Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Well-behaved dude for hire.

As your humble blogger wrote in this column a few months ago, wealthy Chinese in increasing numbers are hiring all sorts of people to help manage the complications that have piled onto their affluent lives like so many underutilized electrical appliances. Hiring Downton Abbey-style English-trained butlers to manage the household is one way to show off la dolce vita cinese. In Hong Kong, following the lifestyle of Hollywood stars, the well-heeled are increasing hiring Personal Managers to help them sort through the chores and mundane aspects of their lives. What do these PMs do? Name it. Organize and file tax returns. Plan weekly menus for the domestic helpers to feed kids healthy meals. Pack artwork for shipping. Sort out administrative chaos for the newly divorced. Set up a home security system. Nothing says "luxury" more than "bespoke". And as human beings (allegedly) have free will, there is nothing more bespoke than, well, a person.
Hiring personal help in China isn’t just for the well-established professionals. During this Chinese New Year season when family members gather together from afar, an irritating topic of conversation for young women is whether they will be getting hitched in the foreseeable future. To help address this perennial parental nag, those women with a few spare RMB in their pockets but insufficient interest or time to find an actual boyfriend can, yes you guessed it, rent one to take home to Dad and Mom. Rent-a-Dude service rates range from several hundred to up to two thousand RMB (approximately US$320) per day. And that's just the base fee for the temporary company of a pleasant looking guy on his best behavior and with presumably decent acting skills. Many of the lads charge extra for specific value-added services, including movie watching, party attending, and booze drinking. The booze fees are scaled according to the alcohol content and volume, with white spirits such as baijiu commanding the highest prices. As to whether there are a large number of cases when these short-term arrangements turn into long term romance, I quote a variation on an old Groucho Marx line: wealthy Chinese girls wouldn't marry boyfriends who would allow themselves to be hired as such. Money matters in China.

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