Odd jobs give hotels extra flair

See the original article in Groupaway Magazine here

Next time you’re at a hotel, think about all the people who make your stay a pleasant one. There’s the concierge, the chef, housekeeping, the Duck Master. Wait, what? Well, if you’re staying at a Peabody Hotel, then yes, the Duck Master and his trademark, feathered friends are an important part of the overall experience.

The Duck Master is responsible for the twice daily duck march. At 11 a.m., five ducks are led down the elevator from their “duck palace” on the roof to the fountain in the Grand Lobby in front of a crowd of up to 100 onlookers. The process is reversed at 5 p.m. when the ducks march back down the red carpet and ride up to their habitat for the night.

This ducky tradition started in 1933 when Frank Schutt, general manager of the original Peabody Memphis, and a friend placed decoy ducks in the Grand Lobby fountain as a prank.

The Peabody Orlando recently hired a new Duck Master, a coveted position considering there are only three in the world. (There’s a third Peabody in Little Rock, Ark.) Alan Villaverde, managing director of the Peabody Orlando, says he found what he was looking for in Donald Tompkins, a former AT&T employee and sea lion host at Sea World. “He must be the point person for the image and personality of the ducks,” Villaverde says.

In addition to leading the daily ceremony, the Duck Master works with guest services, conducts media interviews, and brings the animals to schools to talk about wildlife and the environment. “I’ve only been here two months and it’s been everything I thought it would be,” Tompkins says. “It’s a fun job…there’s a lot of customer interface and I enjoy talking to people.”

Of course, working with ducks isn’t the only cool job out there. At The Ritz-Carlton, Dallas, two hotel chefs, who serve as guacamologists, whip up homemade guacamole and margaritas for guests every night starting at 6 p.m.

Farther south in Miami, The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach employs a tanning butler whose job is to slather on sunscreen. Armed with a custom-made holster filled with sunscreen of varying SPFs, a water mister and sunglass cleaner, the butler is paid to hang around the pool.

The Benjamin Hotel in New York offers a good night’s sleep or your money back. To guarantee this promise, the hotel employs a sleep concierge who presents a pillow menu to guests, complete with 12 different kinds of pillows to choose from. The concierge then offers advice on how best to get some shuteye.

The Westin St. Francis in San Francisco employs a coin washer of all things. In the mid-1930s, this employee cleaned the change women were using to pay for lunch so they wouldn’t get their white gloves dirty. Today, the coin washer cleans about $700 to $800 in coins a week in an old, manually operated machine.

— Laura Smith

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