At Your Service

Help! I Need Somebody—More Than 75 Services That Make Life Easy—People Who Fix Things, Run Your Errands, Do Your Wash, Cook Meals, and More.

By Ellen Ryan

Car care and repair
When 1,000 American adults were surveyed last year by Bruskin-Goldring Research, asking what luxury they most wished for, the top answer was “someone to look after me.” Butlers and maids were mentioned. A chauffeur. A cook. And, generally, help with the daily grind “so I can get as much sleep as I want.”

Greater incomes and less leisure time have combined to boost the appeal of at-your-service businesses.

Take, for example, the demand for personal chefs, who will stock your refrigerator with homemade meals. In April 1995 the US Personal Chefs Association represented 450 personal chefs nationwide; less than six years later there are 5,000 members. The jump in Washington was dramatic: from three member chefs in ’97, to 300 now.

“I can’t train them fast enough” to keep up with Washington demand, says USPCA founder David MacKay. “I have twice as many classes in DC as anywhere else in the country.”

The cocooning trend that began a few years back has dovetailed with the growth of that ultimate stay-at-home tool, the Internet. Online grocery purchases grew more than 50 percent from 1998 to 2000, according to New York research firm Jupiter Communications.

“We’re banking on the idea that people want to offload a lot of boring activities,” Timothy De Mello—head of delivery service— told the Wall Street Journal last year.

The Washingtonian came up with nine boring, annoying, or stress-inducing activities that you might prefer to pay someone else to do. Then we looked around Washington for companies that deliver those services.

The following list is representative. Prices, services, and other details, though accurate at press time, are subject to change—especially in such an ever-changing business environment.

Car Care and Repair

No time to take your car to the shop? Want to surprise someone with a spiffed-up vehicle? These folks can help.

Mobile One Detailing, Bethesda; 301-656-6004; Because Scott Martindill sends several workers to each job, they can detail a car, truck, or van in 1 to 1H hours; they do airplanes too. Mobile One works around the Beltway. $65 basic wash/wax/interior cleaning; $165 to $185 for the works.