Mary Stoddard, financial consultant, Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., Los Angeles
The very wealthy? Some of them are nice, some aren’t. Some are casual, some are anal retentive. It just depends.
There are a lot of huge egos out there. You don’t get to be a billionaire without having some ego. It takes ego just to have the courage to do it. The downside is that they don’t want to think that they’ve had a bad idea, or that they’ve listened to a bad idea. Some of them want to make sure that they’re my most important client. “I’m you’re richest client, aren’t I?” Well, uh, actually, since the other guy went public
Sometimes they can be wonderful and charming, sometimes they can be really mean. If they’re having a bad day, they want you to (have one), too. Today would be typical. One of my clients yelled at me for advising him to sell, even though it was a good idea. He didn’t like being advised at that particular moment; he wanted me to take his order. You just have to let it roll off your back.
I’m kind of like the wife substitute. Men seek out women brokers specifically because they’re better at hand holding. I’m sure that my very powerful clients treat me differently than they would a male broker. They would be more business-like and professional with a man, whereas with me, they feel they can be more aggressively hostile and I’ll get over it.
Then there are the wannabes who think their $10,000 account is going to ruin my day. Those people are easier to set straight. “Excuse me, I can’t hear you, I’ve gotta’ go now.”
Arlene Riccio, pet sitter, Your Best Friend, West Hollywood
A lot of rich people are tighter with money than the average working person. They count every penny. An average working Joe will not barter with you or say, “Gee, that’s too much money.” Rich people are not embarrassed about getting their dollar’s worth.
Then, I have some clients that don’t like to get up early to walk the dog. They want me to walk the dog, seven days a week. I really don’t care. It’s more money in my pocket.
And then some of them are real worriers. I had this one client give me a four-page memo on everything from taking the bowls out of the cabinet to how I should tie her dogs’ hair up when they ate so it wouldn’t tangle.
Alan Berliner, photographer, Alan Berliner Studio, Hollywood
“Wealthy people or their staffs are easy to deal with once you get the rules down. They tell you how many photos they want, the kind of lighting and what photos not to take. There are no nicer people than Marvin and Barbara Davis or Ron Burkle. Eli and Edie Broad worry if you don’t have dinner.
We enjoy what we do and everybody pays. We did Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson’s 10th wedding anniversary party and the postage hadn’t dried before we got a check. We wouldn’t be in business if there were any deadbeats. We donate a lot of services to charity events. If Marvin and Barbara call us, we are quick to donate our time.
This is a very competitive arena and we are the people on the inside. There is a lot of jealousy from the people who can’t get into events. It hasn’t gotten any better with the paparazzi. We don’t see them, but they are always there (waiting outside) and it’s heavy duty.
Chuck Pick, Chuck’s Parking Services Inc., Sherman Oaks
This is a seven-day-a-week job the rich don’t just have parties on the weekend. In the early ’90s, the wealthy weren’t entertaining or spending, but now they’re spending again.
I have been doing this since 1960 and it’s exciting. You are dealing with the most influential people in the world and not just Hollywood. It’s people like Rupert Murdoch, Michael Eisner, Bob Daly, Reagan’s kitchen cabinet and men like Earl Jorgensen.
The key is, you have to give good service and wealthy people will appreciate you. There is not room for mistakes, so I personally go out on jobs all the time. You are really only as good as your last event. If you screw up once, it will most likely be your last event. I make sure the guys always look sharp and open the door for the lady first and have a smile.
When I started 38 years or so ago, a Rolls Royce was just $18,000 and a Cadillac was $3,500. Today, cars are $400,000, $200,000. You have to be very careful. If a caterer drops a tray of food, you are not talking about a lot of money.
Frank Mariani, tailor, Albert G. Mariani Inc., Beverly Hills
The wealthy are normal but they have their idiosyncrasies, and some are rather aloof and rather private at first. But you learn about them as you build a garment. Many don’t know what they want. Others do. Charlton Heston used to come in and design all his vests for his roles. He wanted to make sure they fit the part. Hoagy Carmichael used to come in on Saturdays when we weren’t very busy and sit down and draw sketches of what he wanted. By the time he filled a wastepaper basket, he would give up and say, “Oh, you know what I like.”
A man who wants a custom-made suit feels that it is part of his personality and an extension of his success. Most are fussy and they let you know if they don’t like something. And they know that you will get it right the second time.
Ken Kerzner, president, Budget Rent A Car of Beverly Hills
Dealing with the super-wealthy is good and bad, easy and hard. I’ve been in this business for 30 years and they do demand to have the right car in the right place at the right time.
It can be the color, the type of car, the time the car’s supposed to be there. We meet a lot of people at FBOs field base offices at airports. We have to have the car on the landing strip when the plane comes. The door has to be open, the engine running, and the car pointed in the right direction.
Dianne Greenberg, director of catering, Beverly Hills Hotel
The wealthy know good service, good linen, good china. They expect caviar stations, salmon stations, a beautifully arranged plate. A lot of detail, a lot of hand holding. You’re not going to put down a piece of chicken and some mashed potatoes and that’s it. They know the best and expect it you’re competing with every place they’ve gone and stayed. You must be a five-star, five diamond person.
They want to know that their event stands out the most. And that you care. You have to live it and you have to breathe it. I have to constantly let them know I’m here for them. That means that when someone asks for something, I do it immediately.
I just had someone call me up wanting to know what paint they used in the lobby. And you know what? I have to find out now. I have to track engineering down in the middle of a busy day, and then call that person back with the information, because they don’t want it later, they want it now. Our clients want it now. And I’ve already done their event. I said, “You have to give me a few hours on the paint.”
Matthew Martinez, sales associate, Barneys New York, Beverly Hills
Working with the wealthy can be great, and it can be awful. They can be very exacting. People in the movie industry tend to be less patient and more aggressive than banking or corporate people.
The agents will come in, and they’re downright rude, most of them. They want the most flash for the least cash. Generally they’ll call up and say, “Hi, I’ve got $150, what have you got?” Well, is it for a male or for a female? “Female.” We’ve got these great vases. “What else do you have?” After a few questions they’ll say, “Just send whatever, and write ‘Thanks’ on the card.”
You can tell instantly who’s new money and who’s not. Someone a little more established will buy accent pieces, cloth cocktail napkins. Someone who comes in and buys a great deal of new merchandise is probably just starting off. People with older money are a lot nicer, easier to work with, more open to suggestions. They buy smaller-ticket items, the gifts generally have a little more thought behind them, whereas someone newer to the whole situation tends to buy something flashier, more expensive, and a little more anonymous.
Frank Schley, pilot, Jet Aviation Inc., Burbank
Private jet travel is the epitome of conspicuous consumption. Our plane is configured to carry 10 people, but sometimes we carry only one passenger. A five-hour trip can cost $15,000 to $20,000, but they pay it because everything is done at their convenience. We pick them up when they want and take them anywhere they want to go.
There is only one incident that put a bad taste in my mouth. We were flying some executives from the entertainment business. There was a girl with one of them. I thought she was his daughter, but she was actually his girlfriend. When we landed the limousines were waiting at the wrong terminal, so this little girl went ballistic. It had nothing to do with us, but she got in everyone’s face and said she was never going to fly with us again.
Arda Bezjian, vice president, Aida Thibiant Spa, Beverly Hills
We have many clients who are very wealthy CEOs, executives, and other professionals. They are very sophisticated and highly discriminating because they’ve been around and they’ve seen what’s good and what’s bad. They know and expect the best of everything. They are also highly intelligent. It’s a pleasure to work for them because they appreciate the best. It makes us feel good that we can provide service to such clients.