Ngoc Anh had called several housekeeping services many times to get some maintenance work done at home, but had drawn a blank.
The answer was invariably the same. "We will call back when someone is available."One particular well-advertised company with a huge staff even helped her to install an app to book appointments. But even after waiting for a whole day, she did not get a response.
"The agency did call me back afterwards to inform that no schedule was available on the day that I requested, and offered to change it to another date, on a working day. I had no choice but to accept the after-hours service, paying almost VND50,000 ($2.2) more per hour," said a relieved Ngoc Anh.
Thoan of northern Phu Tho Province has not left Hanoi despite Tet looming large and the annual exodus from the cities to hometowns already begun. She is a housekeeper who hopes to make some extra money during this period.
On average, during the 3-4 days before Tet, she gets work at 2-3 houses daily, getting paid several million Vietnamese dong (VND1 million = $43) "It normally takes me 3-4 hours to do the general cleaning. Big houses might take 5 hours. During these days, I get VND100,000 ($4.3) per hour," she said.
Tuan, manager of an online housekeeping service in Hanoi's Cau Giay District, said the hourly rate for cleaning and maintenance services increases every day as Tet nears. During the week before Tet, the rate, including cleaning, maintenance and cooking, could double or triple, going from VND50,000 – 60,000 ($2.2 – 2.6) per hour to VND150,000 – 200,000 ($6.5 – 8.6) per hour.
Quynh, manager of an agency in Dong Da District, also said that during the days close to Tet, their cleaning service rates increase by 170-200 percent on the first 3 days of the Lunar New Year, and return to normal on the sixth day.
Even if the customers are willing to pay premium prices, finding a housekeeper during these days is a real challenge. Even after offering VND700,000 – 800,000 ($30.2 – 34.5) a day, Tuan has gone through two days of searching in vain.
"There is a workforce shortage and many agencies are offering appealing rewards to attract workers, so I decided to take the price a little higher," he said.
There are even more difficulties, he added. Most families request that the housekeepers are well-trained and familiar with the jobs, so it would take a couple of days to instruct them even after some people are hired.
Most firms offering housekeeping services say customers should expect a daily fee of around VND1 million ($43) during the first five days of Lunar New Year, which peaks on January 25, and that they should book appointments as soon as possible. On average, a 3-day Tet package would cost VND3.3 million ($142).