By Angela Frewin
Hotel porters in London believe their income is suffering because tips are dwindling and profit-hungry hotel groups are taking theatre booking commissions for themselves.
Simon Thomas, head concierge at London's Royal Garden hotel, said tips are down because fewer people carried cash, while theatre commissions were being grabbed by hotels themselves.
Thomas said that theatre ticket commissions were not big money spinners - a porter has to sell £2,000-worth of theatre tickets to make £150 - but are still important as a boost to incomes that can be as low as £120 a week.
Many porters are frightened to talk to the press because they fear being sacked, but one at a London Forte hotel, which has diverted theatre ticket commissions from the porters' pockets to its own coffers, said the loss of extra income had made it difficult for him to live and could force him to find a better-paid job.
A Forte spokeswoman said there were no plans to extend this system from that hotel to other Forte hotels, which lacked enough theatre-going guests to make sufficient money.
This proved the case at the Royal Garden, which had leased out space to a ticket agency but returned sales to the porters this January.
Elsewhere in London the Savoy and the Dorchester have run their own theatre ticket desks for 10 years, in the latter case simply adding a 5% administration charge to guests' bills. The Ritz, however, has retained the traditional porters' perk. One member of staff said: "The porters would never forgive us [if the hotel tried to change the system]."