Boston’s Most Famed Concierges Talk Shop
By Kate O’Connor
The rich history and vibrant culture of the Boston area attracts tourists from all around the world during all times of the year. The city welcomes visitors with exceptional restaurants, museums and entertainment to occupy and satisfy their time spent here.
When staying at Boston’s best hotels, however, there is more to your experience than just complimentary champagne or luxury accommodations. Behind each of these respected establishments are a team of hospitality professionals whose job is to fulfill each and every guest’s desire—no matter how outlandish or impossible the requests may seem. We caught up with three of the best concierges in the city who filled us in on everything from celebrity clients to Fenway Park proposals.
Fairmont Copley Concierge: Joe Fallon
What is the most elaborate request you have been asked? After so many years, it’s really hard to pick just one. There are the daily elaborate requests, which include anything from booking an immediate flight to Europe to finding tickets for a sold out sporting event or concert. Out of all of the requests from guests, however, planning proposals is one of my favorites. Once we did a proposal at Fenway; it wasn’t during a game but the players did happen to be on the field practicing. After she said yes, the players turned and started clapping for the couple.
Has there been any celebrity guest that was particularly interesting to work for? Throughout my time as a concierge I have met a lot of really unique people. While there have been so many, a few who really stick out to me. Bernie Mac once spent three months in Boston while he filmed a movie and he became like a friend to everyone on the staff. He even used to stop at Jack’s Joke Shop and bring back joke gifts to prank us. Paul Newman was also just the nicest man in the world.
What are some of the characteristics that are vital to being a successful concierge? Research, research, research! I think the key to being really successful is learning the area you are representing. There is a great network of hospitality professionals in the area and everyone is typically more than willing to help each other out when necessary. As a member of the Les Clef’s d’Or, there is an international network of concierges readily accessible, which is a great advantage to the industry. Overall, it’s incredibly important to be friendly and outgoing when you want to be successful in this industry.
What is your favorite or most rewarding part about working in this industry? One of the best rewards is receiving a simply thank you note saying that you made someone’s experience memorable. Our goal is to make people feel at home and so when someone recognizes that we’ve done that, it’s the best part of the job. I used to drive a cancer patient to her appointments at Dana Farber—unfortunately she didn’t make it, but to feel like I could help her and make her time a little easier was a good feeling. A favorite part of my job, however, would have to be Catie Copley, our dog ambassador for the hotel. Catie is everyone’s dog away from home—we know Catie especially brings comfort and joy to people who frequently stay with us who miss their own dog while they’re away. Guests sign up weeks and even months in advance to take Catie for a walk during their stay. When the marathon bombings happened, we were ushering families especially with young children into the lobby to provide them with a safe and comfortable atmosphere to get away from all the chaos. Catie certainly did her job that day to put the kids at ease.
What advice do you have for other concierge’s or for anyone working in the hospitality industry? You certainly have to like what you’re doing because working in this industry takes up a lot of time. I actually fell into the industry by accident—I was working as a bartender at the Sheraton and I used to keep a map behind the bar to show people recommendations and how to get different places. Then, when the bar at the hotel was downsizing I was going to lose my job until the Director of Concierges at the time, Rachel (who now works as a General Manager at the Liberty Hotel) encouraged me to work as a concierge. Basically, I wouldn’t be a concierge if it weren’t for Rachel.
InterContinental Concierge: Marc Simoneau
What is the most elaborate request you have been asked? Over my nineteen-year career as a Concierge in Boston I have had the pleasure of working at some of the city’s top hotels. Some of my most elaborate requests have included coordinating wedding proposals that have featured eight piece orchestras on a beach to handling a very regular guests request for room service delivered to their bungalow in Bora Bora, (via outrigger canoe nonetheless). As a longtime member of Les Clefs d’Or, I have access to over 4500 members in 44 countries worldwide making the impossible achievable.
