Although their service is not often heralded, concierges can make a hotel stay an experience to remember, whether the guest is a celebrity or a mere mortal. It’s the concierge’s job to fulfill guests’ requests, however outlandish.
Take the Englishman staying at the Setai in Miami, who asked its concierge to figure out how to move his girlfriend’s pet tiger to London. Not surprisingly, celebrities often demand the out-of-the-ordinary, like the well-known Australian rugby enthusiast who asked the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown to provide a special satellite dish so he could watch a 24-hour Australian rugby television channel.
Then there were the old stories about eccentrics like 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 almost 20 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.”
Frank Laino, executive head concierge of the Stafford in London, finds the Internet has changed guests’ expectations.
“A lot of clients are now better informed, they come to you with a mass of information they’ve pulled off the Internet. But a lot of time it serves to confuse people. We try to simplify things,” he said.
To that end, Laino writes a monthly newsletter, “Frankly Speaking,” for the hotel’s Web site that lists his top picks for what’s on in London.
Nor can all guests’ wishes be fulfilled.
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 a marriage proposal by a dinner guest at the Ritz-Carlton, Key Biscayne, orchestrated with the help of a concierge there, failed.
Regardless, the best concierges continue to “try to make magic moments, something personalized,” as Matthew Daubenspeck, resort concierge at Topnotch Resort and Spa in Stowe, Vt., explains. “Sometimes we get people who want to have fun, and that’s why we’re here.”