While in Paris, on a wine tour to France, or elsewhere, one of the most overlooked resources while in country is the hotel concierge. We look to friends for recommendations on favorite places to visit or places to eat. However, many people travel to new places unaware that simply consulting with the hotel’s concierge service could enhance their trip.
The post of the concierge dates back to medieval times when in France, the Comte Des Cierges, or “Keeper of the Candles,” would attend to the needs of visiting nobles in aristocratic castles. The modern day concierge was born in the 19th and 20th centuries where the concierge would live in an apartment building or hotel’s ground floor, and assist residents with day to day tasks such as: picking up mail, holding house keys for emergencies or maintenance calls, monitoring visitor activity, as well as act as management’s representative.
Today, concierge services can be an invaluable part of travel. Usually found at the front desk, these knowledgeable staff members pride themselves on delivering a high level of customer service. They have worked to cultivate a network of connections that allow any traveler to dine at a solidly booked restaurant or to see a sold out show.
On an average day, a concierge arranges for transportation, recommends notable and interesting sites to visit, procures tickets to events and shows, makes restaurant reservations, as well as the common in-room service: spreading rose pedals on the bed for a romantic night.
For the concierge, no request is too small or too outrageous—one is said to have arranged to get a suit tailored for a guest’s dog, while another drained the hotel pool in order to retrieve a diamond ring lost by a patron.
Those who haven’t used this sort of service may be intimidated or unsure what to tip or what the limitations of the service are.
Tipping is customary, and the amount usually depends on the complexity of the task and the type of service the concierge has performed. Booking a dinner reservation may warrant a ten dollar tip, while booking a reservation at a restaurant that has been booked for weeks may require twenty dollars. Some choose to tip the concierge upon arrival—ten to twenty dollars—to ensure good service, but that is not required.
The only limitation a concierge encounters when asked to perform a service is the law. As long as it’s legal, they will do their best to accommodate any request.
At a recent meeting of concierges dubbed the International Les Clefs d’Or, or “Gold Keys,” a survey noted that roughly 50% of hotel patrons use their services and often times typical requests are not made such as: where to dine, what museums to visit, or sites to see.
The next time you are on a trip, remember that a wealth of knowledge sits just behind the desk at most notable and prestigious hotels. Reservations at that upscale restaurant, or last minute tickets to the latest show are just one question away.