If you’ve stayed at a certain kind of hotel, you’ve probably seen them.
They’re wearing a finely-made suit and that pin — two crossed golden keys — on their lapel. And they’ll go to nearly any lengths to fulfil your wishes.
These people with the real keys to the city and the insider track to almost everything stand ready at one of the hundreds of four- and five-star hotels around the world that employ one of these super fixers, a member of the Golden Keys, or Les Clefs d’Or, the original French name for the society of elite concierges.
From an exclusive birthday gift or a sought-after reservation at the hottest place in town, if anyone can get it, it’s a Golden Keys concierge. They have immense connections within their cities, as well as amongst each other, which helps with many of the logistically challenging tasks they’re asked to do.
They’ll go to nearly any length to fulfil your wishes.The human touch in the service industry, it seems, is still in demand.
VIPs, of course, aren’t shy when it comes to outlandish or outrageous demands. An outright “no” simply isn’t an option, at least in the majority of cases, when it comes to the most important guests. Only when, say, a request is against local laws or entirely impossible to fulfil, will an elite concierge offer an alternative.
Mostly, members of the prestigious club are tasked with more normal requests, but there are the occasional embarrassingly intimate requests says Pham Cong Thinh, the chief concierge at the Sofitel Metropole in Hanoi and the head of the Golden Keys association in Vietnam.
“A guest came to me at 9pm at night, when all the shops were closed. He was shy and embarrassed, but he told me that he needed to buy a condom, and he needed my help,” Thinh says.
It’s one of the stories that still makes Thinh laugh today. He knew the neighbourhood well enough to find a pharmacy that was still open. “The guest was very… happy,” Thinh giggled.
These elite concierges have to cut their teeth on a hotel front desk for at least three years and show a number of recommendation letters before they can apply for provisional membership with their national Golden Keys societies.
Then there’s a lengthy interview and a written exam in which their knowledge, network and professionalism are put to the test. Once a member, they can ask any other member for help fulfilling a guest request, even if they work at competing hotels — loyalty to the club and the profession comes first.