Monday, August 27, 2007

'High end' SF hotels will take your money and then not talk to you

San Francisco hotels that have sunk tens of millions of dollars into renovations, built fancy new bars and restaurants and swank new spas, and manage to hire plenty of staff to sell you rooms and collect your money can't be bothered to pay a single person to lend you advice on where to go when you're in town, the Bay Guardian reports.

The newspaper examines the practice of outsourced concierge service in the context of San Francisco, and the results are surprising.

Outsourced concierge service is where the hotel doesn't actually have a concierge, but lets a biased company like a tour bus line or travel website operator stand in its lobby, at its desk and hand out advice to gullible tourists.

What struck me about the Bay Guardian story is how many hotels that outsource their concierges have been on a spending spree lately, ostensibly trying to upgrade to the upper hotel tier:
  • The Westin Market Street has gone through many different outsourced concierge companies and is now looking for the newest one, according to the Guardian; yet the company recently spent $29 million renovating its rooms and building out a new restaurant, Ducca. It now bills itself as "an oasis of sophistication."
  • The Sir Francis Drake is trying to become a four star hotel, a representative of its owner Oxford Lodging told me recently, and has undergone a $20 million renovation that saw the installation of a new lobby bar. It continues to operate with an outsourced concierge.
  • San Francisco boutique hotel company Kimpton finished the Argonaut in 2002 after a $40 million renovation of an historic building and as part of unique partnership with the National Park Service. It is arguably Kimpton's leading property in San Francisco.
  • The Hyatt Regency Embarcadero is considered an iconic city hotel in a prime location and was acquired earlier this year for $200 million. No spare change for a concierge?
Bay Guardian: Concierges on the cheap / SF hotels outsource tourist services to the tour bus companies, unbeknownst to their guest



Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing everybody needs to understand:
Most outsourced concierges are there beacuse the hotel saves hundreds of thousands. Most concierges work for a tour company, and usualy they are not OBLIGED to sell those tours, they should give the most honest and complete recommendation and best service to anybody. I work for a Hotel and I am an outsourced Concierge. I take pride of what I do and I am REALLY good. Never has anybody complained about me either pushig nor selling. My company does not make me sell anything. Since when does it matter WHO pays your salary?
Concierges make commision out of everything they do. How do you think they make a living???!!! that tour bus you booked, they make commission, that helicopter tour, scuba diving tour, limo, you name it they get commission just for recommending it. SO any company they recommend they will get a cut out of it. REGARDLESS of the company.
So, the people at the RITZ, Four Seasons, whatever are ALL making money out of it. Some concierges make up to $65,000 a year. Hourly rate + Commission+ tips.
So for those of you who think poor little concierges, what a poor living, you are wrong. Most of us have a better living than any of you. You get free everything. GC to go to restaurants, free rides to the airport and I can go on and on. We are ambassadors, and do a hell of a good job to deliver great service. So for me it makes no difference wether I recommend my company or the neighbors company, I will still make money out of it. And that just comes with the title.
Hotels are a BUSINESS, just like everything in the world they strive to survive in a world where there are too many options, and some hotels just really do alot better if they save $150,000 a year in employee taxes, overtime fees, hourly rates etc. And it doesnt mean hotels are making a bad decision, sometimes it is the best. Most of the things you are doing or encountering in the world is outsourced and you don't even know about it, and really it doesn't make a difference if you did.
Ou job is not to rip you off, it is to facilitate information, if it pisses you off we all make money out of everything we do because it is how we live, then don't ever travel, guess what? tourism depends on YOUR money, so expect it to be that way everywhere in the world.

September 05, 2007 11:43 AM  
Blogger Kit said...

Re: the above coment -
Spoken like a true huckster. I am a professional Concierge, and have been one for nearly 25 years. I was engaged by my current property to establish a Conciergerie in THEIR hotel to acomodate the particular demands of THEIR guests. My salary is based on my work performance, and, no, I do not make a "commission" (see "kick-back") for every thing I book. When such arrangements have been proposed I and my staff refuse them, as there is in implicit "quid pro quo" in participating in such an agreement which violates our first commitment - to act always and exclusively in the best interest of our guest. While the previous poster may indeed be ethical and above board (although the "everybody else does it so why not me" special pleading does raise some questions), the plain and simple fact is that outsourced concierge services are a clear representation of conflict of interest, and run counter to the ethics of genuine and authentic guest service.

PS - I once hired a staff person from this background. His knowledge was limited (although he had been working as a"concierge" for over a year), but more importantly, his willingness to learn was limited as well. Anything that did not directly involve a gratuity or a surcharge payable to him was met with a "at my last job we didnt have to do this." Needless to say, he did not make the cut. My advice to travelers is to check with the hotel to see if their staff are members of Les Clefs d'Or, the ONLY professional organization limited exclusively to veteran,professional Concierge.

April 16, 2008 6:26 PM  
OpenID resortchildcare said...

Kit, your a breath of fresh air. I thought all concierges were like Anonymous.

May 27, 2009 5:55 AM  

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