Chrysti The Wordsmith: Ritzy


Born in 1850, Cesar Ritz was the 13th child of a peasant family living in Niederwald, Switzerland. By the time he died in 1918, he had earned a fortune and a worldwide reputation for pampering some of the wealthiest and most influential people of the era.

Cesar Ritz, with little formal education, was hired as a busboy in a hotel dining room in Brieg, Switzerland but was discharged a few weeks later for his lack of aptitude for service. Undeterred, Ritz went on to find other restaurant and resort work in France and Germany.

After gaining several years’ service experience, Ritz was eventually hired as manager of London’s Savoy Hotel, which he transformed into the city’s premier lodging. In 1898, at age 48, he opened his own establishment in the heart of Paris, the Hotel Ritz. It boasted elegant restaurants, fashionable tea gardens, marble bathrooms, and oversized beds.

The superb service offered by the Hotel Ritz attracted dignitaries and luminaries from Europe and America such as Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, Douglas Fairbanks and Greta Garbo.

The luxurious Hotel Ritz quickly became emblematic of style and opulence. The word ritzy, meaning “elegant, exclusive,” derives eponymously from the hotel of Cesar Ritz.

The hotelier influenced our vocabulary not only with his surname, but also with a catchphrase. By anticipating and fulfilling his client’s every need, Ritz kept his influential guests returning year after year. He was the first to declare “Le client n’a jamais tort”--the client is never wrong. This sentiment inspired the later English version the customer is always right.