Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dealing With House Guests: Laundry Services

I've often been asked "Do you provide laundry services for your guests?" 

Well, the short answer is no, not if we can avoid it! I don't know about you but if I've got house guests for an extended stay I just show them the washer and dryer closet, the jugs of Tide and Downy, and let them have at it, right?

But in the world of the rich, especially in my role as butler and house manager, you can't get away with that. So here goes with the third entry of a four-part series on house guests in the world of the super rich.

First off, if guests are staying for only one night then there's usually no need for laundry services in the first place. In fact like in a hotel, we hang a plastic laundry bag in the closet which they can use to cart off their own dirty laundry.

But if they're staying for a few days things start to get gamey in their room, and all of a sudden socks and underwear are being sent down to the laundry room. Sometimes they have the good taste to use the plastic bag, but sometimes they just leave their socks and undies in a pile, along with the day's used towels, on the bathroom floor with the expectation that house staff will pick it up and return it all clean, just like they do in a hotel.

We've even had guests leave their shoes outside the bedroom door, again like in a hotel, expecting us to polish them overnight. Normally we just blow this off, daring them to complain to their host about poor service in the house.

Anyhow, as rude and unwelcome as all this might be, guests' laundry is not really a big problem for us. There's two washers and two dryers in the laundry room. Louise our laundry tech just throws the items into an empty washer (along with a little bleach to kill whatever vermin and other ick the guests might be bringing into the house) and that's that. She folds everything expertly of course, then hands it off to Ester the upstairs maid who returns the items to the guests' room on her next trip up the elevator. Except for aggravation, no problem at all, really.

On the other hand, if guests are staying for a really long time (God forbid) then they'll be needing their shirts and blouses washed and ironed, maybe even their suits and woolens sent out for cleaning. I'm not about to ask Louise to do any of this. Although we do have a rotary iron, washing sheets, bath towels, dish towels, bathroom hand towels, dinner napkins and bar towels, not to mention the Mister's own garments, is quite enough for her day's labor - especially that the pillow cases and dinner napkins have to be spray-starched and ironed by hand.

Thankfully we have a laundry/dry cleaning service that comes by the house twice a week for pickup and delivery. They even have a one-day emergency turn if need be, for an additional fee of course. So the guest's garments are sent out through this service, which is tossed onto the household expense account - not onto Louise's shoulders.

Unfortunately sometimes a guest will decide to leave a day or two early before their garments come back from the cleaners, but there's no real problem there either. Any left-behind items can be sent to them via FedEx next-day air, with all due regrets and apologies on my part - although I'm the one who has to stand on line at FedEx.

But scatter-brained rich people are accustomed to having things sent back home from wherever they go - jewelry, cell phones, books, garments, what have you. We once had a lady jump into her Bentley and rush off - leaving her annoying little Pekingese behind. Luckily for us she came back fifteen minutes later to pick up the little monster.

As always, thanks for dropping in tonight. I hope your guests aren't as tedious and rude as the ones we have around here.



  1. Enlightening post, Andrew! I didn't even know what a rotary iron was until stumbling upon it here! And I had no idea that the rich are so careless with their things. I would imagine them to be anxious about about all their expensive belongings, but leaving behind jewelry and a dog? I guess it's hard to keep track of all their possessions being that they have hundreds of each item.

    I know it would never happen at the home you manage, but do the rich get an absurd amount of things stolen from them all the time? How do they ever keep track of their belongings? Is that part of the house manager or maids' job too? Perhaps an excel sheet of button down shirts or wing-tips?

    Thanks for pulling up the curtains for us, Andrew!


    1. Yes, Doll, rotary irons are making a comeback (all the rage in the 1950s) thanks to a high-end appliance manufacturer in Germany called Miele. (About $2,000)

      As for rich people leaving things behind (which happens all the time!) and who's responsible for keeping an eye out for their things, the answer is too long for a comment but I think this would make an interesting and fun blog post, if that's okay. Tentatively scheduled for September.

      Thanks for dropping by and adding to the conversation. Andrew

    2. Ooh exciting! Will keep a look out!


  2. Andrew, what happens when a guest brings a paid employee, such as a secretary? Is the employee treated as a guest? Does she dine with the family and guests? Hang out with them? Does she have a lovely guest room?

    1. Actually, this very topic will be Part 4 of this four-part series on dealing with house guests. Stacy asked this same question in a comment on "The Ideal Guest Room" (posted June 7, 2014) and I've had similar conversational and email inquiries. (The post should be ready by late next week.)

      Thanks so much for reading, and for your comment. I hope you'll add a name or at least some initials next time, so we can keep up. Andrew