The Modern Butlers’ Journal, August 2016, International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 12, issue 8

International Institute of Modern Butlers

Teaching Right Mindset, People Skills, & Superior-service Expertise

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

Message from the Chairman

It has been a busy month with training and consulting in Mexico, the Maldives, New York/Long Island, and Sri Lanka—five days of which were spent in airplanes! We learned that two hotel butlers trained by our Institute had received rewards for being judged #1 service providers in their city or country —one in Las Vegas and the other in Sri Lanka (working for the recently launched Anantara Tangalle resort).

HHALVCVAJoe Yalda of Red Rock in Las Vegas has been featured before in our Journal, and we wanted to highlight one important fact about his operating basis. In a city where ‘what happens in Las Vegas stays there’ and so literally anything goes, Joe will have none of it—meaning not that he betrays confidences, but that he does not support guest requests for illicit or immoral favors in the first place. Yet, with the upbeat and smooth way in which he handles such requests, the guests keep coming back for more of his ethical approach to life. A breath of fresh air in a culture that increasingly mirrors the character of the waning  Roman Empire.

Butlers in the Media

For those PG Wodehouse fans of Reginald Jeeves and his employer, Mr. Wooster, it might be of interest to know where the name Jeeves came from. The BBC shares this delightful nugget of information.

Without in any way endorsing the political mentions/leanings in this blog piece from butler Mr. Jim Grise, he had some interesting points to make about the profession.

An informative article on the top-tier «butlers» in family offices who manage the estates and fortunes of their employers.

And what do we have in the wierdo department? Quite a bit this month: A Filter Butler (filters water); a Baggage Butler at an airport; a Butler position in a Chicago hotel that only has one minor duty of a butler required; a butler to deliver food and beverages to various locations in a Fifth Avenue store in New York city. Qualifications: «Must be customer-service oriented, organized and maintain high personal-presentation standards. Must be able to use an iPhone.» A phone app to substitute for the developer’s idea of what a butler does in a hotel; a dog-shaped robot butler from Google that loads the dishwasher (with guidance from a human). The company that manufactures it has been put up for sale following doubts that the line of products was able to produce revenue—but nobody is buying. This does not stop the Facebook founder from creating his own AI butler—one that is really an electronic interface for controlling the elements of his home, but which can also make his breakfast toast—although it won’t make it at the time he wants it. Minor details.

Letters to the Editor


We received a letter from a gentleman who was seriously hearing impaired (i.e. 95% loss), asking if he could make a good butler. After some discussion, he agreed that his speaking and hearing skills were not too noticeable, and that he had introverted on the condition and made it an issue, whereas the senior datum was his wish to serve at the highest level—and that would carry him through any slight and occasional inconveniences for those he served. Meaning intention, not the material, is the determining factor.

KobiGutmanSmallCreative Corner

How to Carve an Apple, Part 3: Detailing

by Kobi Gutman


Pumpkin appleHaving covered the basics of apple carving and the use of the stencil, I’d like to cover detailing. In a photo or a painting, it is easy to create individual details by using different colors, shadows, or drawing an outline. This is not the case with an apple.
By way of example, the design to the right has a ribbon with a buckle on top of the hat. This would not be clearly visible if we just made a groove with the knife as we were cutting through the stencil.

The way tMickey mouseo portray them is first to cut the outline of all the wanted details through the stencil and, once the stencil has been removed, cut a line close to these outlines and peel off the narrow strip of apple peel in between.

Looking closely at this pumpkin, you will notice that the hat is composed of five different sections and that none touches the other. You will also notice that the hat itself doesn’t touch the pumpkin.

DolphinThis technique brings out the details and brings your work up to a higher and more professional level.

When you just like to give a notion of the detail, or to create a texture, a single cut of the knife is enough. In this case, the two inner grooves on the pumpkin were done this way.

To the left are a couple more examples for both techniques.


Kobi Gutman is the Head Butler at the Fort Harrison Retreat in Florida. He can be contacted via the Institute: enquiries @

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

Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 14

by Amer Vargas 

Singapore Sling

In this month’s article, we fly from Las Vegas to Singapore to taste a tangy and strong cocktail. There is no real need to mix it with mescal (made from 30 varieties of agave, whereas Tequila is only made from Blue Agave), beer, and drugs in the same way that Raoul Duke drinks them in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before putting the “American dream into action.” Anyway, let’s focus on the taste of this perhaps effeminate-looking cocktail, but which is actually intended for those who like strong flavors.

Original Singapore Sling at the Raffles Singapore, photo by James Cridland
Original Singapore Sling, photographed at the Raffles Singapore, photo (c) by James Cridland

The name of the drink comes from the fact that it was invented in Singapore at the Raffles hotel around 1910. Whilst the original recipe has changed a little bit over time and has been recreated using the original notes of the bartender who created it, the reality is that even nowadays, every bartender does his own version and it is hard to find the same taste in different parts of the world.

If you want to give it a go, these are the ingredients you’ll need: 3 cl. of Gin, 1.5 cl. of cherry liquor or cherry brandy, 0.75 cl. of Cointreau, 0.5 cl. of Benedictine, 1 cl. grenadine, 12 cl. of pineapple juice, 1.5 cl. of fresh lime juice and a dash of angostura bitters.

The preparation is very simple: pour all the ingredients in the cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes and shake vigorously. Strain the mix into a hurricane glass and garnish with pineapple and maraschino cherry.

Remember… be moderate and enjoy!

Mr. Vargas is the Institute’s President and can be contacted via AmerVargas @


Of Butlers, Roses, & Floral Arrangements,

Part 28 of 30

by GJ dePillis, Master Gardener

 Miniature Floral Arrangements, Part 2 of 3

Last month, we reviewed reasons for creating miniatures and the needed tools. Now we will cover nine design tips.

  1. 3%22 miniaturePlace a perfect-square piece of cardboard behind the arrangement to check proportions;
  2. Leave a margin around the edge of the board, just as in formatting a document;
  3. Do not allow anything nearby to betray the scale of the piece;
  4. Lay out the flowers and leaves on the table and then place them in the foam so they are in balance. Think of yourself in the shape of your arrangement: Would you be able to stand and not wobble if you assumed the shape of your arrangement? If not, then add something to the space which is sparse;
  5. Traditional designs are ordered: they need to cover all the foam with flowers and also utilize different heights.  They group colors into blocks so the eye knows what to look at first and leisurely travels to the next pop of color;
  6. Modern designs can include cutting the shape of the leaf or drying the leaf and painting it; not  covering the foam; and employing three specific heights, sometimes referred to as heaven (the tallest vertical), man (the middle sized vertical), and earth (the smallest or lowest to the ground vertical)—imagine water flowing from the clouds to the ground.
  7. Avoid having two vertical sticks of the same height, which would resemble rabbit ears. Aim for a stepped-down flow where the eye travels on a diagonal down from one side  to the other;
  8. When viewing the final work, ensure the “front” has been established—except in the case of a round table centerpiece that is designed to be «all around;»
  9. Strive for depth, something that draws the eye to the back of the piece.

In the final part of this series, we will cover some of the mechanical requirements for bringing together the arrangement. Until then, remember to stop and smell the flowers!

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

Jeff Herman Consulting the Silver Expert

 by Jeffrey Herman

Q: What is the best way to clean a silver item that has been gilded (covered with gold)?

A: Use a citrus- and phosphate-free dish soap or hand sanitizer. Neither will harm the gold. If those non-invasive products do not remove the discoloring, try using a moist cellulose sponge (not the white plastic sponge that sometimes comes with silver polishes) with Blitz Silver Shine Polish, which is among the most mild polishes on the market. It’s the only mild polish that can be applied and rinsed, or applied, allowed to dry, then buffed.

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 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, October 2015, International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 11, issue 10

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

At the tail end of a two-month training program at several five-star resorts in the Maldives, I stumbled upon a living legend: a most loquacious and knowledgable general manager at the southern-most island of the Maldives chain, who happened to be the very first hotel butler. He shared many stories, as well as accomplishments, that show that determination and intelligence know no bounds. His name is Mr. Allwyn Drago, and he is from India. When Mr. Oberoi Senior decided to implement butler service in his hotel palaces around the country, he called upon quite a few individuals to be the first butlers; recognizing Mr. Drago as an exceptional gentleman, he made him his personal butler, too.

Mr. Allwyn Drago worked for many years as a butler while earning degrees, even from Cornell, and is currently GM at Shangri-la's successful resort in the Maldives
Mr. Allwyn Drago worked for many years as a butler while earning degrees, even from Cornell, and is currently GM at Shangri-la’s successful resort in the Maldives

Technically, hotel butlers have existed for the last 150 years in a handful of luxury hotels (since the first was founded in London—the Langham—in 1865): each hotel had a butler on staff to service royalty or nobility in order to provide the level of service to which they were accustomed in their own palaces.

It was Mr. Oberoi Senior who took the initiative in modern times to bring butler service to VIP guests. It is gratifying to see that the butlers originally performed quite a few of the services that one would expect of a butler who had been trained properly. The full range of services is greater today, for those trained by the Institute, but this is only to be expected as the profession found its feet and more people offered creative ways of servicing guests.

