After checking out of a 5-star hotel in Delhi last week, I casually wheeled my luggage and walked towards the exit where my taxi was waiting for me. The bellboy at the desk rushed towards me and pulled the luggage from my hands and insisted on wheeling it to the car. I let him do it. He placed it in the trunk of the car and gave me three smart salutes and a “happy journey’ greeting. And just stood there. I said ‘thank you’ and didn’t tip him even a rupee.
Following that, the doorman, opened the door of the car and gave me three smart salutes and a ‘happy journey’ greeting. Once I got in, he closed the door having made sure that the glass was down so that it wouldn’t be an hindrance when I passed on my lavish tips to him. I looked the 6’5” Sardar doorman squarely and unflinchingly in the eye and gave him a benevolent smile. No tips.
The bellboy and the doorman in any hotel form a deadly combo. They’ve developed a body language that can prompt you to pull out your wallet. They can linger around for just those few seconds longer so as to make you uncomfortable and guilty. It took me many years of travelling to learn to handle this menace.
I am all for rewarding people if they’ve provided some special service. Here all the bellboy had to so was pull a 10-kg piece of luggage for a distance of 15 metres on flat terrain or down a ramp and place it in the car- a task I was perfectly capable of undertaking myself, had he not dragged the piece out of me. Similarly, among the few things that I have learnt to do as a grown-up adult is to open the door of a car and I don’t need to be assisted in the process by 6’5” Sardars or 5’6” ones.
You would think that people would frown at this shameful practice of the hotel staff. But, if you stood in the portico for a few minutes and observed, you would find that they have a very high rate of success. Foreigners, the suckers that they are, tip lavishly. Once I saw a Tamil film star pulling out a Rs 500 note and handing it over to the doorman for the latter’s extraordinarily awesome task of opening the door. I remember regretting that I had not rushed in to open the door for the star and earned that money.