Why does my neighbor have so many guests?
April 5, 2006 7:14 PM   Subscribe

What reasonable, legal reason could my new neighbor have for having 30+ visitors (one at a time) over the course of five hours every day?

I know I sound like a stalker, but I share the hallway outside my apartment with only one neighbor; his door is directly across from mine. I have lived in the same apartment for a year, in the same building for four years. My new neighbor moved in about two weeks ago, and for the last week, he has had more than 30 visitors from 5 p.m. - 10 p.m., every night (including weekends).

I first noticed this because each time his door opens, my door bangs back because of the air pressure change. The first day, I thought, hey, he's moving more stuff in, great! However, the frequency and timing of the visits hasn't changed.

I have not sat at my peephole and watched each person go in and out, but periodically, I will get up and take a gander; it seems to always be a different person coming in, and each person has a key. I have seen at least fifteen separate individuals with keys. I am making (the somewhat unfounded) assumption that the remaining entries I hear are also different people, and they all have keys because I can hear the key enter the lock.

Is this something I should be concerned about? I am a single woman, living alone. I met my neighbor when he first moved in. I thought it was unusual that he didn't have any help to move some large furniture so I offered to help; he declined. He's about my age (mid-20's), relatively normal-looking. There are no strange smells coming from his apartment (our kitchens share a vent). When I do see him, I say hello, and he sort of nods. I get the feeling that he's not really a people person.

I am sure that I am overreacting, but I do find this unusual at the very least, and I am more than a little suspicious. I certainly don't fear for my life, rather, I want to make sure that nothing illegal is going on right across the way. I realize I am a nosy neighbor.

I live in a very nice apartment building, in one of the upper-class neighborhoods in Chicago. My area is often considered part of "downtown" Chicago. His apartment has the same layout as mine (a corner, one bedroom, 800 sf unit). I doubt that fifteen people could live in the apartment, so that explanation won't work.

Is there anything, anything at all, that I should "do" about this? Or should I just let it go?

Please, no flames about being an nosy neighbor. I already admitted it. I am. Sorry.
posted by MeetMegan to Home & Garden (107 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You can ask him about it. Something like, "Hey, I heard a lot of doors banging shut/open the other night. Is everything okay?"
posted by nakedsushi at 7:18 PM on April 5, 2006

It could be absolutely anything. Let it go.
posted by fire&wings at 7:20 PM on April 5, 2006

Best answer: You might want to talk to your landlord/building manager. Fifteen or more people all having keys to the apartment with a brand new tenant might be cause for some concern.
posted by zachlipton at 7:21 PM on April 5, 2006

How long do each of his guests stay?
posted by TG_Plackenfatz at 7:23 PM on April 5, 2006

Ask him about it. If you don't feel comfortable with that then ask the landlord to look into it.

I moved out of an apartment for this very reason. I asked the guy what was up and he had no answer, so I went to the landlord and she did nothing. A week later I advertised a sublet and was out of there within a month.

I never did get the real story but I know the guy was sketchy and, quite frankly, I don't like to be scared in my own home.
posted by mto at 7:24 PM on April 5, 2006

Response by poster: Each guest is in-and-out. They unlock the door, go in, spend a minute or two inside, and then leave. There went another one...
posted by MeetMegan at 7:26 PM on April 5, 2006

The management hasn't noticed all the visitors going to one room?
posted by phrontist at 7:29 PM on April 5, 2006

Go with your gut. Something doesn't seem "right."

I've had friends experience similiar events. In each situation it has involved the distribition of drugs. Can't say for sure that this is what is happening with the revolving doorway across from you.
posted by ericb at 7:29 PM on April 5, 2006

posted by ericb at 7:30 PM on April 5, 2006

I think you're filling in the blanks when you shouldn't. If he's creating a nuisance based on the amount of noise this creates, then it's an issue. If you're curious about the number of visitors but don't have any evidence towards anything but that, please butt the hell out. This post makes you sound like one of the various typical nosy neighbors who had various symptoms of hysterias and neuroses, and were frequently the receivers of my 'batshit' labels. I'm not saying that you are that type of person; just that there's a possibility you are.

That said, there's the possibility that you're a calm, rational, decent person who happens to be the noticing the typical behavior of someone with a lot of friends who is fairly outgoing and enjoys a come-and-go atmosphere (I've lived in a house like this, it's fun), or a drug dealer.

Even if it is drug-dealing, I suggest staying out unless, like I said before, it's actually creating a real problem for you.
posted by cellphone at 7:30 PM on April 5, 2006

If things are as you describe them, I don't think you're overreacting. I think you're justifiably suspicious. My first thought was that the guy's a drug dealer, but everyone having a key makes that, to my inexpert mind, highly unlikely. I can't think of a terribly good explanation that fits all the facts, though.

I suspect he is doing something illicit, because I would tend to think most people would find this situation unusual, and so a person doing something legal would have the good sense to inform his neighbor in advance.

What should you do, though? I don't really know. You have no evidence of wrongdoing, so calling the police will get you nowhere. You say you live in an apartment building, though. Do you rent? If so, and your neighbor does, too, it's probable his lease includes a clause about the number of people who can live there, or even possibly the number of keys he could get made. Or, if you live in a condo, the condo agreement might have a similar clause. If either is the case, you might be able to contact the building super or your landlord or the condo board or somesuch, and let them know that you think your neighbor may be in violation of his agreement.
posted by cerebus19 at 7:31 PM on April 5, 2006

OK, here's the paranoid version. He's dealing and has an accomplice.

