Searching for a career? Ever consider becoming a . . . butler?
Charles MacPherson will teach you how at his Toronto school for butlers. You’ll take Laundry 101 and, if you pass that, Laundry 201. You’ll learn the correct way to shake a hand, how to set an elegant table, the general rules of protocol and how to run a household.
If you take the full, eight-week course and begin work in a hotel, you can expect to earn north of $60,000. Get a gig in a private home for a wealthy family, and you could earn six figures and perhaps travel the world overseeing homes for your employers, as MacPherson did for years before opening his business. (In private homes, approximately 80 percent of butlers are men; in hotels, it’s half men, half women.)
In addition to training butlers for hotels and homes, MacPherson consults with hotels, working with staffers who may be front desk personnel or even housekeepers, teaching them how to comport themselves around guests. As hotels begin cutting back on services and eliminating concierges, some managers are deciding it’s even more important for front-line employees to have a certain level of training and panache.
I talked with MacPherson on my radio show this past weekend and told him the first time I ever had a personal butler was years ago when I checked into the swanky Lanesborough in London’s Knightsbridge neighborhood. A former hospital, the Lanesborough opened to enormous worldwide publicity thanks largely to the news it would assign each guest a butler.
Moments after arriving in my room, my Lanesborough butler appeared and offered to unpack my suitcase and draw a hot bath for me. At rates that (today) begin at $535 a night, you get a lot of service, but I was frankly flummoxed. I really wanted a shower, not a bath, and didn’t know if I wanted a stranger to unpack my suitcase.
A good butler, MacPherson says, can sense that and will know when to perform a service and when not to. After all, MacPherson tells me, when you unpack, “You’re touching someone’s underwear . . . so people need to feel comfortable with you, and if they don’t, that whole thing becomes an intrusion.” A good butler will be able to read your body language, says MacPherson, and know what services you require.
I asked MacPherson if he could tell within a few minutes of meeting someone if they have the right stuff to become a butler.
“Absolutely,” he said. “It’s all in the attitude, so usually within several minutes of speaking to me on the phone or meeting with me, I can tell if we have a potentially good candidate or not.”
And, yes, he has turned away applicants.
I asked him if I showed up unannounced at his home whether everything would be in perfect order.
Certainly, he assured me.
“OK,” I said. “Do you use tissues between your clothing when you pack?” Of course, he said.