Modern Butlers’ Journal
Promoting Service Standards through Training in Staffed Homes, Luxury Hotels, Resorts and Spas
The I.I.M.B’s free electronic newsletter for professionals working in private households
and the hospitality and service industries around the world.
- The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, June 2013
The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 6
International Institute of Modern Butlers
Message from the Chairman
There is just one letter—or series of letters—this month, and I include an edited-down version because it is an important lesson learned. We live in a world where materialism and selfishness are overcoming the decent impulses that have helped shape our civilizations and cultures. Unfortunately, some of the people we serve, just by the numbers, are antisocial, and because they are generally powerful and well connected, the harm they do is out of proportion to their numbers. Like it or not, empowering them with superior service is no service at all to ourselves nor to humanity. Once again, I refer to that brilliant butler movie, Remains of the Day, in which my comments above represent the central theme being explored by the author of the book and the directors of the movie. For anyone caught in such a situation, there are choices to be made—for what goes around, comes around.
Otherwise, on a less weighty note, plenty to dig into in this issue.
Letters to the Editor
“Could you please explain what you meant by ‘deterioration of morals and ethics in society’?” EA
Ed: In earlier days, not necessarily all cultures at all times, people had a better idea of their responsibilities for others, as well as their own success. The effort was to build, not tear down or allow to crumble. As a result of psychiatric programs in schools, the dumbing down of eduction over the last 120 years, TV, street and psychiatric drugs, and our welfare/nanny state, our civilization in general parallels the debauched last days of Rome or any other failing culture. I paint with a broad brush, but I speak soothe. To answer your question, I am not saying that ethics was understood intellectually, but innately, some people realized that if you included the benefit of others in your decision-making process and actions, then all would be happier and more successful, including self. Contrast that with the actions of so many in society today, where white collar crime is rampant amongst bankers, politicians, corporations, as well as, of course, any other area where our common sense and sense of decency and fair play are assaulted.
“It is a hard feeling when you realize that the best times are gone, and that the society is on the downward path. The facts that you have listed indicate the presence of such tendency in certain parts of society. However…I am convinced that what is happening is actually very good. Why? As a result of widespread degeneration of many, certain individuals with higher personal standards feel the need to get together, and the society splits into two parts – those who improve what there is, create, dream, and get ahead, and those who do not, or even destroy what has been done by others (generally speaking)…. There are many branches on the tree, and some people do not saw the one they sit on, so for them there is no reason for concern. I like a Russian book, How the Steel was Tempered. There is no easy way to the excellence. When people make gold, they start with passing everything that is in the water through a sieve, then they separate the gold from everything else, and then perform a complex process to separate the impurities. I hope you do not mind me saying that such “impurities” are present in today’s society. How can they be eliminated? Answer: Psychiatric programs in schools, TV, street and psychiatric drugs, and other ways of self destruction. This approach might resemble to Hitler’s philosophy, but there is a huge difference—Hitler’s victims did not have a luxury of choice, but people today do. So it is entirely up to each individual to take the right steps in his life.” EA
Ed: I can’t say that I agree with your point of view, but I relish the discussion. You see, people can change, and they can be helped. You point of view, based quite possibly on your own experiences and reality, I believe to be that weak people fail, and so be it. If you knew that people could be helped, and could succeed, then you would perhaps become involved in working to bring such about. As the saying goes, ‘Do not seek to find for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.’ Every person who fails is our failure—not in the sense of we are miserable failures to be excoriated, but in the sense that there goes another little piece of life, a little part of us, and with each passing, we become weaker, more isolated.
I agree with your sentiments, “God helps those who help themselves,” Ayn Rand-esque, but an even more central theme of life is compassion and love, and where that disappears, we all slither down a slippery slope to oblivion as beings—we become of the same nature as the physical universe, objects. And that is not my idea of fun or the rightness of things.
There are some beings who are completely lost, and do evil at every turn. They are the ones who create the conditions where the majority lose their way, too; considering that whoever survives the conditions created by the evil beings deserves to survive, and the rest do not, misses the point entirely in my view: would it not be better to fix up the evil beings so they quit being evil, and remedying the traps, shortages, and enforced unhappiness they created for the rest?
“I cannot continue this discussion because I am now having second thoughts. I need to re-think, and maybe my point of view will change.” EA
“I have been thinking of our recent discussion, and I have to say that I was wrong in my thoughts, and you are correct. I have realized that regardless of what happens around us, it is the attitude and actions of each individual that change life as a whole. So, instead of merely finding explanations for everything that happens around me, I will be looking also for solutions, as I can make a difference in the world. Even if it is a small change, it still matters, so my new goal is to bring about everything good that I believe in. Ignoring or fighting against something only creates additional problems, when love is a universal solution for every single problem there is. Thank you very much for sharing your peace of mind.” EA
Butlers in the Media
Congratulations again to Gili Lankanfushi for the three World Travel Awards just received: the Indian Ocean’s Leading Luxury Resort, Leading Spa Resort, and the Maldives’ Leading Luxury Resort. Their butlers were trained thoroughly by the Institute a year and a half ago.
