For a start, the price was lower – $80 for our 2 bed/1 bath house, versus $105 for our regular cleaner previously. Through a friend referral, we both received a $40 discount on our next clean as well.
Having had three cleans with tidy.me, the business model is coming through. It really is an Uber for cleaning, which has both good and bad aspects for the customer.
An Uber for Cleaners?
UberX draws on amateur drivers who would not otherwise have the means to get into running a taxi – as long as they’re ‘clean and keen’, and have a smartphone, they can sign up, get a police check, respond to a job, pick up a fare, and drive them to the destination. Easy!
The app, and company behind it, handles everything else – payment, licensing, scheduling, marketing, insurance (or not), tasking, customer support, and customer relationship. And though the modern culture of app-based services, they can do it far cheaper and easier than the old-school methods.
Also because it’s very ‘freelance’ with no guarantees, that’s the kind of person they attract – young, flexible, lower-income, with no demands, willing to take any good opportunity for an honest job. Students, immigrants, working holiday visa holders.
So it is with Tidy.me. In return for the lower cost, you’re expected to provide the basics that the cleaner can’t carry on public transport – usually a mop and vacuum. And that is how they arrive, on public transport, with a rucksack of organic cleaning products.
This is all fine, of course. It’s actually very efficient – you have the vacuum and mop, so why have the cleaner lug around their own (a full-time cleaner will likely have favourite tools for the job, like we all do, of course)? Even public transport over their own van is environmentally friendly, although of course very time-inefficient – which they put up with, at first.
Too Good to be True?
However, it has some downsides. We had a really excellent cleaner the first time; she lived in Sydney and her husband lived in London. It’s hard to articulate this without coming across sexist, but I think because she had lived as a housewife and worked as a cleaner professionally before, she knew what a housewife’s standards would be, and did the job she would have wanted herself, which was excellent.
The second time, we had a different lady – she was actually an engineering student. I would assume she’d never maintained a house or had kids herself, and it showed – she didn’t mop the floor, didn’t thoroughly clean the chairs, and so on. Our feedback to tidy.me was that she didn’t do a great job.
The third time, we had another student; she did a better job, between the first two. We did ask for the first lady again, but she declined as it was a long way to travel out of her other scheduled jobs.
And these are the problems with tidy.me; it’ll be amateurish, and inconsistent. Most of the workforce are likely young students or temp workers. A professional cleaner will work hard to impress customers, so as to build their business with a client base they like, and maintain it, in locations that work well for their schedule.
So where do we go from here?
A flexible temporary worker will have other motivations in life – their degree, their travels. The cleaning is probably a gap filler, and as long as they do well enough to not be dropped by tidy.me, they’ll not really be motivated to build a reliable client base, and then hold onto it.
Also, the flexibility works both ways. The fact is, the customer doesn’t want flexibility. They want the same person every week, to clean well in the same way, at the same time. Ideally, they want to trust that person enough to give them a key to the house.
The cleaners at tidy.me likely do value the flexibility; they’ll come and go, depending on class, what else is on that day, whether they need the money. And the customer will get what they get.
Don’t get me wrong – all the cleaners so far have been very personable and friendly. I can picture the tidy.me interview and induction process; assessing personality and enthusiasm, warning of no-nos like arriving late or accepting food/drink, advising to call ahead, communicating well.
But – at the base of this, is whether cleaning is a personal service. You likely have a favourite hairdresser; a favourite cafe, maybe a favourite barista; a favourite financial advisor; a favourite taxi/hire car driver, if you travel often. You build a trust with them, rely on them, you know them, and they know you.
But do you have a favourite Uber driver, or a favourite tidy.me cleaner? The service model is very different, and so is the relationship. And can you rely on them as a result?
Time will tell.