If there is one role at a hotel that is somewhat mysterious, it’s probably the hotel concierge.
What exactly does a concierge do and what can you realistically expect him to help you with?
In this article, we will talk about the role of a hotel concierge and give you some insight into what it is that they do and how they can help you.
We will also provide you with some tips when making your own requests so that you can increase the odds of having a successful outcome and not be clueless about things like tipping.
Table of Contents
Things you should know about the hotel concierge
Let’s start off with some basic things you should know about the hotel concierge.
Understand what a hotel concierge is
A hotel concierge is someone at the hotel responsible for helping to make sure your requests and needs are met in the best way possible.
A good hotel concierge will do what they can to make sure everything goes right on your stay.
So think of the concierge as someone there to support your various needs and desires — don’t be afraid to use them.
Not every hotel has them
Not every hotel is going to have a concierge.
You should pretty much always expect there to be a concierge at a luxury property. The higher you go, the more attention to detail they will have such as remembering your name, sending thank you notes, etc.
They also may be more well-connected or skilled (e.g., speak multiple languages), especially if you are dealing with a concierge who is a member of Les Clefs d’Or.
Some of the middle-tier properties will also have one or at least someone who can perform the functions of one. This is especially the case if the hotel is located in a tourist hotspot with plenty of opportunities to make recommendations for tours and activities.
But don’t expect to find a concierge at a budget property.
How does a concierge get paid?
Hotels have different pay structures for concierges including the following:
- Hourly rate or salary
- Commission based pay
- Combination of an hourly rate plus commission.
As a guest, this matters because if a concierge is getting a kickback from certain establishments, they may be more willing to recommend those over others.
Just because a concierge is getting a kickback, that does not mean that the restaurant is not good but there are some concierges out there who don’t always have your best interest in mind.
More importantly, if a tour company is paying a commission to the hotel, the hotel tour prices could be more expensive, so watch out for that.
What kind of hours does a hotel concierge work?
Some hotels will have a concierge available pretty much around the clock, which is great for people who really like nightlife.
At other properties, they may available on a more limited schedule from morning until evening.
How much should you tip the hotel concierge?
Out of all of the different tipping situations, the concierge is probably the most difficult for people to estimate.
So here is some guidance:
For quick one off questions you could tip a couple of bucks although lots of people don’t tip for these quick questions. Typically these would be questions that you can find yourself with a quick Google search.
For help with a reservation or booking that’s pretty easy to figure out, the minimum tip expected would be $5 to $10. For example, if you already know the restaurant you want to eat at but just need to make the reservation and perhaps get menu recommendations, you can leave a relatively low tip.
If the concierge helps you figure out where to eat or what you want to do then the minimum tip should be $10 to $20. This is the type of travel request that you get real “insider knowledge” from so it’s worth tipping to reflect that.
If the concierge works some magic then you may be looking at a tip of $20+. This would be a situation where a concierge gets you a seat at a sold out restaurant or event. If they dazzle you your tip should be equally dazzling.
When tipping the concierge, you may want to think about tipping them before they handle your request because you might be able to get better results that way. YMMV.
How to use a hotel concierge
You first need to verify that the hotel actually has a concierge.
Usually, you can find a desk or a sign near the front desk which will say concierge and that can be enough verification for you but you could also just ask the front desk or look for the “concierge” button on the telephone in your room.
One issue with using a hotel concierge is finding them when they are available.
Hotels often only have a single person on duty at a time which means that if they are on a break or working with other guests, you cannot use them at that time.
Sometimes you might be able to leave a note with someone at the front desk for the concierge to get back to you but other times it can be difficult to track them down.
This is why email could be a great way to communicate with the concierge, especially if you contact them a few days before your stay. Some people will even contact the concierge months before their travel dates but that comes at the risk of getting lost in the mix.
The drawback with email is that sometimes you may be communicating with multiple people and not a specific person which can make it harder to accomplish what you’re trying to do.
But once you do track them down, then it’s just a matter of figuring out what you want help with.
What can a hotel concierge help you with?
A hotel concierge can help you with just about anything but you don’t always want to go to them for all of your requests.
If you need something like extra pillows, more towels, or there is something wrong with your room then you want to ring the front desk.
The front desk will either look into it or contact housekeeping or engineering if needed.
Sometimes the concierge desk is involved with these requests but I rarely have interacted with the concierge when getting these type of things sorted out.
Instead, the concierge deals more with requests related to things like:
- Finding a taxi or a ride
- Finding local services
- Getting local insight
- Booking things in the hotel
- Things to do
- Medical issues
- Special requests
- VIP welcome
Finding a taxi or other ride
One of the most common uses for a hotel concierge is to get them to help you find a taxi or some other type of ride.
Sometimes they have special connections with drivers that can come in handy when ride shares are not available or taxis are otherwise a long wait.
If you are ever in doubt about the legitimacy of a taxi or struggling to find an Uber, just hit up the concierge.
One of the most common reasons to use a hotel concierge is to get help with your dining options.
