Concierge helps famous, fashionable: Conrad job gets exciting during big events

July 10, 2006

It looked like a photo shoot for GQ or Elle. Guests wore denim that probably won't show up in American stores until next year, if even then.

Other guests checking into the Conrad Indianapolis for the July 2 U.S. Grand Prix wore sparkling diamonds and designer apparel. They carried Coach handbags of all shapes and sizes, setting them on the concierge desk as they awaited delivery of their luggage.

Without fail, Lynna Mills would peek around the bags and cordially say, "Good afternoon. Could I assist you with something?"

The Formula One race drew thousands of international race enthusiasts to Indianapolis, many of them to the Conrad, the city's ritziest hotel. When Conrad guests weren't at the track or enjoying the nightlife, the 241-room hotel was their second home, and Mills was there to welcome them.

Rooms cost an average of $229 a night. So guests expect superior service, and Mills helps make sure they get it.

As guests streamed in June 29, hotel staff was ready. One of the bellmen must have cleaned the same door every 30 minutes.

The front-end manager even asked a reporter to stand up tall as she chatted with employees. Yet Mills didn't seem a bit nervous.

Years of study helped make her unflappable. She recently graduated from IUPUI with a bachelor's degree in tourism, conventions and event management. She joined the Conrad staff when it opened in March. It's her first job using her hospitality degree.

Guests bombard Mills with the usual requests for dinner and transportation reservations, but not everything is run-ofthe-mill.

A day earlier, she'd made a trip to Brookstone in Circle Centre mall to buy European adapters for electrical outlets.

"I like the fact that we can do everything and anything," Mills said. "You know it has to be legal and ethical, though. We can't get them a prostitute or something."

During the F-1 weekend, one lady broke her designer stiletto heel and needed it repaired. One man wanted his $300,000 car detailed, and another wanted his race flag mailed overnight to New York. The $110 postage didn't faze him.

"I called the room and he was like, 'OK, that's fine,'" Mills said. "That was just amazing to me."

Mills, 25, is typically stationed at the concierge desk from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. or from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Working big events like the NCAA Final Four and the Indianapolis 500, she's seen her share of famous folk, such as recently divorced pop star Nick Lachey.

Mills earns $10 an hour. She also gets tips-once she got $100-though they aren't as big a part of her pay as they are for bellmen. In any case, she said she's not driven by a desire to make lots of money. She said her goal is to provide great customer service and to ensure a night at the Conrad is unforgettable.

Nothing has been quite like hosting guests in the city for the Formula One race. Hundreds of race fans gathered at the Conrad July 1 to catch a glimpse of celebrities like driver Flavio Briatore and F-1 chief Bernie Ecclestone. A day earlier, police were called in for crowd control, and the front drive was blocked.

Mills, an Indianapolis native, doesn't consider herself a racing fan, but it was sure fun watching those who are.

But by the afternoon of July 3, it was back to business as usual at the Conrad.

Few race fans remained. The lobby was desolate. Only the sounds of clicking heels on the Italian marble floor and the ever-soothing piano in the distance were heard. The glamour and glitz were gone.

Mills left for the day. The excitement was over.

Well, at least until NASCAR teams and fans arrive for the Aug. 6 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
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