Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Concierges and destinations

 Note:  As summer begins and lethargy arrives for a long visit, I dug up an old post about concierges because I wish I had one along with Benny the Butler (from the Plaza Hotel) and Hazel, the maid from the sit-com of the same name.  Hazel didn't talk back like George Jefferson's maid.  My favorite butler on television was not Mr. Belvedere but Niles from The Nanny.  Niles was sarcastic, humorous, affectionate, accepting and nosey. I just found out that Niles wasn't British but from Arkansas!

Sometime at the turn of the century (this century) an industrious copywriter decided that the word “concierge” was more compelling than “information desk” and suddenly there is an embarrassment of “concierges” all over the United States.  

In olden times (1999) a concierge was a cranky stout middle-aged French woman who answered your questions with a frown.  She was installed in almost every French apartment building and hotel. A concierge was the manager of information. She might receive packages, hold keys for guests and (if in a good mood) dispense building gossip and give you romantic advice. You were scared of your concierge and grossly dependent on her.

The term “concierge” here in the U.S. is mainly a marketing tool.  If you want to live in the Park Millennium or buy one of the condos in the old Plaza Hotel or possibly in any of the Trump buildings, you probably get a “concierge” for your $6 million dollar one bedroom.    At the Plaza, you not only get a concierge but “Benny the Butler” who will wake you in person, pull the drapes open and draw you a bath. Uh huh uh.

Like everything else (including hot sauce, pesto and yogurt) the concierge concept has been terminally corrupted. The majority of concierges are now virtual.  Instead of dealing with the cranky stout Frenchwoman, the exchange is conducted online or over the phone. Services provide concierge “solutions” for condominiums, corporations, hospitals and individuals. Yes,Your HighnessConcierge Services (do I smell sarcasm here) puts few boundaries on what they are willing to do for you. We lug furniture, arrange flowers, source insurance quotes, reorganize pantries, fly in overseas friends for the weekend, ship cheese to Hong Kong and pay your parking fines in person.

I don’t have any room left for talking about destinations except that the word has been corralled into adjective land as in “destination wedding.” I live in a destination.  I arrived here after my "destination divorce."  If you want to have your wedding here I will gladly be your concierge but it's going to cost you and I will be cranky.

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