Mann Publications | By Mahzabeen Alam
Imagine walking into your building and a voice calls your name. You look around you, but there’s no one there. It’s your virtual doorman greeting you. No, there isn’t a hologram of a man or woman in concierge uniform, but instead a camera on the wall being monitored by remote personnel.
Since the inception of virtual doormen almost two decades ago, many New Yorkers have been enjoying this perk. With the rise of technology, companies like Virtual Doorman, Cyberdoorman, and ButterflyMX are creating alternative methods to surveillance and concierge services. Luxury buildings, such as those in East Williamsburg, Woodside, Astoria, and the West Village are turning to remote services to offer security and safe delivery of resident packages.
So, what does it mean to have a remote doorman? They essentially function like this: when a package arrives, the delivery person first makes contact with the command center and is directed to a locked storage room where they leave the package. The remote doorman carefully monitors the courier’s activity until he or she leaves the building, ascertaining the safety of the packages.
But are remote doormen really revolutionary, or should we stick to the motto, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”
Consistency and Surveillance
For starters, it depends on what kind of condo/co-op building you’re trying to represent. The busy and bustling New Yorker might not be too bothered with substituting a physical doorman with a virtual one. The promise of privacy and non-judgmental looks as residents walk in with their grocery haul offers more than just physical security. Therefore, there is a sense of peace and freedom that a physical doorman can’t offer. Not only can residents rest easy knowing their packages have been delivered safely, but they can also appreciate the absence of someone watching their comings and goings.
Then there’s the cost of rent. For those looking to save up for a vacation or perhaps already have a healthy spending habit, saving a few hundred bucks on rent would be a burden off their shoulders. Labor costs are high, and, in addition to the annual wage, New York etiquette requires doormen to receive regular tips. In the past, there have been threats of doormen going on strike over fair contracts. However, remote doormen eliminate this concern and allow tenants to put a nice extra chunk into your savings.
And the perks continue: instead of being hired by building managers, remote doormen are simply recruited by security companies like Virtual Doorman, which offers stability not only for residents, but for the doorman as well. Residents wouldn’t have to walk down to the lobby one day only to find their doorman had been laid off the night before or impulsively decided to quit, leaving the building without security or a package delivery service.
The Human Touch
The paradox with smart technology, such as the remote doorman, is that it can also be fragile at times. One technological malfunction can result in a total system shutdown, resulting in lost security, as the remote doorman is not there to reassure concerned residents. Power outages ranging between minor street-long ones to the infamous Summer 2003 blackout can be detrimental to all the amenities and security that remote doormen provide.
Moreover, it wouldn’t take just a power outage to take down the system, but also internet disruptions. Something as minor as a loss of connection between the command center and the remote doorman can result in getting locked out of the building with no alternate way in. With how fickle technology can occasionally be, it would be uncertain as to how long residents have to wait to get in. This certainly wouldn’t be an issue with a physical doorman, who could take the place of a complex technological system.
Besides offering support during blackouts, physical doormen provide something that a remote one can’t: a human touch. Beyond handling packages with a careful hand that random delivery people may lack, they take stock of tenants’ needs. In a city like New York, where we are constantly surrounded by people and yet barely acknowledge one another, doormen offer a way to be present. They are more than just a person opening the door for you or informing you of a package delivery—they are a friendly neighbor, a comrade who offers safety and lends an actual helping hand.
The exciting new developments that percolate in apartment buildings can add to a comfortable and secure living environment, but, at the end of the day, it’s up to you as a manager to decide what makes your building complete.
This article first appeared in Mann Publications.