One point I was able to correct after many years of teaching the wrong information: I had thought the Oberoi chain had implemented butler service in 1982, but it was actually 1986. Which means that other hotels and chains were not far behind in catching on to the notion.


Not All Soaps are Created Equal

Mr. Kobi Gutman continues to work in his free time on creating custom-made soaps for his guests. He plans to produce a short technical manual for the use of butlers who would like to be able to turn this commodity into a «wow» factor with minimal outlay of effort and cost. Stay tuned for more information!




Butlers in the Media

«Butler robots» that are four times more productive than humans, handle cargo in a Hong Kong e-commerce fulfillment center. And a scientist writes about the complexities of creating a robot that can fold clothes, which gives some idea of how much robot butlers have to catch up with us mere hominids. The article opens with some interesting facts, too: «The idea of a robotic servant is a lot older than you probably realize. It doesn’t just go back to the 1960’s cartoon series The Jetsons, whose Rosie the Robot could prepare meals, clean the house, and solve unexpected troubles. As early as the 3rd century BC, the ancient Greek scientist, Philo of Byzantium, built an iconic human-like robot maid that could pour wine when a cup was placed in its hand.»

The news this last month was heavier on real butlers than on robot butlers, which is a pleasant change, although in the case of the remorseful paedophile butler who was busted, the less of that sort of exposure for our profession, the better. The same goes for Mr. Burrell’s continued antics, this time on Celebrity Big Brother: cashing in on his past glory by giving away private details of his former employers. Will he ever get it? Probably not.

One interesting angle on Downton Abbey is how Jim Carter, the actor who pays Carson, the butler in the television series, is asked continually by his fans to be their real-life butler—showing that there is still plenty of demand, or nostalgia at least, for the stiff butler of old. The views Mr. Carter  is reported as expressing in the article show him to be suitably curmudgeonly, so it seems he has immersed himself deeply in his role, and like his fans, is not distinguishing 100% between reality and TV—unless, of course, he was picked for the role precisely because he has a butler mindset!

Danone yoghurt is offering ten winners of a promotional campaign the opportunity to be served by handsome «hunks» who will «undergoing intensive butler training.» My goodness, what a circus society is turning into—again.

Kudos to Mr. Andrew Lowrey of Precise Home Management, who had a good write-up in the Baltimore Style magazine on his life in, and of,  service.

A good article on St Regis butlers—the scope of their services could be improved quite dramatically by doing many more, less high-key but useful and  relevant services than the sabering of champagne bottles.

Another butler school, and another butler who talks too much about his previous employers; but overall, an interesting article and we wish the school well.

And lastly, a well-written article about hotel butlers: «I think about the strange butler-guest relationship that is increasingly being imposed by the hospitality industry. High-end hotels are going gangbusters with butlers, the ultimate luxury service accessory.» But then the writer launches off into the likes of pillow butlers and bath butlers.

What a tangled web we, butler trainers, have weaved in our rush to bring something butler-ish, anything butlerish, to the world of hospitality. And what confused ideas now exist in hotels and the public mind about the nature, scope, and worth of a butler. As mentioned in the message above from the Chairman, butlers originally were bona fide butlers in a few five-star hotels—the Bugatti’s and Royce’s of service staff and mirror images of their private-service counterparts. The mass production of butlers over the last three decades has resulted in stripped-down versions, the great oxymoron of «economy class butlers.»  I understand why the old timers sneer so convincingly about the direction the profession has taken.
The author goes on, «Hotel butlers are moving away from strictly The Remains of the Day roles to increasingly niche duties. Here are some of the more unusual options,» and what ensues is another long list of off-the-wall  «___ Butler» roles, most of which are new to us, too, such as Tie Butler, Doggie Butler, and Cocktail Butler.
As long our profession has a cachet based on superior service style and stays relevant to guest needs and expectations, we will always represent the pinnacle of service and be copied by multiple other services. However, unless we, as trainers, really push to have the qualities of the old style butler, and the fuller range of services that butlers can offer, trained properly; and as long as hotel butlers are given just a few days of training to provide the thinnest possible range of services, just enough to call them «butlers,» then we will not have created a clear niche in the mind of the employer and guest, as to what we are, and our profession will be diluted and redefined ultimately as some hokey gimmick.
We certainly do not want to have that happen on our watch, do we?

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

Let’s Talk about Mixology, Part 5

by Amer Vargas 

The Red Eye

“Ever worked behind a bar?”

“My uncle is in the business.”

“Do you know how to make a ‘Red Eye,’ mister … what’s your name?”

“Brian Flanagan.”

Red eye, photographer unknown
The Red Eye, photographer unknown

Today, we pay tribute to one of the film characters who lived once, but never died. After leaving the army and moving back to New York City, the young Brian Flanagan, brilliantly played by Tom Cruise in the 1988 movie, Cocktail, began work as a bartender at nights while studying for a business degree. His initial mediocre work as a bartender turned into a passion under the mentorship of his boss, Doug Coughlin.

This film put the spotlight on the fun and charm of bartending and, more than that, the drinks that are produced when one works with devotion, passion, and a vision.

So, the Red Eye is one of Coughlin’s favorite drinks and which, as he states in the film and many can corroborate in real life, helps to dispel hangovers.

The Red Eye earned its name from the predominant color of the concoction, and the fact that a raw egg is added, looking like a floating eyeball.

The preparation of the cocktail is really simple: frost a highball glass and pour in 1 oz/2.5 cl of Vodka; 12 oz/35 cl of beer; 4 oz/12 cl of tomato juice; and a raw egg. Do not stir, or the egg may break, and it needs to be in one piece so the imbiber can down it in one go. Not recommended for the squeamish, just for the hung-over!

Enjoy your drink…and your movie!

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

Recent Training and Graduates

Graduation for some of the trainees from Veli, Dhigu and Naladhu, three resorts under one leadership—each resort is on its own island and caters to families, honeymooners, and the very wealthy preferring their privacy

Graduation for some of the trainees from Anantara Veli, Dhigu, and Naladhu, in the Maldives. Each resort being on its own island but under one leadership (Minor Hotel Group), and catering respectively to families, honeymooners, and the very wealthy who prefer their privacy. The trainees did very well on their refresher course, as did some trainees fresh out of college and engaging in a corporate-sponsored program to introduce them to the hospitality industry. 50% of the program participants from the prior year stayed on at the resorts, having chosen to pursue their careers in hospitality.

Of Butlers and Roses, Part 18 of 25

by GJ dePillis

Medicinal Roses as Described in Ancient Texts

Roses used to be a staple in apothecaries (Chemists/Drug Stores). Red roses were mentioned in various medicinal texts because it was thought the stronger the fragrance, the more potent the rose oil, and thus healing properties of the roses.

What rose-related medicinal treatments were common?

  • Drinking rose water would stave off a queasy stomach or even prevent vomiting;
  • Rose hip tea, or rose honey, would ease coughing;
  • Topical applications would alleviate joint pains and rheumatism;
  • Rose-scented oils would revive swooning or fainting individuals (I do suspect most of these patients were corseted ladies struggling for oxygen);
  • Fevered patients would find relief;
  • Drinking rose tea, rose water, or rose wine would ease constipation or other digestive problems;
  • When mixed with mint leaves, heated and applied to the chest and stomach, it was thought restful sleep would be encouraged; an ease of breathing would ensue for those who were congested; and an easing of muscle aches and the soothing of an agitated patient would result;
  • Sore throats would be soothed when taking a spoonful of rose honey;
  • Rose oils mixed with lotions would treat skin sores;
  • Mixing rose oil with apple cider vinegar and spearmint leaves would reduce dandruff;
  • Spraying chilled rose-water would refresh a person on hot summer days;
  • Rose petals soaked in white wine for at least two days, then strained, and one goblet-full imbibed would a) diminish a headache, and b) ease the aches associated with wounded gums;
  • Taking the hairy seeds out of the rose hip, mixing them with sugar and hot water, and straining the liquid, would treat diarrhea when the concoction was drunk;
  •  Drying rose-hip pulp and using the powder in the mouth of a colicky infant (experiencing pain from intestinal gas) would calm them.The White Windermere Aushomer rose photo by David Austin Roses

So, next time you are planning to use the roses from the garden, don’t just think of them as decorative elements around the house!

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

The White Windermere Aushomer rose
photo by David Austin Roses


Jeff Herman Consulting the Silver Expert

 by Jeffrey Herman

Q: When was stainless first used in table knives?

A: Although American Elwood Haynes discovered stainless steel and patented it in 1919, it wasn’t until 1924 that a stainless steel table-knife blade was invented by an Englishman, Dr. William Herbert Hatfield. It was called 18/8 stainless steel (18% chromium, 8% nickel), an alloy which is still used today. Prior to this development, carbon steel was used, which was then replaced with plated-carbon steel.

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, January, 2013

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 9, 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 

With the very welcome increased interest of late in butlers by the media and amongst the newly wealthy in various countries, my wish is that those who help deliver on the promise in the year ahead, focus on communicating the standards inherent in our profession, and avoid the ever-present effort to deliver abbreviated versions in response to clients applying their usual modus operandi of «getting a good deal» simply because they do not yet understand the true nature of butling and so end up «buying themselves short.» Maintaining our standards, if I might state the obvious, is a win-win for everyone, and I’d like to see everyone winning as we move into a new year full of hope.