The accomplice stands on a street corner and does the deal. Once the deal goes down he gives the customer the apartment key and the address (it's close by). The customer goes up. The accomplice phones ahead and tells your neighbor what the deal is. The customer unlocks the door and goes in. The deal goes down. The customer leaves and takes the key back.

It seems like an odd way of doing things but it explains everything.
posted by unSane at 7:32 PM on April 5, 2006

Apologies for the condescending tone. It's an artifact of bitterness over past neighbors, and I didn't notice your small text at first.
posted by cellphone at 7:33 PM on April 5, 2006

Is it possible that all of these people don't have keys, but are getting the key from a hidden place so they don't have to knock on the door? He possibly just has a large, close circle of friends he doesn't mind doing this with. That isn't to say they are all not doing something illegal, but it really doesn't sound sinister.
posted by haplesschild at 7:42 PM on April 5, 2006

Ask your neighbor about it, and if he doesn't give you a good explanation, talk to your landlord about it ASAP.

To my mind, living in an apartment building means that the 'nosy neighbor' tag gets applied less liberally. You're all sharing hallways, stairwells, elevators, fire escapes, and services with whomever happens to have a key to an apartment in the building. It is completely within your writes to care about who is coming and going in the apartments adjacent to yours. It's not the same as living in a house on a residential street.

Personally, the first thing that occurred to me was exactly what unSane describes.
posted by josh at 7:43 PM on April 5, 2006

Drug dealer. No doubt. Unsane has the exact correct modus operandi. The accomplice on the street doesn't carry any drugs and therefore can't be arrested. If the accomplice sees the cops coming he phones upstairs and the upstairs guy flushs everything.

Up to you what you want to do about it. Choose wisely.
posted by jellicle at 7:49 PM on April 5, 2006

You're not being a nosy neighbor. This is weird. I would definitely say drugs. I couldn't figure out the key thing but the accomplice thing makes sense. Dealing out of a busy apartment building makes more sense because passers-by aren't as likely to notice the influx of people to that specific spot.
posted by radioamy at 7:54 PM on April 5, 2006

Response by poster: I originally thought drug dealer, too, but then why rent a huge, corner apartment, when a 400 sf studio is available right down the hall at less than half the price? That was my rationale at least. Cellphone's friendly gatherings coupled with haplesschild's hidden key option seem to offer more of a complete explanation...but I am still interested in additional opinions (hence, no best answer yet).

Also, my building has 300 units. The doorman logs every entrance - non-residents have to show ID and sign a log (which DOES NOT ask for apartment number). Once they sign in, they're let in. I have repeatedly asked that we institute a policy whereby the doorman calls the apartment before letting the individual up, but I am consistently voted down. So, long answer to short question, no, management hasn't noticed all these visitors to one apartment.

This is an apartment (lease) building. I lease, and my neighbor does too.

I am hesitant to approach my neighbor on the off chance that he could be a drug dealer. As a single woman, living alone, at the end of a long hallway, I feel more comfortable having my landlord approach it - but I may be wrong there, too. All advice is welcome...and appreciated!
posted by MeetMegan at 8:00 PM on April 5, 2006

I really hope you don't take matters into your own hands (i.e. talking to your neighbor about it.) It seems terribly unsafe considering the likelihood that drugs are involved. At the same time, having the landlord look into seems unlikely to resolve the issue (depends on how it is handled.) Are there any other outlets available besides police (seems like overreacting)?

Also, I find the whole thing vicariously exciting which tempers my elation with a twinge of disgust. I really hope things work out for you.
posted by imposster at 8:19 PM on April 5, 2006

MeetMegan -- does the key to open the front door to the building match the key to open your apartment? In ogther words, do you only have one key for all entries?

If so, the doorman can assume anyone coming through the entry by way of a key is not a 'visitor,' but a resident.

If that's the case, I buy unSane's suspicion.
posted by ericb at 8:31 PM on April 5, 2006

The doorman logs every entrance

Talk to him. Unless he's a complete vegetable he'll have noticed the last few weeks' extra traffic of people he's never seen before coming in and instantly out. Then, at least, you have him as an impartial witness with which to approach the building manager.

By the way, please do follow up in this thread with what happens! If it isn't drugs I'm really curious as to what it could be.
posted by Aknaton at 8:37 PM on April 5, 2006

Could it be some kind of courier/delivery service?
posted by arimathea at 8:48 PM on April 5, 2006

30 seperate, 1 minute visitors between 5pm and 10 pm ? - I would assume dealing or some sort of business deal too.

I would not automatically assume the doorman (or a super) doesn't know about the number of visitors to that apt. They usually are pretty smart. Most doormen I have known have been wonderful, though I have dealt with some less than honest supers. Its not inconceivable that if it is a dealer, that he is paying someone (like a super or doorman) to look the other way. Do the same people work every 5 to 10 pm shift?

I'm really not sure what I would do if I was in your situation. I wish I did. Be careful though.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:50 PM on April 5, 2006

Drug dealers don't sell out of apartments with doormen. Methinks you are more paranoid than you admit. I'd say unless one of the alleged clients has knocked on your door begging for drugs, or accosted you in the hallway, you're better off talking to the guy direclty about the door-banging, and NOTHING else. If he is a drug dealer, simply letting him know his clients are being 'obvious' will be enoughto get him to tone things down, or move to somewhere else, anything else that might be going on, you don't want to get involved....
posted by nomisxid at 9:04 PM on April 5, 2006

My guess is that there's an innocent explanation. It's weird, no question about it. Maybe I'm naive, but I doubt this guy is a drug dealer.

