share” of the bribes, which I’m sure was not even 5% of what he had received in bribes that night.

Finally, I understood the patterns:

Nobody keeps their word and no one follows the rules.

– Minimum hourly pay always brings in people who will do the minimal effort to not be fired.

– If people can cheat the system, they normally will.

– An industry satisfying the needs of a person who will spend $50,000 on a table reservation will be self-serving since that is the type of people they attract.

At the end of the hectic weekend, I had temporarily worked 40 hours over 3 days. There were envelopes full of tip money for all of the doormen who were on full-time staff, but there wasn’t anything for temporary hires. At the final meeting at 3:30AM we were all told to text-in the hours we had worked that weekend and that everyone did a great job.

Comments (1)

  1. Aaron Land

    Reply

    You give an interesting perspective from a seasonal/short-term workers’ point of view.

    It sounds like you got caught up in an organization that was just rotten to the core; no culture and corrupt from top to bottom. Yes, every business exists to make money – but at what cost? At some point a business owner must ask, “What are we doing here?” and, “Why are we doing it?”

    Not too long ago, I’d invested much time and money in acquiring a franchise license for a well-known restaurant in the area I was living in. Having worked extensively in the food services/hospitality industry prior, I knew that part-time workers would make a sizeable part of my labor force, but a nagging question bothered me: how could I attract motivated employees who believed in what we were doing, while accommodating shorter shifts they desired? How could I make their four- or six-hour shifts seem less like something they had to show up and do, and rather like something they wanted to participate in. To create an environment where everyone’s contribution mattered no matter how few or how many hours an employee worked?

    In the year leading up to our site assessment, I bussed tables at a few local restaurants to understand different management styles from the ground level. It was incredibly rewarding work for incredibly meager pay, but what I found is that the more detached management was from what happened on the restaurant floor, the less my work seemed to make a difference.

    Two examples:

    In high end establishments, guests are greeted by a formal maître d’hôtel – the front-of-the-house management position and the head waiter in charge of ensuring a superb dining experience for every customer. In most restaurants, however, visitors simply add their name to a list, from which an under enthused teenage host or hostess will lead them to a table set by an anonymous busboy.

    In the former, service is everything. In the latter, service can be an afterthought and a customer’s first impression is often made by the conduct and demeanor of two of the lowest ranked and lowest paid positions in most restaurants.

    So after seeing the business ‘from the trenches’ my question became, how could we foster culture and environment that would encourage a part-time employee to act the same with the same passion and motivation as a full-time employee would?

    Our business plan therefore incentivized all part-time employees to play a more active role in daily operations by providing benefits to them that would normally be reserved to full-time time employees – those with a stake in the long-term health and well-being of the of the company. These included such perks as financial and retirement planning, team award bonuses, and full access to health and dental – all before the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act.

    Much fine-tuning was made before we made our final pitch, and though we ultimately we failed to secure our license, the feedback I received from the franchisor executives was superb. Today I can walk into many of their establishments and see some of the service changes I proposed: that empowering staff to make decisions autonomously creates a culture of ownership and responsibility. As a customer I enjoy dining at these establishments even more since the changes have been made.

    The franchisor I applied to license aims to provide a world-class dining experience, for every customer, every visit. That’s the company’s mission statement.

    After reading of your unfortunate experience, I can only wonder what your employer’s mission statement was.

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