Businesses Affected By Do-It-Yourselfers

By Staff

May 18, 2009

Instead of hiring professionals for jobs such as house repair and landscaping, more people are trying to cut costs by taking on tasks by themselves. As a result, some businesses are suffering, while enrollment in do-it-yourself courses is rising.

In Annapolis, Maryland, The Capital reports that more people are landscaping their own gardens, babysitting their own children, and cooking their own meals. A spokesman for Himmel's Farm and Garden noted that more clients are planting their own trees and vegetable gardens. Similarly, Lorna Spencer, co-owner of A Choice Nanny, remarked that because many parents are losing their jobs, more nannies are being forced to take pay cuts and help with housecleaning, or are being laid off entirely.

Not surprisingly, less middle-class families are paying for personal chef services. But Candy Wallace, founder and executive director of the American Personal and Private Chef Association in San Diego, said that many personal chefs are noticing a rising interest in cooking classes. Many people, she explained, "don't know how to cook. A lot of them don't know how to shop. We are frequently working with third-generation noncooks."

WKOW-TV in Madison, Wisconsin, reports that there's been a significant enrollment increase in do-it-yourself courses at Madison Area Technical College in subjects such as engine and computer repair. Bob Skaggs, who is learning small engine repair at the school, explained that taking the course ultimately saves money.

"There's definitely a lot to be saved if you know how to do it, how to use the tools properly," he said. "And that's what this class teaches you."

Other local classes being offered include courses in landscaping, heating and air conditioning, sewing, and freezing and canning food.

But The New York Times cautions that doing it yourself is not always advisable, and ironically, some businesses are generating significant income from correcting repair errors. Carol Taddei, for example, attempted to install a toilet by herself in her Minneapolis home and wound up paying $3,000 after her ceiling collapsed in the room below the new, leaking toilet. A similar case involved Sunny Brewer, a hairdresser in Michigan, who charged a client close to $1,000 to correct a botched hair-bleaching job that would have been $175.

"She put bleach on her scalp and pulled it through to the ends and left it on for an hour," Brewer explained. "She had hair down past the middle of her back and now she's sporting a chin-length bob because her hair broke off."

Many auto repair shops are also spending time correcting do-it-yourself mistakes. Don Tommasone, who owns Village Automotive in the Chicago area, noted that many people are trying to make repairs on their own.

"We open the hood and can tell the guy tried to do it himself with cheap parts," he said. "We see at least one a day like that. At least."

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