Drugs dealers giving clients keys to an apartment? Come on, that is preposterous.
posted by jayder at 9:08 PM on April 5, 2006

having keys is weird, but there are businesses one can run out of one's home, like being a massage therapist or something. I would just ask.
posted by mdn at 9:09 PM on April 5, 2006

I'm paranoid, so I wouldn't accost him about it.

Maybe the doorman's in on the deal!

And the super...
posted by Krrrlson at 9:16 PM on April 5, 2006

Each guest is in-and-out. They unlock the door, go in, spend a minute or two inside, and then leave. There went another one...

This is so strange I want to know what building you live in so I'll know not to move there. I live in Lincoln Park in a reasonably nice building - I've been here three years now and other than my Indian neighbor who has dance parties every few months with his hoot'n & holler'n Indian buddies I haven't seen anything that even approaches this weirdness.

I'd rule out drugs just on the fact that everyone seems to have a key... maybe it's some sort of elaborate prank?

I'm pretty touchy about the high cost of my rent so any problems I have I make sure the building management knows about it - but only if it's something that bothers me.

You didn't say directly that the comings and goings disturb you - only that you're curious. I'd at the very least mention it to management - if it's a good building they would want to know about the extra keys floating around and if it becomes a problem with noise or other nonsense then maybe they can do something about it?

If push comes to shove - call Chicago's finest - I've had to several times in my other building to break up parties at 3 & 4 am and the CPD is on the spot with minutes.
posted by wfrgms at 9:19 PM on April 5, 2006

Maybe it's like that movie where Matthew Broderick rents a studio and only uses it once a week while sharing it with other people, while a cute single artist uses it on another day, and they wonder about it each other, but haven't met yet. In the end they meet and fall in love. It's like that but on a much much quicker scale.
posted by drezdn at 9:20 PM on April 5, 2006

Even if it is drug-dealing, I suggest staying out

Whatever... try "staying out" when you're dropping a small fortune every month on rent. I pay a lot because I don't want drug dealers living across the hall.
posted by wfrgms at 9:22 PM on April 5, 2006

she doesn't say he's secretive, just that he's not a "people person". And I've lived next to drug dealers - they usually don't have quiet, orderly clients coming at regular intervals. The keys part is the only thing that stands out as weird to me, but that would be even more weird for a drug dealer.
posted by mdn at 9:22 PM on April 5, 2006

I used to live in an apartment underneath a dealer (mostly cocaine, it seemed). Similar pattern of continuous 1 minute visits, though they came at any time of day or night. It became a problem for us, because everything we didn't lock down got stolen.

Finding out what's going on is not the same as accusing anyone of anything. I would work out if they're really different people each time, and if so, talk to the doorman.
posted by beniamino at 9:30 PM on April 5, 2006

By the way, please do follow up in this thread with what happens!

Yes, please do this.
posted by jaysus chris at 9:38 PM on April 5, 2006

At the very least, it sounds like he is running some kind of business out of his apartment, which I'm sure is a no-no for your building.

Also, any standard lease makes you specify who is living in the apartment. If they all have keys, that is most likely in violation of the lease.
posted by _sirmissalot_ at 9:41 PM on April 5, 2006

Maybe it's a courier service. Have you tried reverse lookup for his phone number? (Some sites let you look up the numbers of your neighbours and then you can lookup his number in Google to see if it shows up anywhere.) However, couriers look pretty distinctive. So maybe this is a drug dealing situation. It sounds kinda similar to the drug dealer I had in an apartment next to me many years ago.
posted by acoutu at 9:52 PM on April 5, 2006

I have people I'm pretty sure are drug dealers living down the hall. It dosn't bother me, at all but it's obvious what they're doing.

The fact that 15 people have keys is super-weird and probably violates their lease agreement. I would really talk to the landlord if I were you.
posted by delmoi at 9:59 PM on April 5, 2006

Plus it dosn't sound like a "normal" drug dealing situation either. Seperate keys? Who ever heard of that? This is definetly not your neighborhood pot-dealer.
posted by delmoi at 10:01 PM on April 5, 2006

I don't buy the "dealing drugs" explanation. It doesn't make sense. Why would a drug dealer operate out of a middle/high class building with a doorman? Why would they give the buyer a key, when the guy on the street could just announce to the person in the unit that someone is coming, and they could knock? Wouldn't giving the buyer (who in most cases is a complete stranger) a key to your pad containing your entire stash be a terrible idea? What stops him from making the deal and then just walking off with the key? If he leaves the key with the person in the unit before leaving then how does it get back down to the guy on the street to give to the next person? It just doesn't make sense, and it sounds like you all are trying too hard to come up with a nefarious explanation for this behavior.

What she should definitely do is talk with the doorman and/or the landlord. It is definitely strange behavior and you have a right to be mildly concerned -- as does the landlord if there are several dozen people with a key to the unit.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:09 PM on April 5, 2006

And I wouldn't talk to the guy if I were you. I mean come on. Talk to whoever is in charge. Maybe he's selling huge quantities or something.
posted by delmoi at 10:09 PM on April 5, 2006

Does your lease contain any provisions about the number of spare keys you are allowed to make, especially if they can also open common areas? That might provide an easier justification to ask the landlord about the situation.
posted by babar at 10:10 PM on April 5, 2006

I would give the guy the benefit of the doubt if not for the fact that the people coming in and out stay about a minute. That precludes hanging out, massage therapy, and pretty much any sort of interaction that isn't shady.

That said: don't don't don't talk to your neighbor. Talk to whoever the authorities in the building seem to be. I'd go straight to the super (do a little spying beforehand if you must, to gauge how many people come and how long they stay for sure).

Out of idle curiosity, are your keys the kind that have "DO NOT DUPLICATE" on them? Because if they do, drop that into conversation when you talk to the super.

