Washington Post Covers Virtual Maid Services
In the September 10th issue of The Washington Post, reporter Lydia DePillis wrote an article (http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/storyline/wp/2014/09/10/at-the-uber-for-home-cleaning-workers-pay-a-price-for-convenience/) about something new in the residential cleaning arena. She interviewed Alison Palmer as president of The Association of Residential Cleaning Services International (ARCSI). Palmer also serves as president of Custom Maid, an independently owned, very successful, 29 year old cleaning business servicing Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake.
What is a Virtual Maid Service?
While virtual maid services have not yet entered the Tidewater market they will probably arrive soon. All transactions with a virtual maid service are done electronically. A client accesses the website by computer, tablet or smart phone and answers a few questions about their home. They receive a price and then they can schedule their cleaning. A virtual maid service does not maintain a physical office in the area. Headquarters of the first, and largest of these services, Home Joy, resides in the San Francisco Bay area. (Editor’s Note: Home Joy has gone out of business since we originally posted this article)
The client never deals with an actual person until a cleaner shows up for the scheduled appointment. According to the Washington Post, the people who clean for a virtual maid service are not employees. The service classifies them as independent contractors. So Home Joy, by law, cannot train these contractors, nor can they provide them with uniforms or equipment. They conduct interviews and background checks according to their web site.
The independent contractors are hired at what seems like a high hourly wage. They must pay all expenses and taxes out of that amount. As the article points out, the man who took the job ended up netting not much over $10 per hour and that was before taxes or FICA. He will receive no holiday or vacation pay, no insurance or benefits.
Real Maid Services Offer the Personal Touch
Palmer says that at her company, the manager interviews potential employees. Then she performs background checks and drug tests. New employees undergo at least a month of rigorous training. They average $12 to $15 per hour and get paid holidays and paid vacation (which can be as much as 20 days per year). Custom Maid also offers a Simple IRA where the company matches the employees’ contributions to their retirement accounts.
The other big reason that Palmer thinks virtual maid services will have a tough time is that most of the maid services in this area (including Custom Maid) will actually come out to your home to do a FREE estimate before you decide to hire them. In short, the personal touch and the family of long time employees is the reason that real maid services are here to stay.
Editor’s Note: We originally published this article in September 2014. We have edited it for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.