What Are Hotel Butlers Good For?

Savoy Hotels put out a pretty interesting infographic, entitled “a Savoy butler’s insight into making life truly extraordinary.”

This is especially timely since Etihad’s The Residence comes with butler service, and the butlers on Etihad are Savoy trained.

It’s an interesting infographic which explains the ins-and-outs of butler service, including formal training, common tasks, tips, and strange requests they’ve received over the years.

Savoy-Butler

But I’m still not sure I actually “get” butler service. The one hotel chain I stay at fairly regularly that offers butler service is St. Regis.

Every time I arrive at a St. Regis I’m introduced to the butler, who gives me their business card and says something along the lines of “we offer 24/7 coffee and tea, packing and unpacking services, and anything else you might need.”

So the 24/7 coffee & tea I like. Because as anyone that is a regular reader of the blog knows, caffeine is kind of a big deal to me.

St-Regis-Coffee

And I appreciate the packing and unpacking services in theory. Personally it doesn’t interest me in the least, though maybe I’m in the minority there? I don’t want anyone touching my stuff, and for that matter, I don’t actually unpack when I stay at hotels, but instead live out of my carry-on.

But the “anything else” part is lost on me. If I want to make a dinner/tour reservation I’ll just call or visit the concierge, since I don’t see the benefit of having a middleman there. So what else is included in “anything else?”

Here’s the infographic that Fairmont has with “standard” butler tasks:

Butler-Services

So we’ve covered the packing and unpacking. Serving in-suite dining? How does that differ from ordering room service?

Personal shopping? Is that actually a standard butler offering? If so, I guess I could have someone else run to Walgreens and get some essentials for me. If they’re paying for it, does that mean they’ll just add the cost of what I purchase to my folio, and I can earn points on it? 😉

Facilitation and management of dinner parties? I mean, I dream of being one of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, but in the meantime…

And running baths? Help me out here, but in order to ensure the bath is the right temperature, wouldn’t they have to be with you when you get in the bath? Which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but…

Or I suppose there is always the “Krug Ultimate Bath,” which will set you back a mere $1,650. I’m sure they’d be more than happy to help you with that.

So I’m curious — when you stay at a hotel with butler service, what do you use them for?! And is anyone else as flummoxed by the concept as I am?

Comments

  1. My butler brought me an oxygen tank (mask, etc), when I needed a ‘lift’ during a stay at the Belmond Palacio Nazarenas in Cusco, Peru. He was kind enough to demonstrate the correct operation and fitted me with the mask and started the flow.

    I guess the bellman could have done the same, but my butler also prepared a fresh pot of coca leaf tea for my consumption as well.

    The hotel offered a variety if butler prepared baths as well, but since I typically shower, I didn’t avail myself of this service.

  2. My partner and I stayed 3 Christmas holidays ago at the Lanesborough in London (previously an SPG property) which touted its butler service for guests. We gave in and had him unpack our luggage which included fuguring out whose trousers and shirts belonged to whom . . . which led to regularly getting our tea and coffee throughout the day . . . which led to theater tickets and dinner reservations along with suggestions for the day . . . each time Thomas came to our suite he poitely but professionally playfully chatted with us which turned out to be gathering intel which he used to throughout our stay leave suprises for us based on what he learned about us. Who knew one could get used to a butler. Wanted to bring him home but that idea got nixed.

  3. At the Aman resorts butlers actually do a whe lot
    My butler at Aman i khas, got us tea , food,unpacked,packed snacks,etc

  4. Hmm does your butler do your shopping for you? Whenever I go on vacation, I always need to stop at costco and walmart for various items (including fresh fruit so shipping to hotel won’t work) and this would be a great time saver.

  5. I actually had a pretty good experience with butler service. I stayed at The Siam hotel during my last stay in Bangkok in their standalone cottage. At first, I too didn’t understand how it would help, but it ended up being pretty beneficial for the following reasons:

    1) Our butler and his butler assistant spoke very good English and were able to sort things out for us when there was any confusion.
    2) My butler was able to handle all my food allergies and communicate them thoroughly with the kitchen so I didn’t have any major issues while eating abroad.
    3) He was able to negotiate a good rate with a driver we could use over several hours during the day.
    4) Because we traveled during off season, they were able to upgrade our dining experience to cool private areas where there usually would be special requirements for sitting…and for free.
    5) My butler sent out a letter for me to a girl I was dating that’s now a serious girlfriend. It took several weeks, but I would have never figured out how to send a letter from Thailand myself. And I only gave it to him as we were checking out and running to a flight to head to Phuket.

    So there are some upsides. Maybe it helps more on the international foreign language side of things?

  6. Heard about a guy who got his St. Regis butler to drive him to a pizza shop down the street in a Royce Rolls. I guess a step better than pulling into a McDonalds.

  7. “What Are Hotel Butlers Good For?”

