Butler standards Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, May 2018, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Applications #5

By Richard L. Ratliff

“Butlers and Kitchens and Chefs, Oh My!”

Scenario: Cookery has become something of a glamorous profession in recent years. A growing affluence has promoted a more informed palate for gourmet foods in general and cheffing more specifically, making fine dining more accessible in a growing number of gourmet restaurants and at estates in extraordinary modern kitchens. Well-trained chefs are in high demand and often enjoy celebrity profiles and high pay. Chefs and even the more lowly “cooks” of yesteryear have for generations demanded, and often received, almost carte blanche autocratic control over their domain in the kitchen and pantries. The recent rush of the luxury cuisine industry has only fed the fire, so to speak.

While chefs have become more visible, butlers remain appropriately in the background, but still are ultimately responsible for operations throughout the home, including the kitchen and pantries. Prima donna chefs often resent “interference” in their operations, sometimes waxing temperamental, occasionally even childish.

Most chefs, especially most very good ones, are conscientious, reasonable, and considerate. But some, unfortunately, are not. So, what is a good butler to do when not?

The Standards: The IIMB’s Professional Standards specify that “the chef/cook runs the kitchen while the butler supervises the chef/cook.” The Standards further state that “the chef…is to be treated with the appropriate respect but cannot be allowed to indulge in tyrannical nor abusive behavior.”

Recommendations: The problem is easier to avoid than to fix. If a household is seeking a new chef, the butler may recruit a suitable candidate, being careful from the beginning to search out a well-trained person with people skills and relationship-based management skills, as well as food-preparation skills. The butler may also set forth staff behavior standards, in writing, as well as food related standards and guidelines. The butler might even conduct a brief training session, if necessary, to clarify misconceptions and uncertainties. Performance reviews and staff training would stress food preparation and service, as well as behavior.

When a butler is faced with a situation where a chef who was hired before the butler arrived is misbehaving, it may resolve surprisingly easily by training the chef and other staff in the establishment of a relationship-based operating culture. In more difficult situations, specific and intensive training may be required for the chef alone—in a private, friendly environment. If the chef is incorrigible, it may be necessary to replace him with someone else, but only after consultation with the employer. And the relationship between employer and chef may be so strong that the butler will be rebuffed. In which the case the only tool available is public relations and the use of proper emotional engagement—which would require a training visit from the Institute, as the only providers of such training.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles.

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 Newsletter Richard Ratliff

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, April 2018, Professional Standards of Performance

Professional Standards of Performance: Applications #4

by Richard Ratliff

There Is a Limit

Scenario: While seeing to an overnight guest at bedtime, the butler outlined the following day’s buffet breakfast menu for a member of a party visiting for a weekend. The breakfast menu would include a selection of hardboiled eggs, hot cereal (oatmeal or wheat cereal), a selection of cold cereals, toast, whole fruit, and a tropical fruit salad. It was to be served at 7:30 a.m. in the family dining room.

Guest in question: “Those are fine, but I hope it will not be a problem if I might have two eggs Florentine with a light curry sauce and a strawberry smoothie. I so enjoyed that menu when I visited here last spring. Oh, and Michael [the butler], I may have trouble sleeping tonight. Would you please arrange some help—you know, something friendlier, cuddlier, and more entertaining than a pharmaceutical sleep aid?”

The Standards: The Standards state plainly that, “Any guest is a very important person (VIP) and should be treated as such. The household staff [including the butler] should cater to guests’ tastes, preferences, and comfort, consistent with house rules and standards….” The IIMB’s Professional Code of Ethics states that a butler is to “serve…guests as they choose to be served, in keeping with [the butler’s] own moral code and the law [and house rules].” The Code also instructs that a butler must “work toward achieving a strong foundation of mutual respect in [his/her] relationships with…guests…[and] strive for a high standard of…moral integrity…in these relationships…[and] behave respectfully toward…all…guests.”

What to do? As inconvenient as it might be, and as rude as the guest’s untimely request for a significant change in a planned menu, a service-minded butler, in an effort to honor his employer’s friend and guest, might well have eggs Florentine and smoothies added to the breakfast menu—even if it meant a midnight run to an all-night grocery for the makings. The butler would also note in his Butler Book the particular guest’s breakfast preference, a reference for future visits.

On the other hand, there is no requirement (professional or legal) for the butler to arrange a bedding companion for the presumptuous visitor. The butler’s polite, principled, and respectful responses might be something like the following:

  • As to the eggs and smoothie: “Of course, sir, I do recall how much you liked the eggs Florentine and strawberry smoothie last year.”
  • As to the bed companion: “I am sorry, sir. As much as I understand your other request, I am unable to provide such service. I do hope you’ll sleep well with the bedding we do provide. Good night.”

If the morally awkward request comes from a permanent member of the household, the butler need not feel obligated to procure such services or do anything else that is illegal or clearly immoral: “I am sorry, much as I would like to oblige you, I am unable to. Unless there is something else you may need now, I shall bid you goodnight, as I have some more things to attend to tonight. Good night, Sir/Madam.”

As a note, some butlers in city hotels, such as Las Vegas, do service such requests in the hope of a sizable show of appreciation; but it is uncertain that any of them make tips quite as large as one of their colleagues, who has been covered in the MBJ previously, who smoothly deflects such requests in the guest’s best interests.

Professor Ratliff is a retired butler who co-authored Volume 1 of Serving the Wealthy and has published three other books and over thirty articles.

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.


The Modern Butlers’ Journal, February 2015, International Institute of Modern Butlers

  BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 11, issue 2

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman 

If you have heard the expression, “What the Butler Saw” and wondered what it referred to, its provenance is an acrimonious divorce case between Lord and Lady Colin Campbell of Scotland in 1886. The key to the trial seems to have been whether their butler could have seen Lady Campbell in a compromising position with the Captain of the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, through the keyhole of the Campbell’s dining room in London. Although both parties were accused of adultery, the fact that Lady Campbell was not granted the divorce implies that the jury, who were taken to that exact keyhole at 79 Cardogan Street, were able to observe adequately the area of the dining room in question in order to give credence to the butler’s claims. Over the intervening 129 years, the phrase “What the Butler Saw” has became a euphemism for sex and voyeurism, and has been used as the title of various books, movies, etc. with that theme.

From the butler perspective, taking sides in a dispute between a married couple is a long-standing no-no. We are privy to events that normally are private moments, and so are expected to see, hear, and speak nothing in order to be allowed to continue in service, even when we do hear and see plenty. Two court cases, mentioned below, are reminders that we are occasionally (sometimes often) put in a position of having knowledge we would rather not have. How the butler manages such moments is the mark of the true butler as opposed to the gossip or worse.

Butlers in the Media

Here is an interesting article based on a report regarding problems the wealthy are having in staffing their stately homes in England. Candidates just don’t seem to be “loyal, deferential and discreet” anymore. “Recruitment and retention are common problems, while some employees are litigious and ready to sue their boss if they feel their rights are breached. Staffing issues—especially if they ever reach the court—can be extremely costly, in terms of time, personal angst, and money.” The advice given in the report to employers is, “It is vital to keep abreast of any new rules to avoid being sued by disgruntled employees. People are becoming increasingly well-informed about their rights and litigious, especially if they have a high-profile employer.” Further advice is to have the employer sign a Non-disclosure Agreement. But what a sorry state of affairs, betraying a general lack of education on the part of employees, and, no doubt, employers, and falling ethics levels in society.

With the Savoy’s media department working hard to promote the hotel through its butler offerings, the PR department of another hotel in London has added their own good words about the profession in relation to their hotel. The sentiments expressed were on target: for instance, the story of their solving a guest’s problem was telling: “One of the most unusual requests we have ever had was helping a distraught guest to locate her lost wedding ring. After retracing her entire day, we finally found it behind the counter at one of the big pharmacies in Piccadilly Circus.” If there be one thing that guests and employers appreciate the most, it is when a butler takes ownership of, and solves, their pressing problems.

Trying to find a butler on Craig’s list and similar avenues is oxymoronic, but when searching for a butler for venues other than  private service, it might make sense. is advertising an assistant butler position in a governor’s mansion in the US in Virginia at $32-40K. They claim the national average for assistant butlers is 30K….to which we can only reply, “Indeed? How was that figure established?” It seems to have been based on the salaries of all job titles in their database with the word “Assistant” in them, such as “Engineering Project Assistant.” Perhaps we should re-introduce “Logic” into school curriculums; and if there is not enough time for such a subject, then simply use them to replace the “political correctness” classes.

The Bettencourt trial continues in France, with mentions of the butler secretly recording conversations between his employer and her visitors. Across the Atlantic, similar legal actions are in the offing over a Black Book the butler kept on his employer (who was later convicted as a sex offender) and guests and their activities. In both cases, the butlers broke the golden rule about respecting the privacy of employers and their guests.

