Beyond the Bellman: Unusual, and Enviable, Hotel Jobs

Locations in this article:  Austin, TX London, England New York City, NY San Diego, CA

female bellmanWhen you first enter a hotel, you may expect to be greeted by the doorman, check in with the hotel concierge, and have the bellboy schlep your luggage up to your room, where the maids have made the beds. Maybe you’ll even order room service.

At least, that’s what happens in most hotels, where job descriptions are relatively obvious.

But, what if you could hang out with hotel employees while getting jiggy on the dance floor, admiring a procession of ducks, or gazing at fine art?

These days, there are some truly unique hotel jobs that are designed to liven up guests’ experiences. So forget about your pillow mint, and discover some unusual hotel services, as well as the folks who provide them.

Pledging to spread the spirit of rock ’n’ roll, Vibe Manager John Resnick said it’s “probably the coolest mission ever.”

We’re told that the party at the Hard Rock San Diego never stops, and Resnick, a graduate of Cornell University’s prestigious hospitality program, treats partying ’til you drop as serious business. Besides being in charge of all the music in the hotel’s 54 “music zones,” from the lobby to the spa, he also makes sure you’re greeted by a customized playlist in your hotel room. At night, you may find him rocking out on the dance floor at Saloon, a “Kid Rock-meets-Gucci” nightclub, or Moon, the rooftop bar and lounge.

But while Resnick is a self-proclaimed night owl, guests can also spot him during the day giving impromptu tours of the famous Hard Rock art and memorabilia collection. Resnick especially enjoys sharing with guests a letter from Paul McCartney to a friend after his wife died, and one of his personal favorites—Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar. Resnick also offers the occasional DJ lessons for group meetings and individual guests.

Resnick stays up-to-date with the music scene by traveling to major music showcases like Austin’s South by Southwest, but he also follows local bands and keeps up with his Rolling Stone subscription. With a hotel that follows the motto “Love all—serve all, take time to be kind, all is one, and save the planet,” how could you not party like it’s 1999 with your resident vibe manager?

Momma duck and ducklings You probably won’t ever find anyone more enthralled by ducks. Ever. Duck Master Jason Sensat’s sole responsibility is to care for the famous Peabody Ducks, five mallard ducks that reside at the Peabody Memphis.

The ducks remain a top tourist attraction in Memphis, with visitors dropping by throughout the day to visit these feathery friends.

Every day at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Peabody a red carpet is unrolled, and the ducks march to John Philip Sousa’s “King Cotton March” from their rooftop home (or an “open-air, zoo-style enclosure”) to the lobby. The most rewarding aspect for Sensat is “seeing the smiles” of the guests. Best of all, this attraction is free to the public, so get your tail feathers in gear and fly on over for a gander.

According to legend, the ducks’ residency dates back to 1933. The Peabody general manager and friend returned from a weekend hunting trip empty-handed, so two of their whiskey-inebriated friends put live duck decoys (which were then legal) in the fountain of the hotel’s Grand Lobby. Guests raved about the quacking little critters, and so it has been a tradition to keep ducks around ever since.

After the morning march, Sensat spends most of his time in the lobby, hanging out with the ducks and chatting with the guests. Although he mostly fields duck-related questions, he also serves as a resourceful concierge, as he has lived in Memphis for nearly 20 years, and has been with the hotel for nearly five. Sensat also offers free tours of the hotel, regaling guests with tales of celebrity visitors in the grand ballroom, and even points out which items from the memorabilia room have been stolen—and returned—to the hotel.


Beer mugPerhaps any frat boy’s dream: graduating from beer pong to reign over a hotel chain as Chief Beer Officer. You definitely don’t hear any complaints from Scott Kerkmans, who won the Sheraton Four Points national search for an employee with a real affinity for beers.

Kerkmans’ primary role is to choose what goes on the hotel’s extensive beer list. He also hosts happy hour at the various Four Points locations, where he instructs guest on the fine art of beer and food pairing, and occasionally leads tours of local breweries.

Of course, the first question is, how does he conduct his research? As Chief Beer Officer, Kerkmans taste-tests beers sent directly to his home by distributors and importers (jealous yet?). He receives about a case of beer a week, and claims to sample them on a weekly basis. He’ll also hit the road in search of local and craft brews, and attend various beer festivals—including the granddaddy of them all, Oktoberfest.

Kerkmans first fell in love with beer (as a connoisseur, not just a consumer) in college when his brother brought home a brewery kit. Since then, he earned his beer credentials as a sales representative, consulting with chefs to incorporate beer into their menus, and obtaining his “beer judge” certification.

And, perhaps best of all, he’s creating a whole army of hotel beer educators. Kerkmans created a training program for beer ambassadors, who can be found at Four Points lobbies. Be sure to speak with a Four Points beer ambassador before your trip, and ask about local beer festivals and brewery recommendations. And when you check in, stop by the hotel bar to see if Kerkmans is hanging out.

Essex House artMost hotel artwork is either cheap posters, bad lithographs, or predictable photos hanging on the walls. But, if you prefer viewing hotel artwork that goes beyond paint-by-numbers, simply step into Jumeirah’s Essex House in New York City. Art Curator Katherine Gass developed an artist-in-residence program, highlighted by the lobby’s extensive gallery of works celebrating New York’s Central Park.

Gass, who has held posts at The Whitney Museum of American Art and The Chase Manhattan Bank Art Collection, notes that she prefers being a curator of a hotel collection over a museum because of the public interaction: “It’s like having someone come into my home.” Her free art tours which, of course, come complete with a flute of Champagne, have become so popular that advanced booking is required, and private tours are available upon request.

The art program has a “deeper meaning beyond lobby decorations” because it connects the hotel with Central Park’s significance and New York City’s rich history. The hotel collaborated with to create an audio walking tour of Central Park, which covers artwork located throughout the park and its statuary.

And the list goes on. If you’re a wine connoisseur, consider staying at the Radisson SAS Stansted Hotel London, where “wine angels” are hoisted up a 43-foot tower filled with more than 4,000 bottles of wine. When diners at this airport hotel order a bottle, these acrobatic angels glide up the tower to retrieve it. Or, if your kids want to hit the waves, head to Four Seasons Resort Aviara in San Diego, where a surf concierge will teach them how to hang ten.

The next time you want to make the most out of your hotel stay, ask about what unusual hotel positions they’ve filled recently. Chances are, if there’s a hotel job that sounds too good to be true, guests may reap the benefits.

By Monique-Marie DeJong for

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