When I started getting into premium credit cards, the one perk I was always least excited about was the concierge service. I had had Visa Signature cards for a couple years and never used their concierge, so I didn’t really think much of it when I got a Citi Prestige card and then an Amex Platinum (and a CNB Crystal, and a Sapphire Reserve, and so on). While I don’t factor these services in at all when considering the overall value-to-fee ratio of the cards, I have to admit that there are times the concierge services (specifically, the Amex Platinum concierge) have been particularly helpful. Here are a few examples:
- My mom was coming into town and asked if we could have lunch at Slanted Door, one of the most popular restaurants in San Francisco. I couldn’t book a table through the restaurant, so this seemed like a good opportunity to pit competing services against each other in a bitter battle. The Citi Prestige concierge called me back after a couple hours and said they couldn’t find anything but then suggested some other restaurants. Then Amex emailed me a reservation confirmation on my first choice date and time, which impressed me, since Citi came up empty. Not only that, but they had managed to reserve a booth overlooking the bay for us – way better than the fairly tight table seating.
- I was planning some dinners in Las Vegas and wanted to know if a particular restaurant could offer vegetarian/vegan food for me. I hate picking up the phone if I don’t have to, so it was really convenient to send an email to Amex asking them to do it for me (and then to book a reservation). I mentioned to Amex that it was a dinner for my wife and my anniversary, and the restaurant ended up offering us a free dessert in celebration. I was impressed with the service both from Amex and from the restaurant. (BTW, this restaurant was the Joël Robuchon Atelier at the MGM grand and it was – no joke – the best meal I have ever had.)
- I’m planning a trade show for work this week, and my boss asked me to make a reservation for a staff dinner during the show. Given that this trade show totally takes over Salt Lake City, restaurant reservations can be a real pain in the ass. Plus, I’m really busy prepping for a big product launch at the show, so I really didn’t want to deal with this. I emailed Amex and asked for a list of recommended restaurants, and they sent me something back about 12 hours later. After a quick return email to pick one, my restaurant problem was solved.
I could definitely get used to this. I’m not going to put some arbitrary dollar figure on it, but I’ve had really good luck with the Amex concierge and would have to weigh not having access anymore if I considered canceling my platty-plat. (I haven’t used the Citi one after they whiffed on Slanted Door, and I’ve also never bothered to try the Sapphire Reserve one since Amex always does so well.)
In fairness, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing with them, and I’ve realized that for stuff other than restaurant reservations/recommendations, I’m better off dealing with it myself. One particular example: last year, we were traveling to Las Vegas for my wife’s birthday, and I emailed Amex to see if they could use my platinum card to buy a particular gift I had picked out, have it shipped to our hotel, and have the hotel put it in the room as a surprise. Maybe this was a big ask, but I had only had the card for a couple months and really wanted to try it out! Technically, they did everything I asked, but it was SUCH AN ORDEAL. First I had to call back and wait on hold for a half hour so I could give the concierge the code on the front of my card. Then I had to confirm the shipping address. Then I had to confirm that they ordered the right product. Then I had to contact the hotel separately to confirm to them that Amex was acting on my instruction. This went on and on. (And, the hotel still messed up and didn’t have the gift in the room, although the hotel concierge felt really bad and sent up a huge arrangement of flowers. Again, I was really impressed with the service, since I didn’t ask for anything, realizing that the entire request was a favor I was asking of them in the first place.) Okay okay, clearly this was not a typical request, but it illustrates that the whole claim the concierge makes about doing anything and everything may be overselling the service a little bit. (Before anyone calls me out for FIRST WORLD PROBLEMS – first, this entire blog is about first world problems so shut your trolling trap, and second, my point here isn’t that Amex wronged me in any way, it’s that the whole point of a concierge is to save you time, and this ended up taking more time than if I had just done it myself. Lesson learned. Oh and third, I bet you’re just a joy to be around at parties.)
Bottom line, I like a good concierge service, and I have gotten value out of it a few times, especially when it comes to restaurants. On its own, it doesn’t justify the annual fee, but I would miss it if I didn’t have it anymore. Anyone got any good concierge stories to tell? Good and bad, let’s get some “data points” (ugh).