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A lesson in luxury: How a forgotten stuffed toy influences the best real estate agents in the business

Each Friday, Robbie Briggs, CEO of Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty, writes about luxury, trends, business and more in the advertising pages of the Mansion section of The Wall Street Journal. Below is his letter of November 18, 2022.




When a Ritz-Carlton front-desk manager learned one night that some rowdy children on the 11th floor of the hotel were playing a noisy game of hockey in a hallway, their response wasn’t what you might expect. They gathered up some staff members and escorted the kids to an empty banquet hall — giving them even more space to play, in a room where they wouldn’t disturb the other clientele. 

The staff even joined in on the hockey match.

And, take little Ainsley, who left behind her stuffed Elmo in her room after a stay at the Ritz-Carlton on Amelia Island, Florida. Elmo was eventually mailed back to the five-year-old — after some very sad days believing she’d never see him again — with a special gift: a photo album made by the staff, showing Ainsley what Elmo had been up to at the hotel in the days he had been missing. (Lifting weights in the gym, lounging by the pool and playing games in the hotel arcade were just some of his adventures.) The Ritz-Carlton team knew that Ainsley was probably wondering about her pal while he was gone, worried that he was lonely. 

Ainsley was beyond thrilled to receive the package. And the story made the international news.

You see, the Ritz-Carlton’s famous white-glove service not only involves a deep understanding of its customers’ desires but also some very thoughtful and proactive creativity in the staff’s daily problem-solving. There is much we can all learn when we dive into the rich training that the Ritz-Carlton affords its employees, especially about anticipating client needs and providing stellar customer service. Its renowned Gold Standards include the motto, “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” 

We have always believed that our clients at Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty deserve only the best, too. That’s why one agent went over the top recently when she volunteered to help her pregnant client pack and move, far exceeding the typical role of a realtor. That’s why another agent once laid down in various places on a living-room floor — right in the middle of showing a house — so that her client could see how a beloved piano might fit.

Going over the top is how we strive to treat our agents, too. It’s our value proposition, in fact: We are as committed to our agents as they are to their clients. Recently, our executive vice president of sales, Jessica Smith, was business-planning with one of our top agents, who had hoped to find a teammate to help accelerate the agent’s market influence. After a few months of trying to find just the right person — someone who really gelled with the agent — persistent Jessica took a new approach: She offered to write up a job description, post it online, search through the resumes and help the agent hire a full-time assistant. Voilà! Jessica’s creative thinking paid off and the newly growing team is off to the races. 

White-glove service, Ritz-Carlton–style, is essential to our culture and important to the value we place on our clientele. That is why we aspire to reflect it throughout our company. We have always believed, since our founding in 1960, that luxury is an experience, not a price point. 


Robbie Briggs


Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty




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