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    Appendix A

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    Chapter 51
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    APPENDIX ----------

    Nothing gives such weight and dignity to a book as an Appendix.
    HERODOTUS

    APPENDIX A The Portier

    Omar Khay'am, the poet-prophet of Persia, writing more than eight
    hundred years ago, has said:

    "In the four parts of the earth are many that are able to write learned
    books, many that are able to lead armies, and many also that are able to
    govern kingdoms and empires; but few there be that can keep a hotel."

    A word about the European hotel PORTIER. He is a most admirable
    invention, a most valuable convenience. He always wears a conspicuous
    uniform; he can always be found when he is wanted, for he sticks closely
    to his post at the front door; he is as polite as a duke; he speaks
    from four to ten languages; he is your surest help and refuge in time of
    trouble or perplexity. He is not the clerk, he is not the landlord; he
    ranks above the clerk, and represents the landlord, who is seldom seen.
    Instead of going to the clerk for information, as we do at home, you
    go to the portier. It is the pride of our average hotel clerk to know
    nothing whatever; it is the pride of the portier to know everything. You
    ask the portier at what hours the trains leave--he tells you instantly;
    or you ask him who is the best physician in town; or what is the hack
    tariff; or how many children the mayor has; or what days the galleries
    are open, and whether a permit is required, and where you are to get it,
    and what you must pay for it; or when the theaters open and close, what
    the plays are to be, and the price of seats; or what is the newest thing
    in hats; or how the bills of mortality average; or "who struck Billy
    Patterson." It does not matter what you ask him: in nine cases out of
    ten he knows, and in the tenth case he will find out for you before you
    can turn around three times. There is nothing he will not put his hand
    to. Suppose you tell him you wish to go from Hamburg to Peking by the
    way of Jericho, and are ignorant of routes and prices--the next morning
    he will hand you a piece of paper with the whole thing worked out on it
    to the last detail. Before you have been long on European soil, you find
    yourself still SAYING you are relying on Providence, but when you come
    to look closer you will see that in reality you are relying on the
    portier. He discovers what is puzzling you, or what is troubling you,
    or what your need is, before you can get the half of it out, and he
    promptly says, "Leave that to me." Consequently, you easily drift into
    the habit of leaving everything to him. There is a certain embarrassment
    about applying to the average American hotel clerk, a certain hesitancy,
    a sense of insecurity against rebuff; but you feel no embarrassment in
    your intercourse with the portier; he receives your propositions with an
    enthusiasm which cheers, and plunges into their accomplishment with an
    alacrity which almost inebriates. The more requirements you can pile
    upon him, the better he likes it. Of course the result is that you cease
    from doing anything for yourself. He calls a hack when you want one;
    puts you into it; tells the driver whither to take you; receives you
    like a long-lost child when you return; sends you about your business,
    does all the quarreling with the hackman himself, and pays him his money
    out of his own pocket. He sends for your theater tickets, and pays for
    them; he sends for any possible article you can require, be it a doctor,
    an elephant, or a postage stamp; and when you leave, at last, you will
    find a subordinate seated with the cab-driver who will put you in your
    railway compartment, buy your tickets, have your baggage weighed, bring
    you the printed tags, and tell you everything is in your bill and paid
    for. At home you get such elaborate, excellent, and willing service as
    this only in the best hotels of our large cities; but in Europe you get
    it in the mere back country-towns just as well.

    What is the secret of the portier's devotion? It is very simple: he gets
    FEES, AND NO SALARY. His fee is pretty closely regulated, too. If you
    stay a week, you give him five marks--a dollar and a quarter, or about
    eighteen cents a day. If you stay a month, you reduce this average
    somewhat. If you stay two or three months or longer, you cut it down
    half, or even more than half. If you stay only one day, you give the
    portier a mark.

    The head waiter's fee is a shade less than the portier's; the Boots, who
    not only blacks your boots and brushes your clothes, but is usually the
    porter and handles your baggage, gets a somewhat smaller fee than the
    head waiter; the chambermaid's fee ranks below that of the Boots. You
    fee only these four, and no one else. A German gentleman told me that
    when he remained a week in a hotel, he gave the portier five marks, the
    head waiter four, the Boots three, and the chambermaid two; and if he
    stayed three months he divided ninety marks among them, in about the
    above proportions. Ninety marks make $22.50.

