Outrageous Concierge Requests

Douglas Lyle Thompson

Over-the-Top, Bizarre, Super-Extravagant, or Just Plain Forgot-Your-Good-Pants Problems? Ask a Concierge

No, not even the best concierge in the world can arrange for a hotel guest to water ski on the lake in London's Hyde Park or to ride Queen Elizabeth's horse -- both requests made to the concierge desk at Hotel Metropolitan London. But the collective profession's ability to respond to a bevy of bizarre requests is truly breathtaking.

Will you Help me Say I Do?
A concierge at the Mandarin Oriental in New York managed to arrange one of the world's most dramatic marriage proposals ever, disguised as a private helicopter tour of Manhattan. When the helicopter flew over Liberty State Park, home to the Statue of Liberty, a 50-foot banner on the lawn proclaimed "Marry Me," in four-foot-tall letters. As the chopper swung low to bring the banner into view, the husband-to-be popped the question. Photographers recorded the event, both in the aircraft and on the ground. Needless to say, the answer was "yes."

Then there was the wedding that almost wasn't. A blizzard on December 19, 2009 virtually closed down Philadelphia for 36 hours. Eighty wedding guests, most from Australia, were booked into the Ritz-Carlton, Philadelphia. The plan was that they would attend an off-site wedding about a half hour out of town. As the snow flew and blew, however, there was absolutely no way for the guests to get to the wedding. So the wedding came to them. Concierge James Portner and his team flew into action and four hours later, a full-blown wedding ceremony was ready. That included personalized menus, flowers, special lighting, an eight-piece band, and a photographer. The couple's original wedding cake was delivered -- cracked into three pieces -- but was swiftly restored. And everyone had a lovely time watching the couple say "I do" while outside the snow flew.

I Need to Shop Now
When Elton John's assistant announced that he intended to go shopping for English antiques early on a Sunday morning in Dallas, Mary Stamm, Concierge at the posh Mansion on Turtle Creek said "fine." Never mind that antique stores aren't open on Sunday morning in Dallas. Stamm got on her cell phone and sent a driver over to the Design District to get names and emergency phone numbers from store windows so she could request that they open for her guest. She also contacted members of the Dallas Junior League who owned antique stores. ("I had to catch them before they went to church," she says.) The people who opened their stores for this special shopper found that it was well worth their while. "He spent a great deal of money buying antiques on Sunday when the stores were closed," Stamm says.

Can you book Rudolph?
Capella Telluride in Colorado, prides itself on its "Personal Assistants" program, which they refer to as "concierges on steroids." This valiant team has done everything from orchestrating a private white tablecloth, silver-service lunch on the banks of a river, midway in a rafting trip, to arranging a "first run" for an expert skier who wanted to schuss down an untouched trail. When a couple asked if the team could bring a reindeer to remote Telluride for Christmas, since their kids had never seen one, the zealous concierge staff found an available reindeer, willing to travel, and were ready to proceed. The problem: the price to ship Rudolph was just a bit too high.

Can You Track that Humpback?
The humpback whale frolicking in front of the Sydney Opera House with her calf was mighty cute. To the contract wildlife photographer who happened to be staying at the Park Hyatt Sydney, however, it was a potential gold mine. The guest, who was leaving that day, asked the concierge staff to have a tracking device placed on the humpback, so it could be found again. The staff was asked to give documented confirmation that it could be done, or to give a reason that proved it was not possible. After placing many phone calls to state government, to the city council, and to wildlife specialists, they found a way to arrange it.

Can You Help Us Make Up Our Differences?
A guest staying in a suite at New York's Plaza Hotel had a major argument with his daughter and then felt the need to make it up. He asked the concierge to set up a Native American reconciliation ceremony performed by a tribal chief, complete with feather headdress and peace pipe.

Will You Help Me Find Something to Wear?
Forgotten apparel plays a big role in the lives of concierges. When a guest at the Park Hyatt Tokyo arrived from the U.S. sans the pair of slacks he'd meant to pack -- something he discovered after all the Tokyo stores had closed for the day -- the concierge took him shopping in the hotel's Uniforms Department. Despite the guest's tall stature, slacks that fit were found. The guest wore them to his 8 a.m. meeting, and proclaimed them as good as the Armanis he had left behind.

Can My Dog Come Along?
Requests to bring pets to five-star hotels are far from rare. The Little Nell in Aspen, Co., may be America's most pet-friendly hotel. Carol Hooper, Head Concierge, often goes the extra mile (with the help of the staff) to ensure that the "pet" part of families gets special attention. That includes serving four-legged guests the Canine Delights menu, consisting of tenderloin beef, scrambled eggs, and brown rice; providing sitters when long-stay guests want a weekend away; purchasing cribs for special pets; and booking doggie massage appointments. Regular dog walks, of course, are a given. "We get them all, from Chihuahuas to Bernese, and we love them all," Hooper reports.

Hey, You Can Always Ask
A guest at the Fairmont Dubai asked for help in purchasing a great many date palm trees and camels. Oh, and then there was the little matter of shipping a falcon to Kuwait.

Back in the U.S., a concierge at the Fairmont Chicago managed to rustle up 30 pig eyes and a bucket of ice for an ophthalmology conference.

And Sometimes the Answer Is No...
And then there are the times when even the best concierges have to say no, as in, "No, you can't have fake sharks swimming around to 'surprise' your wife and guests while they are snorkeling," a request politely declined by the concierge at Parrot Cay in the Turks & Caicos.

What's the strangest request you've made at a hotel? Tell us in the comments below.

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