TO colleague was once asked if he could source bull semen for a guest. The guy had some kind of breeding program where he wanted a particular type of cattle. He asked the concierge if he could help him find some samples – it’s apparently one of the most expensive liquids in the world. I think they managed to find it too.
We get more serious requests, of course. Just last week I had a pal who was asked if he could help someone fleeing Ukraine. Some calls were made and they managed to find the family a home in Poland for a month. There’s a lot of variety in this job and when you feel like you’re really helping it can be a bit special.
Generally a good day for us is busy but everything going smoothly for the guests, with no issues with travel arrangements to and from the hotel. If you’ve booked a table at a very popular restaurant for a guest and they get delayed it can make a mess of things. Recovering those situations is part of the skill of the job.
Nightmare guests: The Rolling Stones have a custard pie fight at the Kensington Gore Hotel in 1968
The worst-case scenario for those of us who work in hotels has been Covid, but another example would be the Beast from the East – that wave of freezing weather that hit the UK in February 2018. It was a nightmare. Really tough. People couldn’t get anywhere, couldn’t arrive or leave, there was no public transport and all the car-hire companies sold out. We had to arrange laundry constantly. Shops were closed. There was a lot of tension in the hotel.
In a situation like that you can’t make light of it but you have to have a certain kind of warmth: be honest, show a bit of empathy. There was no point in trying to pretty it up, but if people see you’re doing what you can, they generally respect you.
Not everyone is like that. I don’t want to be too rude, but a lot of younger people with online businesses – entrepreneurs and influencers – can be a problem. Their expectations can be very unrealistic and some of their demands and timescales put a lot of pressure on us.
Influencers can make concierges’ lives a misery
They aren’t exactly disrespectful, but they’re heading down that road. We keep an eye on them when they’re checking in. If they’re on their phone, holding up the queue, making things worse for other guests, then we’ll step in. If you see behavior like that, straight away you think, we could be in for an interesting couple of days.
I’ve sent people to the back of the queue for that sort of thing and they’ve stood there sulking. That said, I’ve got off to rocky starts with plenty of others and they’ve been polite by the time they’ve left. We never hold any grudges.
Overall, guest behavior is getting worse. People just don’t have respect for property. I’m not talking about those who go out and blow off a bit of steam. More the coming back to the hotel and partying in a way that’s irritating to other guests and damaging the rooms. There were bigger scandals in the past – the throwing-TVs-out-of-the-window days – but they seemed less frequent.
I’ve had an international footballer turn up at the hotel, completely drunk, while there was a book launch on with loads of press. We saw him coming and had to grab him and whisk him round to the service entrance before anyone saw. He was pretty appreciative the next morning.
Another time we had a famous singer stumble drunk off their coach and because the security guy didn’t catch them, they turned around and started hitting him. I was collecting bags at the time thinking: “What the hell is going on there?”
My advice for any aspiring concierges: be clean, be presentable and be able to hold a conversation. But discretion is vital. For example, make sure you never do an interview dishing dirt on your career.
* As told to Jamie Lafferty