Two words will get you upgraded
FROM the strangest things they've ever been asked to do to how they decide who scores the best perks, Australian hotel staff have dished on what life behind the front desk is really like.
Three concierges from the Intercontinental Hotel Group - including two from Australia and one Kiwi - spoke to news.com.au about the ups and downs of the job, including two words that will help you get an upgrade.
What are the best for guests ways to get perks?
James Ridenour, Chief Concierge at Intercontinental Melbourne The Rialto, who has worked in hotels for 25 years, says: "The best advice for anyone hoping to get upgraded is simple: Be polite and friendly!
"When we have availability, the concierges are able to choose who receives an upgrade. Really it boils down to two things: loyalty and luck.
" … Guests with IHG Rewards Club memberships or the Intercontinental Ambassador Program take priority and Ambassadors are guaranteed an upgrade to the level above their booking where we can accommodate it.
"It never hurts to ask - we also do what we can to make a special anniversary or wedding night extra special where we can.
Siddhartha Kaul, Chéf Concierge at Intercontinental Adelaide, has been in luxury hotels since 1999: "One of the best ways for guests to get an upgrade or other perks, is to build a relationship with the hotel colleagues. Booking through the hotel directly is the best way to do this before arrival."
Jason Eade, Chief Concierge at Intercontinental Wellington, New Zealand: "People try all the time and sometimes it's worth them trying their luck … from time to time we do have capacity to offer an upgrade."
What are the challenges, and the awesome parts of the job?
James: "The concierge team and I often receive unusual requests with just a short time frame to turn them around."
Siddhartha: "No day is the same and you never know what strange request will come your way. Having exceptional organisational skills is crucial to be able to juggle and deliver in a timely manner. Naturally, this brings its challenges but the best part of the job is being able to go above and beyond and make the seemingly impossible possible.
Jason: "One of the best compliments I've ever received was being told 'You're better than Google maps'."
What are the most surprising requests guests have made?
James: "A standout request in my time as a concierge was one guest's request to drive a Ferrari at high speed in Melbourne - apparently, he liked to do this wherever he went in the world. And so, nothing ever being too much to ask, we rented a Ferrari, the racetrack on Phillip Island and a helicopter to fly the gentleman in.
"Another one of my favourite stories is of a retired guest who grew up in Melbourne and was returning for a visit. Ahead of her trip she got in touch to say she was looking for an old school friend. All she knew was her maiden name, school and that she lived in Victoria. After a few weeks of searching I managed to find her and put the pair in touch for a reunion.
"One more story, which I still can't believe we pulled off, was ahead of a guest's business conference. Just two-and-a-half hours before it was due to start he decided he wanted two Frozen street performers to be in the meeting.
"Thinking outside the box I got in touch with the Victorian College of the Arts and they put me in touch with a contact they had on file. Just in the nick of time we got two performers in full costume and make up. For a request like this, you can't just open up the yellow pages - you really have to be imaginative."
Siddhartha: "Just last month we had a guest realise that he had forgotten his passport after arriving in Perth. With less than 24 hours until he was due to fly to London and onward to New York for a business meeting,
"I jumped on a plane to Perth in full uniform to hand deliver his passport at Intercontinental Perth. The guest's gratitude and delight were unmeasurable.
"Another time, a Hollywood celebrity who I won't name requested 20 New York style hotdogs for her whole crew to be delivered in five minutes. When we get a request with such a tight turnaround we just have to remember to keep our cool and deliver to the highest standard we can.
"Sometimes the concierges are overlooked by hotel guests but we're always here ready and waiting no matter what the request - as long as it's legal and moral to do so."
Jason: "Nothing is strange or shocking after 19 years … There have been many memorable requests throughout the years - Ozzy Osbourne requesting New Zealand licorice being one of them.
"I've shaken hands with Hillary Clinton and spoken with Ed Sheeran for a few minutes. Most of the time even the biggest celebrities are friendly and open to having a chat with the staff."
What is a typical day like for you?
James: "As Chief Concierge I generally work a day shift starting the day at 6.30am and finishing anywhere between 15.00 and 17.30pm. To kick off the day I run reports to look at who is arriving and departing, make note of any special requests and prepare for any in-house conferences.
"No day is ever the same. We welcome guests from all over the world with different stories, backgrounds and tastes.
"If we have a celebrity guest booked in, we'll do our research in advance to make sure we know what they do and don't like."
Siddhartha: "Some weeks I'll work a regular week from Monday to Friday and other weeks I may work Tuesday through to Saturday. We tend to have a lot of leisure guests arriving on Saturday with the weekend to explore so they use the concierge the most.
"A typical day begins with a team briefing looking at the day ahead and planning everything from VIP arrivals to surprise wedding proposals …
"Every guest and request is different so to really exceed their expectations we have to be good at reading their minds. This is the hard part of the job."
Jason: "I tend to work Monday to Friday from 7am - 5pm. … I run a team of 13 so I make sure we have enough staff working at peak times. Typically, I am the first point of contact for guests."