Wednesday, March 23, 2005

"We even save marriages..."

In 1999, somewhere between 14 and 18 percent of households employed an outsider to do the cleaning and the numbers are rising dramatically. Media-Mark Research reports a 43 percent increase, between 1995 and 1999, in the number of households using a hired cleaner or service once a month or more, and Maritz Marketing finds that 30 percent of the people who hired help in 1999 had done so for the first time that year.
Managers of the new corporate cleaning services, such as the one I worked for, attribute their success not only to the influx of women into the workforce but to the tensions over housework that arose in its wake. When the trend toward hiring out was just beginning to take off, in 1988, the owner of a Merry Maids franchise in Arlington, Massachusetts, told the Christian Science Monitor "I kid some women. I say, 'We even save marriages. In this new eighties mind you expect more from the male partner, but very often you don't get the cooperation you would like to have. The alternative is to pay somebody to come in'" (Ambushed by Dust Bunnies," Christian Science Monitor, April 4, 1988) Another Merry Maids franchise owner has learned to capitalize more directly on housework-related spats; he closes 30-35 percent of his sales by making follow-up calls Saturdays between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m.-which is prime time for arguing over the fact that the house is a mess" ("Homes Harbor Dirty Secrets," Chicago Tribune, May 5, 1994).

- footnote, page 91 of Barbara Erenreight's book: "Nickel and Dimed"