Occasionally I like to give a shout out to a new online company that is clearly doing its best to make our busy lives easier. Step forward Beneat.co, a company that according to its website, employs ‘local cleaners that love cleaning'.
Now although I can't believe anyone on earth actually enjoys cleaning, since our useless twice-a-week house cleaner quit the job several months ago, I've had no other choice but to get busy with brooms and mops myself. And because I'm such a fussy bugger where cleanliness is concerned, a deep clean of both floors of the house can take me anything up to eight hours. A whole day wasted you might say.
Were Beneat.co the answer to my prayers? Certainly worth a try I thought.
Beneat.co are riding on the wave of the Air BnB boom. With lots of condo owners in Bangkok making handy cash out of short-term rentals on the world's most popular accommodation platform, those same condos must need cleaning on a seriously regular basis - possibly even three or four times a week.
Air BnB and Beneat.co - what a great idea for a business ‘partnership'
Beneat.co provide some helpful guidelines before you go ahead and book a cleaner online. They recommend you use a cleaner for at least a couple of hours if you're looking to spruce up a small condo, rising to around 4-8 hours for a decent sized, two-storey house, which is what my wife and I have.
In turn you get to see a smiley photo of your cleaning lady even before you've met her and you can read online reviews from satisfied customers telling you that this is one maa baan who ‘gets into corners that other cleaners can't reach'.
We decided to trial things for four hours on a Saturday morning from 8.00 am to midday. The usual cost for a four-hour clean (the minimum recommendation for a house) is 1,000 baht, of which I believe about 800 baht goes to Mrs Mop and 200 baht to the Beneat company. However, as a special promotion offer for the first-time customer, Beneat were willing to waive their 200 baht cut. So 800 baht for four hours it was.
On time. Super!
I had barely time for a bowl of Cornflakes and our Saturday cleaner was ringing the door-bell at ten minutes to eight, which already scores her two bonus points if you loathe unpunctuality as much as I do. She parked up an impressive-looking motorcycle and unloaded her cleaning equipment from a couple of pannier bags.
My wife had communicated with the cleaner the day before and asked if there was any cleaning stuff she needed us to provide. "Nothing at all", the maid replied "I have a special vacuum cleaner, brushes, mops, cleaning solutions and all the equipment I need"
The cleaner began with an upstairs and downstairs appraisal of the property. "Four hours is enough for a basic clean" she advised "I'll do all the floors and clean the furniture, etc. But for a deeper clean, where I do any mosquito screens and wash windows inside and out, you are looking at six hours for that"
I thought it was a pretty fair appraisal. It would certainly take me at least six hours to complete the same amount of work.
A job well done
After our initial four-hour cleaning session was up, I returned to the house to subtly inspect her work. I was impressed. You know that feeling you get when you enter a house and it just ‘feels clean'.
While the cleaner wasn't looking, I ran my fingers along a couple of ledges and surfaces to see what dust I could find. Clean as a whistle. She had passed the test!
As she packed up her cleaning equipment in readiness to go onto her next job, I seized the opportunity for a quick chat, if only because I had never seen a cleaner look so happy in their work.
The big bucks
It turned out she was making the best part of 40,000 baht a month. No wonder she couldn't smile wide enough.
She went into more detail. She had pocketed 800 baht from the morning session at our house and still had a couple of two-hour Air BnB jobs out on Rama 4. So it was going to be a 1,600 baht day.
She told us that in January, she hadn't had a single day off because she was so in demand. You can do the maths. With that kind of commitment and work ethic, 40K a month is easily achievable. And why would she lie about it?
Dare I say I knew the day would come when a cleaner earned more than your average English teacher? You know that line about teaching and earning four times what a local does. How does it go again?
But seriously, isn't it wonderful to see how an online platform and the reach of social media are completely transforming the life of a simple cleaner?
A somewhat divisive issue
I decided that afternoon to share the good news on social media. Perhaps other foreign expats out there were desperately searching for someone to clean and tidy their home? Hmmm.....I got a mixed reaction to say the least.
Foreigners here seemed to fall into two camps upon reading about my Beneat experience - those who thought it was a terrific deal and those who thought I had paid ‘way over the odds'
Those expats who gave Beneat the thumbs up and asked me for the website link clearly knew the value of a good cleaner. Interestingly, my Thai best friend, who earns 30,000 baht a month, didn't think the fee was excessive at all. "It sure beats having to do it yourself" he remarked.
However, there was a group of expats who seemed to think a thousand baht bordered on the scandalous and for a shortish while, I managed to turn social media into a farang pissing contest on who gets away with managing to pay their maid / cleaner the least.
"My cleaner works all day from first light to sunset. I give her 500 baht and she seems happy"
"My cleaner comes to the house twice a week for about four hours each time and she's OK with a couple of hundred baht"
"My cleaner works from six in the morning until midnight and gives me a hundred baht for the privilege of working for me"
OK, the last one I made up but there must be someone out there with such an arrangement.
And then there's my own personal favourite. The old chestnut.
"You DO know that minimum wage in Thailand is 300 baht a day. Probably even less for a Burmese or Cambodian maid"
I shared the social media comments with my wife. Her response was "why do foreigners develop this mindset when they live in Thailand that everyone has to work for the cheapest price and it's all about paying the smallest amount possible? I just don't get it"
Apologies for perhaps going off topic but I've always referred to this attitude as ‘The Lonely Planet syndrome" - a mindset instilled in us by guidebooks and their ilk that has us believe that Asians are all willing to work for a bowl of rice and any opening offer for a product or service is always going to be a grossly inflated one.
You know what. I don't want a Burmese or a Cambodian on minimum wage to come into my house to clean it. As one social media commentator succinctly put it - "minimum wage gets you minimum effort and minimum results". I couldn't agree more. I'm actually willing to pay a premium for someone who is going to put their heart and soul into a job. Any job!
And I've always been of the opinion that as long as the buyer is happy with the price (and the outcome is satisfactory) then that's all that matters.
If you're one of those folks whose maid can clean and tidy your house until it gleams like a new pin for a few hundred baht a day, then good luck to you. I would marry her if I were you.
However, one Twitter follower did make a very good point. And that is that we all have different standards of cleanliness. What's clean to one isn't necessarily clean to another. And yes, you do have to keep that in mind.
Another decent point someone made was that what you spend on these services is all relative. "A thousand baht could be an awful lot of money for a teacher earning 30,000. That's a week's worth of Thai meals"
But as we say in Thailand - up to you! I thought that using the Beneat platform was a very worthwhile experience and I got my house cleaned by a very capable lady who clearly loved what she did.