'Concierge Confidential': Confessions of a Luxury Concierge

Posted Feb 9th 2011 11:30 AMUpdated Feb 11th 2011 02:41 PM

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Concierge Confidential Michael Fazio

St. Martin's Press

Michael Fazio was a personal assistant in Hollywood before serving as one of the top concierges in New York City's toniest hotels. Now, he serves some 20,000 condominiums and private clients. His new book, Concierge Confidential (written with Michael Malice), is a compendium of juicy stories about celebrities behaving badly, temper tantrums of the fabulously wealthy, and his victories in scoring seemingly unattainable prizes for his well-heeled clients. It also dishes about the tricks of the concierge trade. Jason Cochran caught up with him:





Do guests ever pretend to be fancy by pronouncing "concierge" as if they have a fake French accent?

No, but most of the concierges themselves say cohn-cierge. Part of the fun of this profession is that little bit of mystique... I think sometimes concierges might be perceived as unapproachable, like there's a velvet rope. It's like, "Do I have the nerve to go up to that person?" And the answer to that is, "Absolutely! You should, and don't be shy." People who know how to use the concierge don't mince words. They go right for the jugular and say what they want. They're explicitly clear. That is what makes me excited.


You like a clear customer.

Read About Ridiculous Requests
Outrageous Concierge Requests
Absolutely, because when somebody has a definite idea of what they want, it's very easy to please them. You're setting up an expectation.

So what's the wrong way to approach the concierge?

It's the people with that "stump the band" attitude that are like, "I bet you can't do this." Because it so deflates all of the magic. That's one thing. The other thing is announcing how generous you're going to be if we light ourselves on fire and jump through a hoop.

That brings up the big question. How generous should you be? I think there are some people who just assume it's a service of the hotel.

It is, really, in all fairness. It's also a profession, and you don't tip your therapist. So it's part of what we do, but traditionally, it's taken on some extra financial reward in the form of gratuities. No, you don't really have to, but it's really, really, really nice and we love you when you do. And we probably write little notes in your folio so that next time you come back, we're like, "Oh, we love that Jason. He left us $100." But if you're asking for something basic like a dinner reservation, and you're not being really specific like, "I want to go to Alain Ducasse," then five bucks is nice. It's a gesture. But if you're very specific and you want to go to one of the hot spots that are going to be a challenge, then I would suggest $20.
Concierge Confidential


That's not crazy.

Then there's the final over-the-moon tipping for stuff that's also price-appropriate. If you want to go to the Metropolitan Opera's opening night gala, and the concierge is procuring for you something that only the A-list of New York get invited to, and they're able to find a ticket for you and you're paying $1,000 for it, you kind of have to tip accordingly. If you're a person of means and if 2 1/2 or 3 hours of entertainment was worth $1,000, then the effort it took to go the extra mile to get that should be worth more than the usual also.

What do people waste the most money on? What don't we need a concierge's help for?

That's very interesting. I'll tell you: Anything that's "big box" oriented. People who want to go see Spider-Man because they want to go back home and have bragging rights. My question sometimes is: Could you have gone to 25 other Broadway shows and had an amazing experience for $50?

Can I use the concierge even if I'm not staying at the hotel?

Here's a confession. When I was at the InterContinental, we used to get calls all the time from American Express for our services. At first, we were happy to oblige, but eventually we realized that we were providing our knowledge to a major corporate conglomerate for free. So we stopped being so generous with information. What I prefer is when people call and say, "I know this is weird. I'm not even staying at your hotel, but I'm wondering if there's any chance -- and I will take care of you -- if you could do blah blah blah for me."

When you go to another city, do you use the concierge?

You know, it's funny, I do a little bit. But it's my profession, and I feel like I want to discover that city on my own. But I always introduce myself.

One thing I liked in your book was if a guest is wearing expensive jewelry, you can use that to size them up.

