Extreme Concierge Requests: Roasted Tarantulas, Pig Eyes, and Handcuffs

The Ottawa Citizen describes some of the ‘crazy’ concierge requests that Fairmont hotel properties have received (and fulfilled) in a story supposedly based on a leaked “internal Fairmont Hotels document obtained by Postmedia News.”

I always love these sorts of stories, reported straight-faced as inside scoop when clearly a hotel chain is providing a list in hopes of getting free publicity for what kind of great service they provide and the lengths that they will go for guests. It’s brilliant marketing I suppose, but a bit cheeky for a news reporter to suggest cloak and dagger stuff in getting the real goods on a hotel’s concierge offerings.

Granted, asking for help securing pig eyes and requesting that the concierge sub in for you on a blind date make for pretty funny stories.

At The Plaza Hotel in New York, a guest who’d had a falling out with his daughter requested that a Native American reconciliation ceremony, complete with feathers and peace pipe, be performed in his room by a chief — who, incidentally, had to be tracked down in neighbouring New Jersey by the concierge.

That same hotel had a guest ask for a dinner of roasted tarantulas.

In San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square, the Fairmont Heritage Place had someone request a hyperbaric chamber.

And the concierge at the Copley Plaza in Boston located a pair of velvet-lined handcuffs at 11 pm, at the urging of a female guest — a bizarre request that nonetheless paled in comparison to the time the hotel was asked to track down a highly specific model of incubator in time to save a guests’ ostrich eggs.

I’ve never placed much in the way of extreme demands on a concierge, booking local restaurants mostly (to avoid language barriers). And even at upscale properties folks don’t usually go to such lengths to fulfill even my mundane requests.

At the Prince de Galles Paris they made a reservation I had requested, but didn’t re-confirm that the restaurant was even open when I’d be arriving. I showed up and they were in the midst of renovations.

At the W San Diego, while staying in the hotel’s ‘Extreme Wow’ suite, the “Whatever, Whenever” line couldn’t even get me ‘coffee’ (what) at 5 a.m. (when: too early).

If you believe what’s implied in this article, I should be staying at Fairmonts more! Just probably not the Royal York in Toronto…

What’s your luck been? What have you asked a concierge for, and were you successful in obtaining it? I’d love some ideas how to better utilize hotel services, after all!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I was staying at a Kimpton hotel in Chicago for work and had my girlfriend fly out for the weekend. Not being familiar with Chicago I asked the concierge to put together an interesting weekend.

    He came back two days later with an itinerary, tickets and map for the most fantastic weekend. A show at Second City, ice skating in the park, dinner at the Hancock building, and some interesting meals and places in between at hidden spots a tourist would not be likely to find. We still talk about the place we went for dessert.

  2. When I want something to eat that’s more offbeat, and less expensive, I talk to the bellmen or doormen – they’re a lot less guarded that the concierge.

    A great first question to ask a hotel concierge is “What (restaurant/museum/neighborhood/store) do most tourists miss out on?” It sets the tone for a more open conversation and a wider array of suggestions, even if you end up also wanting more conventional assistance and advice, too.

    I’ve used my credit card concierges a few times now. Used the VIPDesk (through Citi) to get purchasing advice when choosing between 3 digital cameras – basically wanted someone to check out reviews online and sum them up – it was great.

    And used VIPDesk and the Visa Signature concierges to get info on recommended vaccines for a trip to South America. VIPDesk dropped the ball, just sending me some links. Visa Signature knocked it out of the park, giving me all the right info and helpfully suggesting restaurants, too.

  3. Visa Signature Concierge Fail, but A for Effort: (disclaimed: R-rated)

    I went with my girlfriend to Australia for a romantic 2 weeks together. She brought her diaphragm but left the spermicide behind, thinking we could just stop at any old pharmacy. We checked every pharmacy and health clinic in our first stop (Cairns) with no luck–apparently they don’t even MAKE spermicide in Australia anymore. I figured bigger cities like Brisbane or Sydney might give us better luck later in our trip, and put Visa Signature Concierge to work. I ended up getting 3 very apologetic e-mails from them, saying they had contacted an exhausting list of pharmacies and other shops, but found absolutely nothing!

    Oh well! We still had fun–it was Australia after all!

  4. Not technically a concierge request, but a good story nonetheless. The best service of this type I ever received was at the Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire. We were staying there with infant twins in 2002, along with a number of other family members. One evening, a few of them decided to eat in the hotel dining room, while my brother and I agreed to stay with the kids. We were just putting the kids to bed, so we sat out in the hallway so as not to wake the kids. Our wives decided to see if they could order for us along with their dinners, and bring us each course as it arrived.

    This is one of those older hotels, with a grand staircase leading to the guest rooms. At each landing, there is a small table with a few chairs.

    Before she even placed orders downstairs, my wife brought us drinks and napkins from downstairs along with some bread from the dining room. We decided to sit at the table at the landing right outside our rooms. Within a few minutes, a waiter happened to walk by, didn’t say a word, and came back 5 minutes later with a white tablecloth, three place settings and menus. He proceeded to take our orders and provided an entire meal service to the three of us on the third floor landing. No questions asked, just fantastic service!

  5. Not a hugely strange request, but I bought a very large elephant painting (as in, painted by an elephant) in Thailand and wasn’t quite sure how I was going to get it home. It was framed with teakwood from the forrest where the elephants live and it weighed a TON. The concierge at the Le Meridien in Chiang Mai was so helpful in getting this home for me. He got me quotes from UPS and DHL, and made sure that the item was packaged perfectly. It got home even faster than I did and it showed up in perfect shape. It was such a cool souvenir from my time at the elephant camp and has a lot of sentimental value. Anyway, I was so pleased with the service at this hotel….I would definitely recommend it to anyone!

  6. This was told to me as true by someone who was in a position to know:

    Montreal businessman visiting Boston asked his hotel concierge for “a few trombones.” Concierge, after calling around a bit, located a place that rented musical instruments, got four, and had them delivered to the guest’s room.

    Unfortunately, “trombone” is Quebecois French for “paper clip.”

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