Friday, October 12, 2007

A Concierge to the Rescue

In a Time of Need, a Concierge Steps Up

It was only four hours later, after checking in at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi, that I realized my cellphone had not accompanied me on the two-hour journey.

I figured I could kiss that baby goodbye, but a companion suggested a long shot.

“Try the hotel concierge,” he said.

Now, my idea of what a concierge does is book a restaurant or score a couple of hard-to-get box seats. But when I called Albert John, the concierge at the Taj Mahal, he got on the case immediately, working with Piyush Dhawan, the duty manager.

“This may take some time, but I will keep you informed,” he said.

I worked in my room all day, and Mr. John was on the phone regularly. And yes, they had found the phone in Mumbai.

“Can you describe it other than the model?” he asked.

“Well, it has a screen saver of a parrot on the outside and another one on the inside.”
“Two parrots,” he said.

Mr. John and Mr. Dhawan negotiated the bureaucratic hurdles. An affidavit was required along with a photocopy of my passport. Evidently, the parrots helped persuade officials that I was indeed the owner.

Mr. John called my room to inform me the cellphone was being flown to New Delhi, and should be delivered before I checked out. (I had a late checkout for the red-eye back to Newark).

An hour later, Rahul Manchanda, the hotel’s airport officer, was at my door with the wayward cellphone, having picked it up at the airport an hour away.

There are two points to this story. One is that the Taj organization, founded 100 years ago, is among those luxury chains expanding internationally, including in the United States, where it will compete with established brands like Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton, both based in North America, and the Peninsula Hotels, based in Hong Kong. At the luxury level, personal service is one of the market differentiators.

The second point has to do with the Registered Traveler program. That program is moving ahead slower than anticipated as the Transportation Security Administration drags its feet on approving technology that would, for example, allow members to keep their shoes on.

Read the complete article in the New York Times-Business section.

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