First of all, we never overcharge. But when you see someone and you're able to size them up -- "All right, I get it, he's carrying an Hermès briefcase" -- you know that you can also tell that person, "I can get you that table, and this is probably what we're going to have to do." It's very clean, very up front, and you're not going to offend them. But if it's a family of siblings from North Dakota who are more interested in going to the wax museum and then they ask if they can get backstage to the Sting concert, you don't judge. But I don't want to get their world all twisted up by giving them some idea that we can't fulfill.

When you travel abroad, there's often a pressure for the tour guide to take you somewhere there's a kickback.

A good concierge is so completely opposed to that whole way of operating. If you really take it seriously, and I've always taken it really seriously, I'm probably going to see you again. I would send people to places I have a relationship with, but that's because I want them to know that Jason Cochran came from me, and when you get there, you're going to be embraced like a rock star.

How will I know if my concierge isn't like that?

Oh, okay, I'm turning the bad guys in! If it's really worth it to you, hang out at the desk within earshot for 15 minutes and see if they consistently send guests to the same restaurant.

In movies, people are always asking hotel staff to procure a lady of the evening or recreational medication. Can you do that?

Look upon us as your doctor. You don't beat around the bush with your doctor. You're safe with them. There's a lot of sexy stuff that happens in hotels. I think it's the nature of hotels: You can be anyone you want. Some of the concierge community pretends that it doesn't happen, but maybe they don't work the 4-to-midnight shift like I used to. But for legal reasons, we never get involved in the transaction. It's very passively informative. "I know what you want to do, but I'm happy to lead you in that direction." We share our knowledge of, "If it were me, this is probably how I would go about that," but we can't make it happen for them.

Do I need to tip you just for telling me that?

Yes. [Laughs.] Send me a check.

Read about some of the most Outrageous Concierge Requests!
Filed Under: Real Life Stories

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wlh1923

Well isn't that special. Guy that set the world record for BJs is doing a tell all. BTW he also cleaned up 131,000 dog turds in addition to the 17250 BJs he's given

February 10 2011 at 7:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Danyelle

Great article...I agree, this would be a cool guy to sit and have a few drinks with, he probably has the best stories.

February 10 2011 at 7:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Leslie Williams

Having been a board member of the Washington Area Concierge Association and someone who knows people in Les Clefs d'Or, I would like to know if this gentleman is someone who wears "the crossed keys" or if he is just a glorified desk clerk? What are his credentials in the profession, other than being a Hollywood go-fer?

February 10 2011 at 4:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Leslie Williams's comment
Mary Ann

I looked him up and Yes, he does wear the crossed keys.

February 10 2011 at 5:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
andy

Is there a word in English to use instead of concierge so I don't screw it up? Something like maybe, go-to-guy, pimp, source, doorman, big man, hotel connection, dude in the English tux, or whatever?

February 10 2011 at 3:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to andy's comment
Mike

"Caretaker" is about the best I could come up with.

February 10 2011 at 5:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

Honestly, I rarely stay in a hotel with concierge service. But, occasionally I've been able to swing it. Generally, the front desk clerk is perfectly able to tell me where to eat, etc. And, I've always reckoned the maid staff would be the best place to score weed (or possibly even a "companion" for the evening). I guess I always figured if you could afford tickets to a Broadway opening or back-stage passes for a Sting concert, you'd be connected enough to get that stuff for yourself. This guy sounds like a nice guy and all, but it just seems like the need for his services would be somewhat limited. But, then again, I'm one of those cavemen who changes the oil in my car myself. I can damn sure figure out where to eat on my own.