You have every reason to be uncomfortable. Talk to the higher-ups.
posted by anjamu at 10:28 PM on April 5, 2006

It seems that the fact that the visitors have a key argues against this guy being a drug dealer, as Rhomboid says. Otherwise, I'd be convinced. Having said that, I can see no reason why someone would give his apartment key to a large number of people. I mean, really, it makes no sense. Having lots of visitors - many explanations. Having lots of visitors with keys? Weird. In any event, your super/landlord will be interested to know that so many people have keys (or is he hiding his key under his doormat)?
posted by Dasein at 10:40 PM on April 5, 2006

Hold on, I have a concern about UnSane's version of events. The key complicates everything:

"The customer leaves and takes the key back."

This could very easily say, "The customer leaves and takes the key to the locksmith, then gives the key back."

Now the guy knows where the dealers live and knows what the inside of the place looks like, how many people are there at any given time, etc. And hey, he even knows where the lookout is.

If the key says "Do not duplicate" then he just takes it to this guy he knows instead.

On preview: jayder: "Drugs dealers giving clients keys to an apartment? Come on, that is preposterous.

Exactly people. Think about it. If you were a drug dealer would you give people access to the locked door to your stash? I used to know a dealer who had 3 cars he rotated, each of which had an electronic safe in the trunk. He never kept his stash in his place. That's the smart shit dealers do not to get robbed. They don't hand out keys to their shop.
posted by baphomet at 10:49 PM on April 5, 2006

In college I knew a drug dealer who worked exclusively out of luxurious, doormanned buildings. His rationale was that the client's awareness of the doorman increased the safety of his product during non-business hours and encouraged good behavior during transactions. The doormen never seemed to care that he had a million visitors. As for the big apartment: spend it if you got it!

My theory on the key situation is that everyone has a scheduled appointment and they are sharing one key or everyone has their own key and he has another way to secure the door when he doesn't want visitors.
posted by defreckled at 10:51 PM on April 5, 2006

I would say it was some type of distribution scheme, but not likely drugs. The fact that the visits start after 5pm would leave me to believe that these people have some type of job which requires some original paperwork to be turned in at the end of the day. Maybe they pick up X units of product in the morning from a central point in the morning and have to have signed delivery slips turned in to the boss' place by 10PM so he can make a daily report. Possibly Amway, Mary Kay, etc..

Your neighbor may have a setup where the keys open the main part of the apartment, but he has another locked living area inside where he doesn't want to be disturbed.
posted by Yorrick at 10:57 PM on April 5, 2006

the key just opens the lock in the doorknob, there's a separate key for the deadbolt which clients don't get
posted by 5bux at 11:16 PM on April 5, 2006

The poster doesn't mention whether the apartment has two locks or not. Mine only has a deadbolt.
posted by baphomet at 11:55 PM on April 5, 2006

Is he home during these visitor-visits?
posted by xo at 12:10 AM on April 6, 2006

Good Lord, I'm hooked. I must know the answer now.
posted by Dunwitty at 1:24 AM on April 6, 2006

I have to agree with the sentiment that it's (at least) some kind of business. Whether or not it's of the legal variety matters not, 30 visitors per night, every night, for 1 minute apiece is disruptive, especially if it causes your door to bang every time his door opens. You've verified that there's at least 15 different people, and even THAT many is enough to talk to the landlord/super/whomever is in charge and say "Listen, the new guy that moved in across the hall has *at least* 15 different people coming into his apartment every night, and every one of them uses a key to get in. I don't know if it's the same key or if they each have their own, but this constant stream of people in and out of his unit is disrupting my enjoyment of my own unit. Could you find out what's going on?"

And while I would recommend against it, if it's bothering you enough (which you don't really say... you just say that it makes you curious, and I would be too) you could always call the police and file a noise complaint. Even if they're not making noise in the hall, the door opening and slamming 60 times in a night is enough to be severe irritant to be sure.

I find it odd that it's only between 5 and 10pm every night. Is that the only time that visitors arrive on the weekends too? If so, it definitely sounds like some sort of "reporting in at the end of the day" type business... Either that, or they are "checking in at the start of the night". I wouldn't be surprised to find out that it *was* a drug business, and each of these 30 people with keys were high level distributors, but it still seems farfetched. Have you ever noticed them leaving with packages or anything? Or do they just walk in, and walk out a minute later, looking exactly the same?
posted by antifuse at 3:05 AM on April 6, 2006

Mail drop perhaps? I once had a landlady that did this. People who, for whatever reason (I never asked), didn't want to disclose their real address or needed an address-of-convenience gave her address instead. For a fee, she collected or kept their mail until they came to get it. Resulted in lots of strangers turning up at all sorts of odd times. You might wonder why they wouldn't just get a PO Box or something, but some folks have their reasons for keeping things... unofficial. Doesn't necessarily explain everyone having a key, unless it's the same key hidden somewhere outside, of course. And this is pure speculation.

