Letters to the Editor Newsletter

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, October 2019, Letters to the Editor

PostBoxLetters to the Editor

“Might I use your Code of Ethics as a basis for Service Learning at our college’s Humanities Department? It works so well for our Service Excellence commitment.” EMV

Ed: “Of course, we wish you success with the implementation.”

“Thank you so much—we are not butlers, but we serve as well!” EMV

Continuing the exchange with Alex Parker, who was seeking information for an article he was writing about the new lead character in the Batman movies—the butler:

“Just from the little Internet research I’ve done, I’ve read that the profession has grown in recent decades as the number of wealthy households has increased, but the role has become more technical, almost more like being a computer engineer. Am I understanding this correctly, and do you have any further thoughts on this?”

The editor’s response:

“The role has grown in numbers, having almost disappeared in the 1970s. Various new waves of the wealthy have been created over the last half century (dotcom, Arabs, Russians, Chinese, techies, et al), all of whom have seen butlers as (a) an expected status symbol and (b) a necessity if they are not to end up running their own estates and having to personally deal with staff the whole time—better to hire a butler to take care of these matters and focus on the great games to which great wealth opens doors. Having strangers in large houses to care for them is a given, so it makes sense to hire those who are attentive, intelligent, and trustworthy, whom you can count upon to be there for you because they are loyal and know you inside out—no explaining to do, they present things you want without your having to ask for them.

“And yes, as technology has grown in our lives, so too has the butler’s role required that he or she be able to manage complex technical systems and gadgets. Does that make them system or computer engineers? Not at all. Anyone thinking so should persuade their butler to take a leave for a month and bring in a computer engineer to be the butler: Both parties will be glad when the month is up. I have trained extremely intelligent computer geeks to interact with CEOs of transnational companies. The training was very successful, but their being butlers at the beginning of the course was a complete non-starter—they know how to communicate with bits and bytes (more than I do, to be sure), but talking to real people? Oh no!

“A butler is first and foremost a private-service professional who knows how to manage a house and the principals, guests, staff and vendors in and around it. He has secondary skill sets, which vary depending on the needs of the employer, and these can include chauffeur, chef, golf partner (who knows how to lose by a small margin), and these days, an operator of certain digital systems and equipment.

“However, when you have techies who know a lot about bits and bytes, commanding billions of dollars, they sometimes make the mistake of transposing their work environment and technology into their private house. They seem to have no idea that a house is a home, not an extension of their technical systems. No amount of AI robots and software can substitute for live, intelligent, and genuine butlers. Make their job easier? Yes—where the technology is not buggy and a distraction. But homes are meant to be warm and welcoming, not clinical and business-like. Anyone pushing this AI angle as the great breakthrough in our lives that will do away with the bother generated by humans might want to review the movie Cast Away and the hopeful but hopelessly inadequate relationship between Tom Hanks as the lead character (Chuck Noland) and his one-and-only companion, Wilson.”

Would you have replied with anything substantially different?

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.