Authors: Michael Fazio
This is a true story, though some names have been changed.
2. Lady Liberty
8. Loose Lips
9. The Keymaster
There's service, and then there are servants.
The nobleman reclining on a chaise lounge and snapping his fingers is the picture of absurdity. Service is much more of a business-to-business transaction. Both parties come to the table with something that the other wants. And much like other business transactions, a little strategyâand simple human considerationâwill yield the best possible outcome.
Recently, one of my clients needed help planning a big date. Jordan was contacted to be on the show
The Millionaire Matchmaker
and he wanted his television appearance to reflect his personality and who he was as a person. For a long time, I had been getting Jordan into all the hippest and coolest places in Manhattan. I was glad to do it. He did all the things that one would expect of a young millionaire and yet he wasn't afraid to admit that it was all new to him. He didn't feign indifference, as if everything was expected to happen as if by magic. He was grateful and he was appreciative. The result was a trail of good will and great energy that he left behind wherever he went. Jordan doesn't have any servants, but he doesn't need them. Instead, he has people delighted to give him good service wherever he goes.
We discussed what the ideal date would be. After eliminating his ideas of skydiving, throwing the opening pitch at a Yankee game, and hiring Shaq for a private game of 2-on-1, I helped convince him that a day trip to the Hamptons would be a more solid choice for a reality show date. His budget would accommodate just about anything.
I realized that a forty-minute helicopter ride to East Hampton would be much more fun than the usual two-and-a-half-hour drive from New York City. I also realized a brand-new helicopter would be even more impressive. I made it a point to hit the phones until I found a charter company who had a shiny Bell 407. They were based at Teterboro, forty-five minutes away. Jordan wouldn't think to ask them to transport the helicopter to the Wall Street Heliportâand he didn't need to. I took care of it. All he had to be aware of was that they would be departing from Wall Street at noon.
The helicopter interior could have been designed for James Bond himself. Jordan's date looked to him for cues to what her reaction should be. She worried that she was supposed to act as if she was accustomed to being shuttled in a private helicopter. But Jordan made no attempt to stifle his ecstatic reaction, which made it okay for her to be awestruck, too.
When the couple landed in East Hampton they were picked up by limousine. They were then taken to the most picturesque vineyard in Long Island, Wolffer EstateÃ¶, where I'd planned a wine tasting right in between the rows of vines. I convinced East Hampton Gourmet that they should amend their no-delivery policy for Jordan, and he got a gorgeous lunch hand-delivered to the vineyard. Every piece was perfectly orchestrated.
The price tag for his day exceeded $10,000âbut I made it feel like a million. That's the difference between good service and
service: you get more than you pay for. I didn't need to make sure that the helicopter was the newest one in the fleet. It wasn't necessary for me to personally go over the directions with the limo driver from the heliport to WÃ¶lffer. I made it a point to meet with the general manager of the vineyard to see
where Jordan's table would be, and I personally supervised the packing of their lunch. Throughout the date, I took time out of my day and kept tabs on everything with the vineyard marketing director.
Jordan would never have thought of this level of attention to detail. People in service are better at providing it than clients are at asking for it. The best service means delivering what you wantedâand then delivering what you didn't even
During the date, Jordan sent me a simple text: “It's like a movie.” Turning a reality show into something out of Hollywood romance is a form of magic, and one I was more than happy to perform.
They say a good magician never reveals his secrets. But I'm about to.â¦
You sell the sizzle, and not the steak.
There's no apartment building more sizzling than The Setai Wall Street, which has the chutzpah to describe itself as “the world's most privileged condominium”âand the reputation to back it up.
It's as dark as a nightclub in the lobby, with Buddha Bar music playing in the background. It smells very exotic, too. You can't really tell if it's fresh gardenias, or if they have scented candles, but it definitely smells very niceâand very, very
. The floor is covered with beautiful silk rugs, and the walls are adorned with gigantic tribal jewelry pieces framed in boxes that protrude almost a foot off the wall. You'd expect there to be some Playboy Playmate in a gorgeous nightgown, smoking a cigarette and dipping into caviar, lounging on the sofa in the lobby.
My concierge company had long since taken concierging outside of the hotel context and into luxury buildings, but there's luxury and then there's
. When it came to our relationships with buildings, we always got the “nice girl,” the Betty. We never got the fancy, sexy Veronicaâand The Setai was
Veronica. Being a concierge is often about trying to get behind the velvet rope. Getting The Setai would be like jumping over the rope and parking ourselves there, so that we're not on the other side constantly trying to push our way in. We'd be in a position to decide who gains access.