A good concierge will have many recommendations they can offer you based on your food preferences, budget, and personal circumstances. For example, maybe you are taking a client out to dinner and need a sophisticated dining spot to impress.
One of the big benefits of going through the concierge is that they sometimes have deals worked out with restaurants so that they can guarantee you a seat and a reservation.
They may not be able to get you in everywhere but they may be able to do some magic, especially if you have VIP status.
The drawback is that they could be sending you to restaurants owned by relatives or family friends. If those restaurants are good then there’s nothing to worry about but it’s just something to be mindful of.
Finding local services
If you need to take advantage of some local services like dog watching, barbers, laundry, or anything else of the sort, the concierge can provide recommendations for you.
We once had a stopover in Los Angeles on a big round the world trip and the concierge at the W gave us a really solid recommendation for a local barber. If you’re in need of a service where trust is paramount, the concierge can be a great resource.
Getting local insight
If you’re wanting to venture to a specific area of town that you think could be shady, a concierge can be a good person to talk to you to get an idea of how safe or unsafe that area is.
Booking things in the hotel
If the hotel has special services such as a spa, exclusive lounge, pool services, etc. you can talk to the concierge about these. The concierge may be able to help you but they may just refer you to that department.
Things to do
If you are curious about what type of things there are to do in your location a concierge can help you out a lot.
They can give you information on different spots to check out and perhaps some tips and insight into how to save money or avoid crowds.
I remember getting advice on how to enter the Louvre Museum through the “hidden” side entrance which saved us waiting in a really long line (I don’t think that entrance is available anymore).
If you want to book a specific type of tour, the concierge can help you with those tours as well. Just remember, they may be earning commission off of that so it helps to do some of your own independent research.
If you need to get tickets for a show or sporting event the concierge may be able to help you with those as well.
Stories abound about concierges getting last-minute courtside seats to basketball games and other amazing seats to different shows and events. Other times, it might be more about the concierge telling you what seats to avoid!
If you ever just find yourself with nothing to do on an evening but don’t think you can find something last minute, the concierge is a great person to talk to.
Tip: Make sure you are always clear on service fees or surcharges when getting a concierge to book something.
It’s possible for you to get mail and other packages sent to your hotel.
Often this happens because you forgot something or need some type of last-minute item of importance.
A good concierge will oversee the delivery process and make sure that you get your item as soon as it arrives at the hotel. In my experience, this is one area where the concierge really excels.
While I mentioned above that you typically want to voice any problems you have with the front desk, sometimes it can be the concierge who ends up helping you out.
When a hotel in London broke my $1,000 lens for my Canon DSLR (by dropping my luggage), it was the concierge who hopped in a cab with me on a snowy afternoon and took me to various local camera shops to find a replacement. Luckily, we found one just in time to catch our train!
But a concierge doesn’t always have the superpowers you want them to have.
On another trip, in Milan, Italy, I botched a tour of the chapel with The Last Supper by mixing up my dates. I tried to get the concierge at the Park Hyatt Milan (a top luxury property) to help me make a last-minute booking but they just didn’t have the pull.
Related to the above, a concierge can even help you with medical situations.
Obviously, I’m not talking about getting medical treatment from the concierge (although you never know), but I’m talking about getting assistance with finding medical treatment.
We once had a nightmare situation in Singapore at the Marina Bay Sands involving a broken tooth and a last minute emergency dental visit. It was incredibly stressful but the concierge helped connect us to a local dentist and we were able to get in last minute on a holiday weekend.
Generally, if there is a problem that requires a solution of going out and about, it’s a concierge who will help you.
If you were trying to do something special for your partner, spouse, or any guest, the concierge is a great person to talk to you.
You can talk to them about setting up special decorations for the room, ordering fancy desserts, or anything else that you need to make a moment extra special or romantic.
Of course, some people also go to the concierge for more illicit requests. For example, they may make a request for drugs or escorts.
Lots of concierges have stated online that they do not offer these type of services to hotel guests but there are also some who reportedly do. It seems that lots of those requests come from people who are recurring guests or very high profile such as famous musicians.
I don’t have any experience in this department but I generally avoid asking favors of people when I suspect my request could get them into trouble with their job (or the law).
If you are a VIP (or think you are), the concierge will sometimes play a role (along with other marketing peeps) in giving you a complete VIP welcome.
This could involve showing you around the hotel, giving you a special greeting, offering special assistance, or just checking up on you.
Also, as mentioned a concierge can do a lot more for VIP guests.
The typical roadblocks that may preclude something happening for a regular guest don’t always apply to a VIP guest. For example, a VIP guest could get a difficult restaurant booking that would otherwise be unavailable, all thanks to the concierge.
You won’t always find a concierge at every hotel but when you do it’s worth thinking about how they might be able to help you. With the plethora of apps we have on our phones these days, a lot of our requests can easily be taken care of ourselves.
But sometimes those apps fall short and you need to tap into local expertise or have someone help you with real-time problem solving and that is the perfect time to talk to a concierge!
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC. Read my bio.