In The Weeds: Hotel Concierge…Like a Server, Only Awesomer
For the second time in three weeks, I’ve been summoned to the school for a parent/teacher conference regarding my oldest son. The good son. The easy son. The son who thanks me for putting on his seat belt. The son who sits quietly at a restaurant table for hours. The son who only just started kindergarten but who has been in the “Safe Seat” about five times. Yes, the politically correct mumbo jumbo that protects today’s youth from losing any valuable self esteem calls the “You F*^!ed Up Now, Boy!” chair the “Safe Seat.” I let him know when I picked him up that his “seat” would not be “safe” at home until he straightens his act up. Today, his teacher reported that he spit on another child at recess. Spit on someone? Who is this person who looks like my son but suddenly acts like a character in an Eminem video? I’ve added to my list of “Ways Having Kids Ruins Everything” that they totally embarrass you for no good reason.
At any rate, I was trying to find some humor in life so that I could bring you today’s column, but I kept getting bogged down in how hard it is to raise kids. It’s like way harder that splitting a check for eight old ladies who had two appetizers, five entrees and six glasses of white zin. I tried thinking back to a simpler time in my life, to the year 3 B.C. (before children).
In 3 B.C., I had a dream job at a dream company in a dream city. I don’t want to be too specific, because I’m not sure what I’ll divulge. And I would love to work there again if the opportunity ever existed after my kids are up and out (crazy hours make it decidedly non-mom suitable). But I’m sure I’ll be too old, wrinkly and tired by then, so let’s just add another one to my list of “Ways Having Kids Ruins Everything.” Okay, sorry. Focus. Breathe.
I worked as the head concierge at a AAA Five Diamond resort in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. While the work was intense and attending to the every whim of high-maintenance guests in 650 rooms with only five phone lines caused the occasional nervous breakdown, I loved it. It was sort of like being a server, only guests didn’t leave after an hour or two. They stayed for days or weeks, which gave them the time to really ramp up the demands. Guest requests cross over from mundane and annoying to entertaining at this level. They didn’t just ask for sides of ketchup, they asked for separate limousines for their dogs. They didn’t just find a side dish unpleasant, they found entire mattresses, views and weather patterns unacceptable. They didn’t just want a 7:00 reservation, they wanted the chef’s table in the hottest new restaurant on New Year’s Eve with no notice.
Unlike being a server in a restaurant where you are often restricted in what you can do for a guest, the resort had just the opposite policy. If it wasn’t immoral, illegal or unethical, we were to say yes. Every time. The feeling of accomplishment after locating the exact replica of Robert Palmer’s suit and both dress styles in the “Simply Irresistible” video in less than four hours for a guest (who never did divulge why he needed them) was as satisfying as completing the NYT Sunday crossword. Okay, so I’ve never actually done that, but I bet it would feel pretty good.
If I had kept notes, I would certainly have some best-selling book material. But I was too busy extracting scorpions from guests’ slippers by day and eating at the best restaurants before having a personal driver take my friends and me to the VIP rooms of the hottest clubs by night. The perks of that job were buh-na-nuhs. Here’s just a few of the whacky things that I can remember:
- The Cat Fanciers Association rented out every room in the hotel for their annual show. Most of the cat ladies double booked, which equals about 1300 women and their cats. Competition was fierce with the diva cats demanding ahi tuna and hourly maid service for litter box cleaning.
- A man arrived by private jet at the executive airport nearby. He sat in my office with a woman about 30 years his junior who wore a very short dress and spoke very little English. He booked dinners at all the best places for the next four nights. He booked a hot air balloon ride, horseback riding, private desert Hummer tour, spa treatments, the works. As he was leaving, he turned to me and said, “Under no circumstances are you to pay for any reservations with my credit card. I will pay in cash for everything. Because this (grabbing her ass) is NOT my wife.” Noooooo…..really?
- A New York woman booked a room for the entire week of Christmas to New Year’s. She was bummed about being in Arizona and said it just wouldn’t feel like Christmas without a real tree and snow. She provided a photo of her ideal Christmas tree and asked that something identical be set up in her room complete with lights and gifts (empty wrapped boxes) beneath. The snow was handled by having the landscaping department pile fake snow on her patio and as far out into the grounds as her view allowed. To give you an idea of how seriously each request was handled (not just mocked and dismissed), there were actual meetings with our maintenance people, insurance people and the fire department to assess the fire risk posed by a real tree in a hotel room.
- I welcomed a young family of mom, dad and 6-year-old daughter to the resort just after they checked in. I asked the girl where she was from and she said California. She enthusiastically told me they were on their way home from Disney World in Florida. I asked her if she had fun at Disney and she said, “Yes, it was fun, but we had to leave early because mom and dad were fighting and mom threw an ashtray at dad’s head.” I nervously laughed and looked at the frozen and mortified parents. Dad had visible stitches above his eye brow. Kids. They’re the best.
- Five Diamond hotels require a live person to make the wake-up calls…no automation. If the person does not answer the wake up call, the operator must call back in five minutes and again at ten minutes. If that does not work, a bellman is required to go to the room and knock. If a successful waking is still not achieved, the bellman must go into the room and physically wake the guest. It’s awful and awkward. Everyone hopes it does not get to this point. But it sometimes does. The guest service staff (bellmen, valets, doormen, etc) have a hazing ritual for new guys that never failed to get the entire lobby staff in hysterics. First, about 12 guys go hide in an empty guest room…in the closets, bathroom and behind curtains. One gets in the bed and covers up. Next, a guest service manager tells the new guy that they have a non-successful wake up call, gives him a room key and tells him to first knock three times and then go in and wake the guest. Walking into a dark room to wake a sleeping guest makes experienced veterans nervous, so when this greenhorn finally tip toes up to the bed and starts to gently tap the sleeping body and 12 people jump out of every nook and cranny….well, he usually shits himself.