Archive for Monday, October 15, 2007

Pooped after a party? Hired scrubbers clean the college crowd’s crud

October 15, 2007


— Past the Bud Light can on the lawn, four empty Coors kegs in the entryway, and, in the hall, the box for a Little Whizzer statuette that "pours" liquor, there was a den of filth.

Eight fraternity brothers from the University of Pennsylvania share this West Philadelphia house, a pig sty tolerable only to undiscerning students and collegiate revelers trawling for free alcohol.

With more partying expected in a few days, the men of Sigma Alpha Epsilon had to get the place in shape. But mopping, scrubbing and vacuuming take so ... much ... time.

So, they called DormAid, which dispatched a cleaner bearing buckets and brooms the next day.

"It's really worth it. College students are so lazy," Nick Daley, 20, a burly finance-and-accounting major from Cincinnati, said with admirable self-knowledge.

Thankfully, a new array of services - there's also DormMom, CollegeBellhop and Soapy Joe's - has cropped up recently nationwide to cater to able-bodied kids who can't seem to maintain minimum standards of sanitation.

In addition to cleaning dorm rooms and off-campus residences, some wash and fold laundry, drop off cases of water, even arrange for groceries to be delivered.

"We help kids stay organized and focused on studies instead of trying to find space in the laundry room," said Mike Kopko, who cofounded DormAid two years ago while at Harvard University.

Scrubbing toilets isn't in the game plan for these coddled customers, who intend to go through life never picking up a can of Comet.

And who's footing the bill? Mom and Dad, of course.

"Parents want to make sure their baby is taken care of," said Kopko, whose "concierge" company does work at 40 schools.

Emmanuel Oche, a Nigerian immigrant with a Michigan Tech degree in electric engineering, started DormMom in June 2006. Most of his business, he said, comes from parents.

His mother was a clean freak who passed on her tidiness habit, said Oche, who lives in Buffalo, N.Y. But as a resident assistant, he saw how disgusting students could be.

"Even though the laundry room is down the hall, a lot of people do not do their laundry," he said.

DormMom started at the University of Buffalo and is now at 15 schools.

The services charge from $55 to $70 for housekeeping, depending on the frequency of visits. Laundry works out to about $20 per week, including pickup and delivery.

DormAid has about 15 regular cleaning customers at the University of Pennsylvania, but it gets lots of emergency requests - especially after really nasty shindigs.

"They call at 2 a.m. and say, 'We need assistance as soon as possible,'" said Kopko, who is working on his MBA at Columbia University.

The businesses have encountered wariness from some administrators uncomfortable with outsiders on campus. At Penn, a university spokeswoman said dorm cleaners follow the same rules as all guests: They must present a photo ID, be signed in by a student, and be accompanied while in the building.

After doing $150,000 in business his first year, Kopko decided he had found his calling. His parents "were shocked that they sent me to Harvard and I came back wanting to clean toilets and underwear," he said.


Tandava 10 years, 8 months ago

So, the SAE's on other campuses are a bunch of lowlife party animals, too, just like they are at KU!

Steve Mechels 10 years, 8 months ago

I don't know about other campuses, but I can vouch for two that I went to. One of them (Montana State U.) the SAEs made national news back in the early 80s for freezing (and possibly killing) a cat in a block of ice for a punch bowl.

bugmenot 10 years, 8 months ago

That's really sad. Who are the parents paying for this service?

badger 10 years, 8 months ago


You know, college isn't just about getting an education. It's also about building life skills and learning to take care of yourself without Mommy folding your underpants for you. These parents are doing a serious disservice to their kids.

My dorm room was a mess. My apartments were usually messes. Roommates and I had the general agreement that clutter was OK, but old food and stinky socks were not. Having lived with both women and men, the women tended to be tidier but the men more willing to take on disgusting jobs like 'cleaning out the fuzzy thing the last tenants left growing under the bathroom sink' or 'taking apart the garbage disposal to remove a pound and a half of impacted food.'

Ultimately, I learned the merits of keeping my space generally neat, and some tricks for doing it. Now, I take fifteen minutes a day and run through the house doing something to clean it up. On weekends, I take half an hour Saturday or Sunday to do something like mop the floors, scrub the tub, or sort a stack of discarded books next to the bed and put them in the library. The house isn't perfect, but if we decide we want to entertain, restoring it to perfect takes less than an hour of intensive cleaning.

What will these guys do when they graduate into junior management positions that don't allow them to hire a cleaning service, and they wake up one morning realizing, "Today is an important meeting and all my shirts are dirty..." or a boss says to them, "Hey, I need to drop this report by your house this evening so you can take it with you on your trip tomorrow" and the house is a pit?

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