There are mitigating circumstances, however: In the case of the French butler, he appears to have been loyal to his employer, making the recordings to protect her interests, which he felt were being worked against by unscrupulous visitors. In the case of the American butler, he refused to hand over his book and served time in prison as a result. If the media are to be believed, he kept the book as insurance against his employer turning against him. Does this mean bribery was also occurring? It might have been. But in any event, the butler did not go public with it. However, his continuing to serve his employer in the full knowledge of the employer’s actions means the butler aided and abetted paedophiles by providing them with butler service. Is that really how one wants to summarize one’s life? “I served a paedophile loyally.”

This is yet another example of the central theme of that great book/movie, Remains of the Day, in which butlers are confronted by the notion that they have misplaced their loyalty and are left at the end with nothing of value to show for their life’s work. We would counsel anyone who finds themselves serving people who are unethical, to find another position and resign; and then make known quietly in the butler community, the unethical nature of that household/principal. If no butler were to provide the support of the profession to such people, then they would be rendered less effective in their nefarious dealings and society, and the profession, that much better off. Perhaps a quiet word in the ear of law enforcement at some later stage would allow them to do their jobs, too, for the betterment of one and all.

A new application joins the pantheon of Butler Thises and Thats: the Express Butler—an electronic pass that can be purchased at a theme park in Germany and which allows one to go to the front of the line.


Mature domestic couple/caregivers sought for snowbirds for their Ohio estate. Generous package. Email the Institute with your resumes and any questions.

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

Let’s Talk about Spirits, Part 12

by Amer Vargas 


Today we will visit the United States to learn a little bit about bourbon whiskey (not whisky, which is the English spelling for the Scottish brew).

While there is no reliable information on when bourbon was first produced, written records confirm that it was developed into its present form only in the late 19th century.

The origin of the name bourbon is not clear either. Some claim the name comes from Bourbon Street in New Orleans, whilst another line of history asserts that the name comes from Bourbon County, formerly a part of Virginia State but currently belonging to Kentucky, since that State’s reorganization took place in 1792.

Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky, photo by Skeeze
Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky, photo (c) by Skeeze

So, what is the difference between whisky and bourbon whiskey? Whilst the basic production of both remains the same—a grain mixture that is used to produce a mash that later undergoes fermentation, then double distillation to between 65% and 80% alcohol, before being poured into casks—there are two key elements that differentiate them.

The first is the ingredients: whisky is produced using barley as the main ingredient, while bourbon requires a minimum of a 51% corn, the rest being rye, wheat, and/or malted barley.

The other key difference lies within the aging process: whisky is aged in oak barrels that have been used for aging whisky before, with the casks used several times. Whereas bourbon is aged (usually between 4 and 9 years) in new American white oak barrels, the insides of which are charred with a torch before being filled. The charred wood impregnates the drink with color and aromas that differ significantly from whisky stored in an uncharred barrel.

Jeam Beam aging Bourbon, photo by Bbadgett
Jim Beam aging Bourbon, photo (c) by Badgett

During the aging process, the barrels are kept in warehouses that can be influenced by the outside weather. The climate temperature expands and contracts the wood of the casks, which thereby imparts different types of flavor in the liquor. The hotter the weather, the more the pores of the wood open and impart its flavor. Thus the barrels that are stored on the top floor of the warehouses, where it’s hotter, create a slightly different flavor from those stored on the bottom floor.

After the maturation time, bourbon is taken out of the barrel, is filtered and can be diluted with water to achieve the desired alcohol by volume, commonly 40%; although legally, it can be left at 80% maximum—so-called “barrel proof” bourbon.

United States Federal laws permit the production of bourbon in the US only by following the steps described above.

Bourbon on the rocks, photo by Travellingmcmahans
Bourbon on the rocks, photo (c) by Travellingmcmahans

Distillers can play with the proportions of the ingredients as long a minimum of 51% corn is maintained; they can also decide on the length of time for fermentation and aging, but they cannot omit any of the steps. This point is very important; for example, there is a common misconception that Jack Daniels is a bourbon whiskey, but its production includes an extra step: filtration through maplewood charcoal before being aged in the charred oak barrels—and this extra step means it is not actually a bourbon.

Bourbon is a very versatile drink. It can be taken straight, diluted with water, on the rocks, mixed with soda, or be an ingredient in cocktails like the Manhattan or a version of the Mint Julep—or as with so many alcoholic drinks, it can be used to impart flavor in cooking.

Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bourbon Dulce de Leche, photo by Mary-SiftingFocus
Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bourbon Dulce de Leche, photo by Mary-SiftingFocus

A personal favorite: Chocolate bread pudding with bourbon and dulce de leche sauce. Enjoy!

Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s Vice President for Europe and can be contacted via AmerVargas at


An Enterprising Butler

We have featured the work of this butler in a boutique hotel in Florida, the Fort Harrison, once before, for the little extra touches he puts into common items that are normally simply presented, and which he turns into works of art. He continues to create delicately carved fruits that are themed according to guest interests

Queen Flower1

and has extended his handiwork to the soaps his high-end suite guests receive.


The attention to detail and care for the guest shine through.

ratliff headshotWhen it Comes to Housekeeping

by Professor Richard Ratliff 

The Secret to Housekeeping Success

The most important secret to successful housekeeping is disciplined housekeeping routines. The key words are routines and disciplined. It doesn’t matter whether it is a grand house or a modest home.

One household staff can be trained and diligent, but always hurried and behind; and so the house disorderly, badly maintained, and even unclean. Another household staff may seem calm and dignified, perhaps a little slow, by comparison—but their house is orderly, in excellent repair, and spotless. The difference is very likely to be ad hoc daily assignments vis-à-vis well-established routines.

Routines should include order, cleaning, regular maintenance and immediate repairs. Tasks are best outlined for daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, semi-annual, and annual activities. A written overall schedule would be posted and used, coordinating all the activities.

The primary requirements are (1) that order, cleaning, and maintenance are all covered for the entire house; (2) that these activities follow a regular routine; (3) that time allotments are realistic for thorough and disciplined, but unhurried work; (4) that routines are followed rigorously; and (5), that repairs be made immediately. Housekeeping is a full-time job. If major unexpected tasks demand attention, consider hiring temporary staff or tradesmen, rather than compromise the housekeeping routines.

Specific frequency of different activities is less important than disciplined regularity. One staff may attempt daily dusting, another weekly—depending upon preferences and circumstances. In fact, disciplined weekly dusting may be superior to haphazard and interrupted “daily” dusting; and superior to actual daily dusting if other tasks go undone.

One further point: What is the best vacuum cleaner? Answer: The one that is used.

The result is a more attractive home, a happier employer, and a more contented household staff.

Of Butlers and Roses, Part 10 of 20

by GJ dePillis

Pruning different types of roses

Pruning roses properly is critical to their flourishing, so here are the basic rules.

  • HYBRID TEA ROSE & FLORABUNDA: These roses grow like a bush. Prune established plants down to 5 inches
  • OLD or ENGLISH ROSE: Cut back the height to one third (i.e. cut a three-foot tall bush to one-foot). Then cut back the side shoots to about 4 inches in length and remove dead wood (die back). They should not be pruned too much as the wood grows very slowly.
  • WEEPING STANDARDS: The goal is to have the roses “weep”—meaning have the shoots grow downward. If they grow upward, tie them down into position so they grow down or simply remove (cut off) the shoot to maintain the balance of the plant.
  • SPECIES or MODERN ROSES: These rarely require pruning except to remove dead wood. If it grows too big for the area it is in, try to cut whole branches down to the connecting cane.
  • REPEAT FLOWERING CLIMBING ROSES: Cut back to 4 inches (10cm) any branches that have already held a bloom, then tie the main growth into position so it can “climb up” the supporting structure. Rambling roses require very little pruning and only need to be cut back when they become too large for the area. You can train ramblers to climb a bit. Remove main shoots and cut back side shoots to about 4 inches.
  • GROUND COVER ROSES: Only remove dead wood and trim the borders to keep neat. As a note, most of these varieties are very disease resistant.
  • MINIATURE ROSES: After a few years, cut back the oldest stems and cut back roses which seem to have forgotten to remain “miniature.”
Photo by David Austin Roses
Photo by David Austin Roses

AFTER PRUNING: Remember to “fluff up” the soil with a fork—about 1 or 2 inches deep—to aerate it and remove tiny weeds. Then apply a long term fertilizer. Then, layer some compost or mulch on top. This sequence should give good blooms by summer time.

REMOVE SUCKERS*: Most roses are grafted onto hardy rootstock. This means that suckers which form are from a rose plant that you do not want. For this reason, always cut back sucker shoots. Remember to take off the bark so they don’t come back. Also note that some rose varieties can be mistaken for a sucker (most suckers have groupings of seven leaves to a branch, but so do some roses, such as Albas), so don’t be suckered into an ill-advised spring cleaning.

Until next time, happy pruning!

*A shoot at the base of a plant, especially coming from the root below ground level.

Ms. dePillis is a freelance contributor to the Journal who is based on the West Coast of the United States. She can be reached via depillis at

Jeff Herman

 Consulting the Silver Expert

 by Jeffrey Herman

 Q: Can I add a patina to silver or does it have to be done professionally?

