Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, October 2019, Butlers In the Media

Butlers in the Media

by Steven Ferry

Several articles this month quoted the usual «butler» doing real butlers no favors by mouthing off about the British Royal Family.

And now another butler is putting the profession in a bad light by spilling the beans on famous guests who once visited his former employer. The fact that this employer was a convicted pedophile makes this butler going public at this point in time «too little too late»: A prosecutor in Paris is currently looking into allegations of abuse of girls as young as 12, and yet this butler, who worked for that employer for 18 years, says of «the numerous very young, very thin and very tall girls» who visited, that he «believed none were under-age and everything was above board.»

Given that this employer’s butler in the US was very much aware of the goings on and even kept a little black book that he attempted to use for his own ends, it is unlikely that the French butler was not aware of what was going on; it’s unfortunate that he did not have the decency and the expected ethic level of a butler to go to the police on his own initiative.

Instead, he compounds his destructiveness by irresponsibly talking to the media about the guests who visited his former employer, making them guilty by association—whereas they may simply have been visiting for a cup of coffee and to talk business.

On the positive side, those who have and continue to represent the profession in a good light include Mr. Rick Fink, covered in this article. He may or may not be the «Last Great Butler,» as the article claims, but he is certainly one of the few remaining old-school butlers upon whose basic know-how of the role of the traditional butler the profession bases itself today.

The same magazine has another good article on the profession that depicts it accurately, although one person quoted talks of «commercial» butlers versus private-service butlers: A true understanding of the profession would see the fundamentals stretching across both hospitality and private-service butlers and would not feel it necessary to denigrate half the butlers who work hard every day around the world. Yes, they may be short on training and experience in fine estates, but they are at least on the road of superior service and could probably teach even the traditional butlers a thing or two about service—starting with a small dose of humility.

An excellent article on the need for soft-skills training in the hospitality world (applies to private service, too).

And a couple of articles showing how technology is taking over in hotels and the Chinese hotel manned by robots. «The one-meter high robot … an artificial intelligence (AI) system, follows guests around, takes orders, helps to buy groceries, orders meals, and picks up laundry through voice command, touch, or simple gestures.» Concierge and front desk are robots, too. Kitchen and cleaning staff are still humans. Why bother? The article claims: «These futuristic features are measures to increase efficiency, response time, and reducing the expensive workforce.» Presumably they mean «decrease» response time.

Lastly, we have two new misnomers this month to add to the many: «Closet Butler» and «Taxi Butler.»

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.

Butler standards Letters to the Editor Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, July 2018, Letters to the Editor

Steven Ferry

Letters to the Editor

In response to the Chairman’s Message about the series of royal butlers talking to the media about their past employers:

«Very well and tastefully said.» AM

«I totally endorse your comments: Professional butlers, in the majority, value and maintain discretion. The few who speak out inappropriately discredit themselves for little gain apart from short term notoriety.» PS

«I cannot agree more and I appreciate your positive note about the majority: A smile is always an achievement!» SP

«As always, I have enjoyed the last news letter, especially Butlers in the Media. You hit the nail on the head with your comments and l enjoy your steadfast way of cutting to the chase. I’m often saddened by the way so many people are quick to open their mouths all for the sake of a few quick bucks—even if for some it is not a few. But how can someone put a price on their self worth, pride, and commitment to their career. Sure, we have all been in a position where we have thought, «If only the outside world knew what this person or family is ‘really like.'» But for me, and I hope for many more of us, I could never put a price on the betrayal and what it would bring not only to the employer, but more to the point, me/us. We are given jobs, we are given trust, then when something goes wrong, it is all lost. As you mentioned, it’s about maintaining standards: I hate it when the standard slips, because once it does, there is often no returning.» PB

Ed: Thanks to all for the feedback: The silent majority has spoken!

«I agree wholeheartedly. The key word is ‘professional’. As a professional, there are things you do and do not do. To soil one’s name and reputation so carelessly is shameful. Who would ever hire individuals without character? I remember many years after leaving an employment, I was asked to be interviewed on television to talk about working for my previous employer. They were famous and known throughout the world and had recently passed on. I did what should be considered the norm. I called my previous family and gave them all the information regarding the interview so they could decide if this would be acceptable to them. After all, the interview would be about my previous employer’s stories, not my own. They are not my stories to share without permission. Everything worked out, the family said to proceed with the interview. No one was surprised and everyone was happy. It was a win, win, win situation. All we have in this industry is our name and reputation. It should be guarded with care.» HB

Ed: Thank you for sharing a wonderful story to illustrate the point. Imagine, if every butler called upon by the media, acted as responsibly?

Two readers offered their thoughts on why some butlers may give in to the temptation to tell all:

«Perhaps the temptation to speak out by butler staff who serve high-profile employers exists because a) their renumeration is less than satisfactory for the responsibilities they are required to maintain; or perhaps b) they have an ego and desire to share the fleeting limelight of celebrity which is neither enduring nor sustaining. However, I am more inclined to consider c) not nearly enough to do to fruitfully occupy their time.» AK

«Could it possibly be that a butler becoming a tattle tale, might be caused by insufficient salary and separation remuneration, requiring the individual to market something they should not, in order to stay afloat? Just a speculation….» PH

Ed: Gentlemen, thank you for your input. While I appreciate your playing devil’s advocate and I do acknowledge that inequities exist, I posit that no butler would ever resort to the professionally suicidal and dishonorable route of «telling all» unless a) they were not really butler material to start with, and b) they had decided the profession was not for them. Of course, for them to react by «telling all» shows they are not thinking clearly, but driven by impulses that have increased in strength and over which they have lost control—none of which would happen if they had clean hands, an open heart, and believed in themselves. It is usually simple enough to hand in a resignation and maintain the high ground when confronted with conflicted employers. On the point of not having enough to do, I would agree with that, although I do not see it as the basic cause, more as a symptom of their fall from grace.

In response to last month’s The Butlers Speak:

«Again, I can not thank you enough for the wealth of information from these butlers and household managers. Recently, I had to tell my employer that the estate/property manager, who had been there for 19 years, was mishandling money. I had been on the property as a household manager for four years and it took me 3 1/2 years to figure out what the estate manager was doing. I suggested that the company accountant do some forensic accounting regarding the matter. Never an easy conversation—I have only ever had to fire one person before for stealing from a property I worked on. Unfortunately, this estate manager lost his job. I wonder if anyone else has been in this kind of difficult situation. It could have gone either way: They could have let me go, which I would have been fine with, since I think of myself as someone with high integrity and ethics. The new facilities manager is from the home office and has been with the company for fourteen years: I am thrilled to be working with someone who respects the property and its owners.» DS

Ed: Well done on grabbing the bull by the horns and stopping its rampage.

«Thank you for your time and efforts for those of us in the world of private service.» RC

In response to the question of butler salaries in the Letters to the Editor last month

«Regarding your comments on salary, yes, there is a range. I, for one, am very lucky, but I also work jolly hard for every cent I earn. People should also note, if there is a «very high salary» offered, they might want to tread very carefully—there is a reason for that high figure, and it probably does not forecast a cake walk by any stretch of the imagination. SIr, your insight and nurturing is invaluable to us all, young and old, and the reason why we need you at the helm of the MBJ—keep up the good work, as always.» PB

Ed: Most kind of you, Sir. Until someone draws up a hearse to the desk, the fingers will continue to hover over the keyboard.


The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.