Has there been any celebrity guest (athlete, actor, musician) that was particularly interesting to work for? Since 2007, Boston has enjoyed explosive growth of movies filmed in the city. Many of these productions have made the InterContinental Boston their home. I have had the pleasure of hosting many of Hollywood’s great directors and actors and have found many to be down to earth individuals that enjoy our city as much as I do. As discretion and confidentiality are the hallmarks of the Concierge profession, I would be amiss to mention names.
What are some characteristics that are vital to being a successful concierge? As I previously mentioned, discretion and confidentiality are hallmarks of the profession. Concierges are also calm under pressure, resourceful, tenacious, dedicated, humble, courteous, sociable, vigilant, modest and polite. We are motivated to serve and take great pleasure in fulfilling our guests’ wishes.
What is your favorite or most rewarding part about working in this industry? The favorite part of my job is creating lasting relationships with our guests. I have had guests whose families have literally grown up with me over the years and guests whose children attend college in Boston whose first stays in the city were as infants. As a member of the Greater Boston Concierge Association the most rewarding part of my job is being able to experience firsthand the restaurants, theater productions, museums and events our city has to offer.
What advice do you have for other concierges or for anyone working in the hospitality industry? If you can’t enjoy yourself in this business you’re in the wrong business. Concierges have the greatest careers in the hotel industry. We are tasked with making the impossible seem effortless and creating memories that last a lifetime. Our efforts are seen a herculean and we should be proud to promote our motto – “In Service through Friendship”.
Liberty Hotel Concierge: Mirko Bissetta
What is the most elaborate request you have been asked? As a concierge, every request is a challenge; “I would like a table in the hottest restaurant in town, can you help me?”; “Could I have an helicopter picking us up in 30 minutes to go see the Patriots game?”; “My daughter’s teddy bear was left on a ferry in the Boston Harbor and she can’t sleep without it, can you help me locate it?”; “I’m the Best Man and the wedding starts in 15 minutes… I have no shoes! Can you help?” Those are not elaborate or extravagant requests… this is the daily life of a concierge.
Has there been any celebrity guest (athlete, actor, musician) that was particularly interesting to work for? Yes, absolutely. We have had a movie cast in the hotel for few weeks and one of the actors approached me multiple times during his stay with various requests. We had a great interaction and a fantastic connection. On his last few days in town, he had a couple of hours of free time to spare and he asked me if there was anything that I could suggest in terms of volunteer work. Immediately, I told him I could absolutely make some arrangements. I called my contact at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Pediatric Department, and arranged a meeting for him with some kids. He was supposed to spend an hour over at Mass General; he came back four hours later and said, “ Thank you Mirko, that was an incredible experience.” He showed me an autographed card that the kids gave to him, saying “they were the celebrity”. It was truly special.
What are some characteristics that are vital to being a successful concierge? A “can do attitude” is the base of success in this profession. A concierge is not a job; a concierge is not acting, a concierge must “make it happen”. Connection, partnership, and being able to make the impossible a routine will lead you to success. The highest achievement for concierge is to become a member of the most prestigious organization in the world – of Les Clefs d’Or. The term is pronounced, “lay clay door”, and it is the only international organization of hotel lobby concierges. The motto of the organization is “In Service Through Friendship.” I am a proud member.
What is your favorite or most rewarding part about working in this industry? When a guest tells me, “thank you, that was great.” There is nothing better than a happy and satisfied guest. The smile and gratitude that comes from a guest is priceless. Whatever is the issue/question – booking a restaurant, or taking care of a catastrophe, when the guest has been taken care of, my satisfaction has reached the highest point. When guest send you thank you cards, notes, pictures to thank you for your assistance, that’s wonderful as well.
What advice do you have for other concierges or for anyone working in the hospitality industry? “No” is not an option. In my opinion, the hospitality industry is the most complex customer service-related industry. Every person that approaches the concierge desk has needs, preferences and standards that are unique. As a concierge, you have seconds to read the person, understand their needs, anticipate the request and react quickly to be sure that the task is completed and it is perfect.