How to Hire a Husband for an Hour
- By Kevin O'Flynn
- Aug. 28 2003 00:00
A new agency, Husband for an Hour, or Muzh Na Chas, allows you to call a man to your home to fix, install or clear out whatever has you bewildered.
In two months, the company has grown from being a computer repair shop battered by the competition to a handyman outfit fielding dozens of calls per day and getting more free publicity than it could ever hope to buy.
Set up by Nina Rakhmanina after her computer repair business began to droop, Husband for an Hour offers a man on call 24 hours per day.
The agency is exploiting a gap in the market, where the municipal handyman, who never had a particularly good reputation even in Soviet times, is perceived as incompetent, difficult to get hold of and reluctant to work outside normal working hours.
Or, as Andrei Korolyuk, one of the husbands-on-hire, put it, "a standard drunk who turns up late, swears, shouts and then breaks something."
"People think better of us because we come whenever people are at home," he said.
A "husband" costs 500 rubles for a two-hour visit, with each extra hour costing an extra 200 rubles.
Husband for an Hour is tapping another market as well: the mass of usually single women who do not have the time or the inclination to fix things around the house or find a man to help her.
Most of those calling 181-0987 for assistance are women, but men also are ordering visits by one of the agency's 10 husbands.
"The husband phones and says, 'Send a handyman just to keep her quiet, so she doesn't nag me and shout at me,'" Korolyuk said.
Other men, however, have been known to send their wives or girlfriends out so they can take the praise for the work done by the handymen.
Valery, who visited the apartment of a Moscow Times reporter, was neat, efficient and almost got upset when his visit was cut short 50 minutes before the two hours were up.
"I also use the service," Rakhmanina said, explaining that she has no time to do anything herself. "I'm glad that I can get someone to repair my windows."
For now, most of her agency's success is linked to its name, a marketing dream that has television channels and newspapers lining up to suggest that busy women can get more than just their plugs changed.
Although Rakhmanina was unwilling to admit it, Korolyuk acknowledged that some people do mistake the service for intimniye uslugy, or intimate services.
He said callers have made hints and jokes, with some telling him they have been sent a husband from "the bureau of intimate services."
"But it's not serious," said Korolyuk, a happily married man.
Some clients, in addition to getting help around the house, are looking for a friendly face, and they offer meals and even showers to the grimy workmen.
"Nobody tells us that it's for the company, [but for some] it combines something useful with a pleasant contact," Korolyuk said.
Husband for an Hour does have two women on its staff -- but they are not called "wives for an hour" and do not fix taps. They are available to do ironing, washing or babysitting.
Competition, however, with numerous nanny and cleaning agencies is much higher, according to Husband for an Hour.