Your Guide to the Concierge Desk
I’ve been staying in a lot of hotels lately. Sometimes it’s for business and sometimes it’s for pleasure, but it tends to be in places where I don’t have many local connections. And that means I’ve been needing help with directions, reservations and figuring out what’s what. What shocks me is the inconsistent concierge service I’ve been getting at what are otherwise 4 and 5 star hotels.
When I ask for a recommendation for dinner, a concierge should ask something about me to help determine the type of restaurant I seek. Do I want fine dining? Something trendy and bustling or quiet and romantic? While in Europe recently all we got was “What type of food you want? Fish? Let me send you to a great fish restaurant.” Then we wound up at a touristy, faded old place right on the boardwalk. And that really wasn’t what we were after. How can you call yourself a 5 star hotel with such impersonal treatment?
And then there was the night in Spain when we inquired about going to a local club – because that’s what you do in Spain. Or so I thought. We were told we absolutely needed a reservation. Later, we were literally one of two tables in a club that could seat hundreds.
In general, a hotel concierge’s job is to assist guests with securing reservations, tickets and assisting with navigating local tourist attractions. And at a luxury hotel, the role is to go far beyond that to include everything from dog walking to secretarial duties and beyond. One friend who stayed at the Four Seasons in Toronto told me a story of a concierge who personally mended a ripped suit jacket when the housekeeping department was unable to help in time!
A concierge needs to wear many different hats. He (or she) needs to be discreet, accommodating and perhaps most importantly, extremely well connected. A good concierge is one reason I will – or will not – return to a particular hotel.
So if you’re bucking up for a nice hotel this summer, here’s my advice on how to get the most out of those who are supposed to be there to enhance your stay.
Make Early Contact – last year before going to Paris I contacted the concierge desk at our hotel to see if they could help with a hard to get reservation. He got us the reservation, and our positive experience at the hotel began before we even arrived. Further, now he knew my name and was even there to greet me upon my arrival.
Recognition – some people like to tip upon arrival to guarantee good service, while others like to tip as a reward for a job well done. Either way, it’s important to do so. Money talks. Further, if you’re a regular at a particular hotel sending a letter to the hotel manager praising the work of a concierge will go a long way for more great service when you return. Same goes for a gift other than cash, since cash is often pooled. A gift like a bottle of wine is targeted at one person.
Brand matters – when choosing a hotel it’s easy to get caught up in details like room size, amenities, and location. But have you ever considered the power of the hotel brand? The fact is the concierge at, say, The Hilton will have an easier time securing those Broadway tickets then a concierge from Hotels R Us. Concierge services should be part of your overall research.
Make Yourself Known – If you’ll be staying for a few days, it is worth your while to introduce yourself and forge a relationship. In addition to improving your experience outside the hotel, the concierge can make all those little extras happen inside the hotel. That surprise plate of cookies, a booking at the hotel spa when they told you they were full, not to mention being greeted by name when you come and go – if that’s worth anything to you.
And when asking for guidance on where to eat and what to do, if the concierge doesn’t ask for more information about you give it to them anyway. Make sure the concierge knows they type of activities, food and environment you seek. Make them work for it!
Extra deals – the concierge desk is an under utilized source for deals and discounts. Any time you’re planning on visiting a major tourist destination be sure to find out what additional discounts, advance ticket purchase or back door access might be available.
Special services – many hotels have specialized concierge services, so if the reason for your stay involves a special event of any sort, inquire with the concierge service in advance to see if they can help. The Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver has a wedding concierge. Whether you’re looking to secure those final details for the big day or looking to pop the question, they can ensure things go off without a hitch.
Happy trails this summer!