Almost a decade ago, I came up with an idea to profile veteran concierges at hotels so that guests could get to know who they are and what they do. The plan was to make short, engaging videos which the hotel could use online or on their in-room video channels. We filmed a demo with my friend (and part-time Word Travels production team-member) Neil Maclean, who epitomized the concierge role at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. I pitched a few hotel chains, all of whom passed because every star in the universe did not align and that is what it takes to bring any great idea to fruition.
I uploaded the video to Youtube, and noticed this week that it has now garnered over 175,000 views. That's pretty impressive for our little video - shot and edited by Ian Mackenzie. Below is the video, along with a short interview with Neil about what he does, and why guests should stop by the concierge desk more often.
Our primary role is to make life easier for our guests. This could mean anything from making dinner reservations, suggesting tourist activities, helping with directions, ordering flowers, and helping to resolve any guest issues.
You could argue we’re obsolete, but we have insider information you simply can’t get on your smart phone.
The perception is that the concierge can get sketchy things, like drugs and prostitutes. Fortunately, this is not the case. In all my years I’ve never been asked to get anything illegal. I think the movies have given people the wrong idea.
The role of the concierge is to give, give, give. It’s a contrast to the front desk, which can take, take, take. We’re a free service. Where else will you find a free expert on the city?
Concierges used to be arrogant and stuffy, like overbearing maître d’s. The modern concierge is approachable, patient, loves their city, and knows how to listen.
There are some services many people don’t know we can provide: We can change your flights, so you don’t have to spend an hour on the phone. We have relationships with airlines and operators, and usually get special treatment. We can help track lost luggage, or even deliver flowers to your room. We aim to exceed guest expectations, because we really enjoy what we do.
I have heard horror stories of concierges being verbally abused, or being asked to find drugs and what not. But it’s way more rare than people think. Fortunately I like my job, colleagues, and this grand, old hotel.
There’s no protocol for tipping concierges. We’re not servers or bellmen. We do get paid more than those guys, but tips are always appreciated.
My most popular question is: “Where is the bathroom?” My most outrageous request: A guest was looking for moose antlers, so I found myself calling taxidermists around the city.
Every day I meet people from around the world, and sometimes celebrities too. Over the years I’ve helped out Robin Williams, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Phelps and Cindy Crawford, who used to hang out at the concierge desk and chit-chat. So many people wanted photos of her I told her she should do it professionally.
We once arranged a private screening for Jerry Seinfeld, and a belt for Bill Clinton. A few weeks later we received a personalized thank you letter with the presidential stamp. The reality is that we would treat all our guests the same way.
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.