Butlers in the Media

Aljazeera carries an article on how graduates fresh out of butler school are being used to train prospective butlers in China, where private service butlers can expect to make 20K a year for very long hours. European butlers are in demand as status symbols but do not stay long because of the working conditions and cultural differences, and a lack of ability to do their jobs properly in the absence of the Chinese language skills necessary to manage the rest of the staff.

The BBC, on the other hand, reported that China and Russia are both experiencing a demand by their wealthy for British butlers commanding $150,000 and up. The demand in China is being met in part by six new training schools, which have been opened in China by a British recruitment agency.

CNN reports on the publication of a survey of over 2,000 domestic workers in the US—mostly immigrants and holding lower positions—who work long hours for less than minimum wage, etc.  Apparently, “The Fair Labor Standards Act, which guarantees minimum wage, overtime and sick- and vacation pay, does not apply to domestic workers.” Butlers and household managers are rarely treated in this way, but one would hope that in the households they supervise, the staff are not so treated. For more information, see National Domestic Workers Alliance []

As reported in multiple media, the Pope pardoned his ex-butler after he mis-used his position of trust to steal documents and leak privileged information. He was banished from the Vatican, but is receiving assistance to find a new position and house, and to start his life anew. “This is a paternal gesture toward someone with whom the Pope for many years shared his daily life,” according to the Vatican Secretariat of State.

According to the book Plutocrats: The Rise of the Super Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, the top 10% of American households in terms of household income makes $150,000 and up—butlers themselves in many cases qualify for this category.

750,000 Americans are in the top 1%, having a household income of just under half a million dollars: such households cannot generally afford to employ a butler or household manager—but can afford housemen and other household staff. 70% of these families made their money in the past decade, almost half of them being entrepreneurs—meaning that the background of seven-in-ten rich households is not one of wealth and luxury, and therefore their exposure to butlers–and the lifestyle they make possible–has been mainly through the media and word of mouth. So this is not an optimal market for our profession.

Around 150,000 Americans have a household income of $4 million and over, and so are more likely to be able to afford to hire a butler.


Congratulations to General Manager, Mr. Iain McCormack, and the staff of Gili Lankanfushi in the Maldives, who were just declared the winner at the World’s Leading Luxury Resort and World’s Leading Villa Resort & Spa at the World Travel Awards Grand Final 2012. Their Mr. Fridays (butlers) were trained extensively by the Institute during October 2011.

A Creative Idea for Turndown 

Whether in a private estate or luxury resort, turndown amenities are a small way the butler can add to the guest (and employer) experience. Hats off to Mr. Kobi Gutman for a new twist that is bringing about many happy guests at the private Fort Harrison hotel in Florida, where he services the top suites. He actually carves these himself, not based on any earlier training or skills, but learning as he goes. Most simply utilize a red apple, and are tailor made either to the calendar (such as Halloween or July 4) or more often, to the individual receiving the amenity (like a Ferrari enthusiast). A smattering of his «works» are provided below—including one Mona Lisa, perhaps for an art aficionado?
































A Useful Resource

Congratulations to Ms. Fiona Cameron-Williams for her release of her Gentleman’s Gentleman application for the iPhone/iPad. We have not tested it yet, and look forward to some feedback from anyone who has or will.

Cigars, Part XI

frankmitchell The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, July, 2012by Frank Mitchell 

Maintaining a Humidor

When talking about maintaining a humidor, the two most important things to discuss are temperature and humidity. One sees the term Relative Humidity (RH) used quite commonly, though many people do not understand what the term means.

‘Relative’ and the fact that RH is expressed as a percentage, indicates a ratio. In simple terms, it is the amount of water vapour in a volume of air expressed as a percentage of the maximum amount of water vapour that volume of air could hold at that temperature. How much this maximum is depends on the temperature; so RH is a function of both moisture content and temperature. By itself, RH does not indicate the actual moisture content in the air, since saturation point occurs at different temperatures.

Some cigar enthusiasts scoff at the need to concern themselves with the temperature. Unless you store your cigars in a temperature-controlled environment or live in a very mild climate, I believe the temperature must be taken into account. This is because a given amount of water vapour, in a given volume of air, will have a differing RH% depending on the temperature.

The ideal environment in which to store cigars is a relative humidity of 70% at 70◦F (21.1◦C). 

The below table will show that as the temperature rises, the humidity must fall. Conversely, as the temperature drops, the humidity must rise. Care must be taken not to deviate too far from the ideal, otherwise you will end up with soggy cigars or cigars which will which have lost their aromatic oils.

Reviving Dry Cigars

Don’t! It is that simple. When a cigar loses moisture, it is losing aromatic oils into a dry humidor. When the humidor is opened, these oils are lost into the atmosphere. This should not happen in a well-maintained humidor that is checked daily. Dry cigars will have lost flavour and are harsh to smoke. Re-humidifying cigars means replacing the lost aromatic oils with water. The result is always a loss of flavour and aroma.

You may research how to re-humidify cigars if you are ever given any and want to rescue them for your own consumption, but hotels that sell re-humidified cigars to guests are ripping them off. Nor should a butler serving in a private estate offer such cigars to the principal’s guests—experienced smokers will know that what you have given them is sub-standard.

Recent Graduates

Mr. Raoul Gonzales trains butlers on the Norwegian Cruise Line Vessel Dawn. He is one of the Norwegian Cruise Line’s butlers who was trained last year by the Institute to then train his fellow butlers on the hard skills of butling on a cruise ship. Here Mr. Gonzales is shown taking them through their paces on synchronized service.

Once NCL has completed the training evolution, they will offer more services throughout their fleet for their high-end guests, than any other cruise line.

 The PA’s Corner

By Bonnie Low-Kramen

How I Learned to Speak Up

When is the tall one going to talk?” This is what actress Olympia Dukakis used to ask other staff members at the Whole Theatre where I was the Public Relations Director before I became her Personal Assistant. I was 29 years old, it was 1986, and Olympia was my employer and mentor. We then went on to work together for 25 years.

In private service, we know that communication issues can make or break us—to learn to confront people and situations positively is a skill that builds leaders in our profession. Employers also have a fear of speaking up and there are ways that we can help them—silence is not (always) the answer.

I had so many reasons for not speaking my mind. I think these are the same reasons why many private service professionals don’t say what they know should be said and there is much suffering in silence. It’s the fear factor. The fear factor cannot be underestimated when it comes to the problem of staffers speaking up to anyone, but especially to colleagues and employers. I understand what it feels like to be mute in the face of a situation that needs to be confronted.

The fear was about appearing stupid, ill-informed, or unprepared, even though I was none of those things. There was fear of being wrong, making a mistake, and losing my job. The fear had to do with the possible reactions of fellow staffers such as: “What are you trying to pull? Are you trying to make me look bad? Are you angling for my job? Do you think you’re smarter than me? Do you think you’re better than me?”

My lack of confidence was known to me and now, Olympia, my employer, saw it in high-def and I didn’t like it. I threw myself into my job and worked hard to do it well. I took the risk to give her my opinions, and she valued what I had to say. I began finding my voice. What helped the most though was having Olympia Dukakis as a role model.

Here’s an example of what I mean. The theater director and I had already been coordinating press interviews for several weeks, all of which had progressed without any problems. Then, in front of the entire staff, he called me a “liar” and the room instantly became quiet. I was horrified at the injustice and the public humiliation. Olympia said to the director, “You must be mistaken. I know that would never happen with Bonnie. Let’s talk about this later.” And we did deal with it later. The director was a serial bully who enjoyed the power trip. The thing about bullies is that they are threatening and powerful until directly confronted. Then they shrink away and unfortunately, choose someone else to bully. Try it. Look a person straight in the eye and firmly say, “I won’t be spoken to that way” and mean it. Watch what happens.

Olympia stood up for me. She spoke up and plainly stated what needed to be said. Another time I recounted a contentious conversation I had on her behalf, and Olympia’s outraged reaction was, “You will not be spoken to like that. Don’t take it from her.” And I didn’t.

Finding my voice had everything to do with witnessing role models use theirs. Finding the words that work for you in challenging situations will work magic for your career.

I learned from Olympia that it is important to speak up and say the hard things in a way that people can hear. Time and again I witnessed the relief in the room when Olympia said the thing that everyone was thinking but no one wanted to say. In most cases, I witnessed how speaking up makes things better and the elephant in the room disappears.

Now I say the hard things, too. The trick is to not wait until little problems escalate into a big one. I would be lying if I said I am now totally comfortable speaking up, but I do it and I have become much better at it. I encourage my students to do it, too, and they excitedly tell me of the positive results. Practice definitely makes it easier.

For instance, when the producer became emotional and verbally abusive to me on the phone and I tried to speak, he cut me off.  After several attempts, I calmly and firmly said, “If you will let me speak without interrupting me, I can help solve this problem. If not, I’m hanging up.” He stopped talking and we did our work.

Speaking up builds self-confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, and respect from others.

It feels like a risk. Do it anyway. I have found my voice. I learned the hard way that suffering in silence makes things worse, not better and only prolongs the inevitable in both work and in life. Life is too short.

