The Pick-up artists

    30 November 2014

    You know how it is. You’re on holiday in the south of France, soaking up the rays and the fizz, reading all the books you never get round to and generally having a high old time. Only halfway through the break do you clasp your hand to your forehead in horror: you’ve left your collection of sex toys at home. Including — oh, the inconvenience of it — your 12-inch dildo.

    We’ve all done it, of course. But there’s no need to worry: First Luggage is on hand. The company is the brainchild of Gideon Kasfiner, who in the years after 9/11 realised that ever-more elaborate security checks — impertinent little oiks at Heathrow rooting through your bags and ordering you to squeeze your toothpaste into a plastic wallet — were seriously cheesing people off. How much more enjoyable travel would be, thought Gideon, if you didn’t have your suitcases with you. And so First Luggage was born. A couple of days before flying, you pack your case, then the company collects it and delivers it direct to your hotel suite in time for your arrival. No more torn shoulder muscles, no more people-carrier taxis to the airport, no more waiting at the carousel in Buenos Aires as the baggage handlers take their 15th fag break of the day.

    And no more reaching for your wallet, Gideon tells me, as the Ryanair check-in staff fleece you for straying an ounce over the permitted weight limit. ‘We’ve started Luggage Delivery Company this year, as a more affordable sister company to First Luggage. [The luxury arm has catered for clients including Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole and Joan Collins.] We’ll deliver your suitcase in Europe for as little as £25. That’s pretty comparable to what a budget airline charges. And we take it straight to your destination.’ Gideon — who spent part of his youth in the Israeli army, which must teach you a thing or two about logistics — thinks that in the future it will become the norm to travel without your luggage. At the moment, however, the idea still fazes people. ‘Including the check-in staff. If I’m flying back from, say, Miami, they’ll ask: “And how many bags?” I reply: “None.” “But you’ve been in the United States for two weeks.” “I know.” They can’t believe it.’ It’d be worth using the service just for the looks on their faces.

    When you provide someone with a luxury service like this (the travel industry jargon is ‘white glove’, which has reassuring overtones of Jeeves), they soon come to rely on you. As well as deliveries at the beginning of a holiday customers have used First Luggage during their break (as the sex toy incident shows — the couple were American, meaning a transatlantic hop for the devices in question), and even for regular courier jobs. Although with a clientele like this, ‘regular’ can be pretty irregular. ‘We’ve delivered climbing equipment to Mount Everest, a circus big top to Angola and a showerproof prosthetic leg to Canada,’ says Gideon. ‘We also took two marble pillars to Saudi Arabia for a house that was being built there. They were worth £100,000 each.’

    But sometimes it’s the little deliveries that can mean the most. One family went to the Caribbean for Christmas, only to realise when they got there that they’d forgotten the cranberry sauce for their turkey. None was available on the island, so First Luggage whisked a jar over to them, delivering it just in time for the festive meal. They also saved the day for a Hollywood actor attending a gala event in New York: he’d left his ‘favourite custom-made bow tie’ in London. Gideon, perfectly properly, but very annoyingly, refuses to reveal the actor’s name. We can only dwell on that phrase ‘favourite custom-made bow tie’. Depending on how you read it, this could imply that the actor actually possesses a number of custom-made bow ties and this was just his favourite one.

    When Surrey found itself under several feet of water earlier this year, a newlywed couple were forced to go on honeymoon without their suitcase. When the item later floated past the local police station, the boys in blue hauled it in and contacted First Luggage. With the couple’s permission, the company opened it, dried out the contents and delivered them to the honeymooners. The firm has also been there at the other end of marriages — one divorcing couple reached the stage where they would only communicate via First Luggage, the wife using them to ship her belongings from Jordan to the US. They’ve even delivered empty suitcases: one customer had ten of their favourite Louis Vuitton cases transported from their home in Milan to New York, where they were about to embark on the mamma of all shopping sprees.

    When it comes to the make-up of his customer base, Gideon’s experience backs up what some of us have long suspected. ‘It’s predominantly women who use our company,’ he says. ‘They make up about 65 per cent of our bookings.’ No surprise to those of us who have stood in the hall surveying a battalion’s worth of luggage lined up for a mini-break to Madrid. ‘We’re only going for three days,’ we protest. ‘I need a change of clothes, don’t I?!’ comes the indignant reply. ‘And there’s no way I’m going without my hair-straighteners!’

    In a world where Other Halves behave like this, I think Gideon has an open-and-shut case.