Then and Now: Domestic Help

Was it really just eight months ago that I sat at the Luxury Summit listening to Robert Frank, author of Richistan, speak about wealth and spending. .Frank’s adventures in Richistan, his name for the parallel universe the wealthy inhabit, have taken him to some pretty interesting places including Starkey International Institute in Denver, Colorado, the “butler bootcamp” that teaches people how to cater to those at the far end of the wealth spectrum. Frank said then that a good butler can earn as much as 0,000. But those butlers may find themselves out of a job or taking a pay cut now. Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have pieces on people firing their domestic help. Agencies which once struggled to find enough qualified nannies and household staff are now finding their offices flooded with those who have recently lost their jobs.

While a recession was being discussed all those months ago, it hadn’t quite eaten into the upper tier. People saw having help as an investment, a way to maximize their own time available for recreation, family time and work. As their own income and wealth has started to fall the time equal money equation has tipped in favor of money. Nannies and domestic help are finding their salaries cut or are being let go. Nanny sharing is on the rise as people find ways to get by with less help but not lose a person who in many cases is practically a member of the family. Some people have decided to gradually cut back in an effort to mitigate the damage to the housekeeper or nanny’s income. People are doing their own housework and even outdoor chores, dispensing in some cases with the lawn service companies which are so ubiquitous in California. Even dog walkers are finding it harder to make a living. And those butlers, whose jobs were more administrative than hands-on may find themselves running the same large households with less and less staff.

In some cases it becomes a question of what people are interested in giving up, the help or other creature comforts. The WSJ article quotes a woman who decided to lay off the nanny rather than give up her Botox treatments. Whereas in the NYT article a woman cut back on her gym membership and lunches out before she decided to make the decision of giving up her housekeeper.

Then and Now: Domestic Help originally appeared on Luxist on Fri, 12 Dec 2008 16:01:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.


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