The nature of personal concierge work is such that making purchases on a client’s behalf is inevitable. Some providers make more purchases than others, but we all have to purchase things for our clients from time to time. How such purchases are handled varies from one provider to the next.
It is not possible for us to offer a black-and-white process every provider uses. Different providers have their own ways of doing things. The one thing we all have in common is the need to keep personal and client finances separate. Mixing funds is one of the worst things a concierge can do. It only leads to trouble.
If you are new to the whole concierge thing, here are the different ways concierge providers handle client purchases:
1. Bank Transfers
Concierge providers who are up on technology might find it easiest to establish separate bank accounts, including one dedicated solely to client purchases. They work with clients to set up their own bank accounts in order to facilitate electronic transfers back and forth. When a purchase needs to be made, the client simply transfers money into the concierge’s account ahead of time. The concierge keeps a running account of all monies and issues regular statements accordingly.
This sort of arrangement works well when the concierge makes regular purchases for trusted clients. For example, if a concierge does weekly grocery shopping for one particular client, that client can transfer the money every week. Thus, grocery shopping is always funded.
2. Cash Payments
The most popular method for handling client purchases is probably cash. In other words, the client gives his or her concierge cash and expects to receive a receipt and any unused amount following the transaction. Concierge providers appreciate this method because it completely eliminates the risk of mixing funds. Providers also do not have to record such payments in their own accounting because they are acting as mere carriers of the cash. On the other hand, when monies are transferred into the concierge’s bank account, a certain amount of accounting is required.
3. Revolving Credit
There are times when clients require regular purchases from vendors with which they have established revolving credit lines. They inform the vendor in advance of a planned purchase so that the concierge need only go pick up the item or items. The vendor charges the account at that time.
In such cases it is up to the client to settle with the vendor according to whatever terms the two have agreed to. The client might send a check in the mail or furnish a credit card number. In either case, the concierge acts only as a representative to pick up the merchandise in question.
4. Online Payment
Last but not least is online payment. This sort of arrangement works well for purchases that can be picked up at a store. For example, we might do grocery shopping for a client who orders everything online. All we do is go pick up the order. Sometimes we might sit with the client and help him make his online purchases. But again, payment is made online using the client’s credit card. We run and pick up the order when it is ready.
There is no right or wrong way to handle client purchases as long as everything is done by the book. The tricky thing for concierge providers is to find a way to make purchases while still maintaining standard accounting practices. This is why some concierge providers will not pay for client purchases out-of-pocket and then seek reimbursement. The accounting just becomes too difficult.
At any rate, now you know.