SOCIETY

Odd jobs gain ground as source of income

The Greek financial crisis has seen a new professional sector thriving: companies offering to do odd jobs and often unpleasant tasks for a small fee. A year ago, there were less than a dozen companies involved in offering minor services; today, there seems to be no part of the country that doesn’t have at least one.

On Samos, there’s a firm called “To Paidi Yia ta Thelimata” (The Errand Boy), in Igoumenitsa, northwestern Greece, there’s Deliver IT, in Iraklio on Crete there’s City Delivery, and in Attica alone there are more than 10 companies offering such services.

“We can walk your dog, fill your prescriptions, pay your bills, go to the tax office, take your motorcycle or car to the repair shop, do your shopping at the supermarket…” These are but some of the services advertised by 40-year-old Panos Spanoudis, who runs “Thelimata” (Chores) in the port city of Piraeus.

“I worked in construction and insurance until 2011 and would laugh when elderly family members asked me to run errands for them,” Spanoudis says.

Once he became unemployed, however, he began to take the idea more seriously, and much to his benefit as well, charging a minimum of 3 euros for tasks that do not take too much time or entail too much responsibility.

“These are things like going to the supermarket or the kiosk, paying bills and buying medicine. One elderly customer asked us to buy a present for his grandson because he didn’t have time, for example. But we will not accept tasks such as driving children to and from school. All of our services cost a minimum of 3 euros, except those that deal with the public sector, where the starting price is 6 euros,” Spanoudis explains.

Alexandros Mazarakis, who runs a similar company in southern Athens, works mostly with companies and charges upward of 5 euros.

“Most of the work does not come from people who need our services the most, like the elderly and other people who are physically unable to perform certain chores, but from small businesses that cannot afford to employ the staff that would normally carry out such jobs,” he says. “Shops that had one or two employees and are now being kept solely by their owners, for example, have found a solution to one of their biggest operational problems.”

For such cases, Mazarakis’s company, also named “Thelimata,” charges 250 euros a month or more, depending on the workload. Mazarakis tells of some of the odder requests that he’s heard, such as “taking a kid’s lunch to school, taking keys to a husband who forgot them and leaving a love note on the windshield of a mistress’s car.”

Most errand companies employ a staff of three to six people on flexible hours. The employees are insured and although they will only make an average of 5 euros an hour, the job seems to be gaining popularity as the companies become established in their areas, build ties with local communities and drum up new business every day.

“We distribute flyers, have a Facebook page and website, but our customers mainly hear about us by word of mouth. We build a relationship with them,” says Mazarakis.

Spanoudis believes that the reason his business is growing is not just because customers get good value for money, but also because they are servicing a real need.

“It costs almost 3 euros to take the bus to the tax office and back. For the same amount, we get the job done faster and you gain valuable time,” he says.