Bowling, the Chicago way
Pinsetter Gabriel Dominguez pulls a tip from a ball's finger hole behind the scenes at Southport Lanes, 3325 N. Southport. (Chicago Tribune file photo / January 16, 2013)
"We have probably the most 300 games known to man because money talks around here," general manager Phil Carneol said.
While you can't bribe the automatic pinsetters at more modern bowling alleys, it's fairly easy to do so with the manual ones at Southport Lanes.
"If you take money and stick it in the finger holes of the ball and you roll it down the alley or the gutter, they'll knock your pins down for you," Carneol said.
To do this, pinsetters keep a pair of pool cues with them at all times. When the moment is right, they'll get the bowler's attention.
"I explain to the customer how to put the ball right here," said pinsetter Gabriel Dominguez, a 36-year-old Albany Park resident. Dominguez then taps the cue on the left side of the alley and whistles to the bowler on his lane, who is getting ready to roll.
"You can say ‘hey, one more time, one more time.' Wait for the ball and … now," he said, knocking the remaining pins over as the ball hits the back wall of the lane. "Just for that, he will probably send me money."
It's not the most ethical thing in the world, but Dominguez said it helps strengthen the bond between the man whose job it is to set up the pins and the one who knocks them down.
"This is funny because the customer is happy when I'm doing this," he said. "When they are happy playing, they send me tips in the ball."
Carneol said some pinsetters have earned as much as $400 in tips in a single evening.
Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.
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