VETERAN butler Jaya Seelan, 49, remembers driving all the way down from Genting Highlands one night to buy a baby’s bathtub for a client.
It might seem like he’s going above and beyond the call of duty, but it’s all in a day’s work for butlers like Jaya and his team, who have served VIP clients including royalty, presidents and celebrities at the Genting Grand and Crockfords Maxims hotel suites.
Butlers have an incredible array of duties – after all, they’re the main point of contact for guests during their stay. Sure, housekeeping changes the sheets, and room service brings the food, but butlers get to know everything about the guests, from their schedules to their favourite drinks, and can tailor their services accordingly.
Jaya and his team often receive requests from customers to book flights or restaurant reservations, plan itineraries, be their tour guide around Genting Highlands or act as their chaperone to Kuala Lumpur.
“Butlers possess so many skills just waiting to explode,” Jaya, the club director of Genting Grand and Crockfords butler division, joked.
“You have to be good at public relations, you have to know how to decorate, you have to be tech-savvy and you even have to know how to cook,” he listed.
You might also, if the need arises, have to be good with children, and that’s where female butlers like Najjat Izham shine.
“Customers tend to prefer female butlers for babysitting, as we’re seen to be more nurturing,” said Najjat, 36, who worked her way up from the F&B department to her current position as supervisor.
On the whole, though, butlering is one job where there isn’t any gender bias, she said. Butlers are very much valued for their skills above anything else, making butlering a great career option for all.
Jaya also stressed the importance of character in his field of work. A sense of genuineness, he said, is a butler’s greatest asset, not gender or even looks.
One does not have to be good-looking, pretty or handsome, but must have a beautiful personality to be a great butler. – Jaya Seelan
But it isn’t just about personality – butlers need to undergo a great deal of training in order to make it into the grand suites.
Most butlers at Genting Grand and Crockfords are professionally trained under the Magnums Butler Academy in Australia, and Jaya himself is a distinguished gold lapel pin recipient from the institution, which certifies him as a qualified butler trainer.
Trained butlers are taught to watch their speech patterns and body language towards their guests so as not to offend them. Even the smallest details can make a huge difference to a client. On top of that, they’re taught the importance of secrecy.
When your clients include heads of state and celebrities, the ability to keep a secret could mean the difference between life and death.
With that in mind, butlers never, ever, reveal their guests’ names or movements. Each of them contains a wealth of information, including history and personal data. But their lips remain sealed, even when we pressed them for information.
Butlers have ethics. We have to keep customers’ privacy confidential. It’s our utmost priority. – Jaya Seelan
Jaya swears by his motto “safety, secrecy and an eye for detail”.
While it seems all very cloak-and-dagger, butlering can be fun, too.
Chief decorator Jaafar Busrah, who mainly handles flower arrangements, loves his job. Butlers are sometimes tasked with arranging celebrations, and those celebrations involve decorations. That’s where Jaafar comes in.
A whizz with flowers, towels, and candles, Jaafar can whip up towel animals (one favourite is a little towel monkey swinging from a hanger), and even create a romantic tableau with flower petals (pro tip: flower petals must always face up) on beds and in bathtubs.
I was born to be a flower designer and I love beautiful things. – Jaafar Busrah
He added that he draws inspiration from the Internet as well as nature’s beauty.
Butlers may have to wear a thousand different hats in their jobs but to Jaya, it all boils down to providing the best service possible, while staying silent.
“At the end of the day, when you put your heart and soul into your work, you’ll know how important it is to treat customers right,” he said.
“It’s not about the money. When you see a smile on another’s face, it just makes your day.”