 A: I would advise against anyone other than a silver conservationist performing this application, for these reasons: 1) These chemicals are very toxic; 2), they are difficult to apply and highlight.

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either call him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or email jeff at

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 2014

  BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 10, issue 6

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman 

One of the traditional duties of the butler, which has fallen by the wayside for the simple reason that it is no longer required in our age of digital communications and improved technology, is the ironing of newspapers. Two reasons are typically given for why this was done in the first place, neither of them correct. If you send in the real reason, we’ll pick out of a bowler hat one name from all correct responses received and send the winner a free copy of his or her choice of either Butlers and Household Managers, 21st Century Professionals (in English, Spanish, Italian, or Russian) or Hotel Butlers, The Great Service Differentiators (in either Spanish or English).

But I digress: the reason I am discussing newspapers is to suggest that we all have enough challenges in our lives running households in today’s society, or seeing to guest/passenger needs for butlers operating in hotels, resorts, airplanes, yachts etc., without taking on the burdens of the world as forced upon us by, and reported in, newspapers, TV and online news channels, etc.

In the old days, newspapers were the only way in which news was reported, and you might be pleasantly surprised to know that mayhem and murders were reported simply as brief facts in a couple of short lines on the back page. Until Mr. Hearst introduced the dubious practice of “yellow journalism” to America and the world about 120 years ago, news was focused on a measured relay of the facts. I don’t have to paint the picture of the various news media today, but suffice to say, if you invited a person to your home who behaved like the ravingly bombastic and agenda-ridden news media does today, we would ask them to leave rather promptly! Yet in this day and age, we do invite them in, often many times a day, day after day.

So my suggestion is: try cutting out all bad news bearers, using whatever medium, from your life for a week, and write down how doing so impacted your life and outlook. Then watch and read the news again for a week and note down how that impacted your life. Compare the two sets of notes, and go with what you feel most benefitted you personally and your performance on the job and in life.

What brought this on? Simply a list that someone compiled of newspaper headlines that, while being recognizably ridiculous, nevertheless betray the same regard that almost almost all media outlets and their owners demonstrably hold for the intelligence of their readership/viewers. Plus the fact that most discussed a negative take on life events. Bear in mind, the average size of font used for the actual headlines was 244, not the 12 point of this Journal.

















“MAN WITH 8 DUIs (Driving under the influence [of Alcohol]) BLAMES DRINKING PROBLEM”





“RANGERS GET WHIFF OF COLON” (A baseball player)


I’d be interested in the result of your little experiment, if you’d care to share.

Butlers in the Media

Finally, commercial airlines are bringing the expected level of luxury to the skies with the launch of three-cabin suites offering butler service. Thank you Etihad! The Institute has been beating the drum about this for over five years.

A very interesting article on how Starwood has approached serving those we typically service.

Paul Burrell continues to make himself right via the media for breaking the unwritten (and written) code of the butler. Sad business: he was wrongly accused initially, but instead of taking the high road and restoring his situation financially by all the opportunities that providence throws our way by doing so, he decided to break the golden rule as the best solution for himself and his family: Ethics is those decisions and actions one takes that most benefit the majority of the individuals impacted by the situation and one’s planned actions to be taken. The situation Mr. Burrell found himself in involved many more players than just himself and his family, no matter how important they indeed are. One other point: Mr. Burrell claims that those objecting to his book have not even read it and so are not qualified to judge (a point that normally is valid), for they are missing the fact that he writes about them with “love.” In this, he is missing the point: to state the obvious, nobody should be reading about their private affairs in the media when that information has been collected by somebody who had been brought into the sanctity of the home to serve those being reported on; for the understanding upon which they were invited in includes a trust that their confidences would not be betrayed. Private Service 101/Basics, Mr. Burrell.

Hazards of the profession, it seems—a fellow employee going postal.

A Reuters article on butlers in Italy quotes a gentleman who looks down his nose at other butlers because they did not, as he did, learn the trade by working his way up. He has a point, in that some aspiring butlers may be a few bricks shy of a load when it comes to making the grade; they may lack the necessary apprenticeship to make it via a butler school; and certainly, the butler profession is a lifelong learning experience, as there is so much to discover and improve upon in all the different areas of expertise upon which our profession touches, that rare indeed is the man or woman who can say, “I have now arrived as a fully fledged and competent butler.” But to out-of-hand dismiss anyone wanting to join the profession by attending a school and jumping in the deep end, is to dismiss the practical way that anyone learns any profession today; and also, to dismiss hundreds of potentially intelligent and effective butlers who are quite capable of serving others well. Maybe they would fall on their faces when trying to service those who are well used to experienced butlers, but why assign them such positions straight out of the gate? Let them work up to it after years of experience—a concept the gentleman in question no doubt can agree with. I understand the desire to maintain standards, but this old “pecking order” game of self-importance based on some imagined edge (such as one’s employer’s high title meaning one sits above those serving those of lower rank at the servant’s table at meals) is just a little bit old.

Yet again the butler is drawn upon as the quintessential role when it comes to superb service; and once again, it is in reference to the up and coming skillsets of robots serving hominids.

Baron Shortt

Executive Protection & Security

by Baron James Shortt

“Sorry About That, Boss”

This is the last thing you say before you are out of work.  This is also about the only thing that could be said by those at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas and Prince Harry’ s personal security teams (after Prince Harry was photographed in his suite in a compromising situation)–”Sorry.”

Most of our clients have more money and more power than they know what to do with—and that is fine by me.  It is our job not only to protect their lives and skin, but also their reputations and wallets, so they can keep their money and their power and continue to employ us.

Who took the photos? Why was a cell phone camera anywhere near this man?  All guests could easily have been searched as they entered—it is not like they were wearing much, and their bags could have been searched, too—not just by hand but also with a simple wand. Didn’t bring a metal detection wand? Borrow one from a local agency or buy one at WAL-MART—they only cost $90-$250!

What else is the same size as a cell phone camera? A .22 Derringer, up to 3 shots; a .45 Liberator, 1 shot; a .45 Intimidator from puzzle pieces; knives of all sorts, including titanium ones that most metal detectors miss; a grenade disguised as a cell phone; street drugs and poisons; a pack of genuine Marlboro’s and other deadly things.

This was a red-cheeked moment for a young man, but two big black eyes for the his personal security team and the Wynn security team.

What to do in similar situations?

1. Assemble some gear

• A Faraday Bag, safety pins and tags: Bag all of the cell phones and cameras in a Faraday Bag and give guests a safety pin with a number corresponding to their items.  Cost for Faraday Bags between $50 and $200; safety pins and numbers, deminimus.

• Hand wand, top of the line, $250.00

• Spy camera finder, which also finds sniper scopes, $80.00

2. Set up the safety zone and perimeter and search those entering and exiting.  Also set up a mobile perimeter: grey men and women in appropriate attire mixing with the crowd.  Yep, in swimsuits and having fun all while still watching those around your charge.

3. Pack up lots of good manners and rehearse how to intervene to stop all of the situations that can occur and how to stop offenders—even if they mean no malice.

4. Clear cameras and goodies as people leave.

I am sure the person who had a picture of Harry in the pink made a small fortune by selling the rights to the picture.  Even those who had no malice aforethought can be tempted to sell pictures or information when the price is high enough. We are all human and subject to the pressures of economics. 

Mr. Baron Shortt is the Executive Director of the IBA

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Let’s Talk about Spirits, Part 4 

by Amer Vargas 


Today we are in Greece enjoying one of its characteristic spirits, Ouzo.

Plomariou Ouzo, photo by Jack Newton
Plomariou Ouzo, photo by Jack Newton

Ouzo is a clear-as-water transparent drink with more than two centuries of history, thought to have its origins in the tsipouro drink first made by monks in a monastery on Mount Athos, located about one hundred kilometers from Thessaliniki, during the 14th century. These monks wanted to make use of pomace (the residue left after grapes are pressed) instead of discarding it. Thus, they left the mass of pomace to ferment for a few days and then proceeded to distill it several times. The resulting drink had a 40 to 45% average alcohol content.

Following in this tradition, Nikolaos Katsaros opened a distillery in the 19th Century that still produces the famous Tyrnavou Ouzo.

The word “Ouzo” has a peculiar possible origin, coming from the Italian Uso Massalia” (“for use in Marseille”), which was stamped on the best silkworm cocoons that were being exported from Thessaly to the French city during the 19th century. One day, the Ottoman Greek consulate physician Anastas Bey, impressed by the wonderful taste of local tsipouro, exclaimed: “This is uso Massalia, my Friends”—meaning it was of superior quality. Over time, this anecdote spread until that sort of tsipouro gradually became referred to as “iso” or “ouzo”. Another possible origin of the word hails from neighbouring Turkey, where grapes were called uzum in medieval times.

Nowadays, ouzo is produced out of 96% alcohol rectified spirit either from pomace or from wine. Flavorings (which include anethole, anise, cinnamon, coriander, cloves and star anise) are added to the copper still before distillation and help to produce ouzo of 96% alcohol by volume that receives the name of Ouzo Yeast. This brew is then distilled one more time before finally being diluted with either distilled or spring water (for the finest quality Ouzo), or with rectified spirit to finish the production of the drink, leaving it at the typical 40% alcohol content.

Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s Vice President for Europe and can be contacted via AmerVargas at

 Of Butlers and Roses, Part 2 of 20

First Plantings – Preparing to Welcome your New Plant

by GJ dePillis

Wollerton Old Hall, photo by David Austin Roses
Wollerton Old Hall, photo by David Austin Roses


Choose The Spot

Decide on where to plant the rose bush. If replacing a bush that is to be retired because of disease, either replace the soil or plant the new one elsewhere.




Bear Root Roses, photo by David Austin Roses
Bear Root Roses, photo by David Austin Roses

Ordering the Plant

Support local nurseries where they offer high-quality stock and the required variety. If ordering a bare-root rose, ask the breeder when the best time would be to plant for your area. If ordering container roses, of course, planting at any time of the year should be possible.

Preparing the Soil

Prepare the soil before the arrival of the roses by digging a hole about 1 ft (30 cm) deep. Break up the sub-soil to ensure good drainage. Add well-decomposed compost (or rose planting soil from your local nursery) and mix with the top soil.

Planting Day

I like to fill the hole with water before placing the rose into it. If planting container roses, roll the pot on the ground to loosen the sides. With gloved hands, carefully shake the plant out of the pot. Shake off excess dirt from the pot and place into the water-filled hole, then add the soil.

Diagram by David Austin Roses
Diagram by David Austin Roses


Plant bare root roses by spreading out the roots and covering up the main stem in soil.

Establish the Roots

Deep watering the roses may be necessary once a week for a couple months until  fresh leaves can be seen to grow. Once this occurs, the plant can be placed on a regular watering regime.

Refrain from pruning freshly planted roses for about a year, instead allowing the roots to establish themselves.

In our next section, we will cover the different types of roses. Until next time, happy planting!

Ms. dePillis is a freelance contributor to the Journal who is based on the West Coast of the United States. She can be reached via depillis at


Jeff Herman Consulting the Silver Expert

 by Jeffrey Herman

Q: How should I go about insuring my employer’s silver when I need to ship it for repair?

A: Your employer’s homeowner’s insurance may state the value of the piece and whether it is covered off premises.  If the policy is not that specific, try the following:

  1. Identify the object: Coffee pot, sardine server, caviar server, etc.
  2. Identify the country in which it was created;
  3. Identify the maker: Gorham, Tiffany, Georg Jensen, Arthur J. Stone, Paul Storr, etc.;
  4. If you cannot identify the maker, go here;
  5. Identify the metal standard: Sterling, .925, coin, standard, 800, 840, EPNS (Electro Plated Nickel Silver), etc.
  6. Type the above information into your browser’s search window and see if your piece is found.

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers, for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either call him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or email jeff at

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.
Published Articles

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Keeping (and Attracting) Your Better Employees

 Here are some fresh ideas and politically incorrect suggestions on the biggest expense (and loss) for hoteliers: personnel and their penchant for quitting every 18 months or so. Perceptions and expectations have changed over the last couple of decades: loyalty and longevity used to be a given virtue and now, fabulously enough, have become signs of a “loser.” Resumes of inveterate job hoppers, once frowned upon, now signal a person with “ambition and drive,” someone to have on the team. Thus looking after #1 has become a virtue and the company is somehow expected to flourish when peopled by a preponderance of team members who aren’t. The other side of the coin, of course, is what on earth have corporations been doing to so alienate their best resource? Two thousand years ago, slaves could rightly complain of many things, but job insecurity was not one of them—that’s reserved for today’s lonely employee.

One candidate for corporate shortcoming is the common misconception that there is little upward mobility in the hospitality industry, making it a stepping-stone to something else. Politics and other factors that add up to bad management play a part, too, from hotel to hotel. Yet the strong correlation between staff retention and guest satisfaction calls for better strategies for giving existing staff what they want and making the work environment desirable. No doubt, some hotels and chains exist with much better retention rates. When we hire for the private estate sector, it is with the intention of permanent placement by finding the right fit for both parties, and we come close to that goal. To move the trend in that direction in the hospitality sector, something needs to change.

Hoteliers spend 45%-50% of their operating expenses and 35% of their revenue on personnel and are rewarded with a 30-31% turnover annually at a cost of 150% average of that departing person’s annual salary: half from loss of productivity and half in placement and training costs—all while guests are less well served for the year the replacement takes to be found and come up to speed: in essence, hotel staffs are operating at about 80% of their service quality potential because of turnover.

In addition, we have a drain of talent as Baby Boomers, a generation with a visceral respect for the value of excellent service, are replaced by Gen X who numerically constitute 3/7’s the size; and Gen Y with a culture of entitlement (thanks, it seems, to advertisements that tell them they deserve the best just because; school teachers passing them willy nilly; and laissez faire/indulgent Baby Boomer parents—yes, all politically incorrect to mention, but as with any generalized overview, enough exceptions exist to prove the contention).

Here are five basic steps offered to revert the trend:

Step 1: Get the hiring process right

Beyond all the mechanical actions to bring in new staff (employee referral programs, job fairs, reaching passive job seekers, etc.), there are two key strategies that impact retention:

Hire upbeat, can-do individuals because a person’s attitude determines everything else about them, from service level to consideration for others, including their teammates and the company. Red Carnation Hotel Collection recently had four hotels in TripAdvisor’s top six in London: guest comments consistently mentioned the friendly and enthusiastic staff, which, not surprisingly, describes the kind of person they hire (and then train keenly, another plus that is made possible by the staff loving the company and sticking around).

Hire from within where possible, to encourage upward mobility and loyalty, and because loyalty and product knowledge have already been proven. One gets what one pushes.

Hospitality colleges could support their clients by moving away from training graduates who want to make large salaries managing hotels from Day One and then move onto something else; and back to bringing about hands-on doers, enthusiastic and creative hospitality professionals who understand the satisfaction of providing service to another in the fast-paced world of hospitality to be an important element of the remuneration.

Step 2: Ease out of the back door those who are holding back the team and business

The best way to improve efficiency, and the working climate, is to let go anyone failing a couple of very simple tests that take a couple of minutes to administer.

Simply ask a question about their job that they should know the answer to and see how long it takes for the answer to be forthcoming. Burblings, ums and ahs, questioning, reluctance, accusations, upset, silences, wrong answers…the longer any of these continue, the worse off the individual is as a team player and the less one wants him or her on board.

The second test is to talk to them enthusiastically about a subject and see if they respond in kind. If not, try expressing something on a different topic in a cheerful tone of voice. Still nothing more than a blank look or minimal response? Try a different topic and express strong interest in it. If they still do not come to life and start talking, make a conservative statement in a conservative tone of voice. If still nothing, then one is looking at someone who does not belong on the front lines of hospitality, to be sure, and nowhere else in an organization that wants to run efficiently. A simple cross check of their area, with their co-workers, any personnel files, references, etc., will find they are busy laying goose eggs all over the place, upsetting guests, or having projects go wrong around them. The time would be ripe for applying the usual process to let them go if they do not improve their performance during the process.

Then we have people who are gossips, always being involved in arguments and fights, or busy criticizing their fellow team players, management, vendors, and guests. They can be fixed, but can one really afford to turn the hotel into a clinic?

The biggest miscalculation by managers and HR at this point is they agree with reasons offered to justify poor performance while letting it continue. These disaffected people add up to unwilling service and a discouraged team, and that is something a manager’s gut instincts rebel against; so maybe we should have the guts to follow our guts and leave political correctness to those who promote it. It’s best for everyone in the long run, even the sourpuss.

Step 3: Give the employees what they care about

As axiomatic as it sounds and therefore perhaps trite, one needs to find out what the employees care about by asking them. As an increasing proportion of the employees are Gen X (born 1965-85) and Y (1986-2006)—and by 2017, Gen X&Y guests are anticipated to be the biggest constituency among guests, too—then it is necessary to understand what interests and motivates them. They differ from Baby Boomers in their expectations and even Gen X and Y are not driving down the same road. The following is a rough map of these divergent roads, but each individual has his own needs and wants, which only a searching survey or interview will unearth.

Gen Xers are generally focused on balancing their work and private lives, which rules out workaholism and constricts scheduling. They value diversity, inclusion, and tolerant workplaces. Other strengths include being technologically savvy, creative and innovative in solving problems, and pragmatic. They are the reason ties are rarely seen these days in the business world, and they may appear to disrespect their boss and be irritated at being micromanaged (who doesn’t), but they prefer to work independently and be self-reliant. Which means they can be given projects to work on that challenge them, and then rewarded for their output. Their people skills are not so sharp generally, so training and role-playing are called for. And their understandable cynicism about life can be ameliorated to everyone’s advantage by an upbeat management approach.

Gen Yers, perhaps with the optimism of youth, are socially conscious, so make good candidates for social and environmental initiatives. They tend to have unrealistic expectations (the entitlement culture) that need to be brought down to earth and harnessed on a career path they can relate to: including doing the technological functions they thrive on: i.e. putting them in charge of tweeting, monitoring the web, writing blogs for the hotel, or teaching old fogies how to handle their email.

