Before I moved to Ibiza many moons ago, I thought a ‘concierge’ was someone who worked in a hotel, sitting at a desk, looked after your luggage, booked your taxis, arranged for the valet to collect your car and took phone messages for you if you weren’t in your room. Stuff like that. I imagined it as quite an old fashioned profession, and I envisioned that all concierges wore little pillbox hats and button up waistcoats and carried a big old jangling bunch of keys.
Then after I’d lived here for a little while, I started hearing the word pop-up everywhere. Call so and so – he’s a concierge now. Oh, she can sort you out – she’s a concierge. Why not get a concierge to arrange it all for you? The concierge will make sure you get the best table at Pacha. Our concierge will send a car so you don’t have to worry about drinking and driving. And I started to wonder… what were all these little pillbox-hatted people doing away from their desks and moonlighting in Ibiza?
Obviously I quickly discovered that over here, concierge simply means business. Big business. There’s big bucks in being a professional organiser (and no need to wear a pillbox hat) here on the white isle, where there’s big demand for the best services, tables, boats, meals, hotel rooms, villas, cars, clothes…and the rest! After all, to get the best, sometimes it’s not about what you know, but who you know (and occasionally how much money you can throw at them) to score you the very best. And when your holiday hours are so valuable, you don’t necessarily want to spend time trying to locate the best of the best. Not when a concierge can do it for you.
Let me start out by saying, I think enlisting the services of a concierge is a good thing. A great thing in fact. If you don’t know the island well and you’re here for a good time, not a long time, they can be a valuable resource. But you need to enlist a reputable concierge agency, someone who has an office base where you can find them, an official registered company for tax reasons and 24-hour telephone number on which you can contact them. Not one of the fly-by-night operators working from their iPads in whatever cafés and beach clubs have free WiFi, use Facebook as a means for communication and go off the radar at the first sign of stress, or after a big night out. It’s these people who have given the concierge industry in Ibiza a bit of a bad rap over the past few years.
Which leads me to my next point. I feel like at the moment, no matter where I look, or who I meet – EVERYONE is a concierge. For example…
The guy who owns my local pizzeria – has a concierge business on the side.
The dude who designs my favourite shoes on the island – also acts as a concierge in his spare time.
Former dancers, DJs and VIP hosts from years gone by at Pacha – all call themselves concierges these days.
Caterers and private chefs – just so happen to offer their clients concierge services in addition to cuisine.
Part time yoga teachers and mobile massage therapists – you guessed it, concierge is all part of their service.
Drivers – always concierging away at things!
Whatever happened to being good at one thing? The term jack of all trades and master of none comes to mind (except for my pizza guy – I can assure you, he makes damn fine thin and crispy crusts). One could argue, that these people have plenty of experience, after years spent booking restaurant tables, arranging guest list entry to a club, chartering yachts or finding villas for visiting friends on holiday. After all, there’s no official concierge university degree (is there?). They could also say, it makes sense to start charging a fee for your own time and effort when arranging things for mates, or mates of mates, or mates of mates of mates.
I don’t know, call me old school. I’d prefer to help someone out and let them buy me a drink the next time I see them (wait – is that like accepting payment for my services? Would that make me a concierge by today’s standards?) I’d rather book the table and join them for lunch, or dinner, or dancing, and be happy knowing I’d been able to help arrange something everyone was enjoying. I’d prefer to only frequent places I personally love, rather than having to ‘pop in’ to every single event to show my face in order to build favour with the venue should I ever need to book a table (don’t they know who I am anyway? Oh wait – anonymous blogger and all that). For anything out of my league (or tastes), I’d rather refer you to a professional.
I like think of myself as a noncierge!
I’ve seen first hand how hard REAL concierges work. My good friends and colleagues, Miss E and Miss S, spend their summers running (elegantly, in heels) from club to party, boat to restaurant, villa to airport, ensuring their clients’ every last needs are met. They certainly don’t get the luxury of sleeping in (ever – you know Ibiza is a seven day a week business) because they’re doing villa check ins at 3am, then arranging spontaneous private jets at 7am so their client can follow Richie Hawtin to Berlin, and in between they’re at their desks professionally handling enquiries for the next summer!
It may seem like a glamorous job from the outside, being in with the in crowd, being seen in all the right places, knowing all the right people and drinking complimentary champagne every night… but it takes a certain kind of person, with a certain element of professionalism (and a lot of stamina) to last a full season as a concierge… which may again explain why many of the lesser known concierges have shut up shop by mid-July, have changed their phone numbers and are planning to open pizza shop the following year! I see a cycle…
With the summer season just around the corner, Ibiza concierges, may the force be with you…