I don’t have a single handy bone in my body. IKEA furniture stretches my limits. People who paint their own homes and change their own oil and install their own lights have my undying admiration. If you know how to find a stud in a wall, or what kind of screw to use to keep from having huge chunks of plaster get ripped out of your wall from the heavy painting you just hung up… you’re light years beyond me (because I don’t know how to do either of those).

So what do I do in these situations? I rent the use of experts.

I’m not sure how I feel personally about my own lack of ambition to learn how to do some of these things, its definitely not an admirable character trait, but I prefer to put a positive spin on it. I think of it as using the strength of my social network and the appropriate application of my financial resources when I barter a nice Indian dinner in exchange for the installation of my lights (thanks again Yuro) or when I bribe my labor force to help me move house with beer and sandwiches (and good weather, that was all me on May 14th baby).

If there’s one thing that MBA school has taught me is that you are well served by knowing your limits and compensating for them. So if I have a genetic limitation in that I have no “handy” bones, then I compensate by hanging around people who do, and then buying their favor with food and drink. Or baby clothes.

Case in point. I needed to clean my old apartment in Dordrecht before I did the final walkthrough with the landlord to get my security deposit back. Needless to say, with over 1,000 Euros riding on the outcome, I wanted to be as sure as possible I was gettign my money. I had neither the time nor the experience to properly clean a house. I know, this is shameful, but you’re just going to have to move past that. I did.

First thing I did was consult the Dutch network closest to me. I walked into the room next door and asked the two ladies: “What do I look for in the Dutch phone book if I want to hire a cleaning service. I need to have my apartment cleaned in the next two days.”

Blank stares. Then, “What are you talking about? Clean it yourself.”

“Yeah, I know. That’s just not going to happen. There must be some service, what’s the name of it?”

“Um. We don’t know. We don’t think this service exists, everyone does it themselves. Maybe for a business or something.”

So I got the name of a professional cleaning service, called them up, explained, and predictably they said: “We don’t do that.”

“Well can you point me in the right direction as to who might be able to help me?”

“One second, let me consult my manager.”

Forty-two seconds later: “Yes, we don’t know who would do this.”

Great. Thanks.

Next idea: hire someone’s cleaning lady. Ah, but wait. How do you find a Dutch person with a cleaning lady if they are all telling me that they do this themselves?

Back into the room next door: “Ladies, do any of you know someone who has someone who cleans their house?”

Actually, one of them did. Denise said, “Well I have someone, but I don’t know if she can be free on such short notice. Hold on, I will call.”

“Thanks a million. There’s a nice bottle of wine in this for you Denise if she says yes.” Shameful, I know.

“How much do you need done.”

“The place is empty, just needs to be vacuumed, mopped, and the kitchen and bathrooms have to be cleaned. Three hours maybe. Hundred Euros.”

I don’t know where I came up with that, but I figured in the States you pay $20 an hour for a good cleaner and this was at least three hours, then I just rounded up to the nearest big number because I was adding a rush surcharge and just wanted to make sure the appropriate motivation was secured.

“Well for a hundred Euros maybe my sister-in-law wants to do it.”

Fast forwrad two days. Denise hands me back the keys today at 9:00am. I walk through the place with the landlady at 11:00am. She is very impressed at how clean the place is. “This is very clean, I’m very impressed.”

I just shrug my shoulders.

She writes “returned in good condition” on an official looking piece of paper and takes down my bank account number to transfer me the money.

I sacrificed 10% of my expected return up front to secure the full return of my hostage capital by utilizing an expert in an area I am deficient in, and Denise’s sister-in-law received a consumer surplus from my hundred Euros for the three hours of their time she put in cleaning the apartment of some stupid foreigner. Everyone wins.

Strong social network. Appropriate application of financial leverage. Economics baby. Read up on it.

Categories: Europe

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