Using A Concierge

Dear Travel IQ: Can you explain how to use a concierge properly?  Many of the nicer hotels I visit have a concierge, but I’m not sure what is an appropriate question outside of a restaurant suggestion or directions.  What can a concierge do for me (and should I then do something for them)?

Signed: Confused and Lost in Vancouver

Dear Confused: All large hotels and resorts (and sometimes even smaller ones) offer concierge service, but guests don’t use them as often as they should. The job of a concierge is to make your stay as enjoyable as possible, so there’s no reason you shouldn’t take advantage. Whether you want to know where the best local Italian restaurant is, want a private tasting at a local winery or need to arrange for a doctor, consider pushing that “concierge” button on your phone to get what you need.


For Local Information
It’s hard to find anyone at a hotel who knows more about the area than a concierge. He will be current on all the local restaurants, shops, special events, and attractions. You can also count on the concierge to tell you how to get to all those things as he whips out a map for your destination. Many hotels – though it’s not always advertised – will be happy to provide you with complimentary transportation around the local area.  The James New York has a pedicab to take you within a few blocks of the SoHo location or a luxury car service in a hybrid Lexus to take you downtown. Both are free to guests.

As Your Personal Arranger
Have you ever wanted to be the one treated like a VIP at the aquarium or indulged in a private tasting at a winery?  A concierge can make that happen. Since he knows all things local, he keeps in touch with owners of local establishments around the city. Behind-the-scenes tours are a frequent request of guests.  Just give some advance notice, and the concierge can make arrangements for you.  Also, ask if you’d like to go on a more personable area tour. He’ll know which cab drivers (or chauffeurs, depending on your budget) are trustworthy and to take you around town and show you everything you want to see.

When Health Issues Strike
It would be wonderful if you could push a button and keep injury and illness away while traveling, but you can’t do that. What you can do is push the concierge button when faced with either of these issues. In addition to knowing the best place to buy homemade chocolates, the concierge at your hotel can lead you to the nearest hospital, pharmacy, or doctor. In some areas, the concierge can even find you a doctor who will make house (or, more accurately, hotel) calls so that you don’t have to go wandering around town when you aren’t feeling well. And, if you are too sick to make it out, the concierge can also help get medication delivered.


To Get That Ticket
Is there a baseball game you’d love to see? A sold-out play that you were looking forward to?  Don’t presume it’s not possible to go until you’ve checked with the concierge. It may cost you a bit more than if you had planned in advance and bought the tickets yourself, but the chances are you will be able to get them. The concierge will know the outlets that are selling extra tickets, as well as local resellers. The hotel may even have tickets available to guests that other places don’t.  If you have some flexibility on what you see, the concierge can lead you to places like the ticket booth in Times Square that sells half-price tickets for that day’s theatre.

Sign reading "Concierge"

Fulfilling Unusual Requests
Don’t ever be afraid to ask the concierge if you have what you consider an unusual request. The chances are he’s heard them all and won’t be surprised.  As long as it’s legal, the chances are he will take care of it for you without question. At many properties, you can even call the concierge to have someone pick up and walk your dog!

Whether it’s walking your dog or dropping you off at a museum, you should tip the concierge a small amount for each service, or at the end with consideration of all that has been done.  Base the tip on the complexity of the service, but $5.00 to $20.00 USD in local currency is typical.