Resources to Find Your Magic Words

Speaking Your Mind in 101 Difficult Situations by Don Gabor

Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson

Editor Note: Ms. Low-Kramen also provides workshops on this topic, the next one being Jan 19-20 in California.


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

by Amer Vargas 

New Zealand Wines

Today we fly to New Zealand in the Southern Pacific Ocean to appreciate some of the world’s newest and finest wines. New Zealand is one of the few southern hemisphere countries to produce fine wines. Compared to its northern counterparts, New Zealand shares the same latitude degrees as France and Spain, which may give an idea of the sort of favorable climate for their vineyards. Many varietals (mostly imported) benefit from the maritime climate, with long sunshine hours and sea-breeze-cooled nights.

Wine history in New Zealand began after a fashion two centuries ago when British residents devoted some time to developing drinks much consumed in their home country—their favoring of beer and other spirits, however, delayed the real blossoming of wine making until the late 1960s, when a series of historic changes ultimately led to the planting of vines in lands that had been qualified previously as marginal pasture.

New Zealand produces unique white wines, 50% being Sauvignon Blancs, as well as Chardonnays and Rieslings. These wines are notable for their purity, vibrancy and intensity: The fruit undergoing a long ripening as a result of cool temperatures, which allows flavors to develop while retaining a fresh acidity. There are 10 major wine growing regions, the most important being Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay.

Cabernet-Merlot from Hawke’s Bay, photo by Salman Javed

New Zealand’s most grown red varietal is Pinot Noir, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon also being important. Lately, Shiraz/Syrah is also being grown on previously cultivated land.

The country’s Sauvignon Blanc is widely recognized for its pungent and intense taste and its crisp acidity, which makes it easy to match with raw vegetables and salads. The Chardonnays offer a concentrated citrus and tropical fruit flavor combined with some refined minerals—and since they can yield all sort of body, they can be paired with a wide range of food, from fish and other seafood dishes such as shellfish, to poultry and citrus or vinaigrette dressed salads.

As for the reds, they are mostly full-bodied, which helps enhance medium-to-strong flavored cheeses, game and red meats.

Last, but not least, there is an excellent production of high-quality sparkling wines, following the Méthode Traditionelle (traditional method used to make Champagne).

I raise my sparkling Pelorus to this wonderful New Year that promises to be as excellent as my drink!

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The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, March, 2012

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

The Modern Butlers’ Journal volume 8, issue 3

International Institute of Modern Butlers

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

Copying, copyright, and doing the right thing

The gap between what is promised and what is delivered is not always so visible

You may have noticed the MBJ has a new look—fewer photographs. This is the result of a rather heavy handed enforcement of copyrights by lawyers trolling the Web for improper usage. We had inadvertently used one image that we had thought had been in the public domain. We have no issue with enforcement of copyright—we have, after all, seen such copying of our own material as the entire web site, down to font, color, and commas, by some outfit out of China. It took persistence to have it removed.

More common is the usage of our concepts and text by others in our industry. The most recent example was brought to our attention a couple of days ago, when an affiliate in the Far East asked us to confirm that a training outline from a web site was correct. In checking, we found that this site had copied verbatim from another site, which, in turn, had copied verbatim from our site.

I have brought this up in an earlier Journal: if an individual is so short of ideas and original thought that he or she has to copy the work of others and hide their source, they could at least put some effort into it and use their own words. Simply cutting and pasting betrays a lack of effort and understanding that would neither serve nor impress potential buyers of their services. Those clients won’t know until the copycat arrives on their doorstep and fails to deliver the expected level of service. Then, over time, word spreads and the individual goes out of business. Maybe these people should quit while they are ahead, instead of leaving upset clients in their wake and muddying up the industry.

Along the same line, I need to beat another drum about a similar “quicky impulse” that is degrading our profession. As we have just posted on our home page, our consulting and training rates are the highest in the industry for the simple reason that we believe five-star standards are best served by five-star training. This does not mean exorbitant rates, but it does mean that when we write proposals, they are designed to bring about well-trained butlers who are a credit to their employers. We are happy to bid on, and participate in, projects where this is the understanding and the goal. However, we cannot endorse training of butlers in a day or two just so a certificate can be issued—the butlers know when they have been trained properly, as do their employers and guests. The simple truth is, it is well-trained butlers, not certificates, that provide superior service.

To the majority who understand that the butler profession is principally about quality, not superficial appearances, thank you!

 Letters to the Editor

Photo by Janos Feher


I have some reservations about the article in The Guardian that was mentioned in the last MBJ and signed by an unknown ‘Stevens’—a reason to suspect that the article may not be genuine. What is more suspicious is that this reported colleague confuses the duties of a butler with those of a valet and personal assistant. It is true that sometime the three roles can be combined into a wider butler role, but the butler is inevitably attached to an employer’s property, today as in the past, and yet Stevens travels around the whole time with his employer. Stevens concludes that his job ‘hasn’t changed much since the 19th-century, other than the fact I carry two Blackberrys instead of tails.’ The reality is indeed that the job has not changed at all if we talk about the mindset and the tradition: The key difference is probably in the complexity and size of the properties and the number of members of staff we are today called to manage, which has decreased over the last century.” G.L.

Editor Note: Thank you for your observations and thoughts. We are happy to take Stevens at face value—his misnomer could perhaps be ascribed to his lack of formal training, having switched to the profession (obviously quite successfully) from acting.

Butlers in the Media

The White House Butler

Eugene Allen, the butler who worked at the White House in Washington DC under eight presidents from 1952 to 1986, will have his life immortalized in a planned film aptly called The Butler by director Lee Daniels. Oprah Winfrey is in talks about playing the role of Mrs. Allen. The source for the film appears to be Wil Haygood’s A Butler Well Served by This Election, a story published in a Washington Post edition during 2008. Hopefully, the source will be augmented by enough material for an accurate portrayal. Lee Daniels seems to specialize in macabre movies (The Paperboy and The Precious), so hopefully this one will be a break from his norm.

The Secret Appeal of Downton Abbey

In an article entitled The Secret Appeal of Downton Abbey, the Wall Street Journal explains the popularity of Downton Abbey in the United States as being based on a voyeurism or “pornography of class and hierarchy.” Points good and bad are made, the worst assumption being that happiness depends upon wealth; the worst assertion being that we are all snobs; and the best insight (wonderfully phrased) being, “Downton Abbey portrays a fairy-tale way of life in which butlers and footmen appear far better dressed than today’s billionaires—many of whom, after making their fortune, seem to want to be sartorially indistinguishable from the most sloppily dressed adolescent rebel. The series thus satisfies a secret or vicarious longing for elegance without imposing the hard work that’s necessary to achieve it in reality.”


Upbeat Household Manager  required for family in large estate in Miami. Must speak Spanish to manage the  large number of staff.

A PA/Valet for high-profile individual traveling extensively between London, New York, Kuwait, and his yacht.

Email us if you are interested and feel you might qualify.

Cigars, Part II

frankmitchell The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, February, 2012 by Frank Mitchell 

 Growing Tobacco

It is believed that tobacco may have been cultivated in the Americas as far back as 6,000BC. These days Brazil, China, USA, Turkey and India produce about 2/3rds of the world’s tobacco. Our focus for this instalment will be Cuba, as we are interested in tobacco grown for use in premium cigars, rather than the mass agriculture of cigarette tobacco.

At one point, Greece was the only country in the world dedicating more land to tobacco cultivation than Cuba.  This is extraordinary if one considers that Cuba is about the size of Pennsylvania. While Cuba is not ranked in the top ten producers by yield, it certainly is considered one of the best in terms of quality. Both the lower production figures and the high quality of Cuban tobacco may be attributed partly to their use of traditional labour-intensive farming methods. In addition, the climate and soil in certain parts of this country seem almost uniquely suited to growing this crop.

85% of tobacco grown in Cuba is produced by small-scale farmers belonging to the National Association of Small Farmers. Such farmers are historically more productive than the state-owned cooperatives, producing a leaf yield of up to 80% per plant while some state-owned farms manage only 10-20%. For some years now, the Cuban government has been returning land to small farmers in the interests of both higher yields and quality.

The premier tobacco growing regions in Cuba are; Oriente, Remedios, Partidos, Semi-Vuelta, and Vuelta Abajo, with the Vuelta Abajo region generally being regarded as the finest.

Tobacco is part of the nightshade family of plants (Solanaceae), of the genus Nicotiana. There are many types of tobacco, but Cuba mostly grows varieties of Criollo and Corojo.  Criollo is considered one of the original Cuban

An old tobacco press in a Connecticut plantation, photo by Words & Images

tobaccos and can be traced back to the time of Columbus. Corojo on the other hand dates back to the 1930’s and was originally used as wrapper leaf, relegating the Criollo leaves to the inside of the cigar. Subsequently, it was found that if Criollo is given the proper care and grown in the shade, it too can make a good wrapper leaf. In the 1990’s Corojo was replaced with a less delicate hybrid, Habana 2000. These days Cuba mostly plants two hybrid strains, Criollo ‘98 which is Blue Mould resistant and Corojo ’99.

