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good help is so hard to find...

  1. #1
    visitingthemoon is offline Registered User
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    good help is so hard to find...

    I am a young mother and new to having a helper. I'm used to doing everything by myself in the US and Australia. Perhaps I'm being too petty, however I feel I'm just too nice and I just getting taken advantage of.

    How long does it take for your helper to do the grocery shopping? My helper left the house at 8:30 AM and did not return until 2:00 PM. When I questioned her, she said that there was a power outage at the grocery store for two hours and she was stuck there. Short of calling the market to see if that's true, I have no way of verifying. It just seems shady to me. Why didn’t she call the house to let someone know she’s going to be late? It just doesn’t make sense.

    How do you handle food/grocery issues? She eats what the family eats? Do you allow your helper to buy her own food from the allowance you give her to buy groceries for the whole family? Or do you give her a set "food allowance" and she buys her separate food? What if you typically buy only the best, imported food products -- does she share in that as well? Do you separate stuff out and say "ok, this you can have and this you can’t have?" That seems to be very inefficient… having to tell them each time what they can and cannot have.

    She is given $2000 for the week to grocery shop for the household, and at the end of the week, I ask her to give me the receipts. I asked her for the receipts and noticed there were various food items she bought that I, nor anyone in my family, ate. The problem is that I simply don't have the time to keep inventory of what is bought each and every single time she goes grocery shopping. Plus, there are items from the wet market and she gives me unmarked receipts. I have no idea how to account for what's bought and consumed. For example, there is 75% detergent left, but she goes and buys a whole new box of detergent. Bleach was purchased last week already, but she will buy another case of bleach the next week…. Things like that.

    Personal calls. How do you handle personal calls? She is on the phone while cooking in the kitchen and even when she's in the car with me. At first I let it slide. It was just a few minutes here or there. But today she was on the phone the whole way home in the car from the doctor's office, and it REALLY is beginning to bug me. Lately, she's got her ear piece glued to her at all times. When confronted, I get a severe attitude. I just pray she's not on the phone gossiping while watching my 21 month old -- because that is a serious safety issue since her full attention isn't on my child. But the problem is I have no way to monitor whether she's on the phone while watching my daughter.

    Those with good helpers: what rules have you set? I’d like to know what works and what doesn’t work when managing your household. I’m struggling to find a balance between teaching my child how to treat people, all people, with kindness and making sure we get proper help (i.e. making sure the helper does her job - isn’t that why we hire a “help”er, afterall?). I don’t want it to escalate into an argument with the helper in front of my daughter b/c I don’t want my daughter seeing that sort of conflict. But I find that putting up with my helper’s attitude is showing my child that it’s okay to be walked all over, which isn’t right either.

  2. #2
    Frenchy is offline Registered User
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    Seems like your helper is clearly taking advantage of you ! When we hired our helper, we sat and talked about the rules in the house, and we did this a few more times till we reached a "life style" which pleased everyone.

    For the grocery shopping : I have a basket, with a notebook. She buys exactly what I tell her to buy, or only exactly what she needs for a dinner (she cooks only once a week for us). Everything is written down, money left etc... I check it every 2 weeks. For the rest of the grocery shopping, I do it myself.

    For her food : she has a food allowance, she uses it for HER food. She uses the spices, water at home, toilet paper, tissues, cleaning products etc... and I always have a few packs of dried noddles at home in case she has a problem. When she cooks for us, I tell her to make a bit more for her.

    Personal calls : no calls when she works, or taking care of the kids. She has a break at lunch time, in the afternoon and in the evening, she can make calls during these breaks.

    So far... it works. If something goes wrong, we just sit and talk and make sure we are both happy when we leave...

    Good luck !!

  3. #3
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    nicolejoy is offline Registered User
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    There's no way I would tolerate that! Here's how we do things:

    Cash - she has a purse that has our money. I top it up to about $1,000 and tell her to not let it get below about $300 so that she always has some money in case of emergency. She uses this money for groceries, fares (taking my daughter to school), other random things that I ask her to buy. She keeps receipts for everything and writes everything in a book which she balances. Some things do not have a receipt (such as transport or some markets/shops) but those things, she writes in more detail. She has been with us for 1.5 years and has NEVER abused this situation, and the few times that the balance was incorrect, there was always TOO MUCH money in the purse rather than not enough (she hadn't taken out money for things she had paid with her personal octopus card).

    Time to do groceries - She goes daily and cooks most days. She only buys fresh food - meat and fruit/vegetables, as well as some other minor things. Everything else goes on a shopping list and I buy it myself online and have it delivered. She never is gone for more than an hour - and in that time, she sometimes walks around to three or four different places - the markets, park n shop, etc... We live very close to a lot of shops though and so she doesn't need to go far. She will sometimes use this time to do personal banking etc but is ALWAYS very quick!!

