A while back I hired myself a husband, and I was so pleased with him that I am thinking of getting another.
Before you throw the paper down in disgust, let me point out that these husbands are honest, respectful and come with a guarantee, and I still count myself as being fairly respectable.
How does this work? The husband I hired came from Maridos de Alquiler (Husbands for Hire), a multi-service company that will sort you out when things go wrong.
You may have seen the company’s bright yellow signs around San José and wondered, as I did, about the morals of the city to allow such apparently brazen immorality in such large letters. My curiosity piqued, I managed to get beyond the inevitable conclusions by checking out the company’s Web site, www.maridosdealquiler.net, which revealed its true intentions. I then forgot about the husbands for hire until a minor domestic disaster brought them back to mind.
A charming but inept neighborhood locksmith hired to weld a new lock onto my kitchen’s outer metal gate had botched the job so badly that the interior door wouldn’t close, some of the wall had been knocked away and sharp metal bits stuck out just right for tearing at fingers. I couldn’t leave the house with an open door but needed to go out. It was time to call in a husband for hire.
A few hours after my call for help, a smartly uniformed, professional locksmith turned up, complete with full welding kit. The damage was ascertained and a temporary fix done so the kitchen door could at least close. The next day, the job was completed: repairs made, wall fixed, door and new lock painted.
Later on that week, the office called to make sure I was happy with the work done and the quality of my “husband.” MARIDOS de Alquiler is the brainchild of former sales executive Aparicio Cordero. In 2000, he lost his desk job and found it difficult for a 50-something businessman to find work. Funds were running low and worries climbing high. One day, a neighbor called in a panic; she had to host a party later in the week, and the house desperately needed a paint job. Whom could Cordero, with all his office contacts, recommend?
He recommended himself, rushed to the paint shop, asked the assistant how to mix and apply it, did the job and found a new career. With word-of-mouth contacts, in seven months he was employing three men doing paint and plumbing jobs in the Cariari area, northwest of San José. Five years later, Cordero’s country home in La Guácima, a town in the Alajuela province northwest of San José, now houses a small office staffed with three receptionists to field a steady stream of calls and a well-equipped workshop to repair household appliances.
Despite strong opposition from Cordero’s wife and mother, the saucy-sounding name came about after Cordero overheard a client complaining to her friend about her useless husband who couldn’t fix anything, and extolling Cordero’s virtues. “He was so respectful and efficient,” she said. “It was like hiring the perfect husband.” Thus, Maridos de Alquiler was born.
THE “maridos” claim to be able to perform up to 176 different jobs, from rescuing cats up trees, washing the dog, cleaning gutters and changing tires to high-tech industrial tank cleaning and even house reconstructions. They can help with plumbing, bricklaying, electrical work and machine repairs, to mention the most usual jobs; less common was when Cordero was asked to break into an embassy safe because the ambassador was away and funds were urgently needed, or being called out at 3 a.m. because an electric garage door collapsed on the owner’s car.
On average, 500 calls of all kinds are attended to each month. Most come from private clients, of which 95% are women, but Maridos also contracts its services to large companies, such as Kimberly-Clark, Unilever and Coca-Cola, that use outsourcing for specific tasks. Cordero said the industrial tank cleaning was an intense, all-weekend undertaking for Coca-Cola that had to meet with stringent ISO 9000 regulations.
The company’s mission is to offer professional service with honesty, respect and cleanliness. Jobs fall into four main categories: emergencies (cat up tree); regular contracts (pool cleaning, dog shampooing); scheduled contracts (replacing a roof, fumigations); and commercial (company bids).
Professionals are hired by Maridos on a franchise basis. The 42 experts currently on the roster receive training in public relations and innovative technology in their field, and can use the Maridos de Alquiler name and uniform. In return, they must adhere to the structured list of fees and work ethics and agree to be on call for pre-arranged 24-hour shifts. Many of the husbands have regular jobs, so schedules are developed to make sure someone is always available to handle an emergency. My locksmith, for example, was an evening lecturer in welding technology at the National Training Institute (INA).
Maridos provides a full written guarantee for all its work. Insurance against labor related injuries means clients can let the husbands clamber over their wonky roofs with clear consciences.
HOW do the maridos compare cost wise to other fix-it handymen in the market? They are not the cheapest. A call-out to assess a job and give an estimate costs ¢4,500 ($9.30), which is absorbed into the total bill if the client uses the company’s services. Emergency night calls after 6 p.m. are ¢9,000 ($18.60). Estimates are based on a one-to-five complexity scale and a per meter area calculation if applicable. All work is guaranteed and legally binding; major jobs costing more than ¢150,000 ($310) come with a written estimate of costs and a contract, and for jobs over ¢300,000 ($620) Cordero guarantees constant supervision from the central office.
Maridos is going abroad in the near future, according to Cordero, who explained that the company will be starting up in El Salvador after a visitor to Costa Rica returned impressed with the service the Tico maridos supplied. Expansion into Mexico and Venezuela is also under discussion.
The main drawback for foreign customers is that only six of the husbands speak any English. They might have to add an interpreter to their list of 176 jobs.
AS for my new “husband” – my house became home to termites over the rainy season, so instead of a locksmith spouse, I am calling for an exterminator spouse. Does that constitute industrial bigamy? Maridos de Alquiler can be contacted at 438-7070 or 438-7949, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.