A Hotel Veteran Shares Tales from the Concierge Desk

CHICAGO—For guests who are new in town, a hotel’s concierge is the key to unlocking a destination. These staff members do more than make restaurant reservations; they are multitaskers equipped with what seems like bottomless knowledge of how to have a local experience like no other. Above all else, they make it their number one goal to please the guest.

Donald Crossley, a concierge at the Hyatt Centric The Loop Chicago, has seen—and done—a lot in his 26-year career. During the Chicago Bulls championship run, he helped an NBA player propose to his girlfriend; fell into a dumpster trying to retrieve a newspaper for a guest; won numerous service awards; and even earned the nickname “Mayor of Hyatt.”

When asked about these memorable moments, Crossley is engaging yet humble in response. For him, it’s all in a day’s work.

“I love it. I really do,” he said. “I wake up every morning and thank God for waking me up another day, and whatever there is to handle, I’m ready to meet it. I believe in what I do. You’ve got to please yourself and those you’re working with. Be nice to people and they’ll give it right back to you.”

Crossley began his career in 1990 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago. It was his first concierge job and he remained there for 10 years. He briefly did a stint at a Hilton property and then returned to the Hyatt brand where he is today. He’s put in a lot of time becoming knowledgeable about the local area and meeting challenges as they arise.

“I already possess the skill of being a nice guy. The challenge was learning the city of Chicago and dealing with different personality types and types of people,” he said. “My top priority was caring for the guest, so I learned about international and local guests. It made it challenging, and I pushed myself to learn more.”

Crossley recalls the unforgettable opportunity to provide an “assist” to an NBA player who was ready to propose marriage:

“During that time, there were eight of us at the concierge desk. He checked in and the front desk recommended me to handle his special problem. They said, ‘Go see Donald. He’s the best.’ There was the excitement of when the Bulls were on the run for the championships and getting everything together to surprise his girlfriend. He wasn’t sure he wanted to do it in Chicago, and I was willing to come up with ideas for him,” he said. “Since then, I’ve talked to him and they’re still happily married.”

For privacy reasons, Crossley preferred not to name the couple. Discretion is a characteristic exhibited by many concierges, after all.

He’s also proud of his relationship with his colleagues. “Being referred by another coworker made it even more special,” he said. “While at Hyatt Regency Chicago, our GM at the time was the one who gave me the nickname of the Mayor. I was assisting guests and a lot of executives, and people would say, ‘Call Donald,’ and he said, ‘You’re the mayor of the hotel.’ I was just doing anything anybody else would be doing. That’s it.”

In another act of service, Crossley helped a visiting family adopt a pet from a local shelter.

“They wanted a dog and needed someone to go with them to the Anti-Cruelty Society here in Chicago. I adopted a cocker spaniel from there and the family, who was from the Ukraine, didn’t speak English,” he said. “I went as their interpreter and friend. It worked out perfectly. I hear from them every four or five months and they were so grateful that I was able to do it.”

Being recognized by the brand and peers has proved meaningful for Crossley.

“The one that means the most with Hyatt is the year when I was runner up for an employee of the year award. But, the next year I earned the Anthony Lockman Guest Service Award, which was named after a bellman who had recently passed away. It meant a lot to me. It was about one of my peers and was given for providing outstanding work. Also, during my time at Hyatt Regency Chicago, I was given the High Spirit Award. I still have my pin!”

At 68 years old, retirement is not a word in Crossley’s vocabulary. “I don’t do anything that makes me want to retire. What I do, I love. I love helping people and as long as I’m able, I see myself around for a few more years.”

For fellow concierges and the younger ones coming up the ranks, he offered some advice:

“I tell my coworkers here—a lot are millennials—I’m from the old school where I believe in being at work not just on time, but early. I’m not running into my job. I come in and do what needs to be done,” he said.

“Do your job and everything falls into place. Don’t worry about what someone else is doing. Just be you and know you’re here for a job and do it. Don’t let anything interfere with you performing your duty,” he concluded.