    Personal calls - I have told her that she can make calls whenever she wants as long as it doesn't interfere with her work - but she NEVER uses the phone outside of her room. (I personally wouldn't care if she did though, in moderation). If I happen to knock on her door and she is on the phone, she hangs up immediately - not at my request (I wouldn't care if she listened to what I had to say and then finished her conversation, if I didn't need her immediately).

    Food allowance - I have told her to eat our food, and if she wants anything that we don't keep in the pantry, to buy it out of our grocery money - but she never does. She eats dinner with us, but everything else she buys herself. I have debated whether to give her a food allowance but I decided that it is her personal decision to do that. I may reconsider if we resign her for a 2nd contract.

    When I hired our helper, I went over the "rules" that were important to me - but honestly, my helper has a pretty high standard of personal "rules" that are even higher than my expectations and we have never had any issues with those things. We have had some issues - and our main issues are probably to do with communication... but THESE things are some of the most important things and if she can't get them right, there's no way I would continue to employ her!!

  4. #4
    kiwiinoz is offline Registered User
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    I think your helper is taking advantage of you. Even if my helper goes all the way over to Causeway Bay or Wan Chai she would be back in half the time it is taking your helper.
    Buying detergent every week is very strange and I would be checking inventory and questioning that for sure.

    Our helper goes to market + the supermarket on a daily basis and rarely takes more than an hour or two unless she is going a little further afield for special foods. We don't use a time schedule. Like Nicole's helper, she keeps receipts for everything and keeps paperwork where she tallies all the money spent including those stalls that don't give receipts (eg tofu that costs about $6). If the power is down at the supermarket (and it happened once - a month or so back - I witnessed it as well) she comes home and goes back later or seeks out an alternate store. We talk about what is running low and tend to do a big shop on weekends and get it delivered for a lot of the common household/non-perishable items. I have told her she can add little bits and pieces for herself if needed, but again like Nicole's helper, she never has. She doesn't like to 'take advantage'.

    For food, she eats what we eat at home. At the end of the day, she needs the same nutrients we do. That includes red meat and seafood. She will on very rare occasions make her own meal (she likes to eat the lungs & feet of the chicken when we get it fresh), but we talk about the menu on a weekly and daily basis as we share the cooking duties.

    Personal calls - she can talk on her phone as long as she isn't supervising the kids. She sometimes talks on her phone while ironing or cleaning the bathrooms and I am completely fine with that as it doesn't affect the speed or quality of her job at all. She doesn't talk all the time/every day though. She takes caring for the kids very seriously and doesn't talk on her phone (unless it is me calling) while she is out or supervising with one of the kids - it is her rule as much as our rule. Similarly, if I need to talk to her, she hangs up immediately so the call doesn't distract her. She has never used the phone while in the car with me. If her phone rings, she diverts the call to voicemail.

    Have you tried sitting down with her and working out some guidelines on what you find acceptable?
    These are important things that she needs to get right and not abuse the trust being placed in her.

  5. #5
    miran is offline Registered User
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    Yes, she is taking advantage. In your position I would fire her.
    Last edited by miran; 08-30-2011 at 09:47 AM.

  6. #6
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by visitingthemoon View Post
    How long does it take for your helper to do the grocery shopping? My helper left the house at 8:30 AM and did not return until 2:00 PM.
    Since we run a tight schedule at our house, our helper doesn't have the "luxury" of being late. We order most of what we use online from Park n' Shop and have it delivered but for the weekly marketing we plan that for Monday mornings right after my son gets on the bus for school. She leaves right around 8 am and she must be back around 10:30 or 11 am because she has to 1) cook lunch for the family 2) pick up my son from the bus stop and/or bring my daughter to me during my lunch break so I can breastfeed her (we live close to where I work). My helper is so dedicated that if she feels like Monday will be too much of a rush from her often times she will (by her own choice, even though we've tried to dissuade her) pick up some things from the store on her way back home on Sunday night (her holiday).

