The concierge profession is most often associated with high-end hotels, but the industry is populated with concierge businesses that serve corporate, residential, retail and private clients as well.
Their typical tasks can include making that hard-to-get dinner reservation or tracking down a specified make and model of a rental car, but the everyday reality for concierges can be anything but typical.
"Anything in the Yellow Pages, as long as it's legal, moral and ethical. That's what we do," said Katharine Giovanni, chairwoman and founder of International Concierge and Lifestyle Management Association and co-founder of Triangle Concierge, who has trained thousands of people.
They regularly get tall orders requiring discretion, ingenuity and persistence, not to mention that the tasks often must be accomplished under an urgent deadline … after hours … on a bank holiday.
"I have about 20 outrageous stories," said Giovanni, who likes to ask the concierges she meets for their tales. We'll hear two of Giovanni's favorite anecdotes among the others in the categories that follow. From curating once-in-a-lifetime experiences, to fulfilling outlandishly priced international requests, here are some incredible feats accomplished by concierge.
By Colleen Kane
Posted 30 Nov. 2012
'Behind Closed Doors at Marriott' premieres Wednesday, Dec. 12 9p | 12a ET. For more, visit Marriott.cnbc.com
Sometimes, the object of the clients' desire just isn't available in their location, so they pay top dollar to have it brought from across state lines, country borders, even oceans.
Concierge Courier Global, which specializes in very high-end projects such as with American Express Black Card clients, divulged their two most extravagant examples. One client in had an Hermès Birkin bag shipped to Dubai for about $40,000.
An American client of the service was at a hotel in Amsterdam, where he found the designer clothing and local tailoring services lacking, so for about $50,000, he had a wardrobe of Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, and others shipped to him from New York and Boston.
Hotel and lifestyle concierges are frequently called upon to perform romantic tasks for a client's loved one, arrange an anniversary getaway, or set the stage for a romantic evening — buying favorite flowers, and maybe a cooking a special dinner or delivering breakfast in bed. Sometimes, though, the requests are more elaborate.
On Thanksgiving, Grand Concierge was tasked with setting up a marriage proposal at Winter Park Ski Resort in Colorado's Rocky Mountains. Justen Wack asked for the words "MARRY ME" to light up in the snow at the resort where he first took Elizabeth Petersen a year ago. Wack got his request fulfilled, and a fiancé in the process.
Another side of the "romantic services" that concierges sometimes fulfill involve clandestine encounters. Russell Figaredo of ABC NYC Concierge service recalls a gig that took him around the city to find kosher foods to bring to "one of the finer Central Park South hotels."
Once in the hotel room, they set the table and set up the meal, but "the host and lady [were] so pleased that we were dismissed half an hour later, even after he had paid $100 per hour for a six-hour job." He added that the client paid in cash so it would not appear on his credit card. "We had, after all, served a very kosher meal to this very observant, very religious man, and his mistress."
The wildest line-of-duty story Giovanni has heard involved a hotel that kept two lists of names — "dates" for men and women who were staying at the hotel and who were known to seek out companionship. One such male celebrity was staying in the hotel, so they randomly selected a woman from the date list. When she went up to his hotel suite, the celebrity opened the door, and was shocked to discover it was his own wife.
For hosts who truly spare no expense in entertaining, concierges can save the day, or at least the party, no matter where it is. Concierge Courier Global cites one party on a boat on Lake Michigan that ran out of booze and called them to bring more beer to the lake. Someone else hired the company to purchase a $1,200 bottle of Clase Azul Ultra — Extra Anejo Tequila in the U.S. and deliver it to her in Hong Kong.
In another of Giovanni favorite, a company was asked to find one dozen albino peacocks for a private party. "I didn't even know there was one albino peacock, let alone a dozen ," she said. But lo, a farm of albino peacocks existed somewhere in Asia, so the special order then had to be flown to Egypt, where the party was being held in one of the tombs.
In the winter of 2009, a bride and groom's family and friends descended on Philadelphia for their wedding, which unfortunately coincided with a blizzard. The wedding site could not be reached by anyone. Since many guests had traveled from Australia, the couple was faced with very last-minute wedding replanning.
At 9 a.m. on the wedding day, the couple asked the concierge at the Ritz-Carlton, where the guests were staying, if they could hold their wedding in the Grand Ballroom. The concierge and staff pulled it off in four hours, with a full personalized menu, flowers, an eight-piece band, a photographer and a reconstructed version of their original wedding cake, which had broken into pieces during its snowy delivery.
Left-behind jewels were a problem for at least one jet-setter, who forgot some gems at a hotel in Paris, then needed them that evening for an event in New York. Concierge Courier Global rushed the jewels to their rightful neck in time for the event.
Another forgotten item, precious in a different way, was a client's daughter's teddy bear. The Barcelona boutique agency Alberta La Grup's concierge traveled about 50 miles to the private European mountain villa where the bear was, then made the return trip on snowy roads. "That night the little girl slept with the teddy bear without knowing that she had ever forgotten it," said Lourdes Carbó of the agency.
Fetching high-end tequila and designer clothes are not matters of life or death, but leaving important prescription medication at home can be. Concierge Courier Global delivered one vacationing man's prescription to him in St. Lucia, who declared, "You saved my life!"
Obtaining luxury vehicles for client use is a frequent concierge request (with a specific make, model and color), and some hotels now supply their own cars for patrons' use during their stay.
But this request was extreme even for the high net worth set. One couple requested to be met after dinner with three Mercedes-Benzes in different colors, and three helicopters, so they would have their choice of whichever of the six rides suited them. The couple got their wish fulfilled by Alberta La Grup. Then, despite paying for the Mercedes and choppers, they didn't even ride home in any of the six vehicles, instead catching a ride with friends from the restaurant.
It's business a usual for concierges to hook up clients with VIP concert experiences and hunt down nearly impossible-to-obtain tickets to the world's most coveted events. They can also facilitate even more rare experiences.
Before closing its doors in 2011, the acclaimed Spanish restaurant elBulli was one of the most difficult dinner reservations to land in the world. The Alberta La Grup agency were chosen by Chef Ferran Adriá to organize a Last Dinner Experience attracting on short notice 150 privileged clients from Brazil, Kazakhstan, New York, Venezuela, Hong Kong, Peru, London, Shanghai, India, and elsewhere for the experience.
Another job for the agency entailed closing the Spanish amusement park Port Aventura in Salou, Tarragona, for a day for the exclusive private enjoyment of a single family from the United Arab Emirates.
'Behind Closed Doors at Marriott' premieres Wednesday, Dec. 12 9p | 12a ET. For more visit Marriott.cnbc.com