Ever been a concierge?
June 20, 2013 10:27 PM   Subscribe

I might get a job offer for a concierge position in a high end hotel. What is that like?

I have an extensive FOH fine dining background, I know I can handle much of the job, but I feel nervous saying yes to it. Tell me about the job, if you've done it, or tell me about exceptional concierge service, if you've experienced it. Thanks mindhive.
posted by vrakatar to Work & Money (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry: haven't done it, haven't experienced it. But this book might be somewhat helpful -- it's positioned as a kind of Kitchen Confidential of the hotel industry.
posted by pocketfullofrye at 12:30 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not exactly on point, but makes me think of my favorite storyslam story of all time: odd jobs.
posted by rdn at 3:48 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I used to work front desk (and later PBX) at the nice hotel in a college town.

Concierge's job was basically to be an in-town personal assistant to guests at the hotel. Schedule appointments, recommend places to eat, sit and bullshit about the weather, and everything in between. Know places to get any and every service, have all those phone numbers easily available, and be able to strike up easy conversation and develop personal rapport.

It's a very social job, which maybe goes without saying for something in the hospitality industry, but even so: Our hotel had a lot of folks who'd come in regularly and a lot of the concierge's job was making sure they knew the Platinum level folks well enough to be reasonably chummy. (For values of "chummy" that respect the client nature of the arrangement)

The best concierge's know the town, know the travelers, and are always pleasant.
posted by absalom at 4:13 AM on June 21, 2013 [8 favorites]

It may depend a little on how high end we're talking about. I knew a guy who did this at a super high-end hotel in Europe, and he really enjoyed it. He said the bizarre requests you hear about (get me a plane and two siberian tigers by thursday) are obviously pretty rare, most people want similar things (tickets, overbooked restaurants, etc) and you just maintain good connections with those venues and try to make the guest feel like they're always getting a more exclusive deal than they probably are. Basically he was just a friendly outgoing guy and you could tell that's why he liked it, you're meeting new people every day and solving their problems.

Hmm what else ...you probably know that even (especially?) at the classiest hotels, concierges get asked for drugs and escorts on a regular basis, and while no hotel will allow it officially, the actual degrees of "referral" may vary pretty widely. Probably hard to feel that out in advance but I think for some people it would be an awkward and uncomfortable part of the job, even if all you're saying is "sorry, can't help with that."
posted by pete_22 at 4:19 AM on June 21, 2013

I've never been a concierge, but I have worked for a hotel company. A concierge, in my experience, is going to know an insane amount of information about their city, from restaurants to clubs to little known hole-in-the-walls. Very socialable. Will have connections with as many big places as possible, so they can have tickets either on hand, or have a higher chance of scoring them than your average out of town guests. They'll know prices, hours, etc. Arrange lots of things. Arrange flights, tickets, car rentals, car pickups, mail and luggage arriving, etc. And have all the flyers and pamphlets anyone could ever ask for.
posted by trogdole at 5:10 AM on June 21, 2013

Sorry, not a concierge either but I do have a very serious hotel fetish. I found this statistic interesting: according to a Hotels.com survey, 68 percent of concierges in the U.S. and Mexico say they get asked most about sightseeing recommendations. I would guess restaurants rank second and travel arrangements rank third. I would also guess that drugs and dates are far, far less than 1% of requests simply because it is now much easier for guests to make those arrangements themselves these days.

Weirdest concierge service I ever arranged: blackout blinds for a client staying in a suite with panoramic views.

Best concierge service I ever received: I flew down to Nashville for a dinner date with just a dress bag and a small overnight case. I used the hotel's iron to press my brand new, white Donna Karen linen dress and some gummy material on the iron's face plate promptly streaked black tar up the dress and destroyed it. I flipped my shit. The nice man drove me to the mall and bought me a new Donna Karen dress in time to make my dinner date.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:34 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Take the job! There will be other folks who can help you be "in-the-know"

I always suspect that the Consierge gets some backsheesh from places he/she makes the reservations in.

So bone up on the touristy stuff in your town, know what places you'd recommend to your potential customers, and have one delightful thing to recommend to a guest like me, who wants to eat where you'd eat if you wanted something amazing, delicious and authentic to your area.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:52 AM on June 21, 2013

I'm hardly an expert, but I would take the job. I filled in for a week during a big event and it was hard work, but really fun. If you did it regularly it would become pretty easy. For me, in order of most requested, it was a good particular type of restaurant, dinner reservations, something fun to do, cab service, limo service, or occasional tickets. I struggled quickly coming up with ideas. You get the same questions over and over. "Where's a good Italian restaurant." That sort of thing. Once you've answered it once, you know it.

