A bathtub clogged with chocolate sauce. A guest requesting a helicopter ride to Atlantic City. Stealth treatment for an STD. That’s a sampling of the challenges Michael Fazio juggled as a concierge at the InterContinental New York Barclay. With co-author Michael Malice, Fazio tells these and other you-can’t-make-this-stuff-up tales in “Concierge Confidential” (St. Martin’s Press, 2011). Now co-owner of a concierge business serving more than 100 properties, Fazio spoke with Travel’s Becky Krystal about his time behind the desk and his views on the business. Excerpts:
There’s definitely a lot of interesting stuff that goes on at hotels.
If you think about it, it’s like a place where you can reinvent yourself. If you’re just a one-time visitor, you can be anyone you want to be. If you’re a frequent visitor, the staff has a whole different understanding of who you are than your office does, or your family.
What advice would you give a guest with a strange or extravagant request?
First and foremost that we are not the arbiters of all things illegal and seedy. So you might have to actually explain explicitly what you’re looking for so that somebody on my end can make an intelligent choice or an intelligent assessment of whether or not we can, should or want to do it. To be really honest, I’ve never said no to anybody, because nobody’s ever asked for anything that I found incredibly shocking.
I was a little surprised by how much money gets passed between people.
Yes, there’s money from tour operators and restaurants from time to time. And anybody that’s soliciting the concierge is basically coming to us and saying, “I really would appreciate you recommending your guests to me.” Sometimes people are very happy to take all of those opportunities, whereas my philosophy is, “I’m not going to take that opportunity. I’m going to first vet you and make sure you’re worthy of my recommendation.”
You talk about reusing discarded roses for the petals on guests’ beds. Really?
I’m proud of that. It shows a concierge’s resourcefulness. Rose petals were as common as asking for a pot of coffee from room service. It happened all the time. And if we bought them from a flower shop, you got a little rinky-dink bag full of them, and they were crazy expensive. And here’s a hotel where, if a corporation has a big dinner, they have thousands of dollars’ worth of beautiful flowers that are just going to get thrown away. So I’m in the hotel, I know the party’s over, and I’ll go in there and look for roses and be like, “Oh, perfect.” And then we’re able to offer them at a much lower price, and everybody’s happy.
What kind of request would you make of a concierge?
The thing that I think is most valuable when you find a good concierge is asking them what their favorite things about their city are. What do you do on your days off? Where do you go? Where do all the chefs go after work? So I always try to get the insidery scoop on things. That’s the kind of stuff that I love.