Image: The Dorchester in London
Shutterstock  /  © Dorchester
The Dorchester in London was the home away from home for the 17-member production crew from New Zealand that was completing the music editing for “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.” They enlisted the hotel’s “E-butlers” to create a secure network to communicate with their colleagues in New Zealand; security was paramount, due to the sensitive nature of the film’s contents. The film later went on to win two Oscars.
updated 8/29/2007 1:23:35 PM ET 2007-08-29T17:23:35

Five-star hotels usually have five stars for a reason: Their service is impeccable, and they often do the impossible, thanks to their ever-resourceful concierge staff.

Concierges will help out, no matter how difficult the assignment, whether the guest is a first-time visitor, regular, or even a celebrity.

It’s not always celebrities who make the most unusual or outlandish requests. Take the newly breast-feeding mother at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach, who asked its concierge for cold iceberg lettuce cups to relieve the pain and swelling she was experiencing.

But sometimes celebrities do make demands that correspond to their egos, like the female pop star who recently enlisted the help of the chef concierge at the Ritz-Carlton New York, Central Park, when she didn’t know how to use her new iPhone. His solution: Send one of his pages to a nearby Apple Store for iPhone training.

And then there was the Surrealist artist and animal-lover, Salvador Dali. He stayed regularly at the Meurice Hotel in Paris with his two pet ocelots, and asked the concierges to do things for him like catch flies in the Tuileries Garden.

Whatever the situation, top concierges usually have a variety of resources at their disposal to fulfill guests’ requests, no matter how wacky.

Concierges working at Four Seasons hotels, for example, meet regularly for what Jon Winke, chef concierge since 1982 at the Ritz-Carlton Chicago (which is a Four Seasons hotel), calls a “summit.”

Four Seasons concierges also often call upon concierges at other Four Seasons hotels for help; Winke, for example, said he recently was able to get accommodations at the Four Seasons Hotel Boston for one of his regular guests, despite the fact the Boston hotel was sold out.

The guest, he said, “knows I can get things done for him he can’t do on his own. The Boston hotel did something nice for me, and now it’s my turn to do something nice for them.”

Another important resource used by concierges is the Clefs d’Or, an international professional group of concierges. Tommy Dean, who has been a concierge at the Four Seasons Hotel Austin for 17 years, said the Clefs d’Or gives him access to concierges worldwide, and that networking through it has been invaluable. “It’s an extended family that goes all over the world,” he explained.

Veteran concierges also say the Internet has radically changed the nature of their work and the demands guests make. All concierges use it. As Winke explained, “The Internet makes things a lot easier. It’s a great resource and a godsend for me.”

Dean finds the Internet has changed guests’ expectations.

Image: Ritz-Carlton, South Beach
Shutterstock  /  © Ritz-Carlton, South Beach
A new mother staying at the Ritz-Carlton, South Beach with her husband and two-month-old daughter was experiencing great pain breastfeeding her baby for the first time. As per her doctor’s orders, she asked the hotel’s concierge to deliver iceberg lettuce cups to her room, which she then used as icepacks to reduce the pain and swelling.
“When I first did my job, it was through personal contacts and my little black book. Now my clients have done their research online, before they come to my desk. They’re asking me the difference between this restaurant and that, [and] I have to make comparative judgments for them,” he said.

Dean also finds that hotel guests today “have higher expectations, are making more elaborate demands. Their attention spans are shorter. They want things to be bigger, better, they want to be wowed, with tickets for bigger shows and rooms at better hotels. It’s more intense than it used to be.”

Alex Martin, formerly the senior concierge at the Ritz Carlton, Key Biscayne, and now residence manager of the Ritz Carlton, Coconut Grove, finds hotel guests today are younger and wealthier than in the past. They ask for “hip restaurants, they’re not old-school. They want limousines with lights and plasma TVs,” he said.

Image: Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne
© Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne
The CEO of a small-tech company staying at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, accidentally left documents required to close a $500 million dollar deal in a fingerprint-controlled security box at his office in New York. Once he learned of the guest’s predicament, the hotel’s chef concierge swiftly arranged for a sedan to pick him up and take him to a private jet that flew him back to New York.
Not all outrageous guest requests can be fulfilled, however, especially if they verge on the illegal or dangerous.

For example, the concierge at the Beverly Hills Hotel was once asked to find replacement parts for an AK47 for a guest, a request that was turned down.

Wanting to surprise his wife on her 40th birthday, a guest at Parrot Cay in the Turks and Caicos asked the hotel to arrange for some fake sharks to appear while he, she and their friends were snorkeling; the concierge declined to do this.

And then there were requests made by guests at the Metropolitan London—both declined—to water ski in Hyde Park and to ride one of Queen Elizabeth’s horses.

But if you need a new pair of contact lenses in less than two hours, or realize one night while you’re vacationing in the Caribbean that you’ve forgotten your wife’s birthday and want to go jewelry-shopping while she sleeps, do not despair—help will be on the way, as you will see in these true-life tales of five-star hotel service.


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