Tuesday, September 25, 2007

bring me a sugar cookie from Queens!

Once again, an ad in the print version of the Economist caught my eye.

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The text reads:
No task is too big (or too small) for a Peninsula Page – like this request for songbirds from the street markets of Hong Kong. To view more Portraits of Peninsula and learn about the world’s most celebrated hotels, please visit us at peninsula.com.
I couldn’t help but think of this:
Y’all gotta walk uptown to the Bronx, and get breast milk from a Cambodian immigrant.
A bit of piddling about on the internets reveals that this photo was taken by Annie Leibovitz as part of an ad campaign for the chain a couple years ago. In a BusinessWeek article that reads like a press release (maybe they all do, I don’t know), we find that:
As Paul Quinn, the Peninsula Hong Kong's Chief Concierge puts it, "We try to make the impossible possible. The golden rule is we try never to say no." During his career, Quinn has dealt with some unusual requests, from arranging a visit to Buckingham Palace to organizing a party in Regents Park with elephants (rain put a damper on the plans but Quinn arranged an alternative indoor treat). Quinn adds, "Sometimes it is more about understanding the guest as they may ask for something when it's not really what they want."
Bring me a sugar cookie from Queens! Wait, no, make it chocolate chip …
What's in it for the staff? One image in the "Portraits" campaign features three chambermaids who have been with the company for a combined total of 49 years. That's an average of more than 15 years of service each. The Peninsula Hotels believes staff stays because it truly looks after them in both good times and bad. As Zuleka Mok, the group's general manager of human resources puts it, "They are part of the Peninsula family. All of our staff members are treated with the same level of respect, dignity and consideration regardless of their position. We help them to build their career with us, instead of just providing jobs."

. . .

By its own definition, the Peninsula Hotels operates at the luxury end of the industry. Offerings such as the HK$ 110,000 (US$ 14,100) "Pen-Ultimate Experience" at the group's flagship Hong Kong property, which includes two nights' stay in a suite, transfers by chauffeured Rolls-Royce, in-suite candlelight dining while serenaded by the hotel's jazz trio, and a 30-minute sightseeing tour by helicopter among other treats, are out of reach for most.
What young Chinese boy wouldn’t love to scamper and fetch songbirds from the street markets of Hong Kong to satisfy the whim of a wealthy Westerner? He’s pulling his compatriots out of poverty, one parakeet at a time.

And we mustn’t forget this side of the tourist industry.

I found more photos from the Peninsula campaign here (pdf).

The one on the first page deserves a caption contest. Since my army of commenters may feel timid, I’ll take the first shot:
Brown-skinned children of the world: America needs you!

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