Service, courtesy and absolute discretion, the butler service is gaining ground in an increasingly fast-paced and demanding world. This is how this service has become professionalized spread:
Text by T. Meyer
Serving wine and special dishes, opening car doors and giving messages were the
responsibilities that, according to a message from the Royal House of Great Britain published in various Bornemouth town newspapers in 2006, were to meet stewards for the
service of Queen Elizabeth II, and which were in demand at the time.
The announcement, of course, was not accurate. A butler, in addition to the aforementioned tasks, must be aware of the wardrobe, food and all the logistics in the activities of his employers, as well as his guests. So that every detail is carried out without the slightest setback and, above all, so as not to bother with questions, the valet must know his tastes, preferences and obsessions in detail.
How is the butler service
Stewardship is a personalized attention service, in which protocols must be respected as much as the preferences of each person with whom one interacts, but above all where discretion becomes one of the most precious values.
Contrary to popular belief, mayordomos are no longer an exclusive affair of the
monarchy; although they continue to be a luxury item, the pace of life of the new
generations is raising the demand for these professionals. Some hotels throughout the world offer the service in their facilities, with a valet dedicated 24 hours a day to fulfill the most extravagant whims of a guest. In Barcelona, a specialized company offers daily, monthly or permanent butlers, they have even created the figure of specialized shopping butlers.
The furor is such that working for the English crown is no longer attractive to these professionals, who are increasingly putting more effort into their studies. The British royal family is famous for underpaying its employees, demanding absolute loyalty and offering immediate betrayal in return, at least that’s what the most famous of its former employees, Paul Burrell, who was Princess Diana’s assistant, thinks.
However, Paul has been able to take advantage of his curricular experience. The son of a truck driver, Burrell, who was about to go to jail in 2002, accused of the theft of various belongings of the princess, today has a fortune valued at more than 9 million euro.
As reported by the Spanish newspaper El País, in Florida, near Orlando and Disneyland, Burrell has bought a luxurious villa and has set up his own brand with products of dubious pedigree, which he sells on the Internet. There is the Paul Burrell Furniture Collection, with bedrooms and sofas in the most musty English style, and the Burrell Carpet Collection, made in New York.
He also owns a line of porcelain, with coffee and tea sets from El Mayordomo Real, the
the same firm with which he sells Australian wine and Scotch whiskey. dapper and something corny, the mannered accent that he learned rubbing shoulders with the aristocracy, serves to give lectures to Diana’s American fans and training future butlers. guest in several reality shows, in one of them, his mission has been to transform the appearance and manners of the contestants, until turning them into real princesses.
“I not only lost a friend, I lost my employer, I lost a home, I lost a good school for my children, I lost a car. I’m not ashamed to say that, with Diana, I lost the center of my world,” he later declared. of the tragedy in Paris. Although today his butler school in New York is a profitable business.
Still, Burrell is far from the model butler sought by even the most modest hotels; the reason is simple: he lost his discretion. harassed by the team Mohamed Al Fayed’s lawyers, and on the verge of a nervous breakdown, he admitted to copying Diana’s letters without her consent, having benefited from her memory and having lied, both to the jury and in her two memoirs. The man Diana called “my rock” turned out to be “a porous rock,” according to one of the lawyers’ comments.
Osvaldo Torres Cruz knows how important silence is for his clients. The head of butlers of the Alvear hotel, in Buenos Aires, recounts some of the most demanding extravagant reports he has received, but never reveals the name of the person involved. Put up a shiny plaque with the guest’s name, embroider bathrobes with gold thread, serve as a dance partner for a tango fanatic, or get a guitarist hiding in a dark bar in the slums to come to the patron’s room they are just minutiae in his work.
They pack, unpack, shop, and even run the family finances, coordinate all the activities, choose and prepare the clothes for the day, give indications to the drivers as well as to the cleaning staff, they enforce all the world with the agenda, they reserve restaurants and even order by their menu patrons.
For that, they need to do the work of a private investigator, the least of the oversights can be grounds for layoffs, an equally unnecessary question. To know in detail the needs of their patrons and guests, they make use of any strategy.
They use the Internet, travel agencies and tour operators to form the profile of who will arrive If they lack any detail, they get it done with great professionalism: chatting, reading the movements of the encomendado, analyzing each choice, from what he had for dinner to whether a floral arrangement ran out of place.
In the newspaper El Mundo they report on a new kind of butler: the one who specializes in shopping. The newspaper talks to Marta Mantilla, who practices Tom Wolf’s favorite sport almost daily: window shopping. But unlike the North American writer, she charges for walking through the shops in Barcelona and Madrid. On her careful business card one can read an unusual professional activity: personal shopper.
Personal shoppers emerged in the 1990s in the Anglo-Saxon world to offer personalized assistance to a type of client with high economic resources, little time and a certain level of demand on their physical appearance for professional or social reasons. The consumption boom and the professionalization of personal services contribute to the consolidation in its various modalities.