Half of Gen Yers expect to be famous—perhaps because the Web has the potential for making anyone famous overnight—so let them save the day from time to time and bruit it about on the blog, newsletter, etc.

They have short attention spans that can benefit (not from multitasking, which is actually inefficient, but) from being rotated through projects and positions. If Gen Xers have difficulties with their people skills, Gen Yers are hopelessly enamored with the virtual world and find real people hard to confront and deal with—requiring training and role-playing with an exclamation point to bring them up to the standards required of hospitable people.

Note, however, with 85% of job success connected to people skills and the U.S. Department of Labor reporting over 50% turnover for customer service positions, one can only conclude there to be something seriously flawed in the people-skill training that is being offered broadly.

Gen Yer’s casual approach to service can be sublimated by lightly laying over them the expectation they can be stars, and more often than not, if one believes in them, they will rise to the occasion; and where they do not, an insistence they do, and the creation of a framework that steers them in that direction and validates them when they excel, will pick up most of them and prevent standards from dropping throughout a facility or chain.

Lastly, see Step 5 for creating the right corporate culture.

Step 4: Throw out the existing techniques for staff retention and start using effective techniques, because at 30% turnover per annum, something is seriously wrong with HR as it is currently being done. High-offers and bribing-talent-to-stay strategies appeal to money-motivated individuals who leave when a higher offer presents itself and who infect others with their wrong-headed motivation.

Certainly, many actions being taken are effective, such as providing mentors and even role models for new hires, and matching postings to interest and skills so as to mollycoddle new hires through the critical six weeks where they often chuck in the towel. A management style that encourages two-way communication, invites and validates participation and contributions that improve conditions or solve problems, will have employees going the extra mile and a team built rather nicely.

A focus on training (one third of hotels provide none) that forwards a career path can only do good; and that should include staff experiencing the hotel’s services to understand the guest point of view; and quality control based on feedback from managers and guests. Where jobs are made interesting and fun, a culture of appreciation and even admiration is encouraged, and a generally pleasant work environment is created.

Where worker burnout is preempted (40% of staff spending more time at work, 14% doing 10+ hours per day as a result of heavier workloads during the downsizing downturn) by simply listening to, acknowledging, and resolving their upsets and stresses, arranging flexible work arrangements, or lessening hours where possible, then things do improve. Better still, however, is to take a walk and get some space. Or assign them to do the opposite type work—managers being put on cleaning, for instance, for a change of pace and environment (cross-jobbing, not job sharing). These two approaches resolve the underlying exhaustion that sets in when one becomes too concentrated on a particular environment and activity.

Competitive remuneration, including benefit programs such as rooms, and caring for the welfare of the employee in terms of health, housing, schooling, etc. all help keep distractions to a minimum and can help with retention.

But where are we falling short?

In a way that all industries and professions are falling short: ethics is an unknown and unused subject, lost somewhere in the halls of philosophy. It does not exist as a technology with usable formulas and actions to take. Morals and ethics are used interchangeably in the dictionary, whereas they are different subjects with a similar goal—so no wonder hotels are struggling if ethics is a word that puts people to sleep. Similarly, “ethics panels” exist which are not ethics panels but justice boards designed to punish wrong-doing or determine innocence.

Simply put, ethics is the decision and skill to do the right thing (for all those impacted by any decision and its concomitant actions) because one wants to, not because one is bullied into doing so by following a set of rules one cannot always agree to—which is how one could define morals and laws. Without an understanding and use of ethics by each individual in a group, how can any business, political or other group, or civilization for that matter, run smoothly? The answer to that question is evident in the blather of bad news in newspapers the world over.

Ethics is basically the tool an individual uses to do well in life, for himself and those around him (because the one cannot happen without the other, long term). Its application in an organization includes identifying and neutralizing malicious staff (and “guests from hell”) so decent people can get on with their jobs and lives. It means no more soul-deadening internal politics. It means ensuring fair play through transparency in assessments; rewarding good works (keeping metrics on performance and rewarding and promoting [or demoting] based on those metrics, not opinions or nepotism); and penalizing bad [or no] works without people yelping about victimization. People value their jobs more than anything else, really, and if work becomes something bad in a culture, that culture is about to go the way of the corn-and-games Roman and all other empires that only exist now as crumbling ruins and stories in history books—a far worse victimization, surely, than rapping a n’er-do-well’s wrists.

There is more to ethics: Leigh Branham and the Saratoga Institute identified The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave. They isolated apparent reasons, all of which have merit, but they do not find the really hidden reason people feel compelled to leave. It has nothing to do with how deficient the organization is, as they invariably claim. Nobody is going to say, “I am leaving this hotel because I have been turning up late every day; I used the company car for a jaunt to the Florida keys; oh, and by the way, it was me that forgot to make the reservation that resulted in Mr. Gottbucks missing his connection, etc., etc.” No, as unpalatable as it is, and no doubt beyond the ken of most people, it is the basic, hidden reason; and of course, it is quite easily resolved. But if it isn’t resolved, we will keep seeing people leaving group after group.

Lastly, the power of the word, when misunderstood, has yet to be appreciated by HR and trainers. When a Turkish waiter took an order for green peppers in an omelet and the breakfast guest choked on the Serrano peppers presented in the omelet, it is amusing in retrospect. But these misunderstandings and miscommunications add up to 80% of the trouble any business experiences, and these in turn add up to much wasted effort and lost profits. They also add up to employees leaving because they “can’t seem to get it right.” There are many ways to ferret out and slay these wrongly or partially understood words during the training process and on the job; but if not done, turnover will continue to plague the industry.

Step 5: Work out the corporate identity and philosophy that Gen X and Y can live with (and the guests, obviously) and make sure it is reflected in the actual work environment as well as the virtual world of the social media.

Many people occupy the virtual universe of cell phones, Internet tweets and blogs in preference to the real world, as anyone knows who has observed drivers on cell phones, joggers on iPods, walkers tweeting, siblings texting each other in the same room, and fellow passengers who say not a word during a 15-hour flight. The wonders of technology offer us the ability to videoconference for free around the world from a cell phone in a car to a computer on the beach where there is a wireless signal—but the price we pay is living amongst virtual humans, cut off to varying degrees from the immediacy of everything the real world has to offer. As with all things, a balance is needed, the best of both worlds must be captured. Perhaps the pendulum will swing back as Gen Z moves beyond Gen Y’s shadow.

This fifth step is large enough for a separate article, and as this one is already overlong, it ends here. Hopefully, a few concepts have rung true and for improving retention rates.


Originally published by Hotel Executive Review in 2011 


The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, January 2014

BlueLogo2011web The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 10, issue 1

International Institute of Modern Butlers

IIMB Chairman Steven Ferry The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012 Message from the Chairman 

We would like to offer a “Thank You” and “Farewell” to Ms. Pamela Spruce, who has retired from teaching butlers after many years at the helm of the Australian Butler School. We wish Ms. Spruce well in her new adventures, as well as Mr. Chris Reid, who has taken over the ABS. In Ms. Spruce’s words: “I think we can both be proud of the contribution we have made to the private service industry over the past fifteen-plus  years in the business and trust that younger minds will take what we’ve achieved and build on it with fresh ideas and approaches.”

We were very happy to have stolen a couple of hours with Ms. Spruce (far right) as our paths crossed finally at the airport in Male, Maldives a few months ago—we had been training at resorts just a few miles from each other.














Continuing on the same theme, we would like to thank those who sent in  kind comments on last month’s editorial about keeping work and life upbeat. Perhaps it is fitting that we expand on the message with some comments on the training of butlers today—for while not all trainers are of the caliber of Ms. Spruce, they nonetheless all share a passion for genuinely helping others grow…but a very small minority are not so clear in their intentions, and it is such people I feel it appropriate to discuss in the hope of empowering those they afflict with their training.

As disappointing as life can become sometimes, in truth, it is actually a game where losing or winning are not such dire elements: You lose? No big deal, was the game fun to play? The better games do not require there be losers. And the better players are as happy to win as to lose, as long as the playing was fun and there are plenty more interesting games to play thereafter.

But for some people, the game of life has become desperately serious—they feel so wretched about themselves and others that they have to come out on top, even if it means cheating or hurting others in the process. Being the only recognized player becomes more important than enjoying the game, or taking joy in the contributions of other players, the skills demonstrated by self and others, and the excitement of achieving goals in a cooperative effort.

One may well meet such people when training. A while back, I did. I had left my butler students very excited about the future while I  went to service another client. I returned a few weeks later to complete their training, only to find them all of very low morale and 25% of them having left—and too many of the staff in other departments having left, too.

What had happened?

