Word On The Street

Going Up?

What goes on behind elevator doors?

By G. David Doran

Almost every entrepreneur who rides elevators is familiar with the unwritten code of lift etiquette. Sardined into a tiny box full of strangers, people tend to withdraw into their own little worlds. Or do they? In a recent survey of elevator behavior commissioned by Morristown, New Jersey-based Schindler Elevator Corp., more than half the riders surveyed admitted to "checking out" their fellow passengers, while 35 percent attempt to make eye contact.

The survey also found that the gender gap doesn't close after the elevator doors do: Women are more likely than men to stop a conversation with a friend or colleague if other people enter the car, and men are far more courageous when it comes to chatting up a stranger.

Elevators seem to be a microcosm of the human experience. Survey respondents reported seeing everything from couples necking to a woman going into labor. Lift passengers are also prone to panic attacks, motion sickness and--although only 2 percent would admit to this--getting off at the wrong floor.

In dealing with swiftly closing elevator doors, the majority submit to the inevitable and wait for another car. However, 17 percent of riders stick a handy object between the doors, and 12 percent beg those inside to hold the door. Going up?

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This article was originally published in the February 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Word On The Street.

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