Author of Modern Butlers, Steven Ferry is recognized as one of the most rigorous and
exalted trainers of butlers. As is to be expected, this specialist is one of the great defenders of the English tradition in the service. In his continuous presentations of him, he always sets out the fifteen main commands for service:
1. Integrity is the most elemental characteristic of a steward. Every patron or guest depends on honesty and reliability when he places his family, finances and belongings in the temporary care of a butler. The boss does not want his assets to disappear, chores to go undone, his family to get sick from toxic food, or his funds to be wasted.
2. No guest or patron wants to be badmouthed behind their back, slandered in front of their family and guests, or have their name published because of the butler, so loyalty is another key element.
3. The boss does not want to be overshadowed by the butler, nor does he want small emergencies to become major ones. So the butler must always be in the background, smoothing everything out and constantly striving to make the patron’s life as pleasant as possible.
To “butler” efficiently, you must do things quietly and let the boss get the credit; or vice versa, taking the blame for the employer’s mistakes without getting defensive. You are, in essence, an actor on the stage, and you must play the part of it perfectly. As long as you keep that in mind, the occasional little indignities become part of the script and not a matter of life and death.
4. The guest or patron would like to feel that his butler truly cares about the well-being of him and his family. He wants his employee to be helpful and accommodating, the “can do” type, always wanting to make things work out for the family and lending his help in every way possible.
5. The butler must have an elementary delicacy and be very wise when confronting critical situations, so that neither his employer nor his family are embarrassed. He must know and follow good manners and customs; be aware of the family’s likes and dislikes and please everyone accordingly; treat each person individually and with equal respect, no matter how outlandish they seem.
6. Six hundred years ago, “the age of discretion” (the age when a person realizes that there are other factors that need to be taken into consideration when making a decision) was fourteen years old. This means, in other words, that instead of speaking out loud, a person remains silent until the right time and place to express his opinion has arrived.
Sir Winston Churchill’s advice to diplomats has some application here. “A diplomat is a person who thinks twice before saying anything.” Discretion is not something one sees in most teenagers and even adults today, but it is the vital requirement of every butler to function successfully within his employer’s family.
7. With the passage of time, the butler becomes almost as loved as the rest of the family, but only when he behaves as if he were not; because there is an invisible line that he must never cross. The division between the stairs going up and those going down (or “the ones in front” and “the ones in the back”, as was customary in country houses, as opposed to city dwellings) reflects the limits of familiarity than social boundaries. Concern for the employer and his family must therefore be both felt and demonstrated, but always with a certain measure of decorum.
Familiarity, in the long run, leads to contempt, so the butler must maintain a professional demeanor at all times. It is a matter of being really solicitous while maintaining a friendly formality in all acts. Being confident or aloof are two extremes, neither of which is acceptable in a stranger who has been allowed into the home.
8. By being aware of the preferences and mood swings of his patron, the butler
can predict or anticipate and provide the object or environment that it needs or may want, before it is requested. The butler’s attitude should be: “I will do everything possible to keep my guest happy and comfortable.” This is the game he plays and the reward is pleasing himself while pleasing his master. In essence, providing service is the gift of the steward.
It is the starting point and not the end line. What increases the true value of the butler is that additional perception (the discreet observation to build the profile of his employer from which he can anticipate his needs), the inventiveness to create “exquisite moments” and the request that allow him or her. she creates those special moments for her masters and, of course, for other employees or suppliers.
9. The fundamental difference is that a good butler serves, but is not servile. He is there to provide a service that he himself enjoys. He is willing to accept criticism and, if it is not justified, to let it slide or amend it, when and as appropriate. But he does not owe his permanence to the bosses, he is there for his own merits and therefore he can walk upright, albeit discreetly.
10. Although flexible in terms of the number of working hours, a butler is very meticulous with time and is never late.
11. As for the rest of the staff, the butler is friendly without being overly familiar. He must be firm about the quantity and quality of work done by those who help him. Based on the fact that all of them are his colleagues, the butler cares about them and that their lives go well, because his performance influences his ability to serve his masters.
12. The butler is a good organizer; he can direct a lot of people and activities, according to schedule, while he keeps all the desk work on track.
13. The butler pays close attention to detail to achieve a high standard of quality and
thus convey a message of excellence to his employers.
He offers more hot coffee along with the morning papers, while nice soft music plays in the background. That is the level of creativity that a good butler knows how to use: offer beautiful moments so that their guests feel comfortable and increase their pleasure.
14. At the same time, the butler has to deal with unpleasant manifestations of a disgruntled staff; of demanding family members, of impolite guests, of indignant masters, of inconsistent suppliers and, on top of that, seeing how the most meticulous men break down at the last moment – all while he maintains his his composure, his intact desire to offer the best possible service, to assure everyone that events will run smoothly. He is a lot like an army sergeant – the one who organizes his men and ultimately achieves his objectives, sometimes despite the opinion of the commanding officers.
15. At the end of the day, the good butler still has the energy and humility to ask himself, “Is there anything I could have improved my service today?”
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