Butler-in-training Elmer Clavijo is working hard to keep his cool as he expounds on all the nifty features of a room at the St. Regis, Los Angeles hotel.
But Benjamin Lau is being very persnickety as Clavijo escorts him to the bathroom and shows him the array of Bijan shampoos.
"I'm allergic to them! I had them at the Four Seasons and they nearly killed me," Lau complains.
"Do you have another preference?" Clavijo asks calmly.
In response, Lau peppers Clavijo with more complaints and demands, then walks to the window. "It's facing the street. It's too noisy!"
"I'll get the front office manager to see if we can change your room," Clavijo says pleasantly.
The scene unfolds during Clavijo's recent training at the St. Regis, formerly the tower portion of the Century Plaza Hotel & Tower in Century City. Though he played a guest during the training. Lau is actually the head butler at the St. Regis in New York. His mission on this day: Train new recruits to fill one of the key jobs at the ultra-upscale hotel.
Clavijo and other butler trainees are put through a series of tough tests in preparation for dealing with the various heads of state, royalty, high-powered business executives, entertainers and other VIPs expected to check into the hotel when it reopens this week after an extensive renovation.
The play-acting gives trainees a good preview of what they may encounter when they become butlers for real, starting this week.
"Some guests get too hyper and ask a lot of things," Lau tells the trainees. "The idea is, you have to keep calm all the time. Be careful about your body language."
The owner of the hotel, Pivotal Group LLC of Phoenix, hopes that in addition to the property's classy physical appointments, butlers will help set the St. Regis apart from the stiff competition among luxury hotels in L.A.
"The uniqueness is the extremely personalized service. It allows you to make each guest feel at home," said Wolf Walther, managing director of the St. Regis Los Angeles.
Nightly room rates at the St. Regis will run from $395 to as high as $5,000 for the presidential suite, so guests will likely expect personalized service.
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