The seeds are as fine as ground pepper and are sowed on top of the soil as they need sunlight to germinate. In some countries the seedlings must to be protected from frost by germinating them under glass in the early spring. In warmer climates it is only necessary to cover them with thin cloth to protect them from beetles. Once the seedling is around 8 inches tall, it will be planted out in the fields and may still be grown under muslin tents if shade-grown wrapper leaves are required.

Tobacco is an annual crop and if the planting is done by hand, it will be done after the rain so that the seedlings can be planted in moist soil. This is not necessary when using an automated planting machine, as it waters the hole it makes before planting the seedling.

The plants remain susceptible to water stress and need to be kept in well-drained, moist soil. Tobacco fields are also usually well tended as the plants do not like competing with weeds for water.

Tobacco growers traditionally spoke of the magic sixes – six weeks to germinate, six weeks to grow, six weeks to harvest, six weeks to cure and six weeks to ferment. Obviously the actual timing can be affected by many factors, but the ‘magic sixes’ remain a valid, if somewhat coarse guideline. Unless a farmer wants to collect seed, the plants will be topped as soon as they start forming flowers. This allows the upper leaves to grow larger and thicker than they would otherwise. Soon after topping, axillary buds will begin forming and these buds, called suckers, must also be removed otherwise they will reduce the quality of the tobacco leaf.

Next month we will discuss the harvest, as this is done in stages, different leaves being put to different use.

Click on to see some beautiful pictures of tobacco farming in Cuba taken over a ten-year period by photographer John Valls.


Let’s Talk about Wine, Part IV

Amer1x1inch The Modern Butlers’ Journal for Service Professionals Worldwide, February, 2012 by Amer Vargas 

Stabilization in barrels, photo by Robert Mondavi

After the must has undergone the desired fermentation and/or maceration, the drink is ready for the next step, called stabilization, in which the tank is emptied through a large strainer into a container so as to separate the liquid

from the skins and pips. This wine is then transferred into iron or concrete tanks, or wooden barrels where it becomes the best quality wine (compared to lesser-quality wine obtained by pressing the skins and pips again).

 At this stage, the wine is allowed to go through malolactic fermentation (as explained in last article) if desired, to have lighter and fresher wines, reducing its acidity and giving more complexity.

From cloudy alcoholic juice to pre-wine

At this stage, the wine is a dark and cloudy drink and the next steps is designed to improve the appearance and taste: this is where the so famous “aging” starts that can last from several months to many years!

Aging begins with racking the wine, which involves naturally clarifying it: low temperatures prompt the sediments to fall to the bottom of the containers, so leaving a clearer drink that is then transferred to a clean receptacle. This, done several times during the aging period, will change the liquid into a more palatable and visually appealing drink.

Red wine can also be filtered through soils, as mentioned in the earlier article on white wine production, so that the resulting drink is an almost completely bright and clear beverage.

The real wine: blending

After the wine is clean and has aged as long as the vintner determines to be necessary, it is ready for blending. What is blending? It’s when different wines (from different varietals and/or after undergoing different fermentations or macerations) are mixed according to a determined percentage of each, to create a unique libation.

This is where oenologists (wine experts) move into action: each year the grapes are different because of different climate conditions, yet all brands like to keep the same taste under the same label year after year. The oenologist takes samples of the wines so that, after tasting, he or she can decide what wines and in what percentage to blend to achieve the desired final red.

Once the percentages are established, they are blended in big tanks and the resulting brew is ready to go through different filters to remove smaller particles, and then through a filtering device after which the wine is ready to be bottled.

Bottling wine, photo by BillBl


With the wine in the bottle, the last step involves inserting an appropriate cork and removing the oxygen from inside to avoid the development of microorganisms and any uncontrolled

Aging wine in bottles, photo by Guttorm Flatab


Some wines are, at this point, ready for sale; others will spend a few or many years in the bottle in cellars, far from strong lighting and maintained at constant temperatures. The wine will increase in complexity as it ages, requiring only good care and time.

In the next article, we will toast with a glass of the most famous wine the world over—Champagne.



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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

When You Already Offer the Best, What Else is There?

Two clients contact you, wanting to arrange their wedding and honeymoon in some suitably exotic location.

Once their wish list has been communicated, you formulate options. One of the options you may want to be thinking with and offering them, is a location that, in addition to everything else, also offers butler service.

Why? Because the butler is the key to providing up-close-and-personal service for the simple reason that he (or she) is there with the guests in their suite, totally dedicated to finding out what they want and providing it, ideally before they even realize they need it. He or she is the one who sees them with their hair down, make-up half on, laughing and (let’s hope not with honeymoon couples) disagreeing strongly over one thing or another. When there’s a little emergency, it is the butler who smoothes frayed nerves, distracts the embarrassed, and deals with whatever went wrong. He becomes the guest’s right-hand man, she the lady-in-waiting who keeps things rolling along (and that can be a challenge in wedding situations, to be sure) and the focus on helping make this the highlight of the guest’s life.

Apart from a total dedication to serving and an understanding about how to provide invisible, anticipatory service and complete discretion, the butler pays attention to the little details that make up the greater whole.

And the butler understands that, once the hooplah and high-action of the wedding are over, the honeymoon phase means the guests need their space more than their butler: the goal then being to anticipate and provide service that is truly invisible, anticipating when the guests will want transport or a picnic basket prepared; servicing their room and providing signature romantic baths and intimate turndowns, flowers and other gifts while the guests are away from their suite. Organizing special recognitions, such as their favorite music being performed by the band during dinner, photographs when they are in a public venue and presenting them with an album on departure, and so on.

Perhaps the best example of the solicitous service expected of a butler is that of a couple celebrating their 25th anniversary. The hotel did not just present them with a complimentary bottle of champagne and a cake, which in itself would have been fine, but is almost the expected, nothing truly special. Instead, they found out what the couple had eaten, drunk, and what music had played at their wedding (same hotel chain, but a different country, and in the days before computer records). When the couple came to dinner, they were ushered to the best table and given the same menu as had been presented at their wedding.

They made their selections, and when something different was served, they did not object: it happened to be their favorite food anyway, and they were quite mellow by then, listening to their favorite music that the band happened to be playing, and sipping on the free champagne. It was only when the main course was served, again, not what they had ordered but some of their favorite dishes, that they suddenly realized what was going on: the hotel was giving them exactly what they had ordered 25 years before. The woman cried. The man was speechless. What was the hotel doing, in truth? Faithfully recreating the happiest moments of the couple’s life. That’s a pretty good strategy for wowing guests.

And it is the same level of detail and pushing beyond the expected that butlers are tasked with. Not all butler departments are created equal, so one resource you can use to determine just what you can expect from a hotel that promises butler service, is the rating of butler service in many of the hotels around the world.


This article was also published in the inaugural quarterly edition of ttgmena luxury in January 2011.

Published Articles

Poor People Skills and the Wealthy

In the best of all possible worlds, people would be rational and compassionate. As this is Planet Earth, a few people walk amongst us who live slightly south of this ideal. Anyone working in private service or the luxury hotel market can probably tell a tale or two about the wealthy they have served, either about how incredibly kind they were, or how challenging. As much as we might wish to enjoy the pleasures and privileges of the wealthy, the status does come with some pitfalls that can catch the wealthy off guard. There is nothing wrong with wealth, but it takes more than admonitions about difficulties negotiating the eyes of needles to point the wealthy, who may be struggling with their power, in the right direction.

By way of illustration, take the case of a certain lady whose manicured, Italianate gardens stretched seemingly to the horizon, just one of the landscapes available to her at the two-dozen estates in her possession. One of the butlers knocked on the door leading to the balcony where we were enjoying tea, the view, and what could have been an equally pleasant conversation. Judging by the poorly disguised franticness of the butler, his halting moves and hunted look, he appeared to be in terror of making a wrong move, one it seemed he knew he would be guilty of no matter which move he made. From the inevitable criticism that followed his clumsy departure, it was plain this lady, in turn, did not trust and certainly did not like her staff. She was frantic about imagined threats to the safety of her children and made their life, and certainly that of the long series of nannies, miserable. As for her husband, he found it expedient to keep himself busy running his businesses most of the time, and this so-privileged couple has since, with predictable acrimony and not so parsimonious alimony, split the estates and staffs and gone their separate ways. When one has everything, it seems so silly not actually to have or enjoy it.

“Domestic service, its defenders have always claimed, is an honorable estate. To be sure, some who took it up were cared for all their lives, honored and even cosseted, and finally laid to rest in the family plot—possibly with a carved attribute, ‘Rare character in these degenerate days.’ Others, the sad and often damp-souled majority, were exploited, snubbed, hectored, and humiliated; and so, whenever a choice of occupation [elsewhere] presented itself, they took it.”

E.S. Turner, What The Butler Saw, 1962

These same employers with revolving doors in their servant quarters can also be found draped over luxury hotels around the world, dispensing their brand of people skills to the consternation of hospitality employees who find themselves caught in crosshairs that need not be.

As the people skills of an employer or a hotel guest have a significant impact on those servicing them, it might be helpful to understand the foibles and frailties of wealthy employers that might make servicing them a tribulation for the brave and tremulous alike. As Emily Post advised in 1922, «Perhaps a servant problem is more often an employer problem. I’m sure it is.»

