The job of a concierge in a five-star hotel is a portal into the stratospheric world of the super rich, a front-row view of how the ultra well-heeled live. Sometimes it is amusing, sometimes shocking and sometimes downright weird.
When paying top buck for service, guests can, and often do, expect everything on a platter. “I cannot say no to any request. Everything is possible, as long as it is legal,” said Reda Chaiban, senior head concierge at the Habtoor Metropolitan.
Chaiban exudes a genuine passion for his job. Having spent his working life striving to be at the top of his game, he sees himself as someone who can organize just about anything. “A concierge’s contacts are his toolbox. He needs to know everyone in town so he can fix any request,” he explained.
Organizing a spot at the top table in town or a day out on a mega yacht is routine business for Chaiban, but sometimes he really has to go the extra mile to keep the guests happy. On five separate occasions a returning female guest has had him fly over from France one of the most desired hairdressers in the world. “Like I said, nothing is impossible,” he joked. But what about requests from guests with more illicit designs in mind for their stay in Beirut?
Walking on the wild side
Chaiban was adamant that none of the staff at the five star hotels would get involved with organizing drugs or prostitutes for visitors. However, the lines of distinction can become a little blurred. A concierge from another five-star hotel told Executive, on condition of anonymity, that “there is normally someone in the hotel that knows someone outside who can arrange these things, but it is true we don’t fix it ourselves.” It’s a simple case of passing on a phone number.
The same concierge spoke about a party of men who booked the penthouse at a cost of more than $20,000 per night to throw private parties. “Every night they would bring between 30 to 40 prostitutes, and even if they didn’t sleep with them they would pay them several hundred dollars just for coming,” he said. “People pay up to $5,000 a night for a prostitute; some will pay more for a virgin,” he added.
Official policy is to inform the police if staff members are aware of illegal activity going on in the hotel. But the anonymous concierge smirked at this suggestion. “Even if we suspect illegal things are going on in people’s rooms, we don’t get involved. Quite simply it’s none of our business,” he said.
There is a prince from Saudi Arabia who is infamous amongst Beirut’s hotel staff for his outlandish requests, which have earned him the soubriquet “The Golden Boy”. A receptionist, again speaking anonymously, explained how the prince always books the same penthouse at one of Beirut’s most prestigious hotels. “He has all the windows blacked out, the whole floor carpeted in sheep’s fur and he will only wash in Perrier water or laban,” he said.
Tips are what makes the often-demanding job worth it and are an integral part of the hotel staff’s income. “If I told you how much I earn you would cry,” lamented a senior concierge at a high-end boutique hotel. “But in a good month in high season I can take $12,000 in tips,” he added with a wry smile. Tips don’t always come as notes greasing palms either. “The tips can come as gifts such as perfume, an iPad or an iPhone. Sometimes the guests come to see you as a friend so they want to give you a gift,” said Roxanne, a concierge at the Four Seasons.