Want your hotel room repainted periwinkle blue or its furniture replaced with workout equipment?
Need a wedding dress with matching Christian Louboutin shoes or an essential oil from Harrods?
How about finding a glassblower to replicate a ceramic dish, in just three hours?
Such requests are just the tip of the iceberg — rather, the ice bucket — and all in a day’s work at luxury hotels throughout the world.
Concierges at five-star properties have seen and heard it all. Nonetheless, they cheerfully make it happen — whatever “it” is — all to ensure their guests’ happiness and, maybe, to spoil them silly.
At Ireland’s Dromoland Castle, Managing Director Mark Nolan got an out-of-the-blue phone call a few years back on Christmas Eve, when the country manor was closed for refurbishment. It seems that the rock band U2 was stranded at Shannon Airport — just 7 miles away. Band leader Bono, who had stayed at the resort previously, wanted to check in at Dromoland — and only at Dromoland — and Nolan had to think quickly. Faster than you can say “The Edge,” Nolan made arrangements for the band to stay overnight and, then, with no chef on hand, arranged for his wife to serve the entourage her homemade shepherd’s pies. “We had no food, no nothing,” Nolan says. But, he adds, the globetrotting rocker/humanitarian and his band “were the nicest, most appreciative people you could ever meet.”
At the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Chef Concierge Jeanne Mills had to arrange for a guest from Qatar to check his $1.2 million Bugatti on Emirates airline so he could fly with the car stored in the cargo hold. The cost of that extra baggage? “It was in the tens of thousands of dollars,” Mills says. Another time, a socialite asked Mills to get her a not-yet-released Louis Vuitton handbag from Paris. “We obtained the bag, had it shipped to the Beverly Wilshire, and she had it when she boarded her flight to London,” Mills says.
It’s all about going that extra frequent flyer mile at places like The Ritz London. There Head Concierge Michael De Cozar, known as “the Fixer,” has done everything from fetching fresh seawater from Brighton for a guest’s evening bath to arranging the purchase of a battleship for another guest who wanted a souvenir of distinction from the United Kingdom. De Cozar’s most memorable tale has to do with assisting a guest who needed a horse’s saddle for her dressage competition. In just 24 hours, he collected the saddle and made arrangements for another of his clients to bring it with him on his British Airways flight. “His driver then hand-delivered the saddle to my client’s home,” he says.
One person’s saddle is another’s foodstuff. A celebrity who frequented The Towers of the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan was in the process of filming a movie in Mexico when she realized that there were no blood oranges on hand for an important scene. Distraught, she phoned The Towers’ Concierge Michael Romei, who purchased the oranges, flew them and a passenger to Mexico and arranged a special meet-and-greet to facilitate customs and immigration.
One of the world’s most challenging requests came from a famed musician who had stayed at the Shangri-La Hotel, Sydney. As his private plane departed Sydney Airport, the musician called the Shang and arranged for room service to deliver a special meal to his partner. Easy, right? But here’s the hitch — that person was staying in a remote village in Thailand. Says Concierge Colin Toomey: “It took a number of phone calls to various colleagues in Bangkok to put the arrangements in place and we certainly called in a lot of favors that day, but we got there in the end.”
Other challenges remain in-house. What if you’re a celebrity and you find out another boldfaced name is wearing the same dress to an event? It happened at The Peninsula New York, where Chef Concierge Frederick Bigler had only a few hours to arrange for a stylist to come in with several chic choices and, of course, a fitting. “I pulled that together very quickly,” he says. “That was a nail-biting situation.” In thanks, the celebrity told Bigler, “You moved the world for me and I appreciate it.”