    The people who understand what a butler is for are likely to have one already. Those who have no idea what a butler is for are likely to be impressed by the cachet of having one without making much actual use of their services. And therein lies the gimmick. Let’s be honest here, unless you come from old money you probably don’t know what to expect from a butler or when to be impressed or disappointed.

  8. I think why this is confusing, is that despite all the first class travel, you are still not the sort of person that has ‘help’ at home. The people who will depend on a butler do not actually DO anything at home either.

    They have servants for that…..so if you don’t hang your own clothes after you don’t launder them, it seems perfectly reasonable to have someone do those tasks for you.

    The same with running your bath, if your maid does that at home, why -would- you do it at a hotel?

  9. IME at StR hotels, the “good” butlers remember what you like, so you don’t have to call down for tea every day at 4pm, you just know that it’s coming.

  10. I stay at St Regis about 10-13 times a year and butler service is a huge plus for me.. The minute I check in I have my clothes ironed. Every morning I have the butler bring hot milk and coffee. I have them set up and refill my dehumidifier; run a bath; courier stuff home; fix me hot drinks for a car ride etc.. Basically take over my maid’s tasks

  11. Well, probably a bit more useful than having a person butler in first class…

    Lucky, don’t forget, you’re only staying a night or 2 max on average in a hotel. If someone is there for a couple of weeks, having someone there to pack/unpack is a bit more useful (esp if traveling with kids). Plus, don’t think of him as just a butler…he’s also like having your own personal concierge, so to speak. There are people who probably do appreciate that, having someone focus just on them (and maybe a few others as well), versus someone working for all the guests at a hotel. Again, it’s not for everyone, but there is a definite market for it, for certain types of clientele.

  12. Resort butlers are great for:
    Pre-ordering room service
    Organising alfresco dinners
    Buying, packing and sending souvenirs home especially exotic fruits and flowers (I’m not guilty of this but my parents have sent home lobsters and orchids before)
    Reshuffle spa appointments
    Packing
    Spraying insect repellent on outdoor furniture
    We just use them as a contact point so we don’t have to call anyone else

  13. Not being familiar with having a butler at a hotel, does one tip for each service? Or do you provide a gratuity at the end of the stay? Or is it gauche to give them money?

  14. @ Jana — It depends on where in the world you are, but yes, generally you tip. Can either tip with each service or just at the end of the stay.

  15. In my experience at the StR hotels and also the Chatwal in NYC, the butler service is something that most people don’t understand at first–most people not having a butler–or assume costs more money. When butler service is included as it at those properties, it’s fantastic. I still remember having the butler unpack and pack for me for the first time–a true luxury, and totally free. Bringing coffee and snacks and making dinner reservations is just the tip of the iceberg if you’re willing to ask, but most people seem uncomfortable making requests of their butlers when they are provided, it seems. I didn’t have that problem–after all, for those hotels I’m already paying for the butler service as part of my room rate. I have found that those willing to make requests are those that get the most value from the butlers. I absolutely love having butler service when on holiday…and on business trips it’s nice to get clothing pressed and shoes shined as needed, in particular. But I’ve had butlers make recommendations and learned much more inside info about the locality because of butler service, and that has been priceless.

  16. Whilst staying at The Wellesley my partner went for a job interview in their own supplied Rolls Royce and had the butler open the door for her. Now that is service.

    Strangely she didn’t get the job

  17. was the person joking when he or she mentioned Walmart and Costco? Please do not embarrass yourself, plus I find it hard to believe there’s a costco or Walmart anywhere near a hotel that has a proper butler

    At a ritz Carlton once years ago I had someone collect my plane tickets for me, this was before they did e tickets.

    If I’m staying 3 or 4 days and unpacking and pressing is included or at decent pricing I usually go for it.

  18. Ummm, when you call the concierge at a St Regis you are actually connected to your Butler. In essence, they play room service, concierge and front desk for all of your requests. The concept is for you to have a single point of contact.

  19. @Esther. We get it. You are rich, powerful and far too busy (or maybe lazy) to do things yourself. Stop showing off.

  20. @ MD — Yes and no. You usually get connected to the “butler team” and not your actual butler. So it’s not really any more personalized than just being connected to the hotel operator, in my opinion.

  21. Lucky,

    Why don’t you ask the butler what they’re able to do for you? Seems like the number one task they would be able to handle. Should also make for a rather interesting interview if you asked for examples of odd or unusual requests in the past or how they became a butler or maybe a list of do’s and don’ts for future customers. Might be interesting to hear how many self sufficient people even bother calling their butler compared to the number who simply leave them alone.

  22. I am overseeing a team of 40 butlers, and tipping them on a daily basis is considered inappropriate. A good butler would respectfully decline the tip and tell you to tip at the end of the stay based on your satisfaction with his services. The amount depends on what you used your butler for during your stay.

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