When I began my career as a butler forty years ago, I was employed by a elderly gentleman and his young wife. Mr. returned home one Sunday afternoon after being out for a few days of fishing from his 370-foot pleasure craft. He had been given a very fine bottle of vintage wine by one of his boat guests. He put it on the kitchen counter and asked me “to stick a bow on it”, as he desired to bring to a birthday party at a friends home later in the evening. I followed his orders and found a pre-made bow and stuck it on the neck of the bottle, as directed.
A short while later, his young wife came through the kitchen and saw the bottle of wine with the bow. She looked at the bottle and then looked at me, exclaiming, “Who put this bow on here?” I answered and said that I had. She became a bit upset and said, “Do you really think a $2,000 bottle of wine deserves only a cheap pre-made bow?" I told her it was what Mr. had asked me to do. She said, “Here, I will show you how to wrap a bottle of wine.”
She scurried around and found a spool of ribbon and cut some fresh roses from the cutting garden. She proceeded to wrap the bottle in a spiral of ribbon, starting from the bottom of the bottle up to the neck. There, she tied off the ribbon with a huge bow, much like the kind of bow we all make with a shoelace when tying one's shoes. She then nipped with scissors the thorns from the stems of the roses and tied a small bouquet of roses at the neck of the bottle, on top of the bow. Presto! The now-wrapped bottle of wine looked beautiful and interesting all at once.
What I learned
What I learned was to think outside the box, to wrap each and every thing with care and with imagination. Just sticking a bow on a gift is not enough, because the gift wrapping is an outward representation of the tantalizing nature of the gift itself. A well-wrapped present inspires the imagination of the gift's receiver, and spending time and effort on creating a beautiful work of art of the gift's presentation makes them feel valued. In the years since that time, I have always been given the gifts my employers give out to friends and their families to wrap. They come to rely on me for my artistic eye and flair for beautiful details.
Take your time and enjoy putting an interesting gift wrap together. Use found objects. Use things from nature. Use your imagination! Sometimes, like the bottle of wine, just simply wrap a length of ribbon around a box or an object and make a big floppy bow like the kind we all tie when tying a shoelace. Cut some leaves or fresh flowers and tie that on the package as well! Or do like I do and hit the dollar
stores a few times a year and buy up interesting little things, such as small stuffed animals, three or
four candles in a bunch, funny little key rings, or a small bundle of kitchen utensils like a whisk and a bottle opener. Fill a net bag with interesting small soaps and bath salts, or sea shells and artificial fruit and silk flowers! Seriously, you will soon get the hang of it and will start wrapping gifts with a whole new level of design. Holidays are great fun because there are so many holiday ornaments one can use on a package with big floppy satin bows. And don’t forget our best friend: the hot glue gun!
The most important thing is to have fun! Be creative and find things through out the year that you like. Keep a box under your bed or in the closet that, throughout the year, you collect interesting things in. On a gift of 5 CDs that I wrapped for one of my employers, I found some sheet music in an antiques store,
rolled the sheets up and tied them with little satin bows, and found at the dollar store a treble clef intended for a birthday cake, and tied that with the rolled sheet music. I wrapped each of the CDs with
different colors of paper, put them all together with a simple bow, and tied the sheet music and treble clef at the center of the big bow.
Beware, you will become known as the Master Gift Wrapper! Before you know it, your employer will turn to you for creative and beautiful wrapping. It is these little things that your employer will come to love about you and they will never give up making you happy on the job. It is in doing the little things that gives you the greatest gift of all: being truly appreciated by your employer.
Potter Poppins Academy is a butler training school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the United States. The Academy, led by esteemed head butler Ken Horne, offers courses such as Elite Butler Training, Hotel Butler Training, classes for principals new to managing household staff, courses in etiquette and protocol for business professionals, manners courses for children and young adults, and bespoke service consulting.