More practically, you're obviously concerned, so you need to talk to someone about it, if only to put your mind at rest. I'd bypass the neighbor, on the chance they're up to something very shady, and have a quiet word with the building management.
posted by normy at 3:05 AM on April 6, 2006

I of course wouldn't trust the neighbor, but I also wouldn't trust the doorman or the super, both of whom like the money this operation brings in (in bribes or tips) a lot more than they like you. Ask the police for their opinion. If they think it sounds like drugs, let them check it out.
posted by pracowity at 3:18 AM on April 6, 2006

I almost hate to suggest this, as it seems like "profiling", but can you tell us more about what the visitors look like? Are they young/old, men/women, professional/scruffy, calm/nervous, happy/angry? Obviously druggies come in all shapes and sizes, but there are certain traits that suggest it more than others.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:35 AM on April 6, 2006

I think you should go out into the hall - ostensibly to fit a draught excluder or similar to your door frame, (because the door bangs, remember?). Maybe you can be painting the door. Something. Who knows? The point is, you get to look and listen more as people arrive and leave. (Yep. I'm a nosy neighbour and, on the whole, I don't think it's drugs.)
posted by Jofus at 4:52 AM on April 6, 2006

Or just happen to leave the building at the same time as one of the visitors, and see if he/she keeps the key?
posted by R. Mutt at 6:07 AM on April 6, 2006

What she should definitely do is talk with the doorman and/or the landlord. It is definitely strange behavior and you have a right to be mildly concerned -- as does the landlord if there are several dozen people with a key to the unit.

I agree with this. And I'm starting to feel that if someone posted a question about a neighbor who had lots of visitors who never left and there were strange smells and occasional streams of blood coming out of their apartment, some MeFites would respond "So what? None of your business, stop being paranoid." Sheesh.
posted by languagehat at 6:31 AM on April 6, 2006

The keys are very weird, and they do seem to rule out dealing. Still...the whole situation is strange.

Before I talk to anyone else about it, I would "arrange" to be in the hall with a couple of these people in order to see how they react to you. I would open the door when you hear someone out there, and say "Oh, hi, sorry, I thought you must be [neighbor, or] my friend Jane." Then just close the door without haste. Another day I would do the same thing with another person, while leaving with them or attaching something to the door. Not confrontation, just an attempt to see what these folks are like. If they seem relaxed, then I might think about bringing something up with the neighbor about your door banging or something. If he does seem to be a dealer, I wouldn't want to approach him, but neither would I want to talk to the landloard since 1) he'll know it was you complaining; and 2) talking to the landlord is more serious than just inquiring about what's going on.
posted by OmieWise at 6:46 AM on April 6, 2006

I think they're running either a Messenger Service or some sort of church/bible study thing... Those are my guesses.
posted by cherryghost at 6:55 AM on April 6, 2006

If you don't think the cops would help you, why not call a private detective? It will cost you a few hundred dollars to get your answer, but you'll have it, your name will remain a secret, and you put yourself at no risk. If it's drug dealers, the private detective can call the cops for you.
posted by popechunk at 7:17 AM on April 6, 2006

The keys don't rule out drug dealing under unsane's analysis. The answer is that the street-level person has fifty keys in his pocket, but the buyer has to return the key to the upstairs distributor as part of deal. That way, there's no loose keys and no opportunity for copying.

With that said, I wouldn't do anything, unless I felt unsafe, or thought this guy was dealing to kids. It would also depend on what I thought he was dealing --- pot, fine; crack, no. I'm pretty much a live and let live kinda guy, and if this guy can make a bunch of money doing not a lot of work, and is willing to take the risk, more power to 'em. I guarantee he's happier in his job than I am.
posted by gregoryc at 7:41 AM on April 6, 2006

Response by poster: Ok. To answer questions that were asked while I was snoozing.

The door has a deadbolt and a doorknob lock, both of which open with the same key. That key DOES NOT open the doors to the building on the main floor, nor does it open any common area doors. It only opens the door to the apartment. The outside doors to our building are open 24/7. There is an anteroom, where the doorman sits. The doorman then buzzes the inside doors open, which open into the elevator lobby.

The keys, if they are like mine, do not have any sort of duplication prohibition on them. I've actually made a set for my parents without a problem.

The guests are very middle class/upper-middle class. Nicely dressed; most look like they came from an office (business casual attire).

I, coincidentally, rode the elevator with my neighbor today. I made small talk - but it looked like I was torturing him with hot pokers when he answered me - he winced. Very weird, and yet another reason why I say he's not a people person. I asked him what he did, told him I was a lawyer, etc. He said he has his own (non-specific) business. I said, oh, that's neat, do you work from home? He said no.

I have a call in to our management office (we don't have a super since the building is so large). I will let you know what they tell me when they return my call.

I still don't think it's drug dealers. Perhaps I'm just being optimistic, but I'd much rather think it was a mail drop or any one of the other legal suggestions.

Also, to the poster who wants to stay away from my building - like I said in my original post, I have lived here for four years. This is the worst problem I have ever had, and I really don't even know that it's a problem...just more of a curiosity. I would still highly recommend my building to anyone. It's very well-maintained, with above-par residents and fantastic management. Plus, the rent is pretty reasonable, since the building is older than all the other rentals in the community. I pay $1,100/mo. That said, if you still want to know what building it is, email me.

Since a number of people suggested what I am doing, I just marked the first suggestion to contact building management as best answer.

I will report back when I hear from the management.

And, GregoryC - live and let live is fine if you're living in an area where you're used to this kind of thing. River North is about the most WASP-y place you can live in Chicago, and I simply am not used to this - nor do I want to get used to this. While my rent is a good deal, a grand is a lot of money to spend to live across the hall from a drug dealer, if that's what it is. I want to find out so I can protect myself, and protect my property if need be.
posted by MeetMegan at 7:50 AM on April 6, 2006

I think a more likely explanation is that he is a pimp, and these are prostitutes dropping off money.
posted by reverendX at 7:54 AM on April 6, 2006

cerebus19 writes "I suspect he is doing something illicit, because I would tend to think most people would find this situation unusual, and so a person doing something legal would have the good sense to inform his neighbor in advance."

I think you are overestimating the good sense of the average person.

anjamu writes "Out of idle curiosity, are your keys the kind that have 'DO NOT DUPLICATE' on them? Because if they do, drop that into conversation when you talk to the super."

