Hotel's man to ask

J. Preston Rooks Jr.

Chief concierge


InterContinental Harbor Court Baltimore hotel

Salary --$13.39 an hour, plus tips


Age --34

Years on the job --Two

How he got started --Rooks began in the hotel business more than seven years ago, working first as a concierge for a Marriott hotel in Norfolk, Va. He then moved to a management position with Marriott in Hunt Valley.

Wanting to get back to the concierge profession, he went to work at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel as chief concierge before switching to his current job two years ago. "I love to interact with people. Management is more behind the scenes, taking care of the big picture, and it wasn't that one-on-one interaction I was used to."

Typical day --As a concierge, Rooks is there to serve the needs of the hotel guests. His time is spent answering questions, recommending places to eat, booking special events and arranging special services. Much of this is done before a guest's arrival. He usually works five days a week, 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. His days off vary, but most often they are Monday and Tuesday. He also offers his cell phone number to the front desk staff for off-hours assistance. He estimates that he helps about seven to 10 people in person within an hour and many more by phone and e-mail. "This is a position that either you have it or you don't. You have to be customer-service friendly. It's all about taking care of the guests, especially when it comes to this hotel."

Tip-based service --Rooks said he averages $25 to $75 a night in tips. The amount depends on the task. For a simple dinner reservation, he might get tipped a few dollars, whereas arranging a special anniversary weekend for a guest or getting tickets for a sold-out event would be more. He once received a $300 tip for obtaining a group of tickets to a Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox game.

Most common question --"Where should I eat?"

His recommendation --He can suggest a restaurant for just about any occasion or taste, but one of his favorites is Kali's Court Restaurant in Fells Point. Rooks says the crab cakes are excellent, but also check out the bronzini, a Mediterranean fish, and bouillabaisse.


Best tourist tip --"There's more to Baltimore than the Inner Harbor."

Second-best tip --"If you're staying in a hotel, the concierge is your best friend. We'll guide you in the right direction."

Unusual requests --Rooks abides by the "as long as it's legal and as long as it's ethical" rule of thumb for the more risque requests, such as suggestions for gentlemen's clubs or other adult entertainment.

The good --"I will never have the same day."

The bad --"Saying 'no' to a guest. It's usually not part of our vocabulary." Sometimes a guest will ask for a service that is not readily available, such as a helicopter ride over the city or a limousine ride through the city on only a moment's notice. "We'll usually find other alternatives."

Philosophy on the job --"You have to be very open to the guests."


Nancy Jones-Bonbrest Special to The Sun