    When I questioned her, she said that there was a power outage at the grocery store for two hours and she was stuck there. Short of calling the market to see if that's true, I have no way of verifying. It just seems shady to me. Why didn’t she call the house to let someone know she’s going to be late? It just doesn’t make sense.
    Ha! That's hilarious! That's the worst lie I've heard so far from a helper. If you thought it was shady, you should have called the store right then and there and caught her in her lie. If you don't speak Cantonese, you likely could find someone to translate for you--although most stores in HK have at least one staff that speaks English. That's what I would have done. If a grocery store had a power outage for two hours it would likely make the news that night. Even if it didn't, there is always the option of going to another grocery store. C'mon, how many Wellcomes and Park n' Shops are there in HK?! And if it was a particular store like CitySuper she was at, I can't even imagine that store having an outage for two hours--they probably have a back-up generator! :P

    How do you handle food/grocery issues? She eats what the family eats? Do you allow your helper to buy her own food from the allowance you give her to buy groceries for the whole family? Or do you give her a set "food allowance" and she buys her separate food? What if you typically buy only the best, imported food products -- does she share in that as well? Do you separate stuff out and say "ok, this you can have and this you can’t have?" That seems to be very inefficient… having to tell them each time what they can and cannot have.
    Our helper eats what we eat. (And that's a lot better than she would if we just gave her money for food allowance and miles better than what she eats in her home country). She has a grocery list that is very specific (and most of the items are routine). She knows where to buy items, what brand to get and how much they should cost. If you want to go through and make up such a list and you're shopping at Park n' Shop you can go online and browse and see what is available and how much it costs etc. Our helper is to the point that she can now make the grocery list on her own and then she brings it to me. I order some of the things online and then give her cash to cover the cost of the rest (usually meat, produce, eggs, etc.). She is accountable for all that money and must produce receipts to verify what she bought--we keep all of this in a plastic bag. In this way, it keeps everyone honest. She is not allowed to use that money to buy what she wants at the store (things that aren't on the list) or even personal items. She would never do this, I'm sure. There have been a couple of times when she's requested to add something to the list for herself and I was okay with that. Same thing with her Octopus card for travel--we give her money to "refill" it and she brings us a receipt. That card is only used for travel related to our family--not travel during her holidays.

    She is given $2000 for the week to grocery shop for the household, and at the end of the week, I ask her to give me the receipts. I asked her for the receipts and noticed there were various food items she bought that I, nor anyone in my family, ate. The problem is that I simply don't have the time to keep inventory of what is bought each and every single time she goes grocery shopping. Plus, there are items from the wet market and she gives me unmarked receipts. I have no idea how to account for what's bought and consumed. For example, there is 75% detergent left, but she goes and buys a whole new box of detergent. Bleach was purchased last week already, but she will buy another case of bleach the next week…. Things like that.
    Sounds fishy to me. I think that you avoiding the issue is making it worse. You overlooking it is communicating to her either 1) that you're not aware 2) that you don't care 3) that you're a push-over and even though you do care you won't confront her. None of these are going to work out in the long-run. I think the only thing you need to do is the next time she goes shopping, look at the receipt. Go through it with a highlighter and highlight the things you're not familiar about and set them in front of her and ask her to produce the items that correspond with the receipt. Same thing with the wet market receipts. If she truly is buying things she shouldn't she'll be fumbling to try to cover that. You don't have to do this every time but do it enough that it's like an audit that keeps her on her toes. If she buys things that you have not okayed communicate clearly, "This is not what I asked you to buy. Don't do that again. If you do it again, I will ask you to return the item and bring the money from that item back to me. What you are doing is very close to stealing and that's not okay with me."
    Personal calls. How do you handle personal calls? She is on the phone while cooking in the kitchen and even when she's in the car with me. At first I let it slide. It was just a few minutes here or there. But today she was on the phone the whole way home in the car from the doctor's office, and it REALLY is beginning to bug me. Lately, she's got her ear piece glued to her at all times. When confronted, I get a severe attitude. I just pray she's not on the phone gossiping while watching my 21 month old -- because that is a serious safety issue since her full attention isn't on my child. But the problem is I have no way to monitor whether she's on the phone while watching my daughter.
    Yeah, I wouldn't be cool with that. My helper is allowed to use her phone but so far she hasn't abused that privilege. She gets a lot of texts from her husband and children which I don't mind. Afterall, I call my husband to check in during the work day sometimes. But, she is never on the phone while cooking or caring for our infant. It's a bit different with our nearly 4-year-old as he doesn't need quite as much supervision. But, our helper uses common sense and isn't on the phone at inappropriate times (like while out in traffic). I would address this issue immediately if I were you.