FYI: most places a key stamped DO NOT DUPLICATE (or do not copy) just means you need hire a licensed locksmith to copy the key. He'll write your name and address in a log and then crank off as many copies as you want.

Dasein writes "Having said that, I can see no reason why someone would give his apartment key to a large number of people."

It doesn't jive with the short visits but I once got together with a dozen people and rented a one bedroom apartment to serve as a FRP gaming location. It was cheaper than renting a meeting room (or two some nights) 3-4 times a week. At least a dozen people had keys.
posted by Mitheral at 7:58 AM on April 6, 2006

I agree with the possibilities stated so far and I'm leaning toward believing it's something illegal. That's mostly because of his behavior/statements. I'm also fascinated, in a - do everything you can to find out what's going on, so long as you absolutely don't get hurt - kind of way.

Someone pass the popcorn.
posted by empyrean at 8:10 AM on April 6, 2006

You could talk to the city. You could ask if the apartment next door is licensed for a home-based business, then explain your concerns. Say you could only make an anonymous complaint, though. They'll probably look into it.
posted by acoutu at 8:32 AM on April 6, 2006

He's a bookie.
posted by banshee at 8:34 AM on April 6, 2006

What do his windows face? He could be running some surveillance out of the apartment. The people coming by are shift changes (the reliever enters and the guy going off watch leaves).

Far fetched, I know, but you've got all the trappings of a taut thriller going on.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:50 AM on April 6, 2006

Banshee's actually makes a lot of sense.
posted by drezdn at 8:56 AM on April 6, 2006

I agree, a bookie is a fantastic guess.
posted by empyrean at 8:58 AM on April 6, 2006

The bookie idea crossed my mind too.
posted by R. Mutt at 8:58 AM on April 6, 2006

Of course, maybe he could just (cough) pay (cough) you to look the other way too?
posted by R. Mutt at 9:01 AM on April 6, 2006

He's a bookie.

Yeah -- that's a possibility ... or running some sort of "numbers" game.
posted by ericb at 9:03 AM on April 6, 2006

does the neighbor live there? apartments hwere drugs are sold/distributed are many times only used for that purpose and no one "lives" there.

(coming from a friend who manages thousands of apartment units and who says that drug dealers are the only ones in the inner city who pay on time/ in full/ in cash!..)
posted by Izzmeister at 9:05 AM on April 6, 2006

The people coming-and-going could be runners for the bookie or numbers game.
posted by ericb at 9:06 AM on April 6, 2006

Numbers Game or Policy Racket.
posted by ericb at 9:06 AM on April 6, 2006

Best answer: The elderly couple in the flat below me have a very similar pattern of visitors, some of whom had keys, and I too wondered what on earth was going on (I was actually starting to think they were running some sort of disturbing OAP brothel!) It turns out that they work for a small charity, and their fellow charity workers were dropping off collections and picking up leaflets, etc.

The keys don't rule out drug dealing under unsane's analysis.

No, really, they do. A dealer who did that would have all his drugs and money stolen within hours. (Not that your apartment being fancy rules out dealers - posh people with nice houses go to posh dealers with nice houses, not some shady guy on the street.)

Also, you say your door bangs when his opens, which presumably means you're leaving your door unlocked? Whatever this chap is up to, that seems a bit daft....
posted by jack_mo at 9:24 AM on April 6, 2006

Response by poster: No, I am not leaving my door unlocked. I actually have it deadbolted at all times whether I am inside or outside the apartment. The door is 30 years old. It bangs back and forth when other doors open. His door does the same thing. It happens. It's a wood door.
posted by MeetMegan at 9:31 AM on April 6, 2006

Reasonable (not drug dealer) answers:

- bookie (I like this answer too).

- higher-level activist for some campaign - could be nervous just because he's shy.

- CIA/secret agent? People are stopping by to get their assignments for the night/submit their reports? Seems a little too blatant.

- He's running some courier/ delivery/ laundry/ house cleaning service that requires employees to check in between jobs - (not exactly legal).

- reaaaaally quick chiropractic massage?

I agree with some other posters - if you really want to do this the "right way", you need much more observational data. Calling the sup is much quicker.
posted by muddgirl at 9:40 AM on April 6, 2006

Does the rental/visitors starting date correspond with the college basketball championships? March?
posted by R. Mutt at 9:43 AM on April 6, 2006

Response by poster: R. Mutt - Not really; it was two weeks ago. March Madness started around March 17. He moved in a week later.
posted by MeetMegan at 9:47 AM on April 6, 2006

I can't believe all the retarded theories on the keys. Have none of you people ever known a real drug dealer? Clearly, you need to get a refund on your education.

Here's how the keys have worked in numerous drug dealer situations. I wasn't the dealer nor the customer, just an observer or an interviewer.

1. Customer or runner calls ahead with a coded message or rings the apartment buzzer with a pre-arranged sequence. The sequence or coded message changes regularly; customers have to go to the runners to get them.

2. Dealer goes to window to see customer there.

3. Customer waves or signals or something.

4. The dealer drops the keys out the window, usually in a sock, sometimes with other things for extra weight. Sometimes the runners hand out keys, but not often as it puts them at too much risk.

5. Customer brings the keys and sock up and hands it over with the money, gets drugs, leaves.

6. Repeat.

Now, why can't the dealer just answer the door or buzz the person in? Lots of explanations, some reasonable, some not, but all out of the brains of drug dealers.

1. Nobody will fire a gun through the keyhole or eyehole, or even just through the door, at them if they don't have to open the door themselves.

2. The person using the key is at a tactical disadvantage, so if they are suspect, they'll enter the apartment to see guns in their face.

