Ever hear the one about the pop star who demanded she have a mannequin in her dressing room with "puffy pink pubic hair”? Or the singer who insisted that none of the crew working on her show was to be called “Justin”, due to a recent break-up? Or the entertainer who required someone to disinfect the doorknobs of any backstage venue or hotel he was due to be in every two hours?
The so-called "celebrity rider" is legendary – that's the piece of paper that lists the demands of the big-name entertainer in question before they’ll actually turn up to perform.
Well, the celebs out there aren’t alone, and it appears that you don’t have to have your name in lights or be a rock star with 10-million Twitter followers to stretch the bounds of possibility with outrageous requests that defy all reason and logic.
Instead, the common denominator is money. Moola. Tin. The extremely wealthy seem to be in a race to "out bid" those who have come before as they attempt to shock the poor service provider taking their requests. Because they expect to be fawned on, it’s no surprise that this practice is prevalent in the hospitality space, with hotel, airline and restaurant staff often on the receiving end of the most ridiculous requests.
The common denominator is money. Moola. Tin. The extremely wealthy seem to be in a race to "out-bid" those who have come before as they attempt to shock the poor service provider taking their requests.
Take, for instance, this high flyer who is (also) obsessed with the colour pink. “We had the aircraft interior seats re-covered with pink fabric, we served pink food – including prawns and macaroons – pink champagne, Pink Floyd was playing, and even the pilot wore a pink shirt. As he was hosting VIP guests on board, we welcomed them to the aircraft on a pink carpet!” That’s according to global private jet charter broker company PrivateFly.
We had the aircraft interior seats re-covered with pink fabric, we served pink food – including prawns and macaroons – pink champagne, Pink Floyd was playing, and even the pilot wore a pink shirt. As he was hosting VIP guests on board, we welcomed them to the aircraft with a pink carpet!
This same company also had a health-conscious passenger who wasn't sure where he wanted to fly, but that it had to be home to the highest grade of organic coconuts. “We sourced a farm in Fiji and arranged the flights,” says PrivateFly.
At the request of a certain family, private aviation company Magnus Aviation has to play the theme music for Mamma Mia! just after take-off. And private aviation company Jetsmarter once transported a couple who “took a flight to nowhere”.
“They paid nearly seven figures for a six-hour trip which ended in the same place that they started. They had a very expensive bottle of wine, mid-air spa treatments, expert skin care, and a manicure/pedicure. They brought a world-class chef on board, and hired one of the world’s most well-known opera singers to sing to them for an hour.”
But the "out there" requests aren’t just the preserve of the private aviation space. Hoteliers around the world are well versed in the ridiculous, the downright silly, and the seemingly impossible. South African gaming and hospitality company Sun International has a portfolio of luxury properties, so it’s no surprise that the group has been exposed to some interesting requests. But when the Table Bay Hotel’s head concierge Ryan van Zyl was asked for an elephant, he assumed the guest wanted a curio version or a stuffed toy for his children. Not so. The American guest ran a wildlife conservancy in Texas and was looking to purchase the real thing. What followed was a lot of jumping through hoops and red tape, including establishing regulatory requirements and limitations.
“I also had to undertake research into climactic, vegetation and other conditions in Texas that would be important for the survival of an elephant,” says Van Zyl. You’ll be happy to know the elephant was eventually transported safely to the States and is apparently happy in his new environment.
The same can’t be said for the poor waitress who told Reddit that she once had a table asking for the chicken noodle soup… without the chicken. “My manager actually sat there and picked out every last slither of chicken in that man's soup. I then jokingly told the guest how much of a hassle this was, then asked him how it was. He simply replied, 'Eh.'"
Some requests are just from average Joes, guys who are clearly bored hotel guests looking to spice things up and make their trips more interesting.
It’s perhaps not the best idea to have a “special requests” section on the check-in form, don’t you think? That’s just asking for trouble. This anonymous hotel guest proves it: “Every time my girlfriend and I go on a vacation, I ask for a picture of a horse saying ‘Hello!’ next to the bed." The hotel duly obliged.
Other obliging hotels include the property hosting a man who asked for a framed picture of the actor Nicholas Cage in the movie Con Air, and the hotel that happily placed three individual red M&Ms on the counter and a framed picture of bacon on the bed, for a particularly bored guest!
Pillow forts are apparently a common request, so some hotels don’t even blink when this comes up, while towels folded into the shape of an elephant are in a similar category.
Perhaps the cake, though, goes to the client of Drew Kluska, MD of high-end travel company The Tailor. This customer demanded that Kluska fly in $8 000 (R115 000) worth of tropical blooms for the final night of his year-long, worldwide fishing trip. “We had a superyacht for him, and another one for all his guides to sleep on, and by the end of the trip he’d broken 17 world records!” says Kluska.
They paid nearly seven figures for a six-hour trip which ended in the same place that they started. They had a very expensive bottle of wine, mid-air spa treatments, expert skin care, and a manicure/pedicure. They brought a world-class chef on board, and hired one of the world’s most well-known opera singers to sing to them for an hour.
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