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.
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:
Sleep Concierge: The Benjamin Hotel in New York takes its guests' sleep very seriously. In fact, they guarantee a good night's sleep or your money back.
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."
Coin Washer: The Westin St. Francis in San Francisco has employed a coin washer since the mid-1930s, when women always wore white gloves and hats to come downtown. The story goes that a hotel general manager noticed that the ladies attending the weekly fashion shows in the Mural Room were soiling their white gloves on the change they were using to pay for lunch.
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.
Fireplace Butler: At the Taj Boston, guests can call this butler to ensure that their wood-burning fireplace is properly ablaze. The butler will help the guests choose the type of wood they prefer from the hotel's "firewood menu." For instance, pick cherry wood to scent the room, or birch for a quick-burning fire.
Pigeon Chaser: The Oberoi Rajvilas in Jaipur, India, has a designated pigeon chaser armed with a flag on a long pole to ensure guests and the temples don't get, well, covered in pigeon droppings.
YouTube Concierge: The San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casinoin Puerto Rico helps guests share their vacation experience with those back home via free online video postcards. The YouTube concierge spends time each day around the resort offering guests the chance to record a quick 30-second video which can be sent to friends, family or co-workers back home.
Peacock Manager: Kirkland Johnson has been the head groundskeeper at Royal Plantation Ocho Rios in Jamaica since the resort reopened in 2001, and is also responsible for managing the on-site peacock population. Kirkland is responsible for feeding all 18 peacocks once a day (they get high-protein organic birdseed) in addition to nest upkeep and monitoring peacock eggs and chicks (who are often targeted by the local mongoose population. )
Water Sommelier: In Germany, the restaurant at the Regent Berlin has two Michelin stars and one water sommelier. Arno Steguweit offers guests a water list. He pairs menu items and meals with certain mineral waters, based on guests' "palates." His decision to pursue water sommelier service actually stemmed from attending whisky tastings, where he noticed that minerals in certain waters would actually fortify the spirit's flavors.
Beekeeper: David Garcelon, executive chef at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto, is also the hotel's beekeeper. Three rooftop hives are a natural extension of the decade-old rooftop herb garden. And the bees deliver irresistible honey for guests.
Candle Lighter: Lighting the 450 candles in the dining room at Le Sirenuse hotel on Italy's Amalfi Coast might seem a rather simple and menial task. Yet it is one that entails patience, a firm hand and equilibrium. This delicate task has been assigned to Raffaele, a charming waiter from the nearby village of Praiano who has been with Le Sirenuse for more 40 years.
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.
Director of Elephants: John Roberts is the director of elephants at the Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa's elephant camp and conservation center in northern Thailand. The camp helps the government's preservation efforts and offers employment for local elephant drivers (mahouts). Roberts also organizes an annual elephant polo tournament on the resort's grounds.
Running Concierge: Westin Hotels & Resorts has a program at some of its hotels where a staff member leads guided runs through the neighborhood. Through the RunWESTIN program, the concierge leads warm up sessions, distributes water and towels and then highlights distinct points along the three-mile route.