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Tips from the Concierge at the New York Palace Hotel

April 29, 2009 By:Mary Winston Nicklin

New York Palace HotelLooking for the best insights on the Big Apple? Gunter Kleemann-- concierge at the opulent New York Palace Hotel-- "holds the key to the city," as reported in a fabulous interview by The New York Times. He is also the President of New York's Association of Hotel Concierges, so he knows a thing or two about Manhattan. Guests at the New York Palace Hotel are in luck; he can score "tables at prime restaurants and seats at sold-out Broadway hits." The full NYT interview is below:

How he knows what he knows: At first you think you can do it with a Zagat’s and a computer. There’s nothing that beats personal experience. My wife and I are always going out. You’ll always find me someplace.

Proudest of: My golden keys, the universal standard of service excellence.

Most-asked question: Where to eat.

How he answers: Are you looking to dine or just to eat? It’s a big difference.

Weird requests: One guy asked, “Can you get me six brunettes, six blondes and six black-haireds?” Of course, we don’t do that. Some guy asked me, “Can you find me the gross income of this company for a year?” How bizarre is that? I had to tell the guy nicely, that’s not the kind of thing we pursue. I get people asking for a stock certificate from 1865, a cork from a 1980 Chianti, a 6-by-9-foot painting with a hunting dog, a shotgun and a pheasant. We try to track it down.

The German accent: I was born in Kottweiler-Schwanden, near a big American Army base. I used to see the tanks come through. I’d find old Lugers in the field. My mother lived through the firebombing of Dresden. I came here with my parents when I was 10 years old.

Résumé: I went to the New School for graduate work in film and got a job with a top fashion photographer as an assistant. After a few years, I worked with a commercial filmmaker. I got cast in acting roles. You ever hear of “I Spit on Your Grave”? It was one of the biggest cult films ever. It’s about revenge, in a nutshell. A female writer goes from the city to the country and is accosted. She gets her revenge. It’s a piece of dreck, but for some reason I got a fan club.”

Fondest New York moment: In ’74 I was living in the Village, across from the Caffe Dante, where Bob Dylan used to go. I’d see Joni Mitchell and Ginsberg. They were all hanging out together.

On becoming a concierge: I wanted to work for Gray Line as a tour guide. They weren’t hiring, but still they had a couple of desks in hotels. I started at the Roosevelt in ’99, manning a Gray Line desk for a few months. At the end of the year they were giving up the desk and I took a job with Continental Guest Services, which rents desks in hotels and operates on commissions. Then I was hired at the Lucerne Hotel on Amsterdam Avenue as a real concierge.

The money thing: There isn’t any charge, but I tell people at the end of their stay if they feel I did something special for them, gratuities are allowed.

On taking freebies: Once they know you’re a concierge, you get a lot of offers, but a lot of times I pay on my own. I want to go incognito.

Best advice he ever got: If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not working.

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