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A concierge (French pronunciation: [kɔ̃sjɛʁʒ]) is an employee of an apartment building, hotel or office building who serves guests, with duties similar to those of a receptionist. The position can also be maintained by a security officer over the graveyard shift. A similar position, known as the portero, exists in Spanish-speaking regions. In medieval times, the concierge was an officer of the king who was charged with executing justice, with the help of his bailiffs. Later on in the 18th century, the concierge was a high official of the kingdom, appointed by the king to maintain order and oversee the police and prisoner records.
In 19th-century and early 20th-century apartment buildings, particularly in Paris, the concierge often had a small apartment on the ground floor, called la loge, and was able to monitor all comings and goings. However, such settings are now extremely rare; most concierges in small or middle-sized buildings have been replaced by the part-time services of door-staff. Some larger apartment buildings or groups of buildings retain the use of concierges. The concierge may, for instance, keep the mail of absented dwellers, be entrusted with the apartment keys to deal with emergencies when residents are absent, provide information to residents and guests, provide access control, enforce rules, and act as a go-between for residents and management when management is not on-site.
In hotels, a concierge assists guests with various tasks like making restaurant reservations, arranging for spa services, recommending night life hot spots, booking transportation (limousines, airplanes, boats, etc.), procurement of tickets to special events, and assisting with various travel arrangements and tours of local attractions.
In hospitals, concierge services are becoming increasingly available. A hospital concierge provides similar services to those of a hotel concierge, but serves patients and employees as well. This helps hospital employees who work long shifts, and helps to provide work-life balance.
There are numerous independent personal concierge companies that provide errand services and information services for their members. Services include informational requests, setting dinner reservations, making telephone calls, researching travel arrangements and more. Typically, concierge companies will bill on an hourly rate, and depending upon the type of task, fees can fluctuate drastically. Other companies bill a flat monthly fee based upon the number of requests a member is allowed to place each month. In the United Kingdom, since the year 2000 and as of 2010, concierge has become a key marketing and loyalty tool in the banking sector and offered as a benefit on luxury credit cards. This service offering is also known as lifestyle management. Concierges also entertain their clients.
The owners and operators of concierge, lifestyle management and errand service businesses are supported and advocated by the non-profit International Concierge and Lifestyle Management Association (ICLMA) and the National Concierge Association. These associations serve their members through essential resources, continuing education, networking opportunities and other professional endeavors.
Another possibility, suggested by French authors as early as the 19th century, is that "concierge" is a contraction of comte des cierges ("count of candles"), a servant responsible for maintaining the lighting and cleanliness of medieval palaces.
- "Concierge", OED Online (Oxford University Press), December 2013, retrieved 2014-03-07, "French concierge, in Old French cumcerges, concerge, -ciarge, -sirge, -sierge, -cherge, whence medieval Latin consergius (in text of 1106): derivation unknown."
- "Concierge", Merriam-Webster.com, retrieved 2014-03-07, "French, from Old French, probably from Vulgar Latin *conservius, alteration of Latin conservus fellow slave, from com- + servus slave"
- "Les anciens prisons de Paris". Le Cabinet de lecture et le cercle réunis: gazette des familles (in French). Volume 12 (1): 459. 5 January 1841. "Il y avait, comme on sait, outre le comte des Cierges un comte des Etables; par contraction on a fait de ces deux titres ceux de connétable et de concierge. (There was, as we know, in addition to the count of Candles a count of Stables; by contraction of these two titles was made those of constable and concierge.)"
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