The word concierge comes from the medieval French, Comte des Cierges – “keeper of the candles” – who took care of visiting nobility. In the 21st century, hotel concierges care for guests – and their sometimes challenging requests. And right now, when many guests unfamiliar with the area are beginning to arrive in force for the season, is when a concierge can really earn their salt. Or, sometimes, sweet.
Miguel Ibanez, concierge at the popular Riverside Hotel, Fort Lauderdale (riversidehotel.com), says “each request is different and special. I wouldn’t call them hard to achieve but challenging, which makes it interesting.” For example, Daniel Mera, Ibanez’s colleague at the Riverside, says he was once asked if the New River – which flows next to the hotel – was sweet or salty. (For the record, it is neither).
Ibanez adds that one of the quirkiest requests he ever received was to find a guest a date for dinner. (Discretion being a hallmark of a concierge, he declined to say if he did or didn’t.)
Over at The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa in Hollywood (diplomatresort.com), concierge Lauren Cuervo says her most unusual call was from a guest who wanted help practicing salsa dancing in his room. Cuervo says her job “involves a lot of multitasking … I can be speaking with a customer on the phone, then help a guest in person followed by responding to an email question – all within a matter of minutes.”
Jose Acevedo at the Seagate Hotel & Spa, Delray Beach (seagatehotelandspa.com), has been a concierge for 21 years. He co-founded the Concierge Association of the Palm Beaches and is currently president. He says the biggest challenge of his job is to “expect the unexpected.”
He says a guest on a scavenger hunt once gave him a complicated list of items, including a squeaking dolphin and a hand-held Oriental fan. He found them all and the excitement of “making it happen” hooked him on the profession. All agree the most common request is for names of restaurants or entertainment tickets. And, all also agree that women make more requests than men – famously disinclined to stop and ask directions, even when they are unfamiliar with the area.