Your Own Personal Jeeves

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In one of P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves books, Bertie Wooster sips a cup of tea brought by his manservant: "Just right, as usual. Not too hot, not too sweet, not too weak, not too strong, not too much milk, and not a drop spilled in the saucer. A most amazing cove, Jeeves."

Amazing, indeed. But contrary to popular misconception, Jeeves was never a butler -- a senior servant of a household -- though he could "buttle with the best of them." Rather, he was always a "gentleman's gentleman," a personal valet who could accomplish anything.

And a concierge is something similar: a person with finesse dedicated to your every whim, be it a request for a furniture designer from Bali, gold-tipped acupuncture needles or a helicopter from Sardinia to Corsica. Your demands can come at any time, because the compte des cierges, or keeper of candles, never sleeps.

Yes, like Harrods, your concierge could in theory order an elephant, or as Apple Concierge did for a glossy magazine in October, fulfill a request to find -- in two hours flat -- two girls who could play Playstation 2.

In return for being able to make such ostentatious requests, you will have one bill to pay for membership of the concierge service, another bill for the elephant or the girls, and possibly yet another bill for finding them. But presumably you don't have time to manage your life because you are too busy making money -- enough to afford the luxury of paying someone else to manage it for you.

In the past two years, four concierge services have begun operating in Moscow: Apple Concierge, Anna Ivox, Red Spot and Quintessentially, a concierge chain co-founded by Camilla Parker Bowles' nephew, no less.

At the most basic level, these services take care of life's menial chores, such as buying groceries, taking clothes to the dry cleaner and making bookings at restaurants and for performances. They also find rare extravagances, for example, fresh imported vegetables; chauffeurs and nannies for children; and hard-to-find cigars and wines. At the highest level, these services take on tasks that would challenge even the most competent of Jeeveses.

Concierge services generally have different kinds of membership with variations in the type of service, exclusivity of offers and price. Membership at Quintessentially is £2,500 for the so-called Dedicated Single, £3,500 per year for the Dedicated Couple and £24,000 for the Elite.

At Red Spot, the annual fees are 2,500 euros, 5,000 euros and 25,000 euros for similar categories, respectively.

With Apple Concierge, the service costs 4,500 rubles a month. In addition, the company offers a range of services at varying prices, for example, grocery delivery for 250 rubles to 500 rubles and taking a car to be fixed for 1,000 rubles.

Anna Ivox, a call-center-based service that has little face-to-face contact with clients, has an initial fee of 10,000 rubles and a monthly subscription fee of 2,000 rubles. It runs on a system of "top-up cards," said public relations manager Natalya Zherebyonkova, available in 50, 100 and 300 standard units, from which service and phone-call fees are deducted.

The idea behind some concierge services is that time is money, and by going to a meeting instead of the drycleaner, you save. "Our client is someone who has no time, someone who's always busy," said Kellan Baker, a representative of Apple Concierge.

But how does paying not just one, but two fees -- for the concierge membership and for the dry cleaning messenger boy -- save you money?

"Let's say the time it takes for you to do your laundry is equal to the time in which you would make 750 rubles," Baker said. "Then by paying just 200 rubles for someone to do it, you save money."

How the membership fee and the price of dry cleaning fit into the equation may not be immediately clear, but saving money is not the point for the average client.

"For some clients, we try to improve their quality of life," said Andrei Voronin, director of Red Spot.

"But our Elite clients already have everything that money can buy. So what we do for them is get the things that are impossible to get with money."

And that means contacts, and contacts of contacts, and building up more contacts. That, said Voronin, was how Red Spot found a police escort for one of its high-profile clients in Crimea, a kilogram of cherries in London for another, and an antique book on fishing for yet another. "We try to provide a level of service that is not available in Russia," he said.

Baker separately echoed that idea: "We want to provide an English level of service," he said. Perhaps along the lines of Jeeves?