In considering wealthy people, we can identify two key groups: those who tend to amass great wealth (Wealth Accumulators); and those who ride on their coat tails, including those who inherit great estates and capital (Wealth Dissipaters).

In each category, there exist a) those who are no more capable of recognizing their condition than they are capable either of giving away their wealth or of accumulating it; b) those who recognize their condition but who lack the tools to enter into a better frame of mind; and c) those whose people skills earn them selfless and unquestioning support from those servicing them.

Trouble Makers

Let’s explore Wealth Dissipaters first, focusing on one of their more common shortfalls when new to wealth. When their training, background, and contributions to the familial relationship have been the same essentially as that of the household manager or housekeeper, they find themselves bereft suddenly of a game and raison d’être.

Games are not just played in stadiums, but could be viewed as the basic activity and description of life itself: they give us goals to achieve despite opposition/opponents, they give us problems to focus our attention on solving. If a person lacks problems, if he or she lacks a game, he will invent them just as fast and tenaciously as you please. In the case of an employer newly out of a job, the trick is to find a new game to play, so they do not end up playing painfully tired and tawdry ones.

When a family member swung down the drive to pick up a butler from his employer’s estate one Saturday, a maid in a pinny (apron), carrying her cleaning cloth, rushed out to greet him. Except it was not the maid. It was the lady of the house. The relative had merely arrived in the middle of her chores, which consisted of cleaning the house from top to bottom, paying close attention to those places that had already been thoroughly cleaned by the actual maid: picture the maid and employer chasing each other around the mansion, cleaning in each other’s wake: which, in reality, meant the maid taking care of the employer’s exuberant smears of dried cleaning powder on multiple surfaces that had already been thoroughly cleaned. Wonderful fodder for a cartoon, but not overly efficient or morale-building: The maid at that time lasted six weeks.

Any employer having trouble adjusting to his or her (new) status as lord or lady of the manor could, as a first step, realize they indeed were the lord or lady, and not the cook, the major domo, or whatever. The strength of the employer is in being able to recognize the old game has ended, to have the courage to let go, allow another to take over, and to find a new game to throw themselves into. Weak individuals will hang onto their old game like a threadbare pair of slippers. Yet there are literally more games to invent and play than there are stars in the Milky Way. Sane games involve happiness for self and others. Insane ones involve harm for more and more people. That’s a simple but workable rule of thumb.

Closely aligned for Wealth Dissipaters, in that the lack of a game is the problem in part, is the happy fact that they are wealthy and do not have to lift a finger. Privileged women in the 19th Century could go to their grave without ever having made a cup of tea or put on their own clothing. The concept of morale is relevant here: the enthusiasm and confidence that comes from demonstrating competence while producing a product or service or achieving a goal.

Wealth Dissipaters who lack a game and goal are not driven or required to produce anything and so are listless, bored—troublemakers, in short, for themselves and others. Being denied work, one soon enough finds oneself incapable of working at all. “But Mummy, I am boooooooored,” is a refrain commonly heard anywhere a young child’s often clumsy contributions have been brushed aside too many times by busy adults. Where he or she subsequently and persistently has been denied a productive role in society or roles in games that interest, we find the petrie dish of juvenile delinquency. This ennui pushed into adulthood results in the abandonment of all efforts and sense of belonging in the idle rich.

There is no greater trap than trying to avoid work. This is what defines a criminal: unable to work, so he has to steal, whether by simple bludgeoning or complex schemes, whether of a single dollar or a trillion here or there. The irony of it all is that it is far harder and less satisfying to avoid work than it is to roll up one’s sleeves and dig in to something with gusto.

Anyone who has tried to interest a child who is thoroughly bored, no doubt knows it will not happen with exhortations alone. One has to dig in and find where interest took a dive and rehabilitate that interest, or find new things that the person actually could be interested in. Couching the project in terms of helping someone else, give them a purpose exterior to themselves might galvanize them into motion under their own volition.

What games, otherwise, do such people find themselves playing? They tend towards negating whatever they see (and cannot contribute to); and social intercourse characterized by strained façades that thinly mask backstabbing intent, where a real liking for others and life is sadly just out of reach. At the higher-end of this scale “How do you do?” is expressed, leaving unexpressed, “I don’t care how you are doing; you are such a bore, how can I get away (or whatever)?” At the bottom of the scale we find no interest expressed at all for other people…much like an object expresses no interest: when was the last time your car enquired how you were doing?

The likes of Bertie Wooster in the Jeeves stories, Arthur in Arthur, and the Prince of Wales in Blackadder characterize just such idle rich, with nothing worthwhile to do, but they are the harmless types. Miss Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy provides a mild example of the type of employer for whom time sits heavily and staffs suffer as a result.

What drives Wealth Dissipaters to such murky depths of human understanding and caring? They are bored, they have a low opinion of themselves, their activity and contribution levels to society are in the basement, and they famously suffer from a high incidence of neurosis. But why is this still the case, despite centuries, even millennia of remonstrated failures and demonstrable grief, and proverbs to guide such as “The devil finds work for idle hands.” There are at least five forces at work that conspire to drive the wealthy up a cul-de-sac/deadend:

  • Few people are telling such individuals to roll up their sleeves; few people are in a position where they can tell them to buck up; and few people can impinge much upon them while the basic issues of food and shelter are resolved and apparently all is well in the best of all possible worlds.
  • There is the continual beat of the advertising drums and the echoing social chatter that “possessions measure success and effortless play is the chimerical goal,” work being for the trolls and prols.
  • The tendency not to work is re-enforced by those who, in seeking work, pop the pimples and powder the wigs of their betters, doing all but spoon feed them. This is not to say that providing service is not beneficial: but only where it frees up the employer for more meaningful or exciting games. It is not meant to rob the employer of all games and make them into a high-class vegetable or Jabba the Hutt (Star Wars).
  • Parents assume that children want to have everything that can possibly be given to them, without realizing that the child can be overwhelmed by everything coming in towards them without being able to exchange or give something back. In a similar vein is the approach to education: the assumption is often made that a child will appreciate the opportunity for extensive education that others often do not have. In doing so, adults fail to recognize the child as a responsible party capable of, and needing to make, his or her own decisions. In other words, someone whose willingness needs to be consulted and brought about. In essence, anyone wanting a child to learn something, might find it efficacious to ask the child, “What do you really want to know?” and then feeding and building on that. Not doing so results in resentment, not belonging, rebellion, no purpose, no game, and inability to work. This lack of involvement of the child is obviously not an issue that impacts just the wealthy. Why do rich families tend to maintain their wealth about three generations? With survival guaranteed, the only game left seems to be working hard at failing. Unable to work, force-fed possessions like geese destined for pâté de foie, they end up as capable of doing anything as the objects they are surrounded by. What happened? Their power of choice was not consulted over the wealth they inherited and did nothing to earn, which results in them being disenfranchised from it, unable to feel it is theirs, and so squandering it.
  • Lastly, without something to keep their attention anchored on life in the present, they tend to be sucked back into past emotional upsets, physical injuries, and failures, and so relive those incidents without realizing it. This is the source of the unpleasantness that they visit on their employees. It’s a hidden influence, which explains why such people find it difficult to recognize what is wrong, or to correct it if they suspect or are told the error of their ways. In other words, failing to generate energy for actual activity and work in the real world, they draw upon and fall into these old mental energies that were generated during these past impacts and upsets. Having drained these old mental reservoirs, they feel exhausted and seek energy from exterior sources: from gluttony, drugs, and an overindulgence in sex to a surfeit of possessions and even kleptomania. This may all seem hard to grasp, so let’s restate the sequence as: a person generates his own energy in playing games in life; when this possibility is denied, he raids reserves of stored mental energy (like a battery); when these deplete, he looks to exterior sources for his energy. Unrecognized, this dwindling spiral makes it very hard for the idle rich to change their condition or outlook. Being close by and tasked with servicing the employer, household (or hospitality) staffs tend to bear the brunt of such an employer’s general malaise, and unfortunately, tend to take it personally.

Only Robots Need Apply

Let’s focus now on the key issues with Wealth Accumulators when it comes to poor people skills. Where they have trouble with employees is the point they lose touch with their own spiritual nature and think of life, including mankind, as an agglomeration of atoms and random, unthinking forces. It might surprise to know that this opinion has only been in vogue wherever psychology has spread its influence over the last 130 years, based on some severely faulty logic: a professor of psychology (“the study of the soul”), announced somewhat ironically that because nerve channels went to the brain, the brain must be the mind, and that man was therefore nothing more than a collection of atoms like any other animal. The spirit mankind had conceived to overlay the managing of these atoms over the millennia was thereby scientifically proven not to exist. If the logic sounds slightly off kilter, maybe transposing it into computer parlance may highlight why the professor’s initial observation does not justify the conclusion. Imagine a computer (the body) sitting on a desk without any operating system or programs loaded (mind), and no end user (spirit) to use it. The concept works no more in the computer world than it does in real life, and if a hypothesis does not work in practice, then it has little validity. Unfortunately, however, the idea has become widespread and when used as a model, is bad news for human relationships, especially for staff who generally have to keep their own counsel while an employer or guest throws a tantrum or carries out a strategy based on the idea that staff are as disposable as diapers or last year’s models.