The Chairman’s latest article Slaying Oxymoronos Maximus, the Great Dragon of Cheap Imitation in the Luxury Market has just been published by Hotel Business Review. We keep beating the same drum in order to encourage those who prefer to take short cuts to live up to the standards of those hoteliers who really are serious about their luxury offerings.
A plethora of new and not-so-new gimmicks all taking advantage of the good name of the butler: Travel Butlers in China; a couple of robot butlers as follows: HERB the Home Exploring Robot Butler who can find things in a house; and Care-O-bot 3, the home-helping robot for the elderly that can bring items on a tray from around the house. Then there is the Backyard Butler to hold your drinks when outside (not to be confused with the dog-business removal service of the same name in Massachussetts, now in its 8th year of operation, nor the gardening service in Oregon, and the list, presumably goes on). Microsoft, ever content to follow, has a Voice Butler feature on its Windows Phone. The Naked Butler is something that most of us won’t want on our resumes. Of course, we have all heard of tanning and technology butlers in hotels, but what about Sex Butler? Given the level of reality of society, this is perhaps not so surprising (again, would one want it on one’s resume?) but what I find peculiar is that these three butler titles were listed as three of the top ten Concierge services. Campground Butlers add a level of service one does not normally associate with campgrounds, but which certainly does belong in any expedition into the wilds for the more discerning employers and guests. And finally, top-end hotels are coming closer to the concept of a dedicated spa service butler in a private villa, as conceived by the Institute in 2004—not there quite yet, but close. We will be assisting LVMH institute this service at their exclusive Maison Cheval Blanc Randheli in the Maldives this summer.
Estate manager/butler sought for an estate in the premier locale in San Francisco. You will support the employers by ensuring the household runs smoothly. The right candidate must be able to either pre-empt any problems or see to them rapidly and efficiently so they do not distract the employers; you’ll be managing other estate staff, hiring to firing. Good cooking skills are a must and you will be required to provide healthy meals when the principals are in residence and eating in. This home has a full-time housekeeper, but as Estate Manager you must be able to supplement this with your own light housekeeping (you can suggest another housekeeper be brought in part-time if the housekeeping load in the 11,500 sq. ft. property makes it difficult for you to see to your other duties). You must be willing to be flexible in terms of hours and staying late to cover occasional entertaining done by the principals.
You’ll be required to liaise with the building manager to keep the building in tip-top shape—this includes doing a walk-through each morning that encompasses not just the condition of the building and staff, but ongoing projects and activities, as well as upcoming events. What is also wanted is someone who knows the boundaries of working in private service, and who does not distract the principal(s) with his own concerns or communications. Ideally you are someone who pro-actively finds out what is needed and wanted (you’ll hold short [usually daily] meetings with the principal to debrief and make suggestions, never presenting problems, but always solutions), and then presents what is asked for or anticipated, keeping the principal informed either through a daily report or a log of actions taken, or at the daily meetings.
In addition to the above you may be asked to fulfill the following duties from time to time: a) some pet care as needed; b) driving as needed; c) shopping and running errands as needed; d) looking after house guests; e) providing for whatever other duties the principal might need, such as social secretary, personal secretary.
Salary provided will be in the 60-100K range depending on experience, with appropriate accommodations provided or an allowance for same, a vehicle for work-related use, as well as health insurance. You’ll work a 50-hour week on average (flexible hours and days), will receive usual holidays and sick leave. Two (2) weeks paid vacation after the first year of service, three after the second year, and four weeks after five full years of service. US work-permit holders only, please. Email the Institute with your resume and salary requirements if you are interested, at enquiries @ modernbutlers.com
Selecting a Cigar Lighter, Part Two of Two
The ‘V’ Cutter
This cutter creates a top-to-bottom slice that forms a V-shaped wedge through the head of the cigar. This creates a large hole for an easy draw.
However, it is difficult to use properly, is not compact enough to slip into a pocket and requires extremely sharp blades that are hard to replace.
The Cigar Drill
A cigar drill makes a small hole about a half an inch into the head of the cigar, allowing you to keep the cap intact. Since it can only drill a hole of a fixed diameter, the cigar drill must be matched to the size of the cigar you are cutting.
The Puncture Cutter
The puncture cutter removes a plug from the cigar head, approximately ¼ inch across.
It is relatively easy to use, and provided the size of the punch is correctly matched to the size of the cigar, it creates a large hole with an easy draw while keeping the cap intact. As with the cigar drill, a humidor with a varied stock would require punches in different sizes.
If you try to punch a cigar that is not properly humidified, the head may split open. Punches also don’t work on cigars with pointed ends such as pyramids or torpedoes. These cigars have a much larger cap than parejos, making it unlikely that you will cut off enough of the cap for the cigar to fall apart. This means one has more latitude about deciding where to cut them. The ‘correct’ place is determined by the size of the hole (and the resulting draw) preferred by the smoker.
Butlers in private service may choose the cutter they prefer, but should have a few types available to suit guest preferences. In hotels, a properly stocked cigar lounge will have a small collection of quality cutters available for guests.
Next month we will look at how to serve a cigar for a guest and how to go about cutting and lighting the cigar should the guest accept your offer to do so.
