Ali Webb is a Cupid. She doesn’t have wings. Nor does she tote around a bow and arrow dipped in love potion. Her secret weapon d’amour is a red file folder—the one she calls her “love file.”
In the middle of last year, Webb took on the title of romance director at L’Auberge Del Mar. The 120-room inn by the sea already offered a fairly romantic ambience. But Webb claims creating the job title—possibly unique in all of hoteldom—raises the bar for couples seeking romantic getaways.
Webb doesn’t hold a degree from Love School, nor does she have any formal background in relationship management. Her training has been on-the-job. She started at L’Auberge four years ago as a front-desk clerk. She rose to be a supervisor and then became a reservations assistant manager, a title she now holds in tandem with that of romance director.
With Valentine’s Day approaching, and as word leaks out of her desire to put a little love in guests’ lives, Webb expects responsibilities pertaining to life’s many-splendored thing will claim more and more of her time. The job of romance director evolved as travelers with amorous designs began gravitating toward Webb, whose business card is covered with hearts.
“Even when I was working at the front desk, I could get a feel for when guests were there to have a romantic experience,” says Webb. “It was even easier to feel people out about this while working in the reservations department.” Now, when other reservations staffers get romance-seeking calls, they shuttle them to Webb.
Her services—don’t mistake Webb for a matchmaker; she merely facilitates activities—are all the more valuable in today’s fast-paced world.
“I see a lot of moms and dads who are so busy working and being parents that they don’t pay as much attention to each other as they used to,” she says. “I like being able to help people take a pause and get refreshed. More than anything else, people tell me as they’re leaving, ‘That was just what we needed.’”
A story about one couple who had a sunset dinner on the beach predates Webb’s official term as romance director. A male suitor arranged for a Navy SEAL to scuba dive in from the ocean. The SEAL walked ashore with a special delivery: an engagement ring.
If you want to try that, Webb can set it up. Her fabulous red love file also contains tips on skywriting messages, hot-air ballooning, limousine tours of Temecula wine country and information on how to get bottles from Orfila Winery with labels embossed with personalized poems or love notes.
Webb did some of her best work late last year. Mission Hills library assistant Marta Thiele wanted to surprise her architect husband, Robert, on his birthday. They started with cocktails in the bar at L’Auberge. Next, they moved to a fireside table in the hotel’s restaurant, J. Taylor’s.
Soon, dinner was wrapping up, but a deviously planned date was just getting started. At the wife’s request, Webb arranged for a ring to tastefully top the husband’s chocolate-cake dessert. He’d recently lost his wedding band—for the second time. (C’mon, Robert.)
Out of the blue—for Robert, at least —a concierge showed up at the table. “Your massage is ready, sir,” the concierge informed him. Robert’s jaw nearly hit the table. Marta got a facial while Robert was being kneaded.
When the massage concluded, Robert got another surprise: A spa receptionist handed him a key. “You have a room, sir,” he was told. That Marta is a sneaky devil, eh? The day before, she’d dropped off overnight clothes at the hotel—so an extra bag in the car wouldn’t raise suspicion.
Robert got to the room before Marta did and found the bed and bathroom in the couple’s suite—not to mention the private balcony—had been sprinkled with rose petals. How did the evening end? Use your imagination.
We pick up the next morning. The hotel had packed a picnic basket for the couple. They hiked out to Torrey Pines State Park to cap the experience. Total price tag? In the ballpark of $700, says Webb. There’s no charge for her time or effort.
“Working with Ali was fun,” says Marta. “She was meticulous. We must have e-mailed and phoned each other a half-dozen times.”
Being a romance director means doing things that are handled by a concierge in other hotels, says Webb. But filling a romance niche in guest services is a trend she thinks could take off.
Much of the time, it’s busy men who call on her. It’s guys who don’t have time to do the research on romantic gestures—or are clueless in this area because, face it, they’re guys. “That’s what I’m here for,” says Webb. “I have certainly seen a lot of guys who have come out looking like heroes at the end of a weekend.” (To reach Webb, call 858-793-6490.)