How does this materialistic point of view manifest? Being driven in a serious way by the misconception that happiness results from collecting possessions and employing an army of hot and cold running maids and butlers, one falls foul of a natural law that is well understood by savvy ladies looking for partners: That pushing too hard and seriously in one direction has the opposite effect. “Playing hard to get” is an intelligent response borne, no doubt, of trial and error, that will generally result in the men giving chase. Alternatively, if a lady is not playing hard to get and a man chases her, he will drive her away. Wanting possessions, one chases too hard after them and so fails to find the happiness that they cannot deliver, because it is the magic of one’s own creativity and lightness of spirit that brings happiness. This is certainly true when one’s “people possessions” do not sit and bark on cue, but turn out to have unwanted opinions and feelings that spoil things unnecessarily.

Which brings up the other goal of such employers and guests: to control others based on a lack of trust that they will perform or behave well. Whenever this philosophy is instituted nationally, police states and all they represent for the finer parts of mankind result.

For a rare glimpse at the mindset of such a person, consider the words of Zbignew Brzezinski, founder of the Trilateral Commission, when he addressed Chatham House (the British counterpart of the American Council on Foreign Relations) on November 17, 2008: “In early times, it was easier to control a million people than physically to kill a million people. Today, it is infinitely easier to kill a million people than to control a million people.” He was lamenting the difficulty of controlling populations who can vote and access the Internet. That the strategy of controlling others is self-defeating and has never worked (for some reason, individuals rebel overtly or covertly as much against being controlled as being killed) does not seem to put off such wealthy individuals from trying.

For the less one trusts others and the more one tries to control them, the more they are pushed into criminality: the pivotal point where a criminal becomes hardened, is where he commits one crime too many and realizes he cannot trust himself to police himself and so quits trying. The criminal rehabilitation group, Criminon, uses this understanding to return self respect and trust to the criminal. As a result, Criminon enjoy the same success rate (70-80% never return to prison) as other programs experience a failure rate (70-80% returning to prison).

A Better Strategy for the Wealthy

It might help such wealthy individuals to realize that other people do exist, they are real, and they are not the programmable robots many employers have sought (because they failed to make the servants and their operating climate sufficiently intelligent to function sensibly). A Lady H. kept a mind-numbing list of actions to do at a precise time each day, such as when to draw which curtain. She had obviously compiled the list in an effort to counteract the omissions she had experienced with former and current employees. A tour of her estate revealed examples of obvious negligence, such as her own bed unmade at 5.30 p.m. Only two bedrooms and beds needed to be serviced in the various buildings on the property, yet she had several maids scurrying around the house looking worried and busy. She at the same time bemoaned the lack of quality staff and their inability to do the simple actions they were paid to execute. The Lord and Lady in question were so convinced all servants were robots that they were unable to see their own attitude and approach to handling their staff had created that very robot culture.

If staff members were instructed in the requirements of the house, given principles and rules that they could think with, as well as checklists of actions to undertake (perfectly valid), they would undoubtedly fulfill their duties. They would be able to observe and evaluate different situations as they cropped up, and resolve them intelligently. If employers expected the staff to take pride in their work and left them free to do so without continual interruption and recriminations, validated them for their good works, then the staff would grow gradually into a happy, caring and efficient workforce. They would show initiative within the boundaries set by the employer, and provide the employer with real assistance. It is true that in some cultures, individuals have been so beaten down as to become like robots, but even they, with much extra care, if one really has no choice but to employ them, can be nurtured back to self-determined action.

It comes down to the difference between owning a slave, controlling a servant, employing a staff member, or nurturing a self-determined and responsible artist: for art is not just on a canvas—it can be defined as the quality of the communication and product produced in any sphere of life. And when we talk wealth, we surely imply quality in all things as a desirable standard.

One other turbulence some Wealth Accumulators leave in their wake from the good ship “all is matter and man is an animal,” is a certain tightness of wallet that is not justified by the means of the individual. Their problem is that they have fallen for their own line of scarcity: Capitalism in its current form is based on creating scarcities (most easily out of necessities, otherwise out of what people can be made to believe are necessities), and even using fear of scarcity to increase demand for one’s now “scarce” product or service—as opposed to good sense in governance leading to abundances for the benefit of all.

Some wealthy individuals actually believe there can be scarcity, based not on their lack of accumulated wealth, but their realization that they cannot create anything, and so come into a frame of mind where they must horde what they have. One employer with a beachside mansion insisted on importing his own Filipino maid at wages lower than the local going rate, giving her an on-property room literally the size of a one-car garage, and charging rent for it that consumed a good part of her wages. It takes no real strength or skill to wrest concessions from the weak, but such cheap victories seem to make some people happy even though the payback is service begrudgingly given. The deeper liability for the employers being that, lacking real creativity, they focus on protecting their possessions and maintaining the status quo, which includes stopping initiatives of even their own staff to improve things. Additionally, they want, they possess, but they can’t appreciate or experience real joy any more than their Bentley can experience joy. The real joy in life comes from creating, sharing, and achieving goals with other people, not in becoming the objects one desires.

One of the happier (and richest) men in the world works in a small office off the kitchen and knows that he depends on his employees as much as they depend on him: he and his wife are deeply immersed in causes and work incessantly to create things and improve conditions. Their staff is busy running the estate for the employers, well looked after, and loyal. The only capital one has really with staff is their willingness to serve. Demolish that with inconsiderate exchanges and one has employees who will not go the distance, let alone the extra mile.

Conversely, the power enjoyed by the wealthy can be used in the understanding that real richness in life comes from friendship and positive accomplishment. The relationship of service is like any other alliance—two adults agreeing to bond in a certain way because they have the freedom of choice and the dignity and skills needed to play the roles in the game: One chooses to serve, the other to be served, both understanding the relationship to be reciprocal and professional.

In summary, where there is friction and staff turnover in an estate, where hotel employees are rebuffed and discouraged from providing good service, the real target is the fundamental weakness that is making the fortunate wealthy frustratingly unhappy: the lack of a game and purpose in life for those who are idle; or the idea that other people do not exist or matter for those who are succeeding in the game of acquiring more and more. The truth is that current cultures point the wealthy up a cul-de-sac/dead-end; so this little article placed discreetly in the hands of those who are capable of changing, can go a long way to enlightening minds and improving conditions. A simple acknowledgement or thank-you gift, a smile rather than a Cheneyesque snarl, a request rather than an imperious order, these all add up both for the staff as well as the employer, into a whole new relationship, making each party a keeper.

This article also appeared in the September 2009 issues of,,, 4Hoteliers,com,, and Airline News Resource.

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

Published Articles

Not All Butlers Are Created Equal

In an industry that is completely premised on the idea of service and in which service is a key differentiator, increasing numbers of high-end hoteliers have decided to institute butler service. So far so good for a number of reasons, such as raised rack rates, customer loyalty, enhanced word of mouth and, on the employee side, greater retention and raised standards facility wide.

But the reality is somewhat different, as anyone who has experienced butler service in a number of hotels and resorts, can attest. Not all butler departments have been created equal. Sometimes the butlers are invisible; sometimes they are simply pool attendants with a new name badge: «Pool Butler.» Or any of the myriad of other inventive ways marketing departments and managers have devised to siphon some of the prestige of the profession. While real butlers appreciate the recognition afforded their profession when offerings of superior service are personified by a butler figure, they are not themselves served well in the long run by this cheapening of their profession. More importantly, guests can recognize a gimmick when they see one and are left in a poor frame of mind at being handed a Mickey Mouse version of the service they had expected and paid for when booking into a facility.

Where butler departments are established, they enjoy varying degrees of success based on their adherence to the basic purpose of butling: the providing of a superb and seamless service that knows and anticipates guest needs. The sources of failure, then, include anything that cuts across this goal. Such as: not selecting proven service professionals for these positions; not training them on the persona, mindset, communication skills, and service skills of the butler in a hospitality setting; not launching the butler program to the rest of the employees in such a way that they support it, rather than viewing it as a threat to their income stream; trying to cut costs by cutting service, resulting in harried butlers providing an irreducible minimum of service to too many guests; not organizing the butler department in such a way that it can run itself, with butler coordinators, runners if needed, head butler, a deputy and supervisors.

As the standard setter for the profession, the International Institute of Modern Butlers, based in Florida, has therefore formulated a rating system that parallels AAA and Mobil ratings but which is focused on butler service in hospitality venues. The purpose of the rating is to help guests make informed decisions about the nature of the butler service being offered by a venue they may be considering; and to assist management and butler employees of those venues in improving their butler offering.

The ratings range from «No Butler» to «Five Butlers» and while assessments are being made initially on a self-assessment basis mixed with assessments by butler trainers around the world, the intention is for the assessments to be made ultimately by the traditional organizations that travelers turn to for information on venues they are planning to visit.

A brief overview of each level (the specifics of these levels run to thirteen pages, so are not the subject of this article) are as follows:

No Butler
The butlers are called such, but have no training or understanding of the nature or skill-sets of a butler, often having a modifier in front of their title, such as «fireplace butler» or «technology butler» or «baby butler.»