    Those with good helpers: what rules have you set? I’d like to know what works and what doesn’t work when managing your household. I’m struggling to find a balance between teaching my child how to treat people, all people, with kindness and making sure we get proper help (i.e. making sure the helper does her job - isn’t that why we hire a “help”er, afterall?). I don’t want it to escalate into an argument with the helper in front of my daughter b/c I don’t want my daughter seeing that sort of conflict. But I find that putting up with my helper’s attitude is showing my child that it’s okay to be walked all over, which isn’t right either.
    If I were you, I would set aside a time to talk to her. I've done this in the past and usually my husband and I talk through the issues beforehand so we have a clear idea of what needs to be communicated and how best to communicate it. We do this after the children are in bed. We invite the helper to sit down and have a cup of tea or something with us and talk to her like an adult. It has worked well for us. I would just be honest with her. Honesty is important. I would use the "sandwich method." Tell her something positive about her work, tell her what the issue is and WHY it's an issue (i.e. "I feel disrespected, taken advantage of, it's dangerous, it's rude, it's dishonest etc..." ), tell her what you want her to do about it, tell her what might happen if she doesn't do what you've asked. No need to scream and yell but you do have to draw your boundaries and if she can't respect them and do a better job, then you'll unfortunately, have to find someone else. Not all helpers are good--just as not all employees are good, unfortunately.
    Last edited by thanka2; 08-30-2011 at 10:10 AM.
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  7. #7
    charade is offline Registered User
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    Yeah, sounds like your helper is being weird. The market thing - she should have called and asked if she should wait or if you prefer her to come away. I think you can very firmly say, next time, please call and check as I may have needed you at home.

    My helper also does the groceries, practically every day. I think she likes the outing, plus she does cook every day. Before I had my baby, she'd take a longish time (I have a feeling she'd use the time to chat on the phone) but I let it slide because her work is very efficient and if I really wanted her back quick, I'd tell her to come back quickly. Nevertheless, never as long as 830-2 pm... that is seriously odd!

    We give her money for groceries every now and then and she keeps accounts with reciepts in a book. Yes, for the wet market these are scribbled on a piece of paper in Chinese. But we've been to the wet market too and kind of know what things cost. I go through the book every now and then and total up. On ocassion, I've noticed a reciept missing... but generally, it's minor and also tends to happen when I've left the checking for too and long and the book is overflowing with receipts. Sometimes my helper manages to locate the reciept or explain my query, once she really couldn't find it. I let it go.

    My helper eats what we eat. Since we eat lunch at work, she generally cooks enough so that there's something left over for lunch the next day. In case there's nothing, she buys something for herself but I have noticed she is very careful about the cost. She has started doing this more often than she used to (and she doesn't ask us) but it is still within reasonable limits and I am letting it slide since she has been really helpful with my son (and now that I'm unexpectedly pregnant again) beyond the call of duty. I do however underline her food purchases in the book, just my way of letting her know we are tracking it.

    I know friends who give their helper an allowance for food as food habits don't match. I think you need to find time to watch the accounts - especially since you do not fully trust your helper. A box of detergent a week sounds like a lot. For these items, my helper tends to let us know when they need replacing and if she should buy them. Generally, she and my husband do a round once a month to buy cleaning supplies, the big bag of rice etc.

    The phone thing is a bit uncomfortable. I've never heard my helper on the phone actually... though I wouldn't mind if she took calls ocassionally or had a time of the day when she calls her family. I have a feeling that that happens when we're away at work. I think the ocassional call is ok or if she had a time during the day when she doesn't have work when she went off to call home. Even in my office, I wouldn't take personal calls endlessly in front of my boss. Actually, I tend to minimise long calls if I'm with another person... it's just good manners, I think.

    I am lucky in that my helper is excellent. I am quite a lax employer in that I set no rules, and was more than pleasantly surprised. I am not a great housekeeper so there are few things I want done 'my way'. However, when those things arise, particularly with relation to my baby, or if stuff pertaining to budget arises, I have a discussion with my helper but am firm about what I would like to happen. I am lucky that my helper generally doesn't need to be told twice. Earlier, if she was corrected, she'd apologise. Now, she tends to laugh it off. A little annoying but I let it go because basically, the stuff gets done right. Bottomline - you can let the little things slide, but not the bigger things. Some might need more reminding than others - I can't claim to never having made the same mistake twice in my own job - but I think attitude is important. When I make the same mistake again at work, I own up to it and make it clear I mean to try harder.

    How about addressing all the issues after your kid is asleep? You could do it as a sort of taking stock of her work so far - praising what she does right, asking her if she has any concerns and then bringing up what you have a problem with. We did this with my helper in the early months, asking her if she was ok with the work etc. (and if there were big issues to be brought up with her work, we'd have brought it up then).

  8. #8
    Gataloca's Avatar
    Gataloca is offline Registered User
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    Quote Originally Posted by visitingthemoon View Post
    My helper left the house at 8:30 AM and did not return until 2:00 PM. When I questioned her, she said that there was a power outage at the grocery store for two hours and she was stuck there.
    LOL! Stuck in a grocery store!!! Stuck inside???? What store was that? And she was stuck because they didn't allow the people to leave until the power was back, or the door couldn't open? I think the fire department would have intervened in the situation was the latest. Two hours stuck in a store without AC, I would have probably fainted! Agree with Thanka that this is the worst lie ever!

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