Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, June 2021, Butlers In the Media

Steven FerryButlers in the Media

by Steven Ferry



Apart from the usual ex-butler dispensing his opinions publicly about the private affairs of the British royal family, there was really just one butler mention of note in the media—an examination of why New Yorkers, at least, are paying a lot more for their domestic staff—figures like $150,000 for nannies, not including bonuses are mentioned, and $200,000 for chefs.

It appears it is an employee’s market currently, given the shortage of qualified staff created in part by employers becoming increasingly picky about who they want to hole up with in their mansions, as well as about their performance, as they are stuck inside all day and more likely to observe how exactly the staff perform their duties.

On the other hand, it does mean that candidates can also be picky about whom they agree to service. The exact same problem existed in New York City and elsewhere a century ago, when few people wanted to work in domestic service after the major societal changes following the First World War. As ES Turner notes in his book What the Butler Saw, “The shortages of help had never been more humiliating. At the registry [agency] interview, the tables were turned: The mistress sat politely in the cubicle and the maid asked her the questions……If the mistress’s assurances were not satisfactory, the maid would nonchalantly say that she was not interested.”

This is happening even though thousands of wealthy people have reportedly fled New York’s irrational lockdowns and soaring taxes—but from the information we have, so have their staff, which could in part account for the scarcity. Similarly, businesses are finding it difficult to hire staff in the US because the socialist government is paying more in unemployment benefits than businesses can afford to pay their employees. The Institute is also witnessing bidding wars between clients chasing the few available qualified staff.

Why so few qualified staff? We are experiencing, in the US at least, a dumbing down of the more recent generations in schools focused more on social engineering, not education in the basic skills of life. Part of this trend is the entitlement mindset that sees those newly entering the work force not accepting the need to work, but rather focusing on negating anything to do with the culture they grew up in. Even though plenty of wealthy who might employ butlers support such socialist notions, it seems they are now being hoist by their own petard (have their efforts to cause trouble for others backfireas they experience the concomitant (resulting) qualified staff shortages.

As the saying goes, history repeats itself, with variations: A century ago, for instance, the butler might be paid $80 (20 GBP) a month at the top end; today, it is more like $20,000 a month. The loss of the value of the USD since the Federal Reserve took over the money supply in 1913 would account for maybe a 95% loss in value or purchasing power, meaning the salary expected today is still about 12x higher than a century ago.

Where does that leave us? We need to keep holding the standard for superior service and providing it because it is very much needed and wanted; and because someone needs to be able to pass on the skillsets and mindset when the pendulum ultimately swings back and newer generations look for guidance. 

As for this photograph, it was part of an ad concept created by David Gianatasio that we thought might be a prescient statement of the next logical progression in butler service for the general public: Vending Machine Butlers “for a quick fix,” or as the ad posits, “for more sophisticated snacking.”

Or maybe you have a better caption?

On a related topic, here are three new examples of business people and product developers piggy backing on our profession’s reputation: As might have been expected during a lockdown, home food is now being delivered by “butlers;” “Bin Butler” as the English version of a similarly named US trash/rubbish removal service; and “The Thirsty Butler,” who offers sandwiches and burgers.

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.