Most of us don't have enough space for ourselves or enough rooms for our kids, much less the ability to dedicate a separate room entirely for a guest. Myself, a pull-out sofa or a blow-up mattress is about the best I can offer.
But in the world of the rich guest rooms are a top priority and well covered in the butler academy. In this house where I work, in addition to the family bedrooms, there are three rooms set aside specifically for guests.
As you might expect our uppity guests need their privacy, comfort, and access to the outside world. Each one of these rooms has its own bathroom - the premiere with a huge tub on a marble platform, the others with smaller marble-encased tubs and showers. Each room has a sitting area complete with a coffee table and end tables, and most importantly a desk. There's a telephone and cable TV in each room of course, along with a stable internet connection.
Basically these rooms are set up like a hotel. There's a luggage bench and the closets are empty, with plenty of wooden hangers inside. The bureau drawers are empty as well, and the bathrooms have essential luxury toiletries in case the guest's luggage doesn't make it on the same plane.
As the butler academy taught us here's what we do if a guest is expected:
- Open the balcony doors or windows and air out the room.
- Replace hanging towels with fresh ones, in case dust or odors have collected.
- Double check that bed sheets are fresh and smoothed out.
- Make sure the soap dishes have fresh bars of designer soap.
- Put current, gender-specific magazines on the coffee table. Or neutral magazines like The New Yorker and Robb Report if we don't know who's coming.
- Make sure the TV Guide is current and remote batteries are okay.
- Check all light bulbs in the room, especially reading lamps.
- Set a vase of fresh flowers on the coffee table.
- Turn down the bed.
- Finally, vacuum our way out of the room so as not to leave footprints in the carpet.
I feel quite sure you do the very same things if your mother-in-law or other relatives are coming for the weekend, right? But around here, this is the normal and expected sequence of events when guests are coming - which is all too frequent if you want my opinion.
Mercifully we have a full staff to handle all this, including a florist who drops off the vase of fresh flowers. And the kitchen staff is geared up for breakfast, snacks, and extra meals if the guests hang around and don't go out. Being professionals in our jobs, there's really nothing much to it, all said and done.
The only burning question in our minds upon the arrival of every guest is "How frigging long are you going to be here?"
But the problem is that rich people themselves, not having any significant schedules to keep up with, often don't know how long they're going to plunk down in any given spot. So our tricky balancing act is not to be too accommodating or make them feel too comfortable - or else they'll be here for a solid month.
Thanks for stopping by this evening,
Fantastic post, Andrew! I sure wish I could stay at a guest room like that!ReplyDelete
Just a follow-up question though: I heard that butlers do research on guests coming to visit to learn about guests' preferences for food or magazines or whatever. Is that true, and if so, how is that done? I would imagine for ordinary folks, you can just check their numerous social media accounts, but I'm not too sure if the rich, even the younger set, has all these stalkable accounts. I would appreciate your two cents.
Good reading as always,
Hi Butler Fan. Thanks for your kind words!Delete
Yes, we frequently do research (that is, if the guest is a VIP) and it's easy enough to contact their office, personal secretary, or House Manager to find out their preferences and/or dietary needs. But sometimes the guest's staff will notify us first about travel arrangements, preferences, and protocol requirements, if any.
In addition, we have a Guest Registry (started years before I got here) that itemizes previous guests' needs, preferences, and/or any services provided (i.e. limo reservations, airline bookings, theater/opera tickets, massage therapist, what have you). So we're not totally in the dark when the fan gets clogged up.
I sent a comment earlier but this crappy hotel internet cut off the very second I hit the publish button. Let's hope it goes through this time.ReplyDelete
1. Ala a RHoA episode, do you purchase the guests favorite beverages and food items ahead of time? I'm guessing you check ahead of time for food allergies and dietary restrictions. But what about favorites.
2. Does the household staff pack and repack the guests suitcases?
3. What is the laundry situation for long-staying guests? Do they wash their own unmentionables?
4. What happens when guests travel with their own staff members? e.g. if they bring a nanny or personal assistant with them. They are guests to the house and yet they are staff, so...how does that work?
These are all great questions and fun topics, Stacy, similar to Butler Fan's question above. The answer would be way too long for a comment, so I'm thinking to do an "Addendum" to this post--or perhaps a series of guest-related topics. Let me ponder, okay?Delete
House guests, like a plague of locusts, are one of the most disturbing events of mankind. So this deserves some special thought and attention. (lol!)
Sounds good, Andrew. I look forward to it.Delete
Here's something really ironic, timely & hilarious; today I saw a mansion which featured its family photos in the butler's pantry. I couldn't stop laughing. Try as I might, I could not think of a single reason to explain why anyone would want family photos there. My brain kept going: 'WHY? WHY? WHY?'
Nor could the poor butler, I'm sure!Delete
Jumping in on Stacy's comment and mention of the Real Housewives, I wonder if there's any show on TV that best portrays the lives of the super rich. Gossip Girl? Revenge? Downton Abbey springs to mind, but it's a bit too antiquated I would imagine. I'd love to find out if there's any accuracy on TV, or if not, how much glamorous things really are. Any specific character that best portrays the male/female socialite or upper crust old rich type too?ReplyDelete
Can't wait to hear your thoughts!
A wonderful and timely question, Doll. You may have noticed that I've recently published a novel that attempts to present the rich on a more realistic and human level than the stereotype views we usually get on TV.Delete
It's attracted some attention in Hollywood, and I've already signed a Shopping Agreement with a well known and accomplished producer. As we speak "The Billionaire's Butler" is being pitched as a TV comedy series. So please keep your fingers crossed, Doll. As you might imagine, I'm totally thrilled by the whole idea.
And by the way, my all-time favorite representation of the upper crust old rich is the brief scenes with actress Wendy Hiller in her portrayal of Princess Dragomiroff in "Murder On the Orient Express".
Oh my goodness that is amazing! Fingers crossed indeed. I can't wait! Before you know it, you might be needing a butler for yourself, Andrew!Delete
Have either of watched the documentary 'Queen of Versailles'? I think all domestic staffing agencies should make it a must watch for how NOT to run a household.Delete
'The Secrets of Highclere Castle' (where Downton Abbey is filmed) interviewed the current butler. And 'Royal Servants' was enlightening as well. 'The Unknown History of England's Domestic Servants' was pretty sad and while it dealt mainly with services of the past, it did have some focus on how and why things changed which I found interesting.
I've not seen those shows, but they do sound interesting.Delete
If you have Netflix or Amazon Prime you can watch Queen of Versailles. It's about a former billionaire and his wife who started building the largest residence (90,000sf) in the U.S. but then the recession happened, they lost their billions, and work on the house was suspended. In the meantime, they're still living in their cramped current home of 24,000sf, but had to lay off most of their staff. 24,000sf , 8 kids, multiple pets and one housekeeper/babysitter = train wreck. It's an incredible and tragic documentary. Won a few awards.Delete
Royal Servants is on YouTube.
Just dropped by to say Hi ! KEKReplyDelete
Always nice to hear from you, KEK. Hope all is well.Delete
This message is to Doll, above, and I hope you get it. I deleted my reply to your last comment for fear of being misinterpreted, and I can't get back in to add a corrected reply. Your comment was so sweet, and my reply was so negative about not wanting to have a butler myself. It's just that I've had enough of these rich people and would never want to have their lifestyles, much less a butler like me. Hope you'll let me know if you find this. AndrewReplyDelete