I know, I know – you’re already thinking, “He’s going to talk about condo concierges, again?”
But you have to understand that I wouldn’t be telling these stories if situations like this didn’t keep arising.
Last week, I met maybe the rudest concierge I’ve ever come across in Toronto, but to make matters worse, it seemed like she genuinely enjoyed what she was doing, and even thought she was in the right…
If I had to guess, I’d say this is probably the……..fifth? Maybe sixth story I’ve written like this, about obnoxious, rude, unhelpful, or overbearing concierges in Toronto. But after 1,600 blog posts, that’s not bad, as a percentage…
It does, however, underscore a problem that most people are aware exists in Toronto, but as it purely defines the term “First World Problems,” we’re probably not going to worry enough to actually do anything about it.
My condo, which has been the subject of several rants about property management, concierges, and the like, recently replaced all the concierges with newbies, in what I have to think is an attempt to “control” the employees by property management, and/or the board.
Maybe the concierges were getting a bit too friendly with the residents, and management figured they’d need to start over?
Maybe it was when the concierges were instructed by management not to EVER open the door for a resident, and insist the resident use their FOB, and the concierges took that instruction to heart for all of a day?
It’s just ironic – that when concierges get “too friendly” with residents, they’re almost deemed to be not doing their job.
In Toronto, it seems, condo concierges are trained to be as smug as the cop who pulls you over for speeding, as power-tripping as the guy searching your luggage at NEXUS, and as helpful as the guy who works in the “Lumber” section at Home Depot and claims he can’t answer any questions about carpet.
Last week, I went into a downtown Toronto condo building which shall remain nameless, because to be perfectly honest, I was there to list a property that will hit the market after Labour Day.
It was probably one of the worst experiences I’ve had in a condo, not necessarily because of any one incident, but rather the whole package of complete and utter unhelpfulness, which was deliberate on the part of the concierge.
I accessed the visitor parking garage by following another car in. I know – I’m to blame for the entire mess ahead, right? Well I was going to buzz, but the door opened, and I followed.
Once down in the underground, I went to the elevator, and pressed the button for the concierge to allow access, but he or she did not. I waved at the camera, pressed the button again, but the door didn’t open. I tried for a while, to be honest, but I wanted to be on time for my client, so I eventually gave up. I took the stairs to the street, and then walked a half-block down to the main entrance, and headed into the lobby.
I approached the concierge, and said, “Hello.” I waited for a response, but she was really busy with some important papers on a clipboard. She waited a couple minutes, and then looked up as though I had just arrived, and said, “May I help you?”
The irony is – they ask the question, but they don’t really want to help. “May I help you” is basically code for “I’m about to be really, really unhelpful.”
I joked, “Yeah, hello, I’m the guy who just frantically waved from P1 trying to get into the elevator? Anyways, no worries, I took the stairs, and I’m here to get a parking pass.”
“Oh, I’m not worried,” she said, dripping with cynicism. “But I guess you were resourceful enough to find your way here.” And then she just stared at me. Cold.
“Okay,” said, “So I’m here to get a parking pass.”
“Let me check,” she said, as she looked around past some newspapers and her lunch (not exaggerating – this is verbatim), and then said, “I don’t see one here. Was one left for you?”
“No,” I told her. “I don’t think so. I’m here to see Bob Smith in 1515.”
“Did Bob leave a pass for you?” she asked. “Because here at 123 Smith Street, we don’t just had out passes. The resident needs to leave one for you.”
“Okay, I guess I’ll just have to get one drawn up then,” I told her, not exactly aware of the process. “Can you help me with that?”
Famous last words.
“Sure,” she said, “In a moment.”
She then turned to a girl standing next to me, and helped her instead. The girl was a resident, so I guess they have a two-tier system there where they help residents first, which I guess I don’t really find fault with.
This was the amazing part though, that really drove home how important this concierge felt her job was.
The girl wanted a parking pass for her boyfriend, and the concierge asked where the boyfriend was. The girl said he was in front of the parking garage, waiting to get in.
“Tell him to come closer,” the concierge said, as she looked at the TV screen with the security camera.
“Closer?” the resident asked.
“Yes,” the concierge said. “I need to see him.”
The resident then got on her phone and called the boyfriend. She said, “Hey, can you go closer to the camera?”
The concierge stared into the screen, squinting, as though she was trying to see if there was anything in the boyfriend’s teeth. “Closer,” she said, and the resident again relayed, “Closer.”
