A deeper market for helpmate firms

Today's lead story gets inside the current trend toward having life's little jobs handled by others.

Concierge service, long reserved for star professional athletes and poodle-packing dowagers, has gone utterly mainstream.

Impetus? Round up the usual suspects: Life's frantic pace, our personal technology in overdrive, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Enabler? The Internet, of course! (Tech plays both friend and enemy.) Speciality sites keep popping up like mushrooms.

The latest ones consolidate, doing the legwork needed to pony up all kinds of unrelated services in one tidy package.

But the newest wrinkle in the trend has its roots in doing for others. Eager to keep workers happy, more companies have been committing themselves to making their staffers' lives easier - by running their errands, and more.

Today some firms, hungry to diversify, are making "in house" perks available to consumers, too. Competition should make such concierge services affordable.

A positive development? Well, perks aimed at retention had begun to border on the garish. One software developer in Atlanta, for example, leases BMW roadsters for each of its 60 full-time employees. (The $30,000 a month price tag beat out the $50,000 they'd reportedly been paying to recruit.)

Contrast the narrow benefits of a plan like that with the "Pathways to Independence" program run by Marriott International and aimed at its lowest-rung workers.

Marriott helps such workers with on-demand help in arranging cheap transportation and child care. It also throws in training in personal-finance skills, accountability, and self-esteem.

Le concierge gone populist.

*Reach us at work@csps.com

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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