Confessions Of... A Concierge

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'We bring the crazies out of the woodwork'

Our confessor has worked for over 10 years in Europe as a bellboy, valet parker, and doorman. He's currently a concierge at a world-renowned luxury hotel. He'd prefer to remain anonymous.

Joining the brotherhood. A fair number of concierges are graduates of training schools, but working your way up gives a level of knowledge, patience, and technique that can't be taught. Perhaps more important than experience are contacts--the people who can whip up concert tickets or secure a table at the hottest restaurant at a moment's notice. A good concierge knows how his hotel and his city really work.

We've seen it all. Guests make every imaginable request, even asking for yachts or private planes. Sometimes ordinary requests take on a strange twist. I once made a reservation at a top restaurant for a nice couple. After the couple arrived for dinner, the maître d' called. "I thought you said Mr. and Mrs.," he said, reining in laughter. "It was more like Mrs. and Mrs." The husband had arrived in full drag. We also see our share of businessman-and-"secretary" combos, people who we'd swear are arms dealers, and celebrities of every level. We found out (after the fact) that a wedding at the hotel was a fake--a porn producer was using the setting for his latest video.

Hotel or mental hospital? As a fine hotel that caters to guests 24/7, we bring the crazies out of the woodwork. Oddballs come here to insulate themselves from the world, sometimes for weeks. One such guest got belligerent when I informed him a fax didn't come through: "You do what I tell you," he yelled, "and shut the #&$@ up!" The management tends to avoid kicking rich or influential guests out. If you're creepy, but not a top customer--like the guy who sprayed perfume on all the male servers and then sniffed them, saying, "Mmm, you smell good"--then we'll boot you in a heartbeat.

Communication and respect. Feel free to contact the concierge ahead of time for advice (e-mail is best), but don't go overboard with too many questions. You won't get any better service from me by using the dime-a-dozen phrase "I'll take care of you if...." Be courteous, and treat me like the professional I am, and the sky's the limit. Tipping $10 or $20 per service is usual, but no matter how much you tip, a respectable concierge won't be your pimp or drug dealer. Guests inquire about one or the other all the time, and my response is always the same: "I'm sorry, sir. That isn't a service we offer."

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