Some of these gigs, like beauty care, housekeeping for absent landlords and pet grooming, offer handsome incomes that some people are prepared to work hard for, even if it means forsaking a Tet
celebration with their families.
Tet, the Lunar New Year Festival which falls on February 5 this year, is the season when business peaks for beauty salons, including barber shops. Revenues during these days are several dozen times a normal day, owners and employees say.
Hanh, owner of a hair salon on Le Duc Tho Street, Go Vap District, HCMC, said that the shop usually has only one main stylist and one helper, but during Tet, the number of staff doubles.
"On a typical day, we only serve 5-10 people but when it’s Tet, there are still people waiting in line to be served at 10 p.m. In addition to haircuts, many customers are willing to spend more money to dye their hair so Tet is a time to make up for losses suffered during the rest of the year," she said.
Loan, director of a spa in District 5, HCMC also reported a similar surge in Tetdemand. The number of customers visiting her spa increases by 70 percent over regular days, especially for service packages worth VND3-7 million ($130 - $301), which become very popular this time of the year. Reservations are made constantly as many are eager to be served first and quick.
"Since the middle of the last lunar month, we have been serving more than 150 guests a day, and the turnover is several hundred million dong (VND100 million = $4,305)," said Loan.
She added Tet revenue accounts for around 60 percent of annual earnings.
Thanh, a resident of Saigon`s District 3, drives a motorcycle taxi, which earns him around VND200,000 ($8.6) a day. But when Tet’s spring flower markets open, he looks to earn additional income delivering plants.
Customers who buy small and medium-sized trees often want to have them delivered by motorbike, which is the cheapest option. Depending on the value and size of the tree as well as the distance, the delivery charge varies from VND40,000 to VND500,000 ($1.7 - $22).
If a motorbike taxi driver transports five to 10 trees a day, he/she can earn ten times the money they make during normal days. People who try to earn extra income with this service are typically unskilled workers, masons, motorcyclists, cyclo drivers, and so on.
Watching over houses, factories
Thanh, a native of the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang, has decided to return home only after Tet because he wants to make money in the city by looking after houses and factories.
On regular days, he earns VND5 million ($215) a month, but he can make double that money if he does housekeeping for 10 days during Tet.
Unlike other jobs, housekeeping is not too complicated, but it is not easy to find a reliable person, so the salary is quite high. In big cities, many families often travel for leisure or go back to their hometown, so they need an eye kept on their property to avoid theft.
Usually, the service charges about VND1-4 million ($43-172) per day, depending on the region. If the homeowner is away for about 6 days, the housekeepers can earn VND5-20 million.
Car and bike wash
In HCMC, at many garages on An Duong Vuong Street, District 5, the price of car makeover services like interior cleaning increases to VND500,000-1 million ($22 – $43). It includes services such as removing stains on mattresses, floorboards, and polishing car furniture with cleaning solutions.
Two days before Tet, the number of cars queuing up on Nguyen Huu Canh Street, which is only about 500m long, is so long that the entire road and sidewalks are packed.
A 4-seats car wash costs VND120,000 ($5), 7-seats or bigger, VND150,000 ($6.4). Dung, a 4-seater driver waiting for his car to be washed, said the price doubles during Tet days.
"I have my car washed here often. The owner said the price this week has increased to VND120,000, but it’s not strange, it’s Tet," he said.
The motorbike washing service is also catering to a surge in customers with prices up by VND10,000 ($0.4) each. In HCMC, a bike wash costs VND35,000, 40 percent higher than usual. Many garages are staying open late to meet the demand to have nice, polished cars and motorbikes for Tet.
The turnover of this business, a relatively new one that has sprung up as more well-to-do people own pets, dote on them and are willing to spend on them, spikes during the Tet season.
This year, skyrocketing demand for pet hotels and grooming services has seen many establishments unable to take orders weeks before the festival.
Hoan, a pet care shop owner in District 6, HCMC said her shop has about 30 stables, but they are all booked. "We take in dogs and cats weighing 1-25kg. The cost of caring for them during Tet includes food options ranging between VND80,000-500,000 ($3.4 - $22) a day," Hoan said.
Pets are taken for daily walks, brushed and have their toenails trimmed.
Hoan said her staff can earn VND700,000 to VND1 million ($30 – $45) each day during Tet.