Economists worldwide divide the products of economic activity into two categories: goods and services. In a nutshell, some industries produce goods (tangible objects) such as groceries, jewelry, shoes and yachts. Other industries provide services such as banking, communications, retail trade, professional services like accounting, and government.
Service is work done for someone else as a job, duty, punishment or favor. Work done for the patrons of a store, restaurant, hotel, or yacht is service, with regard to whether it pleases these customers. Work done for the clients of a shipyard is service, too, as is work done by the specialized contractors who supply yachts, and the work done by any yachting professional, such as a captain, engineer, chef, deckhand or stew.
Service is generally seen as beneficial. It can benefit humanity, as in community service, which is the long held tradition of working without pay to serve the common good. When deckhands take out the trash, that can be seen as community service. Community service also can be seen as a punishment when it is the sentence given for a crime.
When you work as interior crew on a yacht, you are part of a service team. Interior duties are broken down into two categories: guest meal service and housekeeping. Both are a form of service, and ultimately provide helpful action to yacht owners and guests.
These two categories are typically scheduled on rotation. You may be in guest service every day for a week, every other day, or full-time, depending on the yacht. When you are not assigned to service, you will be assigned to housekeeping.
Whether you are “in service” or “in housekeeping”, there is a series of activities you are obliged to perform that enhance the level of guest satisfaction. You will be required to predict their needs and not only fulfill, but exceed, their expectations. Many times, new stews will work in housekeeping doing “heads and beds” for a while before they serve guest meals, mix drinks, or look after the guests throughout the day. Before they move into “service”, they must observe and demonstrate that they have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide the level of service that guests expect and deserve.
Service is an intangible product. No transfer of ownership or possession takes place when service is performed. It is instantly perishable, and cannot be stored or transported. It has an emotional aspect as well as a physical aspect and can be ambiguous in nature.
All agree with Webster’s definition of “meeting the needs of and providing assistance that benefits others”. But in the words of Douglas Adams, “To give real service you must add something which cannot be bought or measured with money, and that is sincerity and integrity.”
I like to call it a service heart. A person with a service heart has ability, good judgment, and knowledge to do the job, but more than anything else, a passion for service. Unfortunately, a lot of stews who start out with a passion for service lose the fire because of poor working conditions, overwork, exhaustion, stress and a feeling of disenchantment. Sometimes the physical and psychological demands of the job are just too much, and stews burn out.
All I can say is I’m sorry if you are having a really bad time, but please, don’t give up. The world needs you, now more than ever. Sometimes we have to go deep within to find it, but each one of us has an inner light that wants to shine.
Many times those who have the heart to serve have the desire to change the world. Service becomes a part of their character. It takes time to master this, and it can be painful. But then again, inner growth is a process and it always takes patience and perseverance to see it through.
Remember the power of one. You are one person, but if you touch even one other life, you have been successful.
“To desire and strive to be of some value to the world, to aim at doing something which shall really increase the happiness and welfare and virtue of mankind – this is a choice which is possible for all of us; and surely it is a good haven to sail for.” — Henry Van Dyke
And that, dear reader, is service.
Alene Keenan has been a megayacht stewardess for 20 years. She offers interior crew training classes, workshops, seminars, and onboard training through her company, Yacht Stew Solutions (www.yachtstewsolutions.com). Comments on this column are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.