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Five star help or five star headache?

By: Editor-in-chief Lenush Lebedeva

This one will make many of you laugh and piss many of you off.

  The topic of staff has become the paralysis demon that haunts one even when asleep. Who could have thought that the search for domestic staff could literally push a person into a panic disorder? Educated professional individuals who run corporations are literally distraught at the idea of hiring daily help. It seems every aspect of this industry wants a piece of you on top of the fact that it rarely gives a positive outcome in the end. Usually, the service and hospitality industry professionals often overlook domestic staff and brush it off as the lowest of the chain, but something has shifted in recent years. If a decade ago it was generally accepted that the prestigious hospitality roles for staff were at hotels and yachting for no other reason than the opportunity of a career and higher salaries, today we live in a World where household staff have the highest requests and the least knowledge or professional experience.

   In order to even be considered for a job on a large yacht one must acquire numerous certificates and training programs, and this is just for the interior team, which is a fancy word for housekeeping. Nevertheless, the knowledge of 5-star service must be vast, the candidate must be well equipped with silver service, etiquette, and be able to work long hours if necessary. The exterior crew and chefs must possess a higher education in the field and have engineering knowledge on top of nautical school, which takes five years to complete and then another few years of training on commercial boats – this explains the salaries. But even so the one rule when working on charter vessels is ‘have no opinion, make no comments’. Similar to the hospitality industry – the client is always right approach, of course. When visiting a five- or seven-star resort and paying six figure prices for just accommodation or three figure bills for a meal it is fair that any patron will expect nothing less than to be greeted with a smile and have his every urge attended to. Professionals working Michelin star restaurants and big hotels are often hospitality university graduates who are completing their training, or they are individuals with high experience in smaller hotels that have worked up the career ladder to be servicing a high-end commercial property, and yet they make a fraction of what domestic staff charges nowadays.

  Now where did it all go wrong? I blame consumerism and social media. When private lives and opulent lifestyles are visible to everyone the market prices start growing. There is an entire system that runs this scheme. And yes, it is a scheme. The agencies that provide you with these so-called professionals couldn’t care less what the experience of any given candidate is, the point is to sell the candidate as well as they can – same as any marketing strategy in order to take the commission which for oversea candidates is no less than 25% of their gross annual salary. Ridiculous? Yes. Do we still buy it? Of course. Even though most shoppers understand they are buying a fake they still go for it, as anything is better than nothing, and you need someone to handle your home or a nanny to take care of your child. The engine that motivates us to continue hiring for the inflated prices is the hope. Hope is a powerful tool to sell any product or service. This is no exception. Being registered with countless agencies and every time joining a new one, explaining the past experiences of people jumping at the opportunity of a high paycheck without being able to fulfill their duties, and every agency reassures that this won’t happen at their company, and here is where you “hope” that finally – this is the one. That sweet and charming agency that will finally make all your dreams come true. The hope does not last long. As soon as the fee is paid, and the candidate joins your family you realize they have come for a holiday, all expenses handled with an occasional need to shadow a child. Sometimes I fear one might ask for a foot rub. The agency plays a role in the disaster we call “I’m looking for a nanny”, but besides the due diligence that lacks – business is business, and they follow the market. The real problem are the candidates. Every interview starts with the applicant stating the level of professional knowledge they have in their field with the optimistic sureness that once they arrive it will all be clear that they are a spitting image of Marry Poppins or Alfred. Regarding the nanny or governess position let’s say, that perhaps the employers have high expectations, or the child is difficult to handle, which one often hears the childcare providers claim. Is it not absurd to charge between £1200-£1500net per week and make such preposterous statements? I believe anybody paying a minimum of £5000net a month and yes, I said MINIMUM – that is per one nanny on rotation, is damn well entitled to high expectations and full sole charge care of their ‘difficult’ child with all of their rules abided by. The entire notion is just outrageous especially when considered that some of these ladies don’t even have the first clue how to handle a child to begin with, so is it their time that is worth the salary of an accomplished banker? Just for the sake of break down – by their time I mean 6 months out of the year, as nanny jobs are rotation roles between 2 candidates with all expenses paid and food provisions and accommodation provided. Regardless the topic is never ending and for the right person who is in fact a professional or magical toddler whisperer perhaps families would deem the total sum appropriate since a good private boarding school in Switzerland or the United Kingdom costs practically the same annually. Unfortunately, most candidates are as they call it ‘paper value’. It’s like in the old times when a girl was promised the moon and marriage by a young man just to get into her pants. Well… I feel like that girl every time I trial a nanny.  

  Now where did it all go wrong? I blame consumerism and social media. When private lives and opulent lifestyles are visible to everyone the market prices start growing. There is an entire system that runs this scheme. And yes, it is a scheme. The agencies that provide you with these so-called professionals couldn’t care less what the experience of any given candidate is, the point is to sell the candidate as well as they can – same as any marketing strategy in order to take the commission which for oversea candidates is no less than 25% of their gross annual salary. Ridiculous? Yes. Do we still buy it? Of course. Even though most shoppers understand they are buying a fake they still go for it, as anything is better than nothing, and you need someone to handle your home or a nanny to take care of your child. The engine that motivates us to continue hiring for the inflated prices is the hope. Hope is a powerful tool to sell any product or service. This is no exception. Being registered with countless agencies and every time joining a new one, explaining the past experiences of people jumping at the opportunity of a high paycheck without being able to fulfill their duties, and every agency reassures that this won’t happen at their company, and here is where you “hope” that finally – this is the one. That sweet and charming agency that will finally make all your dreams come true. The hope does not last long. As soon as the fee is paid, and the candidate joins your family you realize they have come for a holiday, all expenses handled with an occasional need to shadow a child. Sometimes I fear one might ask for a foot rub. The agency plays a role in the disaster we call “I’m looking for a nanny”, but besides the due diligence that lacks – business is business, and they follow the market. The real problem are the candidates. Every interview starts with the applicant stating the level of professional knowledge they have in their field with the optimistic sureness that once they arrive it will all be clear that they are a spitting image of Marry Poppins or Alfred. Regarding the nanny or governess position let’s say, that perhaps the employers have high expectations, or the child is difficult to handle, which one often hears the childcare providers claim. Is it not absurd to charge between £1200-£1500net per week and make such preposterous statements? I believe anybody paying a minimum of £5000net a month and yes, I said MINIMUM – that is per one nanny on rotation, is damn well entitled to high expectations and full sole charge care of their ‘difficult’ child with all of their rules abided by. The entire notion is just outrageous especially when considered that some of these ladies don’t even have the first clue how to handle a child to begin with, so is it their time that is worth the salary of an accomplished banker? Just for the sake of break down – by their time I mean 6 months out of the year, as nanny jobs are rotation roles between 2 candidates with all expenses paid and food provisions and accommodation provided. Regardless the topic is never ending and for the right person who is in fact a professional or magical toddler whisperer perhaps families would deem the total sum appropriate since a good private boarding school in Switzerland or the United Kingdom costs practically the same annually. Unfortunately, most candidates are as they call it ‘paper value’. It’s like in the old times when a girl was promised the moon and marriage by a young man just to get into her pants. Well… I feel like that girl every time I trial a nanny.