Concierges can be the great finessers of your trip: making reservations, helping with business matters, and generally smoothing out life’s kinks. They also know all the ins and outs of the hotel scene, and how to get the most out of your stay. Here are four tips to effectively use the concierge service for your next hotel stay.
1. Help your concierge help you.
When asking for help, focus on what you like. Avoid unhelpful statements such as "Where should I eat? I don’t like fish, I don’t like steak, and I don’t like Chinese." You’ll get better results by revealing your preferences, as in, "I love candlelit French bistros, but tonight I feel like something livelier, more casual, maybe Italian." Also, nothing drives a concierge crazier than a guest asking, "I’m in town for two weeks, and I’ve never been here before. What should I do?" Start with Fodors.com, and do a little homework.
2. Keep expectations realistic.
At a typical tourist-class hotel you can expect a concierge to give you the basics: to show you something on a map, make a standard restaurant reservation, or help you book a tour or airport transportation. In Asia concierges perform the vital service of writing out the name or address of your destination for you to give to a cab driver. It’s not uncommon for restaurants to ply concierges with free food and drink in exchange for steering diners their way; European concierges often receive referral fees. Hotel chains usually have guidelines about what their concierges can accept. The best concierges, however, are above reproach. This is particularly true of those who belong to the prestigious international society of Les Clefs d’Or (evidenced by the gold crossed keys pin worn on the lapel).
3. Leave time for your request to be fulfilled.
Don’t expect to breeze by the desk with a laundry list of requests and get immediate attention. At a luxury hotel, there are only two or three concierges on duty at a time, though there may be several hundred guests. Concierges are busiest in the morning at checkout time, when business travelers need the most assistance, and in the late afternoon and early evening at check-in time, when guests want dinner reservations. The ideal time to chitchat is usually between noon and 4 PM and 8 PM and 10 PM. If you have a complicated request, leave your cell-phone number, or ask that a message be left in your room.
4. Know how to tip.
For the best service, give half the money up front, then the other half once your request has been fulfilled. If the staff knows you’re a good tipper, they’ll work extra hard to ensure you get what you want, when you want it. Base the amount of your tip on the time spent arranging your request. For simple matters that require only one phone call, such as an airport shuttle, tip $2. For restaurant recommendations and reservations that require discussion and opinion, $5 to $20, the latter for harder-to-book tables. For itinerary planning, tip $20 to $100, depending on how complicated it is.