Do you have a ‘personal concierge?’
If I were living my life right, I wouldn’t be writing this article. A member of my personal concierge team would be the one sitting at the keyboard. Once you’ve got a personal concierge, there’s no need to trouble yourself doing anything. Not sending your own thank-you notes, laying down your own yoga mat, or choosing your own maid.
Yes, you read that right — a “personal concierge.” What? You’ve never heard of such a thing? Then let’s take a step back. We all know the gap between rich and poor is growing. But you know what else is growing? Desperation on the part of the nonrich to grab a bit of the upper-class lifestyle, albeit on an hourly, à la carte basis.
That, coupled with lives that either are, or simply feel, too busy, is leading people to outsource any task possible.
Voilà: rent-a-Carson. (If that reference means nothing to you, have your TV concierge watch “Downton Abbey’’ and report back).
The National Concierge Association doesn’t have statistics on the number of personal concierges. The group notes, however, that while in the last recession many hotel concierge services “suffered a blow,” personal ones seem to have remained steady. And local concierges told my concierge that business is good. In a decade in business, Fini Concierge, for example, has grown from the two founders to a company of five, with offices in Boston and Cape Cod.
Michael Gross , chronicler of the upper crust, and most recently author of “House of Outrageous Fortune,” likens “rent-a-concierges” to the “equivalent of a designer scarf when a purchaser can’t afford the evening gown seen on the red carpet . . . a little totem of an otherwise out-of-reach lifestyle.”
“We can’t live like the 0.01 percent,” he observed, “but we can make believe for a moment! Or long enough to get that pair of concert tickets or limited-edition kicks.”
But who knows? Maybe the concierge movement is a positive development. Unlike your loved ones — or, frankly, yourself — a concierge will cheerfully work through modern life’s “to do” list. They’ll manage reward-travel points; set up or cancel auto-pays; take the labradoodle to grooming appointments (yes, pets have concierges now, too); remind you about birthdays and anniversaries (to save you the hassle of looking on Facebook); and a biggie: Vet lesser staff members such as house cleaners, painters, and florists.
In South Boston, a firm called The Help will dash to the dry cleaner when you’re too busy, send over backup child care, make sure appointments are made and entered into the calendar.
Founder Cara Mia Rose said one of the company’s most challenging jobs was moving a family from Boston to a local suburb, a job that included hiring movers, packing, coordinating with the decorator, installing window treatments, and stocking the fridge and cabinets. “When they came home — they went away for a long Labor Day weekend — everything was done and in place,” she said. In other words, the concierges did everything but start a new junk drawer.
The Help’s child-care rates are $25 per hour, and a basic concierge will cost you $36 per hour.
In Kenmore Square, Fini Concierge was very busy over the holiday season, writing clients’ holiday cards, putting up holiday decorations, and, since Christmas, getting rid of trees and returning unwanted gifts (perhaps bought by other people’s concierges).
“I run into people every day who say, ‘I didn’t know people like you existed,’ ” said cofounder Chantal Boxer. But at $55 per hour they do.
Roy Schoenberg, president and chief executive of Boston-based American Well, is a longtime Fini client. To hear him tell it, it’s hard to imagine life without a concierge.
“I have a busy life,” he said. “You land at Logan at midnight — do you want to come home and have the fridge empty, or stocked?”
Often, the company’s work for him involves research he doesn’t have time to do. “I threw a party in my house, and for whatever reason, I wanted to have Roman decorations,” he said. “How do you even go about finding things that look like Roman pillars and do it in a way that is reasonably priced?”
So far — and this is a big so far — most of the concierge services in Boston are pricey but understandable. But that might change next year, when a New York-based fitness concierge firm makes a planned move to town.
SIN Workouts (that’s for Strength in Numbers) will perform services such as: getting to a client’s exercise class early to save him a spot and then model proper form during the class if the view to the teacher is blocked ($100, plus the cost of the class for client and trainer); rushing to the gym with a pre- or post-workout juice ($25, plus the cost of the juice); driving the client to the boutique gym to make sure she goes to the class she’s paying to take ($25, plus the cost of the cost of the car and driver).
Is Boston ready for this? Apparently yes. The genius behind the concept, Vanessa Martin, sees Boston as an “ideal demographic,” complete with a “progressive” food and boutique fitness scene.
The company sounds like a creation of the satirical Onion publication, but it’s real, and of course the subject of both mockery — “Too Rich or Lazy to Function?” Jezebel asked in a December headline — and envy. Who wouldn’t like to always get her favorite spot at the yoga studio?
As you would imagine, the concierges’ websites exude the can-do spirit, but even in a “yes-sir!” world, there is stress. The dark side can be glimpsed on a website aimed at practicing and aspiring concierges.
Personalconciergeinfo.com covers topics such as “irrational clients” and the ethically fraught issue of introducing a client to technology that could replace the concierge — such as Nest, an Internet-connected thermostat, or PillPack, an online pharmacy and medication delivery service.
“While it may cut some billable hours on a particular task,” the personal concierge site advises, “if they know you are not out to take advantage of them, they’ll be more apt to hire you for a wider array of services.”
Meanwhile, as the list of tasks that can be outsourced grows and concierges step in to smooth the way, a frightening new challenge is emerging: How’s a person supposed to choose her own concierge without a concierge to do it for her?