The market for super-butlers

by on January 24, 2016 at 1:35 am in Economics, Education | Permalink

One super-butler is John Deery, in his mid-40s and a native of Northern Ireland. Along with planning travel arrangements for his principal, a businessman, and valeting, serving meals, and making sure visas are up to date, Deery manages three of his employer’s properties. One is in the Balkans with 34 staff, there is a London residence with another 12, and a third is being developed.

There is more here, of interest throughout, and you will note many of the employers are funded by oil, so perhaps this market is slowing down at the moment.

This surprised me a wee bit:

Particularly for wealthy employers from Middle Eastern, Asian or Russian backgrounds, one of the attractions of a British butler is their knowledge of the nuances of the traditional English way of dining or formal dressing.

Note this:

The average age of a newly employed butler is 41, and 40% of the people placed by the British Butler Academy are women…

It is less surprising to me that many super-butlers are former actors.

For the pointer I thank Michelle Dawson.

1 Adrian Ratnapala January 24, 2016 at 1:54 am

40% of the people placed by the British Butler Academy are women…

I there no traditional term for a woman who is the chief household servant? I tried to think of one, but couldn’t.

2 David Wright January 24, 2016 at 2:18 am

Housekeeper. Traditionally, the head housekeeper oversaw all the female servants and reported to the butler, who oversaw all the male servants and the head housekeeper. Watch “Downtown Abbey”.

3 dearieme January 24, 2016 at 6:57 am

People are prone to confuse a Butler with a Valet or even a waiter. As you say, Downton is sound on the distinction.

When my wife was a postgraduate she acted as evening cook for a titled couple in their “big house”. Much of the time she cooked game they’d shot themselves.
By dinner time they would often be pretty sozzled. Which was why the rest of the staff refused to “do” evenings and refused to “live in”. They retreated to the sanity of the village in late afternoon.

Still, it was a good self-training as a cook, from which I have benefited for decades.

4 Art Deco January 24, 2016 at 7:40 am

By dinner time they would often be pretty sozzled.

You mean there are people in Britain who aren’t?

Covers the dental pain and you don’t have to notice how awful the meal is.

5 Adrian Ratnapala January 24, 2016 at 9:23 am

But Art! What are you saying? Don’t you know the NHS covers dental care!

On a serious note, I miss British food.

6 Art Deco January 24, 2016 at 9:57 am

Doesn’t matter. The patients are British with British habits and tastes. Graphically represented here

7 dearieme January 24, 2016 at 2:19 pm

“You mean there are people in Britain who aren’t?” Of course: some are completely pissed.

8 Art Deco January 24, 2016 at 7:45 am

The trailers on PBS show the old butler’s making a play for the old housekeeper. Seems a less bizarre bit of literary license than pairing off the younger daughter with the pinko Irish nationalist of a chauffeur.

9 Cass1an January 24, 2016 at 4:56 am

Some time ago there were some reports on chinese butler academies, like the following (the pictures themselves are telling):

10 jim jones January 24, 2016 at 5:47 am

Interesting how completely China has adopted Western Culture.

11 Art Deco January 24, 2016 at 7:45 am

Except for dental hygiene.

12 Adrian Ratnapala January 24, 2016 at 9:30 am

I suspect the view from afar is a little distorted: it makes for a fun news story when Chinese people go gaga for St. Nick, but it is not news if they have a big party in the name of some traditional diety who’s name we can’t even pronounce.

Still I am surprised by this sort of story. China has a tradtion of snobbery that can put British Butlers, French Chefs and Brussels Beaurocrats to shame six times over before morning leak. But they only seem to have held on to the last one.

I blame the commies.

13 Fyodor January 24, 2016 at 4:25 pm

“I blame the commies.”

This. Russia and China liquidated their native aristocratic cultures in favour of a reified proletariat, i.e. what the middle-class vanguardists imagined should be workers’ culture. The result is that the nouveau riche of Russia and China sprouted into a cultural vacuum, devoid of indigenous traditional status markers. Hence the amplified and extravagantly ostentatious displays of bling, followed by the aping of what they perceive, uncritically, to be the received form of aristocratic conduct in more established “prestige” cultures. There’s a lot of cultural inferiority on display when you see the elites of these countries performing.

This was an insightful and amusing article on the subject:

14 rayward January 24, 2016 at 8:30 am

The super-rich today aren’t like the characters in downton abbey. The super-rich have many homes, in far-flung places (that they reach by private jet) with very different climates, and go months or even a year or longer between stays at any particular home. The butler is as much a property manager as a butler, arriving in advance to make sure the home is ready, to arrange any repairs, to add landscaping and fresh flowers, to stock the kitchen, to arrange for necessary repairs to the cars, and to add to the principal’s wardrobe if needed. Moreover, many of the super-rich are older, single men, so they depend on the butler the way married men depend on wives – they are companions as well as butlers. I know this because I have a home near a place where the super-rich have homes and my brother at one time worked at the small, very expensive hotel located there. The butlers would come to the hotel to buy items in the hotel store (very expensive clothing, etc.) and talk to my brother about their adventures. I’ve always been fascinated by vintage cars, and many of the super-rich have beautifully-restored vintage cars that they use a day or two a year. I see them driving up the lane in cars that belong to a very different era, one my favorite author would be right at home.

15 Moelicious January 24, 2016 at 10:34 am

Sounds like such a hassle. I would just stay in hotels

16 RustySynapses January 24, 2016 at 11:26 am

+1. Also, since they are essentially living life with unlimited monopoly money (the game, not the legal doctrine), they are (at least the ones who are smart) eager to trade money for less hassle. It is amazing how well their “help” can do – I know of several instances of people making $75K-$175K for essentially being a helper (but you’re right, it can morph into more of a property manager, but I’m just talking about the helper role). The key is to get the job. Once you have it, and are good at making their life better, are they really going to want you to leave (a big hassle to find and train a new person) over a “measly” $25K-50K delta?

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