Anna Endrihovskaya, chief concierge of the MOSS Boutique Hotel in Moscow, talks about the challenges – from the mundane to the outlandish – that she and her colleagues face.
In an essay for the international best concierge competition in 2013 I mentioned that people who always sacrifice themselves, their interests and their time for other people, used to be called “saints”, but that today “saints” are concierges – and this is still true today. You can’t be successful in this job if you don’t appreciate the people and the things that the world can offer! You have to be ready to help at any time of the day.
For example, I know every highly skilled doctor in Moscow, I can cater to every kind of clients needs and wants. I know the best stylists, but I can go to this cheap hairdresser’s which happens to be on the way to MOSS. But for me this is not the most important, of course it helps to know people, but at the end of the day it’s the satisfaction and fulfilment you get when you see that you did something special for a guest, when you hear words of gratitude and you feel the appreciation, that’s when you realise that all your efforts and the total self-denial have not gone in vain.
When hiring new staff members for the MOSS concierge team, I pay a lot of attention to whether there is a fire and warmth in a candidate. I am happy to watch my colleagues work. I can see that their love for the job is sincere and conscious, and that they always think out of the box, everything they do is driven more by their heart than the rules.
By the way, Russian concierges are more sacrificing than Western ones. In Europe there is a strict schedule about work-life balance. Concierges on vacation or during their breaks are usually out of reach. It doesn’t work that way in Russia, concierge mode is always on and this crazy 24/7 regime is perceived as something normal by many people.
Recently, I was with my girlfriends in a Russian bath called banya. It was around 11 pm when the assistant of a very important person called me and asked to help with an urgent flower delivery in Frankfurt. I told her that it was not the best moment to call me. “Oh, I thought you are always at work,” she replied. I just couldn’t say no. Of course, I texted my colleagues in Frankfurt and the flowers were delivered on time.
And this is one of the simplest requests. As concierges we receive quite bizarre requests. Once a very rich Russian guest had a bet with another rich Russian about who could find the finest home-made vodka. Each of them asked their assistants or concierges to start searching. I found out that there is someone in Ukraine who makes one of the finest vodkas. I was also asked to bring it over to Moscow in an authentic old bottle. I used all my contacts to purchase a bottle at a flea market in Odessa, then fill the bottle with vodka and have it delivered to Russia. I don’t know how they decided which vodka was better, but we won!
My colleague was asked to buy a sports car of a specific brand and colour in the middle of the night. When she got all the necessary documents and a credit card the only thing she asked was “Do you want it with a bow or not?”
And here is a story which happened to my colleague from another Moscow hotel. A foreign guest was very impressed with the iron floor in St. Basil’s Cathedral at Red Square. He asked concierges to find someone who would craft exactly the same floor for his villa. This was not an easy task as the technology was lost centuries ago. At some point my colleague felt very helpless but finally found a Russian man in the US who could take this unusual order. And when the guest returned back home, the floors were already installed at his villa in Mexico.
We had a similar case at MOSS when a guest fell in love with our corridors and decided to get the same walls at his home in Israel. Natasha Belonogova, the interior designer of MOSS, helped us with this request in a very short time.
Ironically, concierges don’t hear the words “thank you” that often. That is why I’ve been trying to develop a tipping culture in Russia. At MOSS, for example, we introduced envelopes with cute sayings like “Tipping makes you cool and sexy”. It makes guests smile and helps them to express their gratitude for the excellent service they receive.
Sometimes there are tasks which can only be implemented through the global community of concierges. There is no way we could ever do this without the amazing support that we have for each other and the natural kindness and benevolence we share for one another. Every time I call the legendary concierge Benua from a grand hotel in Paris, I feel very nervous. I’m imagining how crazily busy he is, and everyone is literally tearing him apart, but I only hear from him something like: “Anya, what are you worried about? You’re my sister. If I don’t help you, then I will disgrace our family! Of course, I’ll help you! Of course, it’s not difficult for me!” We all are very proud that we have such a tight unity and brotherhood around the world.
There is a story from my practice that proves that the concierge community makes wonders. A famous Russian designer left her cosmetic purse in Moscow when flying to Paris for a fashion show. Her assistant called me at 3 am and begged me to have the purse delivered by the morning. I tried to send the purse with the first plane to Paris but there were no suitable flights. Then I called the concierge I know at the Hotel Le Bristol. She said: “No problem, my good friend works in a cosmetic store, I’ll ask her to come to work earlier and she’ll get everything the designer needs.”
The world of concierges, just like many years ago, is based on connections, and that’s how we truly own the keys to all the doors. I remember when one of our guests urgently asked for a specific sneaker model, but it was out of stock. One of my friends called someone, and magically the next day the sneakers appeared in the boutique store!
Many of my colleagues from around the world are members of the Golden Keys (Les Clefs d’Or) concierge association. This is a really powerful organisation, and I never stop to admire the amazing wonders it does. The motto of the association “In Service Through Friendship” explains it all.
I am so proud to be a member of the association’s executive committee. One of my responsibilities there is developing the educational program. Last year we held a congress in Berlin, and this year we are going to Korea, where the best concierges in the world will meet and share their experiences.
All the speakers at our events are truly outstanding people, like Jean-Claude Beaver, the owner of the Hublot house. When I listened to his speech, I thought to myself: “When I grow up, I will have a Hublot watch.” For me, it’s like a talisman, because everything Beaver has now was inspired by the love for his wife. And as I said earlier, in any line of work, especially in hospitality, everything should be based on love.