The Royal Court of early England had an office titled Groom-Porter. These porters were responsible for the 'game' arrangements for the kings, i.e., overseeing the Billiards tables, chairs, tennis courts, cards, dicing games, bowling grounds, etc.
When you hear the word 'porter', the first image you would conjure up in your mind is that of a man in a uniform, helping people with their luggage on a railway station. You should know, however, that this description is restricted to that of a railway porter, and there are many other porters in other fields, performing various other jobs. They may be called differently as per the rules of their workplace; in essence though, they are called porters. The job description of a porter is given in the paragraphs below, segregated as per the industries.
The Hospitality Industry
- There are plenty of porter duties in a restaurant, rather, in the entire hospitality industry (resorts, luxury-end hotels, etc.).
- He is responsible for greeting guests and attending to their immediate needs.
- In a regular hotel, he greets the customers, oversees their reservations (table reservation), and directs them to the respective table.
- He coordinates between the kitchen staff, waiters, and the customers, i.e., in any hotel, there are always food runners and waiters to take orders; however, if any of them are missing or if the customers are waiting for a long time, a porter needs to take over their orders and see to it that they are well-cared for.
- He has to oversee the clearing and cleaning of tables, replenishing the empty glasses and dishes, extra orders, feedback, etc.
- He has to see to it that the hotel equipment is in proper place and that the kitchen is clean and hygienic.
- In resorts and other hotels where room bookings take place, a porter directs the guests to their respective room.
- He takes care of their luggage, room requirements (phone, tea/coffee sachets, toiletries, etc.).
- He ensures that the guests are served efficiently in every way - that their breakfast order is on time, their bathrooms are replenished, their laundry is done properly, etc.
- Sometimes, he may even change the bed-sheets and covers as a hotel staff.
- He needs to be well-educated about the area (in case the hotel is in a tourist destination) so that he can confidently talk to the guests regarding the places they might want to visit.
- He has to arrange taxis or other vehicles for them when they want to go sightseeing.
- He has to pick up clothes for laundry, attend to client orders, give directions, and also advise about improvements that could be made in the hotel.
- He has to help book tickets, make reservations, and take other important messages.
- To become a hotel porter, you do not need standard qualifications, but you must be well-mannered and well-spoken.
- You would be surprised at what a porter must be doing at a grocery store, but believe me, there is a lot of extra work in the supermarket that we do not notice.
- A supermarket porter has to see to it that every item is exactly in the place it was assigned and in proper condition.
- While checking products out, customers generally leave the shelf in a very haphazard condition. Porters have to scan such shelves and place the items back in place.
- Sometimes, the item places are interchanged as well. A customer may look for a toilet cleaner, may pick one off the shelf, and absentmindedly leave it at the frozen food section. The porter has to oversee this and replace the item back to its original place.
- He is responsible for cleaning the place and keeping it free of pests. This is especially true for the food departments, as no customer would like to see fleas hovering around the refrigerator.
- He is responsible for restocking new products and rearranging old ones.
- He helps customers find a particular product and also helps them load their shopping bags in cars.
- He needs to be extra helpful as regards to pregnant women and the elderly.
- Porters at the hospital can be called by various names, like janitors and assistants.
- They have a number of duties, one of the primary ones being, helping patients on the wheelchair.
- A porter is responsible for wheeling patients from one ward to another; for instance, if the patient is supposed to have an X-ray, he has to wheel the patient from his ward to the X-ray department.
- He should know the patient's id and a gist of the medical history so that he can assist him/her in case of any doubt.
- He helps nurses/assistants bring food trolleys to the patients and also helps elderly patients with their daily walk within the hospital premises.
- He is responsible for the mail - incoming as well as outgoing.
- He helps patients in getting transferred from one ward to another.
- He oversees the medical equipment and other safety gear inside the hospital.
- He checks if the hospital furniture is proper and not broken, and informs the concerned person in case a replacement is needed.
- He helps transfer the deceased patients to the mortuary until the formalities are over.
- He oversees the cleaning of the hospital - ensures that the floors and rooms are swept and mopped and sprayed with a disinfectant.
- He also ensures that all the accessories are present in the bathroom.
- He attends to patient complaints and tries to solve them as soon as possible.
- He sees to it that all the waste (clinical and domestic) is disposed properly.
- He helps transfer file sand other specimens from the lab to the department and all over the hospital.
- He helps deliver clean bed sheets and other laundry.
The Car Showrooms
- A porter job at a car dealership is far more important than you might think.
- The porter ensures that all the work at the dealership is carried out as efficiently as possible.
- He helps clean and wash all the vehicles.
- He may even be allowed to take the vehicles for a test drive.
- He should be knowledgeable about cars and should have a pleasant personality to attend to the customers.
- He is responsible for maintaining the area and displaying the best vehicles.
- He needs to greet the clients, respond to their queries, and give them all the details about the car they choose.
- If any vehicle needs maintenance, he needs to oversee the same.
- He has to be aware of all the important documentation and other record-keeping.
- He is responsible for running various other errands in the showroom.
- He has to know everything about the vehicles - the model, make, VIN, speed, mileage, etc.
- You will need to know how to drive extremely well - especially of you are working in the repair shop.
- Other maintenance jobs, like painting, tire exchange, battery charging, etc., are also included in the job duties.
- A porter who works at the docks was called a deal porter. This was particularly prominent in the London docks.
- The porters were required to carry and place heavy softwood planks.
- The job was highly dangerous, even for experienced hands.
- The practice has been obsolete for more than 70 years now.
- As of today, people working at the docks are called dockworker. In general, people who help shift luggage are called porters, and dockworkers function along the same lines.
- They carry cargo and other heavy items from one place to another, to the warehouse, etc.
- Porters may even be present at airports in order to help shift luggage, search trolleys, find cabs, etc.
- A railway porter helps carry baggage from one place to another.
- He loads and unloads goods on and off the trains.
- He assists passengers find the right coach and helps them with luggage.
- He directs passengers outside the railway station, carries their goods, and loads them on to the taxi.
- He also responds to a number of passenger inquiries.
- He may perform some other work assigned to him as well (by the railway authorities).
The Educational Institutes
- Remember that this term is used only in a few select colleges.
- Universities, like the Oxford, the Cambridge, the Bristol, etc., have certain members on their staff whom they call 'porters'.
- These people help in sorting the mountain of mail that arrives in the college.
- They help in gaining and controlling entry in the institution.
- They oversee the discipline of the institution and report students accordingly.
- They help provide security to the members.
- They safeguard university property and help maintain the grounds.
In short, porters are required to carry stuff from one place to another. They can work in any place, any office building, market, shopping mall, etc. In fact, in Nepal, the Sherpas are also touted to be mountaineering porters, as they help carry stuff and accompany other mountaineers.
The job of a porter should not be considered menial or demeaning. It is not easy to be on your feet all day, running errands continuously, or trying to put on a straight face for the benefit of others. Although many porter's jobs are entry-level positions, in many places, you would find experienced porters. This is in case of very huge restaurants or hospitals, where even the slightest mistake needs to be avoided; hence, experience counts.