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Thursday, 7 July 2016

Why I Hire Hourly Maid Services

Hiring A Maid in Malaysia

I have been hiring hourly maid services for the past few years. I could not afford hiring a maid because the upfront cost of hiring a maid in Malaysia is easily about RM8,000. (RM = MYR, not RMB.) It can go higher, depending on where the maid is from, and the maid agency.

Having a maid clean up your house or your office at an hourly rate might be a good idea. Let me tell you why.

Maid Horror Stories

There are some horror stories about hiring maids. Some maids run away. Some maids are lazy. And some are just plain crazy. I have an aunt who had an Indonesian maid for a number of years. One day she looked under her bed (it's like a bunch of drawers with a mattress on top) and saw some kind of black magic stuff. On it was scrawled, "XXXXX (my aunt's name), kamu akan dengar cakap saya." (You will listen to what I say.) 

Another friend complained about her Indonesian maid running off with a construction site worker. That tends to happen when you have asked your maid to go out for an errand, and she gets to know the local boys. Sometimes, it's not even that -- she might keep in touch with other maids from the same agency and they get introduced to other people from their hometown, who are in town. 

I can imagine how that conversation goes: "You from XXXX? Me too! Hey, we're having a party this Saturday night, let's see if you can join us... sneak out if you need to?" And maybe, they'll party like it's 1999.

Maid Agency Limited Guarantees

Of course, the maid agencies try to assure you that there's little risk of your maid running off, or something else. As far as I know, if the maid runs away, the maid agency will cover a replacement, but usually within a certain time limit. If the maid is unable to work, is plain lazy, or suffers from communicable disease (how do you find out?) they will also cover a replacement, within a certain time limit. But that's only for the period covered by contract. How about after? 

Also, some contracts only cover one, or maybe two, replacements. So there's no such thing as calling the maid agency at your whim and fancy and demanding yet another replacement! Because there are costs involved in each and every replacement, your demands, made again and again might put them out of business. That's why they have limits, understand. But hey, a promise is a promise, and having one is better than none.

Why Maid Agencies Charge what they charge

A lot of the cost imposed by local maid agencies is because, well, these maids are foreign. Never mind that Air Asia and Malindo Air and a half dozen other budget airlines enable people to fly for cheap. These maid agencies will also tell you that it's because, they need to share the profit with people on the ground who do the recruiting in the maid's country of origin. And that's actually fair, because they need to work with people that they can trust. How do you retain people that you trust and continue a working relationship? By paying them, goddammit. They need to have that working relationship so that their business can continue, and so that you can get a half-decent maid. 

With contract terms that include free replacement, the maid agencies need to increase the probability of actually recruiting decent maids who do their jobs. If it's a good maid, chances are, you'll stick with them. You'll even hire them to renew the work permit for the maid. And that's actually a good thing for the maid agency, because it's a no-brainer, and it's also passive income. Recurring income. Income that they can count on, as long as the maid don't run away.

So, if foreign maids are expensive to recruit, how about hiring a local maid instead? 

Hiring a Local Maid

Every country has this rallying cry to support local products. The call to support local services is not so great. And less yet, the call to support local workers. But when you hire local, you're giving a job to a local. So, you can hire a Sabahan sumandak or a poor Indian estate worker's daughter, and give them a job, without the astronomical costs of a maid agency? Well, yes and no.

Yes, you can hire a local without the usual maid agency costs if you can find someone to introduce you to someone that you can hire. 

No, you can't avoid some of the costs if you factor in what you need to do in order to get the same level of service that you could get with a maid agency. First, you'll have to buy an air ticket for the maid to fly from Sabah to Semenanjung (replace with the names of places where you live). She'll want to go back from time to time because she's local, and you'll probably have to let her go from time to time, because hey, she's local and she can leave at any time. Second, you'll want to send her for a health check up because she might be having a communicable disease that you don't need and don't want. Third, since there's no intermediary, this local maid's bad behaviour cannot be dealt with in the same way that the maid agencies can, i.e. by packing her up within 24 hours and telling her to leave. Instead, you'll have to deal with her, mano a mano. Fourth, since she's local, you'll worry whether you can conduct some background check (it'll be tough, but hang in there and you might get it done).

