Limousine companies pay tens of thousands of dollars each year to general managers or concierges of hotels that do business with them.

As a standard practice the companies pay 20 percent of the revenues they get from hotels, said limousine-company owners. Some said that the competition for hotels' business has become so fierce lately that some limo companies are paying 30 percent to get concierges to call them first for service.

While some hotels keep all of the commission, others give half to the concierge staff. In some cases it all goes to the concierge.

Because limousine service at some hotels, such as the Willard and the Four Seasons, can be worth several hundred thousand dollars a year, the commissions are very important to the staff members who receive them. Though most limousine companies said they pay the commissions by check, others in the hotel industry said they are frequently paid in cash.

Jack Nargil, head concierge at the Four Seasons, the hotel that most hoteliers agree uses the largest number of limousines, declined to talk about his commission, calling it "a touchy issue."

The hotel's general manager, Stan Bromley, said he wasn't sure what formula the hotel used in divvying up the commission. "I accuse Jack of having Swiss bank accounts," he said with a laugh, "but he denies it."

Admiral Limousines, one of the city's oldest and largest companies, has provided service for the Four Seasons since the hotel opened.

Some hotel managers worry about the paying of commissions.

"Concierges have paybacks from a lot of different businesses, including restaurants," said Thomas Gurtner, former general manager of the Westin Hotel. "Everybody is vying for an agent to sell their services."

"It's a real Catch-22," said Gurtner, noting that if companies pay a commission to get business, that may become more important than the type of service they provide.