Photo provided by the St. Regis Deer Valley
When you arrive at the St. Regis Deer Valley, after a long road or plane trip, Alexander Mattinson puts you at ease.
First, he greets and shows you around the property. When you arrive at your suite, he'll show you all of the amenities so you'll feel at home. If you're in a hurry to hit the slopes, he'll unpack your luggage, and when you get back, he can make sure you have a hot cup of tea waiting. Dinner reservations? He'll schedule it. Need something from a local shop? He'll get it for you. And if you need your shirt or jacket pressed for that big meeting, he's got you covered there, too.
British born and now an American citizen, Mattinson spent a decade serving the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace, where he worked as a store manager in the Royal Mews and was valet to the crown equerry. He has been at St. Regis Deer Valley for the past five years, where he often serves top CEOs and celebrity guests.
With Lee Daniels' The Butler now in theaters, we were curious about some of Mattinson's experiences. He catered to us by telling us all about what it's like to be a butler, his time at the palace and tipping.
First, what was it like working for the Royal Family?
It was similar to the hotel in the sense that there's a lot of running around behind the scenes, a lot of preparation, whether it be an arrival for a state visit or just a general routine job. I worked in the Royal Mews, so it was predominantly all horse and carriages in my department. We would get up at 4 in the morning to do an early morning rehearsal on the streets of London if there was a state visit, and we would take ambassadors from embassies and show their credentials to the queen . . . It was also interesting, because we live in a society where we're all intrigued by what celebrities are doing, and we all have this idea they don't live normal lives like we live. And they don't to a point, obviously, they are completely different. The president doesn't get up in the morning like we do and chill out in front of the TV.
Can you share an experience with Royal Family?
Prince Charles is a very nice man. He's very down to Earth, very charming and certainly makes good conversation. I worked on Charles and Camilla's wedding, which you can imagine was quite an event. The Pope had just died, so people were kind of left, right and center that day, which is quite funny because everything is normally set out for an event and everything had to be changed. Normally, we all beckon to them, but they kind of had to beckon to someone else—quite surprising really.
With all your experience, what do you think makes a good butler?
Patience in a sense of waiting for what their requests are, but then quickness—to actually get the job done because they need it done immediately, and there's no kind of hanging around and people don't really understand why it takes a little longer to get things done. Obvously, it's important to be reserved. You're going to see an awful lot of things that guests do in their personal lives that a lot of other people wouldn't see.
What have been some of the unusual requests you've gotten?
We had a person who broke an iPhone, and I had to go and arrange to get the new iPhone and everything all set up again, because they accidentally broke it the night before. It was him and his wife, and they really didn't want to shop during their ski day, so we had to go out and arrange to have it purchased and everything. The most outrageous wasn't at my property, it was at another, but there was a lady who left a pair of shoes, and she didn't want them sent by FedEx. She wanted them personally hand delivered, so we had to take them to her by plane.
What do you love about being a butler?
You need to enjoy interacting with the people, obviously. You need to enjoy a challenge in making it happen. So, those are some of the things I enjoy. I think what I enjoy the most is the interaction with the people—they come from all corners of the world—and just making their stay go as smoothly as possible, so they have good memories.
Is there anything you hate about being a butler?
The thing I don't love about my job, more than anything, is when you are trying to prep and things just aren't going right. You're trying to set something up—dinner reservation and the restaurant is fully-booked, or a guest wants you to get something for them and the shops are closed.
What's standard for tipping a butler?
People give you $20, and then it kind of moves on from there. There will be a gratuity for when you meet and greet and show people around. The more you befriend the butler and the nicer you are, the more doors can open for you in that way. Some people are more generous than others in that respect, and when someone's extremely generous, you're obliged to do anything and everything to make their stay, since they're paying for more in that way. It's not as if you don't tip the butler, you'll have a crappy stay. It isn't that way. Just some people know they are high-maintenance and they tend to tip higher because they are expecting to use you a lot more.