Friday, August 1, 2014

Dealing With House Guests: Do Your Guests Bring Their Own Staff?

The question of how we deal with guests who travel with their own house staff has come up several times, both in blog comments and email inquiries. As you might imagine this has the potential of creating an awkward situation being that the guest's staff members are our industry peers, but our guests at the same time.

Fortunately, long before going into private service, I gained a lot of valuable experience in this regard due to employment in some fancy five-star hotels. In that environment it's pretty routine for the rich and famous to travel with the own personal assistants or nannies. Of course, rock stars and film divas arrive with a whole entourage - wardrobe assistants, hair and makeup people, secretaries and personal assistants, security personnel, not to leave out their current bed partner.

We had a frequent British gentleman who always brought along his Valet who stayed in a separate room. Bored to death and lonely, he would wander down to the lobby and hang out with us at the concierge desk, which was a little confusing. What is he? A guest, or a peer? But in no time I grew to admire this poor fellow and learned so much from him about proper British service. Even so, I had enough sense to maintain the boundary between guest and service personnel, which he seemed to understand and appreciate.

In private homes and private service things are not quite so chaotic. But it's not at all unusual for guests to arrive with their own personal assistants, or a nanny to take care of their little brats - which is a blessing to us of course, under the circumstances.

We once had a lady who came to the house with her own chef, due to her delicate health and dietary needs, and I thought all heck would break loose between her and our lazy-ass chef. But for some unknown and mysterious reason they seemed to hit it off and were filling the house with wonderful aromas. He didn't dash out that day like he usually does the minute his work is finished, and the next morning he showed up early, clean shaven and sober for God's sake. I don't even want to think about it.

The thing is, all these traveling staff members seem to be humble and polite in their new environment and circumstance, and seemingly relate to us as peers. They take their meals in the kitchen with us, not at the dining table with our employers. And, unlike their employers, they make few if any demands on us.

I don't really know if this is my own personal experience and good luck or if it's just the way it is when servants to the rich confront one another. We're all in the same boat, after all. But the basic bottom-line rule is that anyone sleeping under this roof is a guest, no matter their station in life, and treated accordingly.

Thanks for dropping in this evening. I hope this four-part series has shed some light on the subject of house guests, which we all have to deal with from time to time.



  1. Hey Andrew,

    I seriously enjoyed this four part series. Hard to believe all the intricate detail there are, and how many variables there are to hosting a guest. I enjoyed even more you book. I give you standing ovation at combining a compelling murder mystery with so much intimate detail into the lives of the "Super Rich."

    I am going to be pursing a college career centered around horticulture. I recall reading about how palm plant are appropriate for the entrance hall. I was wondering if you could give more insight into the roles of plant and flowers in the lives of your employers. Both in everyday life as well as for special occasions.

    Thank you for taking the time to share with us,
    Marley B.

    1. Hi, Marley!

      You're very kind to say all that! I saw a terrific book review on the Amazon page for "The Billionaire's Butler" by someone also named Marley. If that's you, I just want you to know how much I appreciate it! I'm delighted you're enjoying the blog, and that the book was well received!

      I've added your interesting inquiry about plants and flowers to the list of future posts, which might not be 'til October, I'm afraid. Meanwhile, if you go into the blog "Archives" for 2011, there's already a couple of articles about landscaping. One is on January 18, 2011, and the other is on April 10, 2011. You've chosen an interesting and rewarding career, from my point of view.

      Thanks again for your comment and review!

  2. The Valiant ValetMonday, 04 August, 2014

    This post is so great! I traveled with Mister Lucas just last month to his brothers house in the Hamptons. It was so awkward, not knowing if I was to be treated as a guest of as a servant. I kept a low profile and eventually found my place. I got along so well with his brothers valet, and learned some great tips from him. I spent most of the week attending to my master, but any down time I spent with his brother's servants and it was a blast!

    1. I completely understand. Early on in this job my employers once invited me to sit with them and their guests at a cocktail party. Big mistake. Awkward for me and confusing to the guests--and I've never allowed that to happen again. Boundaries are essential in this line of work.

  3. I am the head housekeeper here in a Boston home with a staff of six to help run the house. We have all shared and enjoyed this series about house guests immensely! We face this same ordeal quite frequently, and thank you for helping us laugh our way through the worst of it. We look forward to your future writings.


    1. You're very kind to say that, Ms. Phillips! Always nice to hear from industry peers. Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to comment. Best regards to you and all your staff. Andrew