3. Dealers think the police aren't ballsy enough to ask for the key and have strange theories about how it would constitute entrapment and they'd get off the hook. (Not the brightest minds, these fellows.)

4. Handing the key out is not a security risk. First, runners keep an eye on the customer. Second, dealers change apartments often. Third, locks can be changed easily (even on the spot in just a few minutes--no need to call the landlord or the locksmith). Also, most customers really, really want the drugs--the only reason they would want money is to buy drugs, and since they're there, where the drugs are, why rob the joint? (Dealing with competitors, not customers, is another whole problem.)

5. Dealers will be in a protected situation within the apartment. Entering the apartment is only part of the security. There's often a wall, tall furniture, or even a foyer in the way. The real security is inside the apartment, not outside.

6. The drug dealer doesn't ever want to be seen in public with the customer, so the dealer can't be seen letting people into the apartment. Some deniability can be maintained. (This is sometimes backed up by alternate exits so that in the event of a raid, there's a good chance of escape.)
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:16 AM on April 6, 2006

I don't know... At this point, for me at least, it's more "how could it *not* be drugs?" or "how could it *not* be illegal" than "Hmm, what could it be?"...

Here's something. Inside the apartment, once he has opened the door, the customer cannot go any further: He has stepped into a very small space, a confined space set up by "Mr. mysterious neighbor". But first, let me recap, using unSane's post.

The accomplice meets with customer on the street. Key is lent to customer. Customer walks towards building while accomplice calls neighbor to place order. Customer walks in building, is buzzed into elevator lobby (doorman could be accomplice). Customer reaches the apartment and opens the door with the key.

Inside, in that confined space, the customer cannot go anywhere: he or she faces a "wall" or some installation behind which stands the neighbor. The neighbor is like a bank teller behind a glass cage. The customer slips the money AND THE KEY under said "wall" or "cage" (yes, street accomplice holds many many keys; can't remember who said that, --I think you're right). The neighbor then slips the drugs to the customer. Not more than 30 secs have passed. The customer leaves and LOCKS the door by simply closing it behind him. The neighbor phones the street accomplice to tell him the customer is coming back down. The customer has no other contact with the street accomplice. --Cycle ready to be repeated...

That setup has advantages: Neighbor protects himself and his stash. He may even be able to hide his face at all times. He also has a slightly better shot at getting away if cops show up (if there are possible exits from apartment via windows, roof).
posted by amusem at 10:48 AM on April 6, 2006

Hey Mo Nickels, had not refreshed my page in a long while... your point number 5 is what I was trying to get at... nice...
posted by amusem at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2006

In these days of wire-tapping citizens, I am surprised that no one has suggested an FBI/CIA/whatever operation.
posted by Cranberry at 11:15 AM on April 6, 2006

Maybe he's keeping his mentally ill daugher locked up in there to keep her away from the local working-class fellow who wants to marry her? Is he known for keeping exotic pets? Does he have a large dog?
posted by ludwig_van at 11:49 AM on April 6, 2006

Do the people coming going tend to have bags with them? Either when the come or, er, go? The more clues we have the closer we get to the truth.

I feel like I'm in an X-Files episode. As a background character, on the other end of a computer.
posted by mattoly at 12:02 PM on April 6, 2006

Response by poster: I have no idea what goes on while I'm at work. They could be coming/going then, too, but I don't know. The foot traffic started at 5 on Saturday and Sunday went until 10, hence my assumption that it starts at the same time during the week, since it ends at the same time.

The management company still has not returned my call. I will be stopping by the office as I get home from work tonight.

The people I have seen do not have bags coming or going. They look like normal people. No freaky, jumpy folks.
posted by MeetMegan at 12:18 PM on April 6, 2006

Yuppie Crackhouse or Opium Den? I think his apartment is used as a place to DO drugs, not sell them. Or it is a safehouse that all of these dealers drop off cash / drugs or pick-up cash / drugs. The key is used to so he doesn't have to get off his ass everytime someone needs to drop off cash and drugs while keeping the place somewhat secure. Or he could be a high-level sports bookie who doesn't trust a telephone to communicate with his 'street-level' bookies.
posted by jasondigitized at 1:36 PM on April 6, 2006

great thread.
posted by rbs at 2:34 PM on April 6, 2006

At first this sounded like a real-life lateral thinking puzzle, or "situation puzzle". My guess is either bookie, or drug dealer.

I am hooked. Please let us know how things turn out.
*passes popcorn to empyrean*
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 3:04 PM on April 6, 2006

Wouldn't this be a great way to set up a trailhead for an Alternate Reality Game? Based on the lack of jumpy, scruffy visitors, I'm going to jump on the bookie/numbers bandwagon. I'll also add that I love the Private Eye idea. If you get no satisfaction from management, I bet you could take up a collection here and fund a few days work from a PI no problem.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:12 PM on April 6, 2006

Maybe I don't understand bookies, but isn't that just an exchange of paper and money? Why can't that be done on the street? Seems odd to go through all the trouble to make that exchange happen in the guys apt.

I vote for drugs. The lack of a scruffy clientele doesn't rule it out, middle class and upperclass people use drugs, too. It all goes down after 5 p.m because that's when Dealer gets home from his straight job.

All these people having keys is just wrong, whatever's going on. I'm with the folks who say a complain to the mgmt company is in order, on those grounds alone.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:55 PM on April 6, 2006

5:00 p.m. - 10:00 p.m. does seem to point to "end-of-day" reporting-in or the start of the "recreational evening." Either the delivery of the day's receipts or we're open for business (e.g. drugs). 10:00 p.m. is closing time, so that I and my friends can party ourselves.

