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Newest Office Tenant Word: Concierge : More Buildings in L. A. Hire Employee to Provide Services

September 13, 1987|RUTH RYON | Times Staff Writer

Wouldn't it be nice to have someone in your office building order groceries delivered to your home?

Or to leave your dirty laundry with that person in the morning to be picked up, clean, that afternoon?

These and other services are available to increasing numbers of workers in the Los Angeles area as the idea of an office concierge grows.

Ask a telephone operator for the number of the local concierge association, and you'll likely be asked, "The local what?"

Travelers are more familiar with the concierge found in a fine hotel. But even the hotel concierge is a fairly new concept in the United States, says Marlin Shipley, who is an office concierge.

And because the concierge is a new idea, it is met, he said, with skepticism, which he personally tries to eliminate through education.

At the Century City North Building, where he has been a concierge--the building's first--for three months, he gives the tenants a sheet of paper titled "What is a concierge?"

It points out that the word is French--translated as "caretaker," though the Latin meaning is "fellow slave"--and states: "In medieval France, the concierge kept track of titles of distinguished visitors, was entrusted with the castle keys, watched the comings and goings of people, and controlled the drawbridge."

In modern times, the concierge doesn't normally control a drawbridge, but Shipley says the rest applies.

His sheet further explains that the concierge "was seen exclusively in the hotel environment until recently." The function: "to provide guest services, which can literally mean anything."

Anything? Well, he said with a chuckle, "anything that's legal."

'Get an Elephant'

And that's true, he noted, whether or not the concierge works in a hotel or an office building.

As Susan Tusson, chief concierge for the Biltmore Hotel as well as the new Biltmore Tower and Biltmore Court, put it: "If a guest or an office tenant asked for an elephant, we would find a way to get an elephant, and there would be no charge."

The guest or tenant would have to buy or rent the elephant, but the concierge's services in arranging for the acquisition or rental and delivery would be complimentary, she explained. That's also true at the Century City North Building and many other office buildings with concierges, although services offered for free vary from building to building.

Tusson hasn't had a request for an elephant and truly doesn't expect one, but there's no telling what the Biltmore office tenants might ask--the offices are still so new. The 24-story tower and other offices were just completed in July, with 30% of the space leased.

Services to Tenants

So, can a busy executive get breakfast in her office? That hasn't been established yet.

Otherwise, said Tusson, "we offer all of the same services to our office tenants as we do to our hotel guests--secretarial, telexes, loaning out typewriters and dictionaries, sending out and getting back dry cleaning.

"We can assist international visitors because many of my concierges speak several languages." She has six on her staff and is looking to hire a seventh.

"We can arrange power lunches and theater tickets--here or in New York or even in London.

"We can get a tuxedo rented and bring it back, and we're working on a program to allow the office tenants to store their clothing, so they can work all night, if they like, and have a change of clothing here the next day."

Finding Service People

The major difference, from a concierge's point of view, between a hotel guest and an office worker is "longevity"--length of stay, she said, "and understanding the tenant's needs." She plans to establish a separate Rolodex for the office tenants.

A Rolodex-type system is a must for any concierge, it seems, as Nancy St. Cyr, the concierge at the Wilshire-San Vicente Plaza (office building) in Beverly Hills, explained: "My biggest job is to find people we all know and like."

She says she won't recommend a tailor, cleaners, grocery store, restaurant or any other service that she hasn't personally tried. "A concierge can't just go to a phone book," she said.

And she suggests services of tenants in her building first--before looking outside. "I've opened a lot of the tenants' eyes about what's in the building," she said. "One woman was a tenant in the building for 10 years and didn't know we have three notaries."

Recommending and arranging aren't the only things she does on the job, though.

Plans Monthly Events

"I'm non-stop activity," she said while answering phones and greeting tenants at the same time.

She is the building's security person as well as its concierge.

Since becoming the concierge/security person about five months ago, she has planned monthly events--a Red Cross Blood Drive, ice-cream social and fall fashion show.

She produces a monthly newsletter with classified ads that are free to tenants.

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