Who or what is a Concierge?

Originally published in The Loop

Every four or five star hotel has a desk in the lobby with a sign that says: Concierge. Who are these people, what are their roles, and what can they do for us? I sat down with Neil Maclean, a veteran concierge at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver.

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.

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