In the world of travel there are some mystery’s that still remain. Among these may be that friendly looking person sitting next to a sign that reads “Concierge.” For many, the questions of who is this person, and what do they actually do, may reside your mind. Even though you have likely seen them in multiple hotels you have stayed in you might not be clear as to what they do. In fact Merriam- Webster’s dictionary shows that the word “Concierge” is in the “top 30% of lookups on Marriam-Webster.com” This would seem to indicate that many are confused as to who and what a concierge is. What Is a Concierge Merriam-Webster’s describes a concierge as “a usually multilingual hotel staff member who handles luggage and mail, makes reservations, and arranges tours; broadly: a person employed (as by a business) to make arrangements or run errands.” In short, a concierge is there to generally assist guests with any legal request for assistance that a guest may have. A concierge’s purpose is to make the impossible possible! While common requests such as helping with restaurant reservations or recommendations, finding and booking guides, tours, transportation and event tickets are often utilized, private shopping experiences and in-room services such as sprinkling rose petals on beds also aren’t unusual. Concierge services have also included some more interesting requests such as filling a pool with ice cubes because a guest found the water too hot, and helping a guest understand that the in-room safe was not a microwave and thus understanding that was why their pizza was not heating up! While these services certainly make a concierge worthwhile, if you stick to these basic requests you are missing out on the wealth of information and network of contacts–including maitre d’s, private jet pilots, jewelers and personal shoppers that the typical concierge spends years cultivating. Viewing a concierge as an unnecessary middleman (or a less capable travel assistant than your secretary) is a mistake that can cost you time, money and effort. A concierge is paid to be the ultimate insider. Concierges peruse museum exhibits, attend gallery openings, dine at impossible-to-get-a-table-at restaurants and see all the newest shows–all to be able to tell you what’s worth seeing, doing and eating. Best of all? That expansive knowledge is available to any guest, absolutely free! So with the understanding of what a concierge is, and what their value is, the question then becomes how does one best utilize one? Some tips include: Be A Snob Particularly in status conscious cities like New York, Paris or Hong Kong, the quality of your hotel does make a difference. Therefore, spending a bit more on your hotel room can bring you the added value of access to sold out reservations at theaters, restaurants and nightclubs as well as better seating locations in such venues. A guest staying at a Fairmont, Waldorf Astoria or similar level property will have better concierge access then someone staying at the local Day’s Inn. The fact is local venues are more likely to accommodate concierges from top-notch hotels–who regularly send guests spending lots of money – then those at lower level accommodations. Therefore, it is wise to choose your hotel carefully. Call Ahead Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, call in advance and share your itinerary. The concierge is a local and can tweak your activities in a way your assistant can’t. Most concierges encourage guests to contact them anywhere from a few days to a few weeks prior to arrival to start planning. In addition to reconfirming reservations, a concierge can also brief you on the idiosyncrasies of individual cities. For example, if a parade means a section of the city is off-limits during your stay, or a national holiday in a foreign country mandates that all stores and restaurants close, or a major sporting event is likely to congest public transportation, the concierge will warn you. In some cases calling in advance may also qualify you for special pricing the concierge has access to. Finally, your best chance of scoring a table for two at a new hot spot, or tickets to a sold-out show, is to call the concierge one or two months in advance. Sure many can often get you last minute reservations, but as with any reservation booking the longer out you book the better. Special Occasions Nothing pleases a good concierge more than planning a special experience for a guest. From special anniversaries to popping the big wedding question; from birthdays to notable job milestones a concierge has the knowhow, and connections to make a special occasion all the more magical. If you have a special occasion that needs to be marked, be sure to let the concierge know so they can help you celebrate it in an extra special way! Tipping Policy Perhaps unfortunately for the guest, no official guidelines or policies exist when it comes to tipping. That said, as with all service employees tipping is appreciated and welcomed for good service provided. While nothing is expected, some concierges do suggest that an easy to get reservation requires no tip; while snaring a table at a hot restaurant or tickets to a sold out show might result in a $10 or $20 gratuity. Over the top experiences or day trips might earn more. As to “how” to leave the tip, guests will often leave an envelope or write a thank you card with the tip included. Other guests slide a tip into the palm of a concierge within minutes of entering the lobby while still others simply write to the general manager to say, “The service I received was excellent.” All that said, your tip should be based on the level and quality of service you receive, and you can be assured that all concierges swear up and down that every guest receives the same service regardless of your tip-wattage. Hopefully, armed with this background as to whom a concierge is; combined with the tips that have been offered here you will be better able to understand who a concierge is, and how to utilize their services the next time you are staying in a hotel where a concierge is available to you.