Let’s Talk about Wine, Part XV
by Amer Vargas
Today, we head to Germany, home to some excellent wines that have been produced there for countless years. Wine production in Germany dates back to the first century, when the Romans established garrisons on the western shore of the Rhine and the Moselle rivers, with the (failed) objective of spreading the Roman empire to the east, into the areas where German tribes were established.
Many styles of wine are produced in Germany: dry, semi-sweet and sweet whites, rosés, reds and sparklings. Since Germany is geographically situated quite far north (compared with other wine-producing countries), the character of its wines is quite different from the rest of European wines. Although in this day and age much of the German efforts are devoted to producing cheap, sweet and semi-sweet wines of average quality, they also produce a number of internationally recognized top-class wines.
Most vineyards in Germany are located in the south-western quarter of the country; the rest of them are near the cities of Naumburg, Freiburg and Dresden, near the frontier with the Czech Republic. Almost all German wines are produced on lands situated alongside rivers—the micro-climates these rivers create, added to the generally colder and more humid climates of this northern country, define the personality of the wines. As the vineyards are commonly situated on very steep banks, they enforce the need of manual care and harvesting, rather than the use of machines.
Red German wines are rare and not so well-known. Traditionally, due to climate conditions, it is hard to obtain well-ripened berries in order to create full-bodied and dark reds. In recent years such production has increased, thanks to the versatility and strength of the Pinot Noir (locally known as Spätburgunder) and Dornfelder, a local varietal.
White wines account for 64% of all German wine production. Apart from the famous Riesling, other white varietals such as Rivaner, Silvaner and Pinot Gris, have an important presence in Germany.
However, the most planted and important varietal, and the grape that has taken Germany to the top, is the Riesling. One-fifth of German vineyards are devoted to this grape, which offers up perfumed and flowery aromas and produces highly acidic wines. Thus, it not only matches very well with white fish and pork, but can also stand up to the strong and spicy flavors of Thai and Chinese cuisines, as well as dishes high in salt. Furthermore, Rieslings can be deliciously affected by Botrytis Cinerea or Noble Rot, (which occurs after leaving the grape on the vine past their regular ripening time), which then allows for the production of some of the finest and sweetest dessert wines on the market today.
Raise your Rieslings and…Prost! (Cheers!)
CODE OF ETHICS and CONDUCT FOR EMPLOYERS and ASSISTANTS
This is a mutually agreed upon list of fundamental givens for our work relationship, designed to enable each of us to do superior work as a team and in collaboration in a positive, productive, and supportive atmosphere.
I, the employer, commit to the following:
- Every employee will be treated with respect, dignity, and kindness.
- Every employee will have a mutually agreed upon compensation and benefits package to be reviewed at designated times.
- Expectations will be made clear either verbally or in writing.
- Verbal and written feedback and acknowledgement will be given to staff.
- Frequent and clear two-way communications will be the norm in order to make best use of time and energy.
- Staff is encouraged and expected to speak their mind regarding any issues that are deemed important to achieving our goals.
- Verbal, sexual, or physical abuse is not permitted by anyone working for or doing business in my company.
- No staff will be asked to engage in illegal activity.
I, the employee, commit to the following:
- Commitment to excellent work in accordance with expectations that will be in constant flow and subject to change.
- Diligence in communications in concert with the customized structures designed for our particular workplace and style.
- Exhibit professional behavior at all times and expect to be held accountable for my actions.
- Exhibit good judgment and discretion regarding sensitive matters.
- Assist employer in every way possible to achieve his/her goals.
- Act as eyes and ears for my employer and am encouraged to bring matters to his/her attention.
- Work towards a positive, cooperative workplace and will not engage in negative, counter-productive encounters with anyone without employer’s consent.
- Will not participate in verbal or physical abuse, nor be involved in any illegal activity on behalf of the company.
The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and skills of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resort, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts, & cruise ships around the world.
- The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, June 2013 June 1, 2013
The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 6 International Institute of Modern Butlers Message from the Chairman There is just one letter—or series of letters—this month, and I include an edited-down version because it is an important lesson lea...
- The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, May, 2013 May 1, 2013
The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 5 International Institute of Modern Butlers Message from the Chairman Enjoy the issue, which is quite long (so better I not make it longer!). However, please let us know if there is anything you'd like ...
- The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, April, 2013 March 31, 2013
The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 4 International Institute of Modern Butlers Message from the Chairman Some idle musings this month while taking a break from training some rather encouragingly-enthusiastic butlers in the Middle East......
- The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, March, 2013 March 1, 2013
The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 3 International Institute of Modern Butlers Message from the Chairman Throughout all the centuries butlers have been developing the profession, there has been slow advancement of conditions and technolo...
- The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, February, 2013 January 30, 2013
The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 2 International Institute of Modern Butlers Message from the Chairman While training in the private sector here in Moscow, I took time out to lecture at a top university, mainly to the students of the H...
- The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, January, 2013 December 31, 2012
The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, issue 1 International Institute of Modern Butlers Message from the Chairman With the very welcome increased interest of late in butlers by the media and amongst the newly wealthy in various countries, my wish...