I, too, am hooked. Please be sure to update us here -- and/or in a future MetaTalk thread.
posted by ericb at 8:08 PM on April 6, 2006

Have none of you people ever known a real drug dealer?

Hundreds of them. Never come across the convoluted key procedures you describe (not that I'm doubting you). Standard procedure in the UK would be either a. 'phone the dealer, he comes to your house with the drugs/arranges a place to meet (this is why there are always smackheads in the vicinity of 'phone boxes!) or b. 'phone the dealer, go round his house and buzz the intercom identifying yourself/call again to let him know you're outside. (I mean in a non-shady street dealer context, obviously, which seems reasonable given that MeetMegan's neighbour is in a nice building in a posh area, where dropping keys out of a window would arouse suspicion pretty fast.)

Also, MeetMegan says, The doorman logs every entrance - non-residents have to show ID and sign a log - any dealer who requires his customers to either carry a fake ID or risk adding their name to a log book just to get to him probably wouldn't be very popular. (Would this apply to him being a bookie, too? I don't know how illegal gambling outside licensed betting shops is in the US, but I'm guessing it's not exactly legit...)

I think the first answer is the best answer: stop fretting and ask the bloke what's going on! Be friendly about it, maybe joke that you're going to have to do something about fixing your front door so it doesn't bang all the time...
posted by jack_mo at 3:23 AM on April 7, 2006

Shove a simple rubber doorstop under the door on the inside, to stop the banging. This will allow you the choice to MYOB, if you wish.

Of course now, we're all (yes, me too) wanting to know wtf is going on there. I think the traffic level sounds too heavy for simple, friendly neighborhood pot dealer. I used to purchase from some commercial dealers in NYC, and they sure weren't dealing out of apartments (and I wept each time one was closed, as I love convenience). But the one private dealer I knew there was in a dorm, and it was very quiet. Since I slept with him a few times, I can attest to the lack of traffic (ha, I met him at a gay dance. And yea, this was Donny the Punk, whom I've mentioned on MeFi before. The 70's were fun!)
posted by Goofyy at 6:17 AM on April 7, 2006

Can you install some kind of weatherstripping on outside edge of the door to cushion the blow from the banging?
posted by KathyK at 6:27 AM on April 7, 2006

Never come across the convoluted key procedures you describe (not that I'm doubting you).

That's how it's done in poor parts of New York City, where five- and six-floor walkups rule.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:09 AM on April 7, 2006

The answer to this mystery is going to be disappointing, no doubt.
posted by zonkout at 9:12 AM on April 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I learned a lot today. Running a business out of an apartment in my building is not a problem. Such individuals pay a premium in rent. Apparently, there are about 10 physicians in my building, 5 cleaning services, 1 carpet cleaner, 4 insurance agents, and 13 attorneys. And one very active charity.

According to my building manager, my neighbor is running a charity out of his apartment. She said that she was told that individuals collect legitimate donations on street corners and then bring the donations to this "headquarters". Apparently, the normal turn-in time runs from 5 - 10 p.m. every day. My building manager said that she will talk with my neighbor and let him know that he is being mildly disruptive, and she also suggested that I talk with him. She knew about the standard turn-in time of 5 - 10, and apparently told him that it was OK. Then, she neglected to tell me or any of the other residents on my floor.

I'm going to talk to my neighbor and see if there's any way his collectors can be a little more diligent about not slamming the door all the time. Now that I know why people are entering the apartment so frequently, my curiosity is satiated.

Thanks to all for the great theories. I think zonkout is right - this was a little anti-climactic.
posted by MeetMegan at 12:14 PM on April 7, 2006

...at least, that's what he TOLD the building managers! Mwahahahaha.....
posted by tristeza at 12:18 PM on April 7, 2006

Still -- a great thread. Thanks for the post and the followup.
posted by samh23 at 2:20 PM on April 7, 2006

It could be a scamtastic charity fundraising organization, not the charity itself.. You know, the ones that take some ridiculous percentage of the money, like 60-90 cents on the dollar, just to raise money for the org.

He could be someone who is truly modest, and doesn't want to trumpet his work.

He could be a volunteer, thus not technically working from home.

The charity could be something he thinks that the poster wouldn't be interested in donating to.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:00 PM on April 7, 2006

He could be Scientology!!!
posted by trevyn at 8:45 PM on April 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Huh, okay--but why, then, did he:
1. Say he didn't work out of his home,
2. Look so pained when you asked him what he did for a living,
3. Not tell you about the charity and not ask if you'd like to donate?
I think this can easily be explained by the fact that he was described as very introverted or perhaps just not a people person. Some people just don't like talking to strangers, believe it or not, and they will often deflect questions asked of them in precisely the above ways so that they don't have to deal with any followup questions or provide any further conversation. It's not nefarious, it's just that some of us just don't feel like talking to random joes in the elevator.
posted by Rhomboid at 2:08 AM on April 8, 2006

MeetMegan, kudos to your mad Miss Marple skills (MarpleFu?) in the elevator.
posted by blueberry at 6:36 PM on April 10, 2006

So glad you came back to tell us Megan. (I was sure it was a bookie but I couldn't make the key thing work. I still don't know why the money-dropper-offers need their own keys.)

Also, you can stick some newspaper in the doorjamb to keep it from banging.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:37 AM on April 11, 2006

Response by poster: For anyone who is still reading this thread, my neighbor is currently moving out. (we do have short term leases in my building, this is really nothing unusual) I asked him why, and he said he found another "business opportunity" in Indianapolis. Watch out Indy! ;)
posted by MeetMegan at 10:29 AM on April 22, 2006

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