After another round of “closer,” the concierge said, “Okay, he’s good,” and I began to wonder if the concierge was looking to see if the guy was attractive enough. Or maybe she wanted to see if a monkey was driving the car, or if the driver had a t-shirt that said “Serial Killer.”
The concierge allowed access, and then went through the “make, model, year, colour” of the car, which is done in several other buildings and I still feel it’s overkill, and issued a pass to the resident.
The concierge did not turn back to me. She just sat there, doing her own thing.
“Sooooo……about that pass?” I asked.
“Oh, right, you’re still here,” she said to me.
We exchanged a couple more pleasantries, and finally she said, “I’ll call up to Bob and have him come down to verify your identity and see about that parking pass.”
Hey look, I know a con artist or serial killer could be playing this woman, trying to get a parking pass, but should we all live our lives in fear of the worst case scenario? “Verify your identity?”
The concierge called Bob, but there was no answer. She called again, and I said, “You know, he’s got a week-old baby, and a toddler, maybe we can avoid this?”
She did the slowest, most exaggerated turn of her head, like a cartoon, and said, “Oh……reeeeeally? So somebody has a baby and that changes protocol? I……don’t……think…..so.”
I told her, “Okay, let me try him,” and she smirked and said, “Um, no, I don’t think so. You could be calling anybody.”
Sure, I guess I could be. I could be running a massive scam. I could be doing a lot of things. But I’m not. And 99.999% of the time, the person isn’t a serial killer, but some concierges act as though they’re standing next to the guy crapping out cocaine-filled balloons at airport security, when really they’re just there to issue a goddam parking pass to a guy in a suit who has already provided a business card, a RECO license, and a driver’s license…
During this melee, a pizza delivery man came in, and looked at the concierge and said, “Pizza.”
She said, “What?”
He said, “Pizza, for delivery.”
She replied, “Is that a question? Or a statement? What is it I can help you with?”
Honestly, she was going out of her way to be rude and obnoxious.
“Pizza for delivery, 10th floor.”
“Did the tenth floor order a pizza,” she asked, “Or do you have a specific resident on the tenth floor to whom you are delivering that pizza, and if so, would you like me to verify that they authorize you to enter?”
Sarcasm and cynicism. Snide and smug.
She called the resident, the pizza guy went up, and then he came down. And I stood there like a moron for ten minutes.
At one point I said, “You know, Bob might have the phone off the hook – maybe his baby is sleeping? I could go up and knock on the door and see if they’re home.”
She paused, slowly smiled, and then let out a fake laugh.
“Sure, sure,” she said. “Why don’t I just allow you unauthorized access to the building?”
With a statement like that, she was just showing off her knowledge of big words and buzz-terms, but it also showed me how much she enjoyed the power she had.
Like I said at the onset, these are clearly first world problems. We’re not exactly riddled with disease here; we’re talking about not getting a parking pass in a timely and carefree manner.
But it was clear that this woman was going to make simple tasks difficult, and go out of her way to be deliberately unhelpful.
If you could just picture the scene – with her saying “closer” and the resident waiting for a parking pass saying “closer,” back-and-forth, over and over, you’d get a sense of how much time must be wasted on a daily basis at that front desk so that a person with low self-esteem can gain a sense of self-importance by making other people’s day’s tougher.
It’s just a parking pass, I know.
It’s just a pizza delivery man, and he deals with much worse.
But I picked this one seemingly-simple twelve-minute interaction to demonstrate that a “concierge” in Toronto is no longer like the guy pictured at the top. They’re no lo longer there to help.
Eventually, my client walked through the lobby, and the day was saved. The concierge smiled at him, and was delightful, and I wondered if she had a personality disorder, or just enjoyed being nice to people she needed to be nice to, and enjoyed being rude and snide to everybody else.
So here’s the burning question: how do concierges come to be like this?
Do property managers encourage concierges to act like they’re guarding Fort Knox?
Do cynical, snide, petty people all seem to be attracted to this line of work?
I don’t have the answer, but I do know that for every person who says, “Oh I love my concierge! Mike – he’s the best, he’s so nice and he always says hello!” There are five people that despise their condo’s front desk staff.
And as more and more condos are built downtown, and more and more people seek employment in the industry, condo concierges are losing that fine art of being “helpful,” and instead are taking out all of their inner demons on residents of the building, every day. Every single day…