I wanted to send in a proposal when The Setai was first going to open, but it was hard to sit down and focus. Concierges do more before nine o'clock than most people do in a day. As my staff and I had our meeting, the discussions settled around:
Do organic tampons only come in one absorbency? (They do? Order a crate, then.)
Ms. Strauss wanted Ciao Bella to deliver a salad with grilled chicken to her apartment on Tuesdays and Fridays at noonâbut Ciao Bella isn't open for lunch, and they don't deliver. Her “second choice” restaurant, Jacques, is also not open for lunch. Plan C?
Mr. Jaiswal was just inoculated when he climbed Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Are there inoculations specific to Rwanda for his next trip? (Yesâand
Ms. Sheehan needs to be called. Someone needs to remind her that she can't tell anyone where she got her $5,500 ticket for the premiere party for the new Sarah Jessica Parker movie. She also wants to get private typing lessons.
“I don't remember the brand name,” Daria reads from a client email, “but I just returned from Moscow and I saw an air purifier in the window of an electronics store. It was really sleek looking and modern. Can you get one of those for me?”
Car service is a must for Robin, our jeweler, who will be carrying $100,000 worth of diamonds to Mr. Stadtmiller's office. He's “too busy” to go into the store; maybe the diamond studs
for his wife? He also wants a second-hand television for $75 or less delivered to his officeâ
There is a pop-up restaurant in Paris sponsored by Electrolux. You can only make reservations online, they are only open for a yearâand they are
Does anyone have a vacuum cleaner connection?
(Action item: make contact with the director of corporate communications for Electrolux in Milan.)
Who knows the best Jewish bakery in the Marais area of Paris?
Any ideas for a fifty-eight-year-old's bachelorette party? Anyone?
But if my mind was in the countless requests we were working our way through, my heart was focused on finding time to write that business proposal for The Setai. It was the days of yoreâ2007âwhen Soho House still mattered and people fought for reservations at Spice Market. The market had yet to crash, and The Setai was going to be the new playground for all the hedge funders sick of Core Club.
I met countless times with their marketing people over the following months, and presented every possible scenario to get the account. I tried the deluxe plan: Four people on duty at all times! White gloves! International coverage for members! Then I suggested the economy plan: Two people covering fourteen hours a day between them, gloves optional.
No matter what I said, they weren't biting. But apparently someone in the company thought enough about me to add me to their email list, and I kept track of everything that was going on in The Setai. I knew when the south elevator would be closed. I learned about March's spa schedule. Regardless of the subject line of the email, I made sure to read the thing. One day I noticed that the emails had a new footer:
Director of concierge services, Setai Club, Wall Street
? I thought they would have had some really hot Scandinavian model or a real-life Bond Girl. But Crystal Springs sounded like an off-brand bottled water, or some teenage deodorant. I printed out the email and brought it over to my partner, Abbie Newman. She's the “Abigail” in Abigail Michaels Concierge (except her full name isn't
Abigail, but who cares). “Look at this!” I said. “Someone named
is the concierge at The Setai!”
“That name sounds familiar,” Abbie said. Abbie knew everyone and could out-schmooze anyone. I wouldn't be surprised if she told me she used to sit down on Sundays to watch
The Ed Sullivan Show
with Howard Hughes. “I've either met her or I just bought a candle with that scent.”
“Let's look her up online,” I suggested.
We found pictures of Ms. Springs, and I understood it immediately. She was pretty and she was only about thirty years old. I could laugh at her name, but at the end of the day she was doing The Setaiâand I wasn't.
PEOPLE YOU'D ASSUME WOULD MAKE GREAT CONCIERGESâBUT WON'T
The Party Girl Who Hangs Out at All the Hotspots
. She might forget to put your name ahead of hers on the “list.” Hangovers can also hamper her service skills in the “early” morning hours before noon.
Out of the blue, I got a call from the club manager. He'd spent decades in the hotel industry; he wouldn't even glance at something that didn't bear five stars. “Michael? This is Toma Vaca.” At least that's what his name sounded like, filtered through his thick French accent. “I want to know what is your idea on how you do Setai.”
“What do you mean?”
“Do your people come here or we call you?”
“There's many ways we could do it,” I said, trying to decipher his idiom (which is part of the job, anyway). “We could have an on-site person, or you could call into our office remotely and we could handle requests that way.”
“Because Crystal, she tell me she is no more. She is gone!”