Dear Economist

A spot of car trouble

I pay someone to clean my car three times a week. He usually does a good job of it. However, I often travel and as soon as I’m gone, the cleaner stops work. So I always come back to a dirty car.
I pay him even when I’m not around. Shouldn’t he at least clean the car the day before he knows I will return, thus pretending to have been cleaning it regularly?
DT, Bahrain

Dear DT,

I can think of three explanations for this behaviour. Either the cleaner is too stupid to realise he should be skiving more subtly, or he thinks you are too stupid to notice, or he does not care if you notice.

If he is stupid, or he thinks you are stupid – don’t ask which – the solution is easy: say you’ve noticed that the car is dirty and ask him to clean it before you return.

If he does not care, that means he can try to get an equally good job elsewhere. Since the current job comes with frequent paid holidays, that is unlikely – unless you are being especially stingy.

I suggest sharper incentives. Tell him you’ll pay him a bonus if you return to a clean car. Frankly, since you are paying him to clean an unused car, incessantly, and he isn’t doing it, any change is likely to be an improvement.

Also published at ft.com, subscription free.

26th of July, 2008Dear Economist • Comments off