Another trainer, while claiming repeatedly to be the best trainer in the world, had told all the staff that if they did not do as he/she told them, they would be fired. Everything that they did was, according to this trainer, not good enough and they had been poorly trained;  this opinion was frequently and very loudly made known to them and their colleagues. At the same time, the butlers had been forbidden to practice or use their standard operating procedures from the moment I had left, and instead had been told verbally to perform random, contradictory, and ever-changing procedures. They were punished and shamed in front of others for wrong answers or actions. Tests were rigged for failure.

When two of the butlers rated this trainer’s training poorly in an HR follow-up survey, they were fired. Others just quit rather than face the indignities. And despite never having worked as a butler nor actually training the ones at this location in butler skills, this trainer instructed these butlers to tell guests, when they asked, that they had been trained by him/her.

The managers were unwilling to rein in this individual (because the person apparently represented the owner of the managing company), instead supporting his/her demands and trying to persuade themselves and others that there was nothing that could be done about this individual’s training and management style. Nothing could be further from the truth, however.

Technically, such a being is stuck in the past and fighting some past unknown-to-them-and-everyone-else battle. Life has ceased to be a game, and instead, has become a desperate fight to the finish, where nothing anyone else does can ever be validated as good, and everything is criticized and made nothing of. In a nutshell, other people are completely unimportant and their actions never good enough.

When nothing and nobody are good enough, and therefore dismissed, an individual cuts themselves off from much enjoyment in life—they also happen to share the same mindset as criminals, who are not able truly to enjoy and experience their ill-gotten possessions and who have to insist upon their superiority.

In truth, the best way to control others, including those one is teaching, is with love, affection, two-way communication, trust, and confidence in them—a lesson this person could learn if only they actually cared for their students and were not so sure he/she already knew everything that needed to be known. Teaching can be frustrating, but the trick is to realize that any student who does not “get it” is simply saying, “Teach me in a way I can understand.”

In the years I have been engaged in training and consulting, I have met some strange games being played by a few colleagues (copying others verbatim and then claiming the work/ideas to be their own; training others in the profession without any personal experience in it, etc.), but these are all relatively harmless and make up the giant tapestry of how we as a group pass on skills from generation to generation. Overall, we muddle through and the profession keeps going.

But where an individual specializes in pushing others down, using fear and punishment instead of understanding the dignity, aspirations, decency, and value of each individual they have been charged with educating, then they degrade the game of learning, and the game of life, into an unhappy one. Such people only succeed, they only have power, as long as individuals fail to stand up to them. All the management and staff have to do is to say, “I am sorry, I do not agree with your comments and actions. Please leave.” If the individual won’t, they can simply take whatever (legal) measures are indicated, as such abuses generally violate the laws of the land, quite in addition to any standards of acceptable training in the 21st Century.

“Where there is a will, there is a way,” as the saying goes. But where such individuals have their way, there is no will left in their victims—the life goes out of them, as the under-butler said on his deathbed in Remains of the Day.

I have quite often written about the abuse of people in service and encouraged anyone so abused to move on: we are not yet in a feudal system of service where we work in repressive conditions for little pay and no choice about where we work because the employer owns and controls us like he owns a car or a dog. A case was all over the news this past November of three ladies being coerced into domestic slavery in London for three decades, trapped by their own fear. If they had read one of my books, they might have understood the wicked web being woven by their “employers,” and perhaps acted to free themselves many years earlier.

For if those who abuse are simply left without service, then that cannot be such a bad thing: there are many, many individuals and corporations that provide perfectly good work environments. Being in service means serving from the heart, with passion; when the recipient of such service, or someone claiming to represent them, has lost sight of the fact that life is a fun game in which the server, also, deserves to enjoy life as a fellow player, then the passion is sucked out of the service game and it turns to drudgery and worse.

In this case, I am not encouraging people to move on (it would be silly to leave because of one person in an organization that is otherwise wonderful to be a part of), but to stand together in refusing to cooperate with abusive forms of training—it is not how good butlers or service professionals are made, and not the standard in our profession.

One last point from Emily Post who says in Etiquette, A Guide to Modern Manners, 1922: “Manners are made up of trivialities of deportment which can be easily learned if one does not happen to know them; manner is personality—the outward manifestation of one’s innate character and attitude toward life.”

Good manners flow naturally from good manner, and from abusive manner flow abuses that continue only as long as the recipients feel obligated to play along.

Happy to hear any comments….

 Letters to the editor

A strange letter perhaps, but a picture speaks a thousand words, as the cliche goes, and one might be forgiven for thinking this use of “butler” is just where the idea belongs.













Butlers in the Media

Apple joins the throng of those trying to move closer to electronic butlers

book review on the life of servants in England over the last two centuries, picking up where E.S. Turner left off in his great book, What the Butler Saw.

A bit of media drama about Downton Abbey and the salaries that butlers can command, and about female butlers—all good trends in terms of recognition for the improving condition of the profession.

Forrest Whitaker, who was recently nominated by the Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor for his lead role in The Butler, talks about the training he received for that role.

Perceptions of the Butler (Part 4 of 5)

by GJ dePillis

In past segments of this article, we explored the way a potential employer thinks about a possible candidate.

In this section,  potential employers were asked how their perception of such as a butler’s accent, land of origin, culture, marital status, etc., influenced their hiring decision. Please note that the survey responses are truly held beliefs by the respondents, and are given here because they reflect a certain reality. However, the respondents’ views do not reflect the views of the author, the editor or the Institute.

© 2013 by John dePillis

A.     British: 83% Positive, 17% negative.  Some of the initial impressions of a British butler would be that they were capable, appropriate, and that there would be no language barrier, thereby fostering easier communication between employer and employee.  The negative comments included the feeling that the employee may wish to “slide by” on the notion that the perfect butler was British and use their accent as a way to shirk duties.

B.     French: 16% Positive, 84% negative. Several surveyed felt the French individual would not be dedicated to the job and would be difficult to understand, as well as possibly temperamental.

C.     Italian:  50% Positive, 50% negative (In this case, the negative was because they felt this accent is associated with a chef and not a butler)  Some positive attributes were: they felt an Italian-speaking individual would be trustworthy and stylish.

D.     Jamaican:  33% Positive, 67% negative.    Some positive attributes associated with Jamaican butlers were that they might be polite and easygoing.  However, some employers felt such a person would be not dependable but rather focused on their own pursuits instead of the interests of the employer.

E.      Asian (including butlers from India):   Positive attributes included “diligent” and “hard working.”  Those surveyed felt these employees could be counted upon to attend to detailed work.  Some negative comments included concerns about culture clashes and values.

F.      Hispanic: 35% Positive, 65% negative.   Those with negative concerns were primarily uncertain that a Hispanic individual would be able to master the skill level expected of a butler. Given a choice, they would hire such an individual for a different position at their home, but definitely not as a butler.

G.     American Southern: 70% Positive, 30% negative.   Several employers surveyed felt that this individual would be charming and the accent was received favorably.  Some of those who responded negatively expressed concern that Southern employees might use slang and improper grammar, which could reflect negatively on the employer.

H.     American Bronx:  40% Positive, 60% negative.  Some negative concerns were that this individual would seem too street-wise or tough to represent the refined gentleman’s gentleman that the employer was expecting.  Words used were: opinionated, aggressive, and  arrogant.  Employers would value a butler who possessed varied skills and could “hold their own,” yet want the butler’s façade to express elegance and discretion.  Positives simply stated they would not judge an employee on this accent and would look at their actions, instead.

I.       American Canadian: 85% Positive, 15% negative. Words associated with a Canadian butler were reliable, polite, respectful, and honest.  The few negative comments were simply associated with the desire to hire a US citizen, as opposed to a Canadian citizen.

J.       American West Coast: 90% Positive, 10% negative.  Those with negative comments expressed concern that this applicant would see the job of Butler as a temporary occupation and not take it seriously. The remainder stated such a butler’s accent was not distracting and even welcoming and familiar.

K.      Other: This section allowed the interviewee to suggest an accent and associated assumption of the character of Butler applicant.  Comments included: Russian accents implied the employee would be very strict. Several found an Irish accent pleasant, enjoyable, not stuffy, and capable.

In this next section, the employer was asked to explain if and how their perception of a candidate would vary if a butler candidate were any of the following:

  • Honorably discharged United States veteran: 100% felt very positively about this candidate.
  • Married:  35% said that a married butler would be acceptable as an applicant, but they did not expect to hire the wife in any capacity. 65% felt a married butler would prevent him from travelling with the employer, therefore viewed a married applicant negatively.
  • Single: 100% felt an applicant who was single was preferable, but with some caveats: namely that all personal social activity should occur well away from the employer’s household. There should be no scandal associated with social interactions. Romantic socializing should not include members of the staff or household. Theoretically, should the butler’s personal life be made public, his actions should not reflect negatively on the employer’s household.
  • Gay/Lesbian:  One female respondent said she would prefer a gay male so that she would not be the unintended focus of his potential romantic intentions.  The remainder of respondents stated they were neutral as long as all social interactions took place well away from the employer’s household.  Respondents also felt strongly is that the gay or lesbian butler candidate should not be romantically involved with any other member of the staff or household.  The final condition was that if the butler’s personal life ever became public, it should not reflect negatively on the employer’s household.