One Butler
There is literally one butler on the floor, rushing to service guests who are kept waiting or improperly serviced. There may be more than one butler, but training on the skills of the butler or the grace of a butler are lacking, even though some of the service is being provided.

Two Butlers
The butler-to-guest ratio is still too strained, so guests are kept waiting or not fully serviced, but basic elements of butler service are performed and the butlers have been trained in their profession either in schools or on site. No night butler on duty and no butler coordinators to connect guests with butlers.

Three Butlers
There are enough butlers in shifts to manage guests, including night butlers, butler coordinators, and a head butler. The Butler department exists as its own department, not under Housekeeping, Concierge, Room Service, F&B, or any other department. Guests are offered a good range of butler services and these are satisfactorily executed. Butler service has been established and fine-tuned with the assistance of trained professionals.

Four Butlers
Butlers provide excellent, often invisible service to guests who are wowed by the attention to detail. Includes a full complement of butlers who have sufficient presence with the rest of the employees that they have raised their level of service and can obtain instant service for guests. Butler Department personnel receive ongoing training and quality control to keep them sharp and there is a Deputy for the Head Butler who facilitates this training and other organizational steps to keep the Butler Department running smoothly.

Five Butlers
Guests have their own private butler to attend to their every (legal and ethical) needs and desires, including accompanying them on excursions as chauffeur and guide. In the case of guests lacking companions, this level of service may extend to the butler being a companion for a guest, even being skilled enough to play such as golf or tennis (but sufficiently diplomatic always to let the guest win by a narrow margin‹and never crossing the line). Where spa service is offered, the butler may also be the spa therapist or so knowledgeable in spa methodology that he or she presents a seamless experience for the spa-going guest.

Expect to see these ratings in use increasingly as the better hotels and resorts recognize the value of making their level of butler service known. If those facilities seeking to ride on the coattails of the butler profession then become earnest about their levels of butler service, then both they and their guests will benefit.

The above article was published on September 18, 2005 in 4Hoteliers on-line magazine.

Butler training

The Word Was Butler

Last month, we discussed other names for “butlers.” Of equal interest, perhaps, are the variations of the word “butler” itself. There are many more ways in which it can be used, and if these are brought back into use, it will help anchor the profession more firmly into society.

“Butle,” we know of as the verb, but so is the word “butler.” For instance, “Every great house should be butlered (served by a butler).” Or “Would you like to butler today?” meaning “take charge of and serve liquor.” A variant spelling is “buttle,” meaning “to pour a drink” or “do a butler’s work.”

The fairer sex within our ranks has been known as a “butleress” for the last four centuries (and for the record, the spelling of our title used to be “buteler” or “butelere”).

Like the word “stardom,” “butlerdom” means “of the estate or class of profession of butler.”

We even have a couple of adjectives for our profession: “Butlerian,” as in the sentence, “He worked with strict attention to his butlerian duties.”

And thanks to Aldous Huxley, we can consider using the word “butlerish” to mean “characteristic of a butler.” He wrote in 1923, “He moved with a certain pomp, a butlerish gravity.”

“Butler” can be used figuratively, meaning to bring something in the same way as the butler brings the welcome wine. As in the 15th Century example of “humor being someone’s butler,” always serving them with fun.

Along the same line is the phrase, “butler’s grace,” meaning “a drink.” Sample sentence: “Would you care for a butler’s grace?”

The butler used to be the high-ranking official in charge of the importation and supply of wine to the royal table. No big surprise there, but how about “butlerage?” That was the duty every importer of twenty tons or more of wine into England, had to pay the King’s butler. The duty amount? Two tons of wine!

And talking of perks on the job, the “butler’s box” was a box in which card players put a portion of their winnings at Christmas time, to give to the butler. For those who don’t know the custom because it is probably dying out even in England, Boxing Day is called that because the day after Christmas, vendors such as the milkmen and “sanitation engineers” (dustmen) with regular deliveries or pick-ups for households, visit each house with a box, into which homeowners put gratuities for the servicemen’s work over the prior year. So butlers, no doubt, worked out a way they could have their own box, and without having to traipse around the neighborhood to fill it up!

The “butlerage” actually had more than one meaning: it was once used to describe the office of the King’s butler, and thereafter grew to mean the office of any butler. The physical office in which he sat was called the “butlery.”

We refer loosely these days to the butler’s office as the “butler’s pantry,” but it was originally, and still is in many houses, the room where the plate, glass, etc. were kept.

And so we conclude past uses of the word “butler.” Maybe we can resurrect some, and certainly, language being a living beast, we can create new ones. The old ones have centered around the concept of wine and its serving. Maybe with the butler’s duties being so much more these days, we can create new definitions and have them accepted into the common language. If so, would be better coming from butlers doing good works, rather than infamous activities designed to grab the public spotlight (such as “Doing a butler,” which might mean “telling all to the media about the boss for great profit.”).

So, does anyone have any suggested new uses of the word “butler?”

Butler Jobs Butler training

So, What Is A Butler Anyway?

Rare is the week that goes by without word of some upscale hotel offering butler service as a way to improve service and retain or gain that coveted 5-star or diamond status. That’s as it should be. But then consider the industry veteran Horst Schulze’s declaration in the Wall Street Journal that Capella, his future line of hotels, will have a six-star rating. What does he specify as the criteria for such an august label? Private swimming pools. And personal butlers.

It seems butlers are really not just for the wealthy in their private estates, but also for their convenience when they travel.

So, in providing butler service, a pertinent question might be «What exactly is a butler?» Or more to the point, «What are butlers in a hotel setting?» They obviously are more than the dog, beach, computer, baby, and bath butlers that rushed out fully armed from marketing departments during the 1990s and beat a hasty retreat in the face of public disdain.

The answer is very clear to those hotel executives who have brought in any one of a handful of trainers able to teach their personnel how to «butle.» Anyone who has read Hotel Butlers, The Great Service Differentiators, will know that there is a technology and mindset to butling. It is something that can be learned to jump-start an individual in the Middle East, the Far East, the East Coast or the West Coast of America, the Caribbean, and anywhere else in the art of butling British style.

In addition to the dozen-or-less trainers working on site at hotels, there are a dozen-or-less schools around the world teaching strangers to the art of butling the skills and panache needed to fulfill their roles with sufficient aplomb. There is no shortage of resources for anyone wanting their employees trained to the high standards of service that the butler exemplifies.

In recognition of the increased demand for butlers, and the subsequent need to train butlers, and even non-butler staff in the mindset of the butler so as to raise service standards throughout hospitality venues (be they hotel, resort, spa, or private villa), the International Institute of Modern Butlers was founded.

The Institute purpose being to promote training in the butler model, to act as a clearinghouse for butler training resources around the world, and to help set and raise standards in the profession. It being recognized that, like any profession, butlers need standards and a standard-setting body to prevent the profession from becoming less than it should be.

And in the case of butlers, there is the additional requirement that a model be constructed of what the butler is and does in both the private and hospitality settings in the 21st Century. The ideal being, perhaps, a modern butler with the core values of the early-20th Century butler, rather than a mannequin with the outward trappings and motions of the butler and no mindset to back it up.

One important program the Institute is championing is an apprenticeship program for butler school graduates, whereby they apprentice under butlers in private estates or work in butler departments in hotels to hone their skills and add substance to their training. This represents a handy and cost-effective personnel pool for private estates, as well as hotels intent on offering butler service, or wanting to add butlers to their department without investing in bringing a trainer on board. It also allows butler school graduates to break into an industry that can be quite closed to neophytes knocking at the door. While a trainer working with trainees on site is the optimum way to slam-dunk a butler department into place in a hotel, an alternative is to bring in butler school graduates and have a trainer visit briefly to fine-tune and provide quality control-an important element given that butler schools focus on the basics of butling and few provide hospitality-centric training.

Which brings us back to the original question: what is a butler in the hospitality setting? The cinema and various books create stereotypical butlers whom we find amusing for their restraint and biting wit in the face of monumental stupidity; and endearing for their willingness to work behind the scenes while their employers blithely strut across the stage, playing out their own pre-ordained roles.

Yet, whether answering the telephone or dealing with difficult situations, there is something about the attentive and slightly aloof British butler that has a place in today’s modern hotels as much as in the 19th Century British stately home.

Maybe it is their low-key approach to service, in preference to the maestro-center-of-the-stage performance so characteristic of many American service professionals.

A butler is a frame of mind rather than a status or a series of duties. It is a mindset that anyone can adopt in any situation in life to very satisfying results, because it is founded on the truths that it is better to serve than be served, and that life can be rational and serene when one assumes responsibility for all things.

In almost every person, there is a penguin-suited figure dying to emerge, to bring a surprising level of equanimity, order and happiness to the lives of those around him or her. This may seem far-fetched in a world of hard-nosed corporate executives, self-centered guests and screaming, obnoxious children as sometimes parade through the hospitality world, but what does win in the world of service, funnily enough, is complete devotion to providing service. Anything less is transparent.

Butlers are superior service professionals. Their model has value. It is the future of service.

This article also appeared in the Hotel Business Review section of, and in Polish in the publication