It helps if they have a computer at your desk. I would spend a couple days prior to work researching and making lists of places in the area. The hotel may already have those lists. I was told what limo company to use and given lists of steakhouses and various restaurants. If I didn't know, customers were always patient.

After the first week or two, it would be easy once you got to know the area. I think most concierges have contacts at restaurants and venues to get perks or kickbacks. I had a couple restaurants that if you called to get in, it would be full but if I called, they would give me reservations because of the hotel. You personally get a ton of perks, In the one week, I was offered enough tickets that had I been single, I would have been out every night.

I wasn't fishing for tips since I was temporary and helping someone out, but you do make some tips.

I didn't get asked for anything terribly weird. Tickets for a Snoop Dog party, which were surprisingly easy if you had money, and an SUV and driver wanted "here in 30 minutes and reserved for the week."
posted by iscavenger at 7:00 AM on June 21, 2013

I don't ever get to stay in nice hotels, but I am a frequent user of concierges. (Like, I'll just walk into a nice hotel and ask a question, because I'm awesome like that.)

One of the best things a concierge can do to make people like me happy is to know everything about the building they're working in. There are a few hotels here in Chicago in old/historic buildings, and sometimes the buildings have neat architectural features or histories or whatever.

The great ones can tell you exactly what the little fresco painted on the outside of the building is, when it was painted, who painted it, and what it represents, and why it makes sense for it to be on the outside of their hotel.
posted by phunniemee at 7:49 AM on June 21, 2013

(Like, I'll just walk into a nice hotel and ask a question, because I'm awesome like that.)

I love you, phunniemee.
posted by vrakatar at 7:51 AM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

Anecdotal at best, but the Michael J Fox picture For Love or Money was about a high-end hotel concierge and some of the crazy things he was expected to do (walking dogs, helping with shopping). Obviously it's fiction, so take it with a grain of salt, but this review of the film from a concierge's-eye-view which seems to indicate that some of the details are spot on.

My favorite concierge story was when I was at the Four Seasons in LA and asking for something ordinary (driving directions or restaurant reservations, I don't recall), and suddenly realized that there was a Seriously Very Famous A-List Oscar Winning Actor standing behind me waiting for me to finish. I said, "That's who I think it is, isn't it?" And the very polite, very not-going-to-dish-with-anyone professional said "I imagine it is." And then went back to helping me, not rushing me in any way (even though I was clearly nobody by every measure) until the transaction was done.
posted by Mchelly at 8:06 AM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

I've never been a concierge, but you asked for examples of exceptional concierge experiences, so I must tell you about Clarence at an elegant hotel in Toronto. My Mom loves theater and she loves Toronto, so occasionally my brother or I will treat her with VIA train tickets (Club Class) to Toronto for an overnight stay at X hotel along with tickets for whatever hot show is in town. Clarence the concierge is tops at his game; the first time we stayed at X hotel and asked for the theater tickets (part of a package; we were told to ask the concierge for the tix and the car service) he asked if this was a special occasion. We told him it was Mom's birthday and chatted a bit more (Mom is Nature's talker). Anyway, one year later she received a birthday card in the mail from Clarence! Well, she went on and on about it and of course we had to take her back to that hotel just so she could thank him. Clarence remembered her and also her love of the hotel's creme brulee, and had the kitchen save a portion for her and had Room Service bring it up to her after her night at the theater during Visit #2. Mom has been a regular repeat customer whenever one of us kids has the time and cash to treat her, and she recommends X hotel and rave about Clarence to anyone who'll listen.
posted by Oriole Adams at 11:58 AM on June 21, 2013 [9 favorites]

Thank you everyone, this is just what I was looking for, keep em' coming if you got 'em!
posted by vrakatar at 12:42 PM on June 21, 2013

A friend of mine used to be a concierge; he kept a blog/Twitter account for a while until he left the industry. There were parts he loved and parts he hated (whenever I would visit him at work, I'd ask if he had tickets to Alcatraz).

One of the stories I remember from the blog is that his female co-concierge would often get asked to help arrange the Perfect Proposal In Wine Country -- vineyards in the moonlight, four-star dinner, etc. etc. Not only did she arrange the dinner, wine tastings, etc., but she would also book a manicure appointment for the next day so that the newly engaged lady could show off her ring with fresh and clean nails/cuticles.
posted by littlemisslaika at 10:46 AM on June 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

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