Do you think you'll ever need a three-legged elephant wearing a pink tutu?
Well, chances are, you won't -- but if you did -- there is someone out there who can make it happen. In fact, he can make (practically) all of your dreams come true when you travel.
That somebody is Robert Marks. Mr. Marks is the Chef Concierge at the Omni San Diego, and he also happens to be President of Les Clefs d'Or USA -- which is French for "golden keys."
What's that, you ask?
Les Clefs d'Or is the preeminent association of hotel concierges, whose mission, whose goal, whose purpose, is to fulfill guest requests with aplomb -- no matter what a hotel guest asks for. When you visit the concierge desk on your next visit to a luxury hotel you will recognize the Clefs d'Or concierges immediately -- by the special pin worn on the jacket lapel. It features two gold keys intertwined -- so you can know that they can unlock just about anything in the world for you.
Membership in this world-class organization is very difficult and it has stringent standards. To start out, you must have been a concierge for at least five years in a hotel lobby. Then you need two other concierges to sponsor you.
Next, the association requires that the General Manager of the hotel write you a recommendation letter.
Then, theres a multi-page test - and you can't find the answers on the internet. After that secret shoppers "test" you, and your hotel colleagues offer feedback.
"Then there's a background check, and it all takes months," says Mr. Marks.
But when you are lucky enough to be a guest at a hotel with Clefs d'Or concierges, you are in excellent hands.
No matter the request.
And especially with Mr. Marks -- who I spoke with on the phone in order to write this story. I can't stress enough his graciousness, his charm, his enthusiasm, and his politeness. He is someone who truly loves what he does for work -- and it comes through loud and clear.
Mr. Marks told me a story about how one time, a bride was ready to be married in San Diego, and wanted to pick up her gown at the store, on the day of the wedding. But it was a Sunday. The bridal boutique was closed. Frantically, she contacted Mr. Marks for assistance. "She was inconsolable -- and it was up to me to fix this," says Mr. Marks.
"The bride even considered breaking into the store - but that was against the law," he remarked. Thinking fast-on-his-feet, Mr. Marks visited the store, saw that there was a sign posted on the door with a phone number to the security company in charge of it, and called them. He told them it was an emergency, and they put him touch with the owner of the bridal shop -- who came and opened the doors. "We were able to get the gown and save the day," he says.
But here's a secret -- you shouldn't visit the concierge only when you have a huge request. "There's a misconception on how to utilize a concierge," says Mr. Marks.
"We're here for small needs -- that's truly what service is -- when you need directions down the street, or some guidance, you can really call on us for any type of need, big or small."
He added, "I always say, if you're having a challenge, go see the concierge. Don't just speak to the front desk."
He added: "The true luxury we give our guests is our time -- and saving them their time."
And here's another little secret -- concierges such as Mr. Marks get constant calls for assistance -- from people who are NOT guests of the hotel. Bet you didn't know that!
"We get such calls all the time," says Mr. Marks. "It is a testament to the role of a hotel. In the future, this may lead to a reservation -- and the potential for the caller to be a guest. It's very common."
And here's yet another secret: One of another great things about the Clefs d'Or is that all of its members can call upon each other for assistance.
So, in other words, if you're staying at the Omni San Diego, but you have a travel question about an upcoming trip to Paris, Mr. Marks can easily and quickly contact the head concierge at the inimitable George V Hotel, to assist you. It's that easy. It's a terrific network that is there to support hotel guests.
And the position is enviable -- especially if you ask Anthony Melchiorri, the host of the Travel Channel's Hotel Impossible.
I wrote about Mr. Melchiorri very recently (click here to read the story), but he told me an interesting tale.
He was at a function recently, and Mr. Marks asked Mr. Melchiorri what job he would have in another life. Mr. Melchiorri said, "I would be a concierge. Because if you need a three-legged elephant in a pink tutu -- I would be the guy to get it done."
Mr. Marks took serious note of this -- and he was able to track down Mr. Melchiorri's home address, where he sent him -- surprise! -- a stuffed three-legged elephant in a pink tutu.
Mr. Melchiorri was absolutely flabbergasted by this surprise, and, as he said to me, "That's why Robert Marks is President of the Clefs d'Or."
The moral of this story? Whether you need that pink-tutued elephant, or advice on how to extend your hotel stay, or mere directions -- call the concierge and watch him -- or her -- make almost all of your travel dreams come true.
Debbi K. Kickham is author of 'The Globetrotter's Get-Gorgeous Guide.' Follow her on Twitter at @SATWgal.