Now Hiring: Hotel Duck Master

Meet the people with the most unique hotel jobs in the world.

BySCOTT MAYEROWITZ and ZOE MAGEE
March 22, 2010, 5:21 PM

June 14, 2010— -- Forget that job as a bellhop, housekeeper or concierge. The Peabody Orlando is looking to fill one of the most unique jobs in the hospitality industry: duck master.

The lucky new hire will be in charge of overseeing the hotel's five mallards, parading them through the lobby twice a day and informing guests about the duck's daily lives.

It sure beats putting mints on pillows.

There are only two other duck masters in the world; one at the original Peabody in Memphis and one at the Peabody in Little Rock.

The tradition of the famous Peabody marching ducks began in 1932, when the Memphis hotel's general manager Frank Schutt and his friend Chip Barwick returned empty-handed from a weekend hunting trip. As a prank the men put their live duck decoys in the fountain in the hotel's lobby. The reaction from hotel guests was nothing short of enthusiastic.

Since then, every day at 11 a.m., the ducks are led by the duck master down the elevator from their "Duck Palace" on the roof to the marble fountain in lobby. The ceremony is reversed at 5 p.m., when the ducks march back down the red carpet through crowds to retire for the evening.

"We're looking for a captivating and talented individual with a love for animals and passion for working with people," said Alan Villaverde, managing director of The Peabody Orlando. "Our Duck Masters are known and loved around the world."

If you think looking after hotel ducks is an odd job, here are some others that will also amaze you.

The Ritz-Carlton, South Beach in Miami Beach, Fla., employs a "tanning butler" who is paid to essentially to walk around the beach all day, chatting with beautiful people basking in the Florida sun.

That's right. The luxury hotel actually has somebody on the payroll whose sole responsibility is to help you get lathered up in sunscreen. The service has been in place since the Ritz opened six years ago. The high-visibility butlers, however, usually don't last too long -- the first was discovered on the pool deck and moved to Milan two months later for a modeling career.

"The tanning butler patrols the pool deck and beach in an effort to ensure every guest returns home with a golden South Beach tan," said Michelle Payer, the creator of the program and a spokeswoman for the hotel.

The tanning butler is just one of the unique hotel jobs we found around the globe. From coin washer to peacock manager to fireplace butler, ABC News sought out some of the most unique jobs in the hospitality industry.

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The Ritz Carlton's tanning butler wears a custom-made holster filled with sunscreens of varying SPFs. Not only is the lotion free, but he also offers to apply it to hard-to-reach back, shoulder and neck areas that easily burn.

"His holster also contains a cool water mister and sunglass cleaner for the ultimate in multi-tasking service," Payer added.

Malcolm Vincent held the job for nearly three years and still calls it today "a phenomenal experience." He was born and raised on Maui and said, "I was just a natural at it."

"I just tried to provide a really over-the-top experience for the guest," Vincent said.

He got to meet celebrities staying at the hotel and says he enjoyed providing the service, which was a pleasant surprise to countless sunbathing guests.

So, was it more enjoyable to apply sunscreen to some people than others?

"I was an equal opportunity tanning butler," Vincent said. "For me, a guest is a guest. I was just there to make sure they didn't get that nasty sunburn."

It's not only the ultimate in pampering but also a great story to take home.

"I can't tell you the hundreds of photo albums the tanning butler must be in worldwide, from Stockholm to Tokyo," Payer said. "He's a hit, and a service that guests expect."

A few years ago, a girl even called and asked the tanning butler to be her prom date.

The ideal candidate for the job, Payer said, is outgoing, gregarious, well-spoken, a true people person who enjoys engaging in conversation and understands his role as an ambassador of a luxury brand.

School of Falconry

Across the ocean, we found a very different type of job.

Weighing hawks does not play a huge, or indeed any, part in the average hotel employee's day, but Emma Ford is not your average hotel employee. She is director of the British School of Falconry, which is located at the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland. Her morning work routine begins with weighing her precious Harris Hawks.

"A fat hawk won't fly," Ford explains, so the morning weigh-in is crucial and gauges how much food and exercise the bird will have that day.

The school offers two kinds of falconry sessions. Guests can chose between a short, 45-minute introductory session, at $100 per person, or a longer half-day hunt with the birds out in the wild for $350 per person.

"I have probably one of the best jobs in the world. The reaction from the guests is incredible," Ford said.

In both sessions, the bird flies off and then returns to a glove worn by the guests.

"We aim to get a falcon on a guest's hand within five minutes," she said.

For most people, it's the first time they've had such close contact with any bird, let alone a hawk.

"They discover they aren't as scary as they thought," Ford said.

She has been a falcon fanatic every since she first locked eyes with one aged 8 when a new neighbor moved in next door. She looked over the wall into a hawk's eyes and was hooked. And through falconry, Ford has also found love. At the age of 14, she met another keen falconer, now her husband, who helps her run the school at Gleneagles.

They have never had any accidents with the hotel guests and the birds. "They're not vicious creatures. They love being in the company of humans," she said, but did offer one word of warning: if you turn up in a fur coat you'll be asked to take it off.

"You don't want to look like a very large rabbit" when around falcons, Ford said. They might just get the wrong idea.

Other amazing hotel jobs include:

To this end, they have hired a sleep concierge. Anya Orlanska contacts guests prior to their stay, e-mailing them the hotel's pillow menu. Once they arrive, she is on hand, always ready to give sleep advice to guests.

They offer a selection of 12 different kinds of pillows, including the Snore-No-More, Lullaby, and Gelly Neck Roll. "The Swedish Memory [foam] is the most popular," Orlanska said. "It's a space-age design by NASA. It even keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter."

She'll also talk guests through how best to prepare for a good night's sleep.

"We advise them not to eat a heavy meal before bed. No BlackBerry or computer in the bedroom," she said. "We encourage guests to keep the bedroom for sleeping."

Orlanska's secret weapon? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich made with banana bread which, she claims, spurs the production of sleep-inducing melatonin. The role is clearly a rewarding one for Orlanksa, although it was not one she sought out, having originally interviewed for a regular concierge job.

"I like my job very much," she said, adding that she enjoys helping people sleep. "You feel useful."

So to keep gloves clean, the hotel started washing all its coins. For the last 10 years, Rob Holson, who today also runs the hotel's business center, has been washing the coins.

"It's a side job, basically," he said.

Each week he washes about $700 to $800 in coins in an old manually operated machine once used to polish the hotel's silverware.

He starts but climbing a ladder and lighting each candle from above (each is held in a transparent handmade glass container to protect them from a sudden gust of wind.) Then he goes from table to table lighting all of those candles. At the end of the night, the remnants of each candle must be removed so the glass containers can be cleaned.

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