At Your Service

A new concierge service that can take care of your personal and business needs at local prices

Few things are as exciting as moving to an exotic foreign locale and starting life as an expat. The senses are bombarded with new sights, smells, and tastes. An array of new experiences are collected that work to stretch, change, and amuse those people intrepid enough to embark on such a journey. However, not all such experiences are pleasant, of course. As with anything, there are always tradeoffs. Moving to a Southeast Asian city in general, and Ho Chi Minh City in particular, comes with a host of challenges.

Chief among them are finding the goods and services one needs and, equally important, at favorable prices. The inability to speak the language or simply being a foreigner amplifies those challenges. David Ward, a derivatives trader from London, started Giup.me (‘giup’ means ‘help’ in Vietnamese), a concierge service, to assist people in such a position. “It’s difficult to get the things you need and very difficult to get a price you want. When you step into a store prices immediately go up.” It’s a common experience among people from Western nations. For VND175,000/hour Giup.me will take over the chore of locating goods and services and will set about acquiring them at a fair price. “We can provide contact information upon request at no charge,” explains David. “But the disadvantage is that a foreigner will still get a different price over the phone. Our aim is that you make one call and it all gets done.”

Their philosophy is that the money you spend using Giup.me’s service will be recovered in the savings achieved by paying local prices. According to David, real estate agents will take up to two months’ rent as a fee for finding an apartment for someone. On a one year lease that equates to approximately 16 percent. A concierge service fee of USD7- USD8 per hour will certainly net savings if they can negotiate a 10 percent discount. Price Hunting Another area Giup specializes in is helping foreigners find professional services such as lawyers and accountants, and with setting up businesses. “Many expats arrive thinking they can set up a business easily and find cheap labor to get started. What we do is manage expectations for them while also getting it done at a reasonable price,” he says. When he first arrived David was quoted anywhere from USD700-USD1,500 per month for accounting services when he paid only GBP100 in London. He had to hunt to find a fair price.

“Housekeepers and nannies are a bit trickier because the requirements change from family to family. We provide a pool of service providers that we have vetted by using them ourselves or on the recommendation of people we know very well.” When asked about the boundaries for services his company will try to accommodate, David grins and exclaims, “We do our best to make people happy, but we operate within the boundaries of the law. We’re thrilled to make sure your dinner party has plenty of ice and alcohol delivered if that’s needed, but for more personal service requirements we would rather refer you to someone who might be better equipped to procure them.” Ward believes his service complements the raft of social media outlets and forums available to expats. “If people are getting stuff they like through those channels, that’s great. But often people hop on one of the message boards or Facebook pages and have to sift through days, weeks, or months of posts to find something useful, and then there’s no telling if that information is even good anymore.” Giup.me takes no additional fees or commissions and receives no kickbacks for its service. Payment is made by cash or PayPal after services are rendered. “We’re conscious about the fact that expats are constantly getting raked over the coals so we focus on being scrupulous about charging them,” David explains. Because he sympathizes with those who face getting overcharged on a routine basis, Giup.me is willing to adjust a bill for any customer who honestly feels they’ve been overcharged for a service. For more info on their services, visit giup.me

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