But there are ways around it. If she can apply for a job as a maid like a dignified person, and offer you two referees, and maybe the reassurance of a relative or a sibling that they will be on hand to help if she has any problems (you don't have to mention running away, just say "problems" and they'll understand) then you're on the right track. You might want to interview her parents or relatives who are living with her, just to make it clear that it's going to be a long term engagement and there will be no hanky panky. Are there going to be young children at home, or old people who need special attention? These things need to be made clear.

Anyway, when I was about 7 or 8, my parents hired an Indian girl from the nearby rubber estate to take care of me and my little brother. I can't remember it now, but one day, while my parents were out at work, she brought some men home. They spent some time upstairs while I stayed downstairs. And then she was gone. I remember that it was afternoon when my father came home. The police came by too, maybe because she took some jewellery. I remember my mother sobbing a little, but I had no idea what was taken. But that's still pretty OK, considering that she could have taken me and sacrificed me to some unknown god by the Karak Highway.

So that's it about hiring maids. If you plan on hiring a maid, go right ahead but try to filter your maid and make sure that she's a reliable one. 

But here's why I hire hourly maid services.

Why I Hire Hourly Maid Services

If you stay around the Klang Valley, you probably have seen the advertisements. Two maids, one hour, RM70 or RM80 (or whatever is the going rate when you're reading this article). Some people offer these services by the month, which might consist of a package of eight to ten hours for RM360 to RM440. These tend to vary, and of course, they never put down the name of a maid agency.

Sometimes it's a maid agency that's offering these services. I happen to know one maid agency owner who does it under a different company (not her usual maid agency). She has spare capacity at any time, because of people who request replacement maids. Pending reassignment, these maids are not working for any employer, so she has put them to good use. 

Another guy I know who is offering these services (somewhere in Puchong) doesn't have a maid agency, but has hired about 7 or 8 maids. I don't know how he managed to recruit so many of them, but these ladies aren't busy all the time, so he has put them to work cleaning offices and houses, and he charges by the hour.

I have been using the hourly maid services of a guy in Kepong for a number of years now. He charges me the same rate since 2008. I have a small office and I'm not fussy. Every week, once a week, two ladies come to my office and they clean it up for two hours. Sometimes they finish quickly, sometimes they do it slowly. And then I pay them.

I think that it's a good deal.

Some Reasons to Use Hourly Maid Services

First, I don't have to worry about the maids running off with some guy they met at the local coffee shop. If I had engaged a maid, I'd be worried about that after the "guarantee period".

Second, I don't have to worry about the minimum wage required to be paid for these maids. From time to time, their governments might declare that maids from their country (Indonesia, for example) cannot be employed for less than RMxxxx. And so the maids' salaries have to be increased. Hourly hirers like me only pay the maids' actual employers whatever rate we have agreed. I can safely disregard their home government's directives.

Third, I could ask for a different maid to come clean if I think the present one isn't up to the job, or has a bad attitude. Heck, I could even change service provider at any time when I want. 

Fourth, I could increase or decrease the number of times in a week I hire these maids. I could ask the service provider to come on Monday morning if I've had a big party at the office. I could ask the service provider for a two week break if my office is being renovated. It's entirely up to me.

Fifth, I don't have to deal with a maid who tells me that her job is confined to helping in the house, and not in the office. Some maids will object to you asking them to help clean the office. It's not in their job scope. And that's a valid objection.

But having an hourly maid means that you don't really have a full time maid. So if you need domestic help, you might need to consider a long term solution. A wife isn't by definition a domestic helper, and she might imagine herself a domestic goddess. If that's the case, maybe you do need a maid, because goddesses expect to be waited on hand and foot.