February 10 2011 at 3:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Mike's comment
Dee

A concierge can be a lifesaver in some cases. I work for a nationwide hospitality company, and some of our concierge have done incredible things for our guests. We had a guest who became ill while staying with us, and our concierge located a physician to make a visit to the hotel, then followed up to check on the guest regularly. The concierge went to the pharmacy for the guest to get her medications and other items to ensure her comfort. On another occasion, a family's car had been vandalized while they were staying in town (not at our hotel), and our concierge helped them with getting their car towed, drove them to the rental car location, and even kept an eye on their kids while they were dealing with the insurance agent and police. The concierge can be wonderful resources for entertainment, but they can do SO much more too.....I always appreciate knowing there is a concierge in my hotel, even I don't need their services...just in case!

February 10 2011 at 5:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

I'm not dogging or belittling concierges. I guess I just always figured if the regular hotel staff can handle the things I need, the concierge is just there for things that are way out of my price range. As I said, this guy sounds like a very nice guy and probably very helpful. I would imagine most concierges are - otherwise they wouldn't choose that line of work. This was an informative article, though; it inspires me to at least have a chat with the concierge the next time I stay somewhere that has one.

February 10 2011 at 5:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Yes

My wife and I travel alot, both domestically and foreign. I spread the money around on arrival and also when I depart. Since we usually stay at the same pleases when we return, the staff knows us and our custom. Not only do we look to the concierge when we are in town, but if we plan to visit a new location, we usually get our local concierge to let the concierge at the new location we are coming. He usully passes along the information they want to hear about us.
On one occasion when we were traveling to Verona Italy by way of Milan, we faxed the hotel a message not to pick us up at Milan. We entended to rent our own vehicle and driver. The Hotel Staff if Verona apparently misread the fax and sent a contracted driver to pick us up. When we got back to the hotel and the mix up was discovered because we had out copy of the faxt, it became apparent a young concierge was in deep trouble a the cost of the limo was about $400.00. When I saw what was going on, I had the manager put it on my bill because they were trying to look out for us. One year later when my agent was not able to get tickets for us and another couple to the summer Opera in the arena at Verona, I had him call the concierge at the hotel, whose reply when my agent told him who the tickets were for "how many would he like." I had to beg them to accept a tip for getting them for me. They were some of the best seats.
Always treat your concierge and the staff well and there is apparently nothing they will not do for you.

February 10 2011 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jamesnpost

20,000 clients? Let's see, if he worked 365 days a year, he would have to deal with 55 different clients every day to make that many. If he worked ten hours every day, that would mean he would have 11 minutes for each of them, back to back. Aw, HORSECHESTER!

February 10 2011 at 1:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jamesnpost's comment
Mike

That's not necessarily over the course of just one year. That's the number of people to whom his services might be available at any one time. Obviously if all 20,000 called him this afternoon, well, for starters, most of them would get a busy signal.

February 10 2011 at 3:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Corey Fredricks

Odd. I used to tip HUGE at the Palace in NYC and I would even put it in a sealed envelope for discretion, and the guy always seemed to be less than cheerfully grateful.
His face was a combination of embarassed, bored, smug, but never happy or thankful.
It made me feel awkward.
I think his feeling was: this guy thinks he's so cool.
Look, just take the money and if you want more of the same, let me see a little gratitude in your face, pal.
I LOVE this article though, and I appreciate the guidance.
Our concierge was able to score lots of hard to find B'way show tix.

February 10 2011 at 11:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TrevyMcShaw

When I was in college, I chose the classic German story of Faust for my presentation in World Literature. I compared the role of a concierge to the Devil in Faust. Even today, I still see this as an appropriate comparison, even though Mr. Fazio has resisted the temptation to "get the girl" for his clients, there are many out there who would not, including the concierge that I interviewed at a VERY upscale hotel in Atlanta. Oh, and my teacher absolutely loved the presentation and was tickled to death that I had made such a connection. Easy A!!!

February 10 2011 at 11:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mikey in DC

These folks are the best. I prefer a bit of unorthodox medication (for the glaucoma) to help me sleep and I can always get an introduction in a strange land for the equivalent of a double saw. Don't bother in Pakistan, however; not that it's illegal; no, no, it's that it is everywhere.

February 10 2011 at 11:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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