They say not all heroes wear capes, and when it comes to hotel concierges tackling some of New York City’s most outrageous hotel requests, that certainly rings true. It’s a hotel concierge’s job to make miracles happen. The concierge finds a solution to whatever a guest needs—and in New York City, guests need a lot. These requests go well beyond reservations at the best Manhattan restaurants or tickets to the best Broadway shows. “People come from all over the world, and we have to please them,” David Canas, head concierge at the Langham Place New York and a member of the prestigious clefs d’or fraternity, said. The competition is fierce among the city’s luxury hotels, he explained, and reputation is everything. “In our job, we have to do everything the guest asks for. We never say no. If it’s something we can’t find, then we find an alternative.” A good concierge, he added, will do anything the guest asks for—“except illegal things.” A good concierge is often what can hotels apart from just fine to the top hotels in NYC.
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Most outrageous hotel requests in NYC
David Canas, head concierge at the Langham Place, New York, got a call one day from an incoming guest who wanted to propose to his girlfriend in style. The only thing the groom-to-be had planned was going to see The Phantom of the Opera—a show his girlfriend liked—but he had no idea of what else he could do. “He wanted to go to a special restaurant, and I thought of the Skybox at Daniel,” Canas said. “At the same time, he had ordered a ring from one of the jewelry stores in New York City.” The guest did not want to carry a ring box, however, lest the girlfriend notice it and ruin the surprise. Canas came up with a solution: He hired a car for the evening and had the driver meet the guest in the hotel’s restaurant, Ai Fiori. The guest gave the ring to the driver and the driver—minutes later—drove the couple to Daniel, where the maitre d’ knew to go downstairs to get the ring from the driver. A hostess at the restaurant then brought the ring to the table at the designated time, and the bride was suitably surprised. (After all that, we hope she said yes.)
Canas also got a call from an assistant in Dubai whose boss was en route to New York, and would want a haircut when he arrived…at 11pm. “No one is open at 11pm,” Canas said, “but you can always find someone to come and do a haircut.” The guest’s haircut cost $950, Canas noted. At the same time, the guest had problems with his suit, but was too wrapped up in meetings to get to a store. Canas called a contact at Saks, and the luxury store sent over a van filled with suits that fit the guest’s measurements. “They have a very good private shopper service, and we have a good relationship with them,” Canas said.
Canas has also organized last-minute helicopter tours to the Hamptons, and to Niagara Falls. (The latter trip costs approximately $10,000.) “If they say ‘I want to go to Niagara Falls in three hours,’ we have to prepare that as quickly as possible,” he said. “Once again, the money is not an issue, so if you tell the companies, ‘I have to have it done,’ you get it done.”
An international traveler once sent Vincent de Croock, director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Centric Times Square New York, a list of requests for what should be in her room upon her arrival. “Apparently, the lady does not travel with undergarments,” de Croock said. “She requests, at each hotel she goes to, that the hotel goes and buys certain types of undergarment. Nothing kinky,” he added, “just very specific. It needed to be a certain thread count, it needed to be a certain color, and it needed to be from a certain store.” The only real challenge, de Croock said, was finding the proper thread count. “Otherwise, it would have been easy.” Ultimately, the team found the right product at Saks and was able to fill the bureau as requested.
“The lady also required someone to come into her room in the morning to pull out the clothes she had in her closet, lay them on the bed and to dress her,” de Croock recalled. Someone from the team would lay out her clothes, help her with her selection and then help her into the clothes.
Beyond that, the guest’s bed had to be made up in a certain way. “There had to be a box spring, then a duvet over the box spring, then a cover sheet over that, then a mattress, then another cover sheet and another duvet,” de Croock said. “She also requested 12 foam pillows for her king-sized bed.” That, he noted, was not difficult to arrange. “Every hotel has spare pillows.”
Finally, the guest also wanted to have someone come into the room, conduct a yoga session, “and then literally stretch her,” de Croock said. “Of course, we can provide these things because we have a spa with masseuses and masseurs who know these techniques, so we were able to provide that.”
A man who loved classical music was celebrating his 50th birthday at the Plaza. On a Thursday afternoon, the guest requested a private concert in his suite with some musicians from the New York Philharmonic for him and his guests...to be held on Friday at 7pm. Criston Diaz, the hotel’s head butler, called the Music Director of the Philharmonic, who was away on tour, and explained the situation. The Music Director then sent an email to all the musicians on reserve, and the hotel’s team was able to get six musicians to come play for the private party. “The total for the private concert including beverages and hors d’oeuvres was $14,500,” Diaz noted.
On another occasion, a regular guest saw a well-dressed man in the hotel’s Champagne Bar and asked where he had purchased his suit and shoes. Afterwards, the guest called Diaz and asked him to buy the exact outfit at Tom Ford and Prada—both of which were about to close. Julius, another member of the concierge team, had insider connections at the stores and convinced them to stay open late so the suits could be picked up.
On another occasion, Diaz was sent a photo of a dress a guest had seen online, along with a shopping list of other things the guest required—including makeup, underwear and stockings. Diaz himself went to Sephora to pick up the makeup, Victoria’s Secret for the lingerie, and Bloomingdale’s for the dress.
A member of the Four Seasons’ concierge team got a request from a guest who was getting married in a week and wanted a tuxedo. That, in and of itself, is not unusual...but this guest wanted the same tuxedo that James Bond wore in “Spectre.” The tuxedo was made by Brioni, but the store had already closed for the weekend and wouldn’t reopen until Tuesday due to a holiday. The concierge, who requested anonymity, contacted Brioni in Italy and was bounced back and forth until she managed to speak to the manager of the store where they had made Bond’s tuxedo. They had the entire village working on the tux and had it FedEx’d to the hotel. The tuxedo made it on time for the wedding, but we hear Q’s gadgets were not included.
When Hurricane Irene hit the East Coast in the summer of 2011, it didn’t cause a lot of damage to the city—but airports and public transportation were all shut down anyway, just in case. This presented a unique problem for a young woman getting married that weekend at the New York Marriott at The Brooklyn Bridge: Her guests couldn’t arrive, the reception had to be canceled, and the bride was devastated.
To cheer her up, Irene C. Babcock-Bognar, the catering sales executive at the hotel who had been working on the wedding, came up with a plan: The day after the party was to have taken place, Babcock-Bognar arranged a grand breakfast with all of the flowers that would have been used during the ceremony and reception, and offered a complimentary alternative date for the reception. “While one Irene was destroying my day one piece at a time...another Irene was making sure what was left of the day went off like a fairy tale,” the guest later wrote for the Huffington Post.