Few travelers think to contact the hotel concierge for much more than directions or restaurant recommendations – but if you don’t, you’re missing out on a wealth of local expertise. A good hotel concierge has impressive powers and can assist with almost any travel problem you might face, so you shouldn’t be afraid to take advantage.
That said, a concierge is not a magician. SmarterTravel has provided a 14 list of things your hotel concierge can do for you, six more they can’t, and four tips for maximizing your moments at the hotel lobby.
What hotel concierges can do
Save you money. The concierge can tell you how to get to the airport for less, where to find nearby happy hours, what the best free sights and activities are, and how much is a fair price for a taxi.
Recommend fitness facilities. If your hotel doesn’t have a gym or lacks the equipment you want, the concierge can usually point you to an affiliated hotel with better facilities, recommend a good running trail, or give you a list of nearby fitness centers that offer daily or weekly passes.
Get you a ride. If it is rush hour, raining, or really late, finding a taxi or Uber ride can be tough. The concierge can make this happen with a phone call in many cases. This can even work if you’re not staying at the hotel in question. I once saw a friend walk into the lobby of a New York hotel and offer the concierge a tip; within seconds, we had a ride.
Get tickets for you. Many concierges are careful to say they can’t get tickets for sold-out shows, but the truth is they sometimes can. They may have relationships with brokers, or know season ticket holders who may not be using their seats, or even have tickets themselves; Michael Fazio, author of "Concierge Confidential," started to purchase tickets to certain shows that he would then sell to guests, usually at a markup that matched the secondary market.
Keep you safe. A concierge can offer advice on whether a neighborhood, park, or activity is safe to visit, and what you can do instead if your idea is iffy.
Help you celebrate. Are you proposing to your partner or celebrating a landmark birthday? Your hotel concierge can help with anything from filling your hotel room with flowers and balloons to organizing a rooftop proposal, complete with a photographer to document the occasion.
Help you do your job. A concierge can assist with all kinds of work-related tasks, such as getting materials to a printer, setting up a courier service, mailing packages, and setting up a meeting space.
Help you look good. A concierge can get you an appointment with a barber or hairdresser, get clothes pressed, and more.
Fix sticky travel problems. A concierge can help you find an expeditor or make an embassy appointment if your passport is stolen, or facilitate repairs if your smartphone goes on the fritz. They can also accept overnight mail or late-arriving luggage.
Get you a table. Restaurants will often find a way to fit in customers who are recommended by their preferred concierge contacts. If the restaurant is truly full, the concierge can often get you to the front of a waiting list.
Recommend local services. Need a babysitter, an auto repair shop, or a dog walker? Your concierge can help.
Create a custom itinerary. If you have a bunch of stuff you definitely want to do but are uncertain how to make it all fit together, the concierge can take your list of attractions and put together a coherent and achievable plan. He or she can also help you avoid pitfalls such as road construction or closed subway stations.
Help with special needs. If you are disabled, aren’t feeling well, or have other special needs, a hotel concierge can offer considerable assistance – like calling wheelchair-accessible taxis, finding English-speaking doctors, and recommending restaurants that can accommodate certain food allergies.
Provide assistance before you arrive: The concierge can be a resource not just once you’re at the hotel but beforehand as well. For instance, he or she could help you plan out your first day, including a restaurant reservation for dinner.
What they can't do
Gossip. Discretion is an integral part of a concierge’s job, so they tend not to talk about other guests, including which celebrities might be staying in the hotel.
Illegal or immoral activities. You shouldn’t expose a concierge to risk by asking him or her to help with illegal – or dubiously legal – activities such as obtaining drugs, forging signatures, finding “companions,” or the like.
Babysit. A concierge can help you find someone else to look after your child, but he or she can’t actually do the babysitting while on duty.
Float you a loan. They’ll help you with money concerns, but concierges are not banks; don’t ask them to dig into their pockets for you.
Sell stuff for you. Concierges are also not your personal eBay or Craigslist; they can’t sell tickets you no longer need or items you don’t want to take home. However, he or she may be able to recommend a place where you can do the sale yourself.
Book tickets to sold-out shows. Truly sold-out shows tend to be just that; however, you can ask if the concierge has any ideas or contacts to help get you tickets, and he or she might have a strategy for you. If there is truly no way to get certain tickets, the concierge will tell you so.
Tips for using a hotel concierge
Don’t be shy. You might feel as though the concierge is only there for the folks in the penthouse suite, but this isn’t the case; he or she is there to help all guests, so feel free to ask.
Give them some time to work. Concierges can often pull off difficult tasks, but to do so on very short notice is tricky, and it distracts them from helping other guests. Give the concierge some notice if you need something beyond simple advice.
Present the concierge’s card. When a concierge sends you to a restaurant or other establishment, it is often his or her name, not yours, that is the attraction for the proprietor. So if a concierge asks you to show his or her card, do it; these relationships are what makes concierges able to help you now and in the future.
Remember not all concierges are the same. Concierges at the very best (and most expensive) hotels are notorious for pulling off near-miracles; those at less prestigious establishments typically don’t have the same pull.