Confessions of a Hotel Concierge
How do you get past the velvet rope to have a crazy time at the ultra-hot club of the moment? How do you snag the primo table at a booked-up gastronaut restaurant?
Your best shot is to use your hotel’s concierge. Just ask Michael Fazio, author of Concierge Confidential. Fazio started his career at Manhattan’s InterContinental Hotel and is co-founder of the Abigail Michaels Concierge firm that serves luxury hotels and residential buildings around the country.
Here, he spills his inside secrets and how he deals with bizarre – and even illegal – requests.
THE RED BULLETIN: So why use a concierge?
MICHAEL FAZIO: People want access. They don’t want to stand in line at a nightclub. They want to go to that hot restaurant. They want things they can’t get on their own.
I’ve heard that a lot of hotel guests are unsure about how to use a concierge.
Oh my god, yes. Especially men. First, there’s the old-school snobby image of the concierge. People feel judged. Some dudes get defensive; some are aggressive.
Give me an example of an approach that doesn’t work well.
“Oh, I’m president of blah blah blah, and we have a couple of suites upstairs. I’ll take care of you.” So if I’m about to beg on your behalf, and that’s what a good concierge does, I want to be confident you’ll represent me well, or I’ll screw up my relationship on the other end.
So what should you say to a concierge?
Just be direct about what you want. Say, “I hear it’s impossible to get into whatever. Can you make this happen?” And tell them your budget.
What could you make happen?
It could be for anything from a table at the hottest restaurant to a handshake and selfie with a rock star. We did it with Kenny Chesney. He was important to one of my clients.
So what happens if you ask a concierge for an escort service or, um, paid company?
Ask any concierge other than me and they’ll probably say, “Oh no, I don’t do that.” But the good ones do. I’ve worked the night shift and I work in a luxury world. People have a lot at stake. Discretion is important. They can’t just go on the Internet. Guests don’t want the crack kids that are strippers. I have my list. Of course it includes the companionship industry. And what people do together is not my business.
What’s the weirdest request you’ve gotten?
Oh that’s hard. Well, there was a man who’s totally nice but there’s not enough room in multiple universes for his ego. He wanted to have paparazzi follow him around Las Vegas. And he didn’t want people to know that the photographers were fake. Well, I connected with someone in journalism and said, “How many people can you get?” We had maybe 10 or 12 photographers, and gave them the guy’s itinerary. He loved it.
Another mission that comes to mind?
Someone wanted to go to a Jerry Seinfeld show. It was sold out. I knew Jerry’s wife, Jessica, had a charity called Baby Buggy (to help families in need). I talked to someone there. So my client paid $5,000 to get two seats with a donation to Jessica Seinfeld’s charity. It was a win/win.
The hardest demand?
A client needed a Chanel Boy Bag costing $4,500 for his girlfriend. He was desperate. He had told her he’d already gotten one, because he didn’t know there was a waiting list. My office called Chanel, and they said you can’t just get one. So I connected with someone in corporate, and started pinging (Chanel) people all over the globe. I depicted my client as someone who was trying to do a once-in-a-lifetime thing. “Poor guy, his girlfriend really wants that bag and he didn’t realise how hard it would be.” Well, magically, girlfriend had a Boy Bag. Sometimes you have to go through unconventional channels.
Can you give some tipping guidelines for concierges?
Don’t tip up front and don’t promise a generous tip. If a concierge gets you into something you know is hot, $20 is the entry point. If it’s “Hey, we want to go to a nice restaurant in the neighborhood,” you don’t have to tip. But $5, $10, that’s fine.
So, what about getting people past the velvet rope in that hot club?
If you want to go to a nightclub and buy a table, it can cost more than $1,000. Bottle service could start at $500. If you don’t want to pay that much, a concierge might be able to use connections to get you to the bar so you avoid bottle service. I’ll say, “Would you let these guys in, they’re nice guys.” Then I say to the client: “You know what, dude? You’re good. John is at the door tonight.” In that case, a good tip is 20% of what you would have paid for bottle service. If you don’t have money dripping out of your pocket, I would rather you give the bouncer $50, because it’s paying it forward for the next person I’ll be trying to do it for. But I’ve never judged people on the size of their tip. I judge them on how they carry themselves. Write us a note. Come by and say, “We had a great time last night.” … But when someone hands you a hundred-dollar bill, you feel ecstatic.