Finally, we challenged preconceived notions:

Would you consider a female applicant for the office of butler?  30% stated no; 70% stated yes if she were qualified and was strong enough to lift a sterling silver tea tray.

When you think of a “butler,” what race/nationality comes to mind and why? 90% stated British;  10% stated they couldn’t think of any particular group.

Would you call your butler by first name, last name, or nickname? 65%  said they would call the butler by his first name; 33% said they would ask the butler what he wished to be called; 2% said they would use his last name.

Ms. dePillis is a freelance contributor to the Journal who is based on the West Coast of the United States. She can be reached via depillis at

Hospitality Training

After assisting LVMH further with their Grand Opening at Maison Cheval Blanc Randheli, it was time to spend a few weeks at Anantara Kihava Villas, another splendid private island in the Maldives. The Villa  Hosts put together this short Anantara Graduation video to show some of the training they received. 

Consulting the Silver Expert

by Jeffrey Herman

Q: Some of the gilding has worn off my fish slice, can it be re-plated?

A: Yes, the worn area can be sponge plated and blended into the surrounding gilding.

Mr. Herman continues to offer his services to our readers, for any questions you may have about the care of silver. Either call him at (800) 339-0417 (USA) or email jeff at

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.

Published Articles

Ethics? That’s HR – I’m busy with Guests

It was somewhat disappointing to return for another round of training at a particular five-star hotel a year after training the butlers, only to find that, in this case, little had been implemented from the year before and morale was in the basement, with staff at each others’ throats and quite a few leaving or planning to leave. Hotel executives were similarly non-plussed: the guest feedback had taken a dive after soaring following the initial training; and against this backdrop, a new head butler, and those butlers who were working hard to provide good service, were soldiering on, heads down against the wind of fortune that found them somehow, yet again, in a group that had started in high spirits and ended up in service taking a back seat to politics and backstabbing.

Sound vaguely familiar? Seen shades of this before?

It is something we teach in butler classes, and how to avoid it. But the lesson had not sunk in, obviously, the year before. We also know that one cannot teach the paperwork side of a business if the technology of the business is not known and applied, because then nobody has time for the paperwork when there are so many flaps to handle because of poor service. And more fundamentally, one cannot teach the techniques and procedures of a business if ethics is unknown and unapplied.

All very well, but what is ethics?

It was something I applied to reach bottom on the low morale and (relatively) poor service among the butlers at this hotel…of which more later.

If one look up ethics in a dictionary, one discovers it is defined as morals. When one looks up morals, one is told it is ethics. Obviously, if the difference were understood, the writers of dictionaries would point them out. However, one person does seem to have separated out this time-honored philosophical conundrum: the controversial 20th Century American philosopher, L. Ron Hubbard. According to his writings, morals are the accumulated knowledge of a group (whether a civilization, culture, or smaller group) concerning dangers it has observed when certain actions are taken (e.g. taking a shine to your neighbor’s wife). These, and their positives, are then written into a moral code that is enforced by peer pressure and even written into laws.


Because it is found that when a moral code is violated, a group falls apart, it does not survive. So from a point of survival / continuance, one has to have some rules of the road for mutual interaction.

As groups do not write a law or moral precept for an action that its members do not engage in, it can be seen that the puritans, who enforced quite a few morals on each other and were considered moral people, were factually faced with and fighting rather a lot of immoral activity.

The same was true for butlers in private estates. They upheld very strict codes of conduct to the point of restricting the lives of the staff: any dalliance with a member of the opposite sex would result in dismissal, for instance, so butlers and household staff rarely married and put a tight lid on what is really a natural impulse.


Because centuries of bitter experience had proven that it was too difficult to provide quality service against the inevitably charged atmosphere of relationships being formed and breaking apart tumultuously (not to mention maids taking leave because they were suddenly “in the family way”).

So morals kept the ship afloat, so to speak, but at a cost of repressed family dynamics for the staff—sacrifices that anyone who has seen that classic butler film, Remains of the Day, will understand fully.

In the US, we have seen a strange moral code developed and enforced by the government based on political correctness that teaches the avoidance of certain words and punishes five-year-old boys for kissing little girls and parents for applying light discipline to their children.

So on one side, we have those who insist on morals that suppress natural urges and survival actions. Take Prohibition, for instance— people will drink, and no amount of laws and ransacking of bars with axes will do away with that. Prohibition was repealed eventually, and we have most people drinking socially and only a relative few drinking to excess or while driving (i.e. harmfully). The correct or workable moral precept not being “Nobody shall drink alcohol on pain of imprisonment,” but “enjoy drink in moderation, and don’t drink and drive.”

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, we have those who say morals are passé and should be abolished. Leading the charge in this camp are psychologists and psychiatrists, who since the passage of the Secondary Education Act in the United States in 1965, have inserted themselves into the US education system to the point where their group (including counselors) now outnumber teachers. They have abolished moral education in schools (what teaching does occur is along the lines of [actual example], “If your mother and father were in a boat with you and only two could survive, who would you throw overboard?”) and encouraged to “do what makes you feel good.” We do not find basic guidelines in text books or classrooms for young minds to consider, such as “do not engage in sex at the age of thirteen because you may become pregnant or catch a disease” or “do not take mind-altering drugs because they will destroy your mind” or “do not murder your fellow students with a Uzi when you are angry with them or the world in general.”

Is it any wonder, then, that we witness school shooters, drugs and sex in middle schools, and something like 20% of the student body on psychiatric drugs and most of them having taken some street drugs? Doesn’t seem like this no morals approach works either. But with two generations now exposed to this lack of “moral compass,” many homes are not providing this education either, so it falls to churches, synagogues, and mosques where people attend them.

Morals are vital to a society, but they have their frailties: principally, that they require ethics to steer them intelligently, or they become a rote and enforced action that does not always lead to the greatest good, happiness, and survival—and so people come to protest morals. Nothing that is enforced wins in the long run. The answer is not to throw out all morals, but to understand and use ethics.

What then is ethics?

It is the real-time, self-determined assessment of what action to take that will result in the greatest good (survival or happiness, short- and long-term) for the greatest number of interests impacted by one’s planned action, and then taking that action.

A self-determined determination to do the right thing and a culture that encourages this drive are the missing ingredients in the work place. And that hotel with the butler department in a state of disarray was a prime example of ethics not being known and applied.

Staring aghast at such noisy and non-productive conflict, where does one begin to isolate the problem?

Simple, really: Just look and listen to what is actually in front of you. The first person who spoke to me on my arrival in the suite told me how he was going to leave the hotel’s employ as soon as he could and use our institute certificate to land a job at a certain palace because this current hotel was too terrible to be borne. This was an oddity that I just noted: we all have bad hair days, and making inappropriate and negative comments does not mean the sky is falling.

The next time he spoke to me, however, he said the very same thing, in case his message had not arrived the first time. Every time he spoke thereafter, usually in the presence of his colleagues and in a loud voice, it was to cast aspersions on and deride his workplace. About the third time this occurred, I pulled him up sharply and he reigned in his exuberant dysphemisms (the opposite of “euphemisms,” and where “dissing” could have come from, if it hadn’t come from a shortening of “disrespect”).

I then noticed that he was chronically off base in his understanding of the materials he was being taught in the classroom, usually loudly voiced before the teacher had finished speaking.

Then, two days after he had been rigorously drilled on a specific butler service (morning wake-up service), he managed to come into my suite quietly, place the newspaper and drink by the bed, and leave without saying a word or doing any of the other tasks normally associated with such a service—an explanation of the key error is not required. Thankfully, I happened to be awake already and called the butler coordinator to find out who had made such an error. I found myself stepping out of the shower ten minutes later to face an expostulating butler in my suite, asserting vociferously his inability to understand “how they (the night butler and butler coordinator) could have done such a thing to me.” I told him very sharply that I was not impressed with his trying to shift the blame so illogically to others for his own error and invited him to leave.

He had shown his true colors, warranting a closer inspection, and that is when the fun started. Because I had finally stumbled upon the tiger who had been busy chewing up the department over the past year.

Interviews with butlers and butler managers revealed a pattern of going to A and saying how bad B is, and then sidling up to B and saying how bad A is, and then standing back while A&B duke it out. It had become so bad that this individual had been expelled from his ethnic group and none of the butlers would talk to him. Yet they still allowed him to bad mouth others and the hotel, creating disaffection among the older and newer staff alike.

But that was only half of it, as is usually the case when there is this much smoke: he was also busy stealing from colleagues, from the hotel, and from guests, as well as borrowing money from many staff and not repaying it. And he took the night shift so he could pimp for guests as it was “good money.”

In investigating the situation, one other rather more “intelligent” (i.e. sneaky) butler was found to be the king of pimp but otherwise not obviously causing upset. I say not obviously, because when he was caught pimping for a royal personage and called on it, he of course denied all charges and persuaded the royal personage to express umbrage and threaten the welfare of the hotel manager and head butler who were closing in on the butler in question.

And so by threats and underhanded means, these two were working their self-centered ways and causing enough upset and confusion so that their own misdeeds were camouflaged.

