New York Minute: iPhones at Work

Kristi Evans
Columnist from  Money-Makin' Manhattan
| April 13, 2010

Gone are the days of cell phone use at work being taboo. If you've ever worked in the service industry or still do, you know what I'm talking about. That "aww, man" feeling when your restaurant manager catches you in the kitchen texting your friends about how epic last night was. "That's strike 2," she says.  Or maybe you work at an office where Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites are blocked. You think your boss is out to lunch but he comes around the corner right at the moment you are laughing hysterically at a YouTube video on your iPhone. D'oh! And now he wants to see it too. Double d'oh! Why couldn't I have just favorited that tweet and watched the video it when I got home? was just too tempting. It's like your seventh grade teacher catching you passing notes and reading it aloud to the class. "Do you like me? Check yes or no." Death from embarrassment. You can never look him in the eye after that. 

Times, they are a-changing and it's a good thing. When I'm not writing for the internets, I am working at a hotel desk in midtown Manhattan, attempting to be some semblance of a concierge. As a native New Yorker, the job comes somewhat naturally but don't get me wrong - it's no piece of cake. We can't tell guests that "hey, it's meatloaf night at Applebee's and I can get you a nice table by the fishtank!" That may sound like a cut at small town, USA but I'm mostly just jealous of their spacious living quarters. NYC boasts a staggering 20,000 restaurants in our five boroughs and while that is one of the many reasons our little island of Manhattan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it proves a daunting task for me to stay up to date with the constant flux of ever-changing bars and eateries. In my fantasy world, I'd go to different venues every night, sample the fare, take in the ambience, chat up the manager, and expense it all to research. Somewhere, my boss just laughed. 

As knowledgeable as we pretend to be, websites like Menupages and Shecky's are tremendously helpful in our concierge quest to send guests to a place that will make them feel like locals. But I've found out recently that many times the iPhone app is faster and more focused on a final decision rather than narrowed-down results of a web-based search. Certain apps like Yelp, UrbanSpoon, and Metromix try to do just that, but my favorite as of late is The Next Move by UrbanDaddy. The app design is ubercool with a sexy interface, pinpointing your day, time and location, then asking the question: What do you want? The options are: Brunch, Lunch, Drinks, Dinner, Dessert, Dancing, etc. Then it asks: Who are you with? There are some amusing answers mixed in here, such as: Boyfriend, Parents, Friends, Ex, Mistress, Boss. The subcategories then get even funnier and a bit racy asking if you are wild, more low-brow or perhaps desire to be surrounded by cougars. Believe me, these questions (and ones I can't mention but may one day become a coffee table book) get asked at my desk. Instead of staring blankly at the guest or politely explaining that I can't help them, I can use my handy "automated concierge" UrbanDaddy app without my boss giving me the side-eye for using my cell at work. Now, if only someone could create an app to help the poor soul calling from his room upstairs asking, "how do I get to Manhattan?" 

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