    None of these fees are ever paid until you leave the hotel, though it
    be a year--except one of these four servants should go away in the mean
    time; in that case he will be sure to come and bid you good-by and
    give you the opportunity to pay him what is fairly coming to him. It
    is considered very bad policy to fee a servant while you are still to
    remain longer in the hotel, because if you gave him too little he might
    neglect you afterward, and if you gave him too much he might neglect
    somebody else to attend to you. It is considered best to keep his
    expectations "on a string" until your stay is concluded.

    I do not know whether hotel servants in New York get any wages or not,
    but I do know that in some of the hotels there the feeing system in
    vogue is a heavy burden. The waiter expects a quarter at breakfast--and
    gets it. You have a different waiter at luncheon, and so he gets a
    quarter. Your waiter at dinner is another stranger--consequently he gets
    a quarter. The boy who carries your satchel to your room and lights your
    gas fumbles around and hangs around significantly, and you fee him to
    get rid of him. Now you may ring for ice-water; and ten minutes later
    for a lemonade; and ten minutes afterward, for a cigar; and by and by
    for a newspaper--and what is the result? Why, a new boy has appeared
    every time and fooled and fumbled around until you have paid him
    something. Suppose you boldly put your foot down, and say it is the
    hotel's business to pay its servants? You will have to ring your bell
    ten or fifteen times before you get a servant there; and when he goes
    off to fill your order you will grow old and infirm before you see him
    again. You may struggle nobly for twenty-four hours, maybe, if you are
    an adamantine sort of person, but in the mean time you will have been
    so wretchedly served, and so insolently, that you will haul down your
    colors, and go to impoverishing yourself with fees.

    It seems to me that it would be a happy idea to import the European
    feeing system into America. I believe it would result in getting even
    the bells of the Philadelphia hotels answered, and cheerful service
    rendered.

    The greatest American hotels keep a number of clerks and a cashier, and
    pay them salaries which mount up to a considerable total in the course
    of a year. The great continental hotels keep a cashier on a trifling
    salary, and a portier WHO PAYS THE HOTEL A SALARY. By the latter system
    both the hotel and the public save money and are better served than by
    our system. One of our consuls told me that a portier of a great Berlin
    hotel paid five thousand dollars a year for his position, and yet
    cleared six thousand dollars for himself. The position of portier in the
    chief hotels of Saratoga, Long Branch, New York, and similar centers of
    resort, would be one which the holder could afford to pay even more than
    five thousand dollars for, perhaps.

    When we borrowed the feeing fashion from Europe a dozen years ago, the
    salary system ought to have been discontinued, of course. We might make
    this correction now, I should think. And we might add the portier, too.
    Since I first began to study the portier, I have had opportunities to
    observe him in the chief cities of Germany, Switzerland, and Italy;
    and the more I have seen of him the more I have wished that he might be
    adopted in America, and become there, as he is in Europe, the stranger's
    guardian angel.

    Yes, what was true eight hundred years ago, is just as true today: "Few
    there be that can keep a hotel." Perhaps it is because the landlords and
    their subordinates have in too many cases taken up their trade without
    first learning it. In Europe the trade of hotel-keeper is taught. The
    apprentice begins at the bottom of the ladder and masters the several
    grades one after the other. Just as in our country printing-offices the
    apprentice first learns how to sweep out and bring water; then learns
    to "roll"; then to sort "pi"; then to set type; and finally rounds
    and completes his education with job-work and press-work; so the
    landlord-apprentice serves as call-boy; then as under-waiter; then as
    a parlor waiter; then as head waiter, in which position he often has to
    make out all the bills; then as clerk or cashier; then as portier. His
    trade is learned now, and by and by he will assume the style and dignity
    of landlord, and be found conducting a hotel of his own.

    Now in Europe, the same as in America, when a man has kept a hotel
    so thoroughly well during a number of years as to give it a great
    reputation, he has his reward. He can live prosperously on that
    reputation. He can let his hotel run down to the last degree of
    shabbiness and yet have it full of people all the time. For instance,
    there is the Hôtel de Ville, in Milan. It swarms with mice and fleas,
    and if the rest of the world were destroyed it could furnish dirt enough
    to start another one with. The food would create an insurrection in a
    poorhouse; and yet if you go outside to get your meals that hotel makes
    up its loss by overcharging you on all sorts of trifles--and without
    making any denials or excuses about it, either. But the Hôtel de
    Ville's old excellent reputation still keeps its dreary rooms crowded
    with travelers who would be elsewhere if they had only some wise friend
    to warn them.
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