So the question is, why did the butlers and the butler managers not stand up and protect each other and the department and hotel? The answer is reasonableness, meaning (not the use of reason to improve situations but) that they felt compelled to find reasons that would explain the existence of the non-optimum condition (“Oh, he’s just like that,” “his mother did not breast feed him enough,” etc.) and so allow it to continue instead of recognizing it for what it was and resolving it straight away.

As soon as I understood the situation, I opened their eyes to the subject of ethics (part of which has to include stopping plainly non-survival activity) and then took action to put an end to the rampage of these two individuals that put the hotel and it’s employees at risk (and guests, given these two butlers’ slack habits, such as cleaning fruit plates with their uniforms and filling coffee pots with tap water; and certainly pimping and the dangers such can entail) just so they could gain some advantage for themselves. I canceled their past Institute certificates and did not award them one for the current training, and alerted management to their specific crimes so standard Human Resource policies could be followed (which they were).

Again, had the butlers understood ethics, they would have acted to bring about an environment that supported good service, instead of allowing the perpetrators to continue to sour the environment and the hotel executives to scratch their heads about why the department kept being a sore spot and didn’t seem to respond to their managerial efforts.

Perhaps Thomas Jefferson summed it up best when he wrote in a letter to George Hammond in 1792, “A nation, as a society, forms a moral person, and every member of it is personally responsible for his society.”

There is more to ethics that is worth knowing, but of one thing it is plain: without ethics, we are flying blind in trying to run butler departments, hotels, and chains, where unethical individuals are allowed to run amok in the full knowledge of their colleagues; and certainly in nations, where promises made are not kept and where actions are taken that benefit only the few.

This particular story had a happy ending because ethics was known as a subject and applied. The results were best expressed in a letter received today: “I am so thankful for the training from the Institute. I have been able to deal with challenging guests and my colleagues as well. Many guests appreciate my service verbally and some by tips. But the most memorable are the guest feedback forms giving me 98% & 100%.” The Head Butler confirmed the week before that “We had a Gap Audit and the butlers scored 100% on room orientation and wake-up service, and all interactions between the auditor and the butlers were positive, with excellent feed back.”

How many more such stories are there where the bad hats are terrorizing the good citizens with impunity—and where someone could re-write the script so those in the white hats run the bad hats are out of the town so everyone can carry on with the business of simply servicing happy guests?

Copyright © Steven Ferry 2010 All Rights Reserved

This article also appeared in the January 11, 2010 issues of, the January 12, 2010 issue of, and

Published Articles

A Royal Butler Disgraced

Being a butler is guaranteed to involve one in animated conversations with Americans fascinated with the possibilities and glamour of anyone close to the wealthy and famous. The lifestyle does rub off, but the whole point about being a butler is that one keeps ones focus on serving: in the end, it is all about the employer, not the butler. That’s why good butlers are always making things right discreetly in the background.

Which is also why I’d like to break ranks and the silence of the profession to set the record straight on one of the ex-members of our profession. Much media in the United States has been devoted to glorifying Mr. Paul Burrell, from newspaper articles to TV shows. I am not going to discuss his reported sexual indiscretions or his self-confessed perjury recently at the inquest in London. What is a concern to the profession is his capitalization on his former employers good name, and the breaking of confidences. In “A Royal Duty,” Mr. Burrell draws upon private letters sent to and from Princess Diana. He claimed, “My only intention in writing this book was to defend the princess and stand in her corner.” From a logical standpoint, this raises some questions:

  1. Does a significant portion of the world’s population actually think badly of Princess Diana, that Mr. Burrell should feel compelled to intercede? My understanding is that she was and still is one of the most popular women in the world. So why is Mr. Burrell tilting his lance at this windmill?
  2. How does revealing the details of Princess Diana’s private life and affairs make people think better of her?
  3. Would Princess Diana welcome the effect Mr. Burrell created on her sons, who have stated of Mr. Burrell: “… abuse(d) his position in such a cold and overt betrayal. It is not only deeply painful for the two of us but also for everyone else affected and it would mortify our mother if she were alive today. And, if we might say so, we feel we are more able to speak for our mother than Paul.”

From other statements made by Mr. Burrell, he published his book because he was angry at the Royal Family for not helping him during his time of need while undergoing trial (for allegedly taking items belonging to Princess Diana). His anger may or may not be justified, but the way he chose to remedy the situation was not the path a true butler would have chosen.

From an ethical standpoint, Mr. Burrell has unfortunately broken the written and unwritten code of conduct of a butler: If every butler made public the private life of his employer, nobody would ever hire a butler.

Put another way, if Mr. Burrell hired a butler (which he can probably now afford to do from the wealth he has amassed of late), would he feel aggrieved or well served if that butler later wrote a book revealing every intimate detail of his private life? It’s the old golden rule at work.

It is for this reason that I feel compelled, in the light of the barrage of media concerning Mr. Burrell’s actions, to reaffirm the basic principle and ethic of butling. It is based on trust and confidence. Writing a book and spilling the beans to the media at every turn may pay in the short term with personal wealth and fame, but the profession is weakened with each such book and utterance, as is the author and the employer.

Without maintaining our standards, butlers will cease to be a profession. This may not concern Mr. Burrell at this present time, but it does impact the hundreds of us making honest efforts at excelling in our profession, as well as existing and potential employers.

If Mr. Burrell truly feels that he is “the keeper of (Diana’s) secrets,” then I invite him to do as he says. While I doubt he will be concerned, I also invite him to make up the damage he has done to our profession in a way that will restore trust and peace of mind among employers.

Mr. Burrell began promoting his Royal Butler wine last year, saying, “I wouldn’t give my princess just anything, and I won’t give American ladies just anything either.” While his sales pitch enriches his bank account, it cheapens our profession by cheapening his employer’s good name: would Princess Diana really lend her name to the sale of cheap bottles of wine?

As a profession, we have treated Mr. Burrell for many years now in the way that butlers will do: taking note but not being so indiscreet as to say anything. However, our silence sounds deafeningly like tacit consent. I want to make it clear that it is anything but that. I believe I speak for the silent majority when I say that Mr. Burrell does not represent the profession. He may label his wine “Royal Butler,” but not himself. He has forfeited that right. There was a time when he was a royal butler, a time, I suspect, when his wealth was in personal satisfaction, friendship, service to others, and pride in a job well done, in the background.

June 2008


A Duty To The Profession

Much media has occurred of late concerning Mr. Paul Burrell and his book, “A Royal Duty,” excerpts of which have been run in the sensationalizing Daily Mirror tabloid. In addition to using his own observations while serving the Princess, he has drawn upon private letters sent to and from her. Mr. Burrell has stated, “My only intention in writing this book was to defend the princess and stand in her corner.” He also stated it was “nothing more than a tribute to her.”

From a logical standpoint, this raises some questions:

  1. Is anyone actually besmirching Princess Diana’s name, as Mr. Burrell claims? Does anyone actually think badly of her, that Mr. Burrell should feel compelled to intercede? My understanding is that she is one of the most popular women in the world. So why is Mr. Burrell tilting his lance at this windmill?
  2. How does revealing the details of Princess Diana’s private life make people think better of her?
  3. Would Princess Diana welcome the effect Mr. Burrell is creating on her sons, who have stated of Mr. Burrell: “… abuse(d) his position in such a cold and overt betrayal. It is not only deeply painful for the two of us but also for everyone else affected and it would mortify our mother if she were alive today. And, if we might say so, we feel we are more able to speak for our mother than Paul.”

From other statements made by Mr.Burrell, he published his book because he was angry at the Royal Family for not helping him during his time of need while undergoing trial (for taking items belonging to his former employer). His anger may or may not be justified, but the way he chose to remedy the situation was not the path a true butler would have chosen.

From an ethical standpoint, Mr. Burrell (whom I have shared the stage with on a couple of occasions and found to be a very likeable fellow, so I have no personal axe to grind with him) has unfortunately broken the written and unwritten code of conduct of a butler. If every butler made public the private life of his employer, nobody would ever hire a butler.

Put another way, if Mr. Burrell hired a butler, would he feel aggrieved or satisfied if that butler later wrote a book revealing every intimate detail of his private life? It’s the old golden rule at work.

It is for this reason that I feel compelled, in the light of the barrage of media concerning Mr. Burrell’s actions, to reaffirm the basic principle and ethic of butling. It is based on trust and confidence. Writing a book may pay in the short term with wealth and fame, but the profession is weakened with each such book, as is the author. Without maintaining our standards, we will cease to have a profession. This may not concern Mr. Burrell at this present time, but it does impact the rest of us, as well as existing and potential employers. I believe it is important, therefore, that whenever we have an opportunity to comment, we put forward the same message as above.

As for Mr. Burrell and his threat to keep on revealing Princess Diana’s and the Royal Family’s secrets, if he truly feels that he is “the keeper of these (Diana’s) secrets,” then I invite him to do as he says. I also invite him to make up the damage he has done to our profession in some way that will restore trust and peace of mind among employers.

Steven Ferry
October 2003