Thursday, August 31, 2006

Mishulachim Drivers

There are certain jobs in the working world in which making a commission is justified. For instance, in high school I worked for The Sports Authority selling footwear (insert Al Bundy joke here). At this job, getting paid on commission is beneficial for both the employee and the employer: if I get paid on commission I will work harder to sell more pairs of shoes, which, in turn, will make the company more money. That being said, there are obviously jobs in this world where this concept wouldn't make sense. I would imagine that the overwhelming percentage of those reading this are not paid on commission. Your working harder, while it may indirectly benefit the company, is not bringing immediate returns to them.

Using the above logic, if someone could please enlighten me as to why on earth the guys who drive around the mishulachim make a commission (usually 30%), I'd be all ears. It's ridiculous. These drivers exist to be a service to the mishulachim. Sure, they're using their cars. Sure, it's taking up their time. I'm not arguing they shouldn't be paid - they absolutely should. But why do they get a CUT of the action? They should be paid by the hour for their services; how would a driver drive "harder" to make the mishulachim more $$? Are they going to drive 5 mph quicker from Park Heights to Greenspring? Give me a break.

A mishulach asked me for a ride last evening from shul to the other side of town, and I agreed. I asked him if he had a driver, and he responded that he couldn't afford to have a driver; he couldn't afford to give someone 30 out of every 100 dollars. In effect, the mishulachim have now become a service for the drivers. I have heard there are people that drive for a living; they have no other parnasa than to drive these people around; seems like a sleazy way to make a living to me (yes, this is my opinion).

What do I recommend? I recommend a per hour salary. Something like $10-$15 an hour. That way, the mishulachim are getting a desperately needed service from the drivers for a reasonable fare; and the drivers are still being reimbursed for providing this service. If mishulachim are turning down the option of having a driver because of the price, something is wrong with the system. When they are turning them down, despite their feet being covered in blisters, something is wrong.


Anonymous aishel said...

Just out of curiousity, do we know how much the meshulachim are getting per hour?
I'm playing devil's advocate here, but I know that some meshulachim spend a good half hour at certain houses. In which case they may be better off paying the driver a 1/3. I don't know.

8:41 AM, September 01, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

Right - I was thinking that. IMHO, they should get $10-15 an hour, or 30%, whichever is less.

8:48 AM, September 01, 2006

Anonymous Greg said...

First off, I agree that these guys are a bit sleazy.

Commissions justify a high percentage because there is some risk involved (a guy could drive around all day and not get that much), but also, it is easier for the meshulach to only have to give a percentage, rather than pay a fee (that way, no money up front, no worries on profits vs. loss, etc.).

As to what they SHOULD do, this is a free market economy, so if some entreprenurial young fellow decides that he wants to get in on this market, he can offer a service that is priced to compete with the other service providers. If there is no competition, it's a monopoly; I'd prefer for some healthly competition in the marketplace rather than imposing regulations.

9:15 AM, September 01, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

I am already involved in other entreprenurial enterprises. :)

9:19 AM, September 01, 2006

Anonymous aishel said...

It doesn't by anychance involve selling....alcohol, does it?


9:57 AM, September 01, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

On a serious note, Aishel, I don't want you to think I made any $$ off of the deal when I picked that stuff up for you. I charged you, to the cent, what it cost me.

9:59 AM, September 01, 2006

Anonymous bots participant said...

I had not known there was a fee for a driver. I thought they drive themselves. Is this common knowledge? Makes me much less inclined to give them anything.

10:00 AM, September 01, 2006

Blogger SephardiLady said...

I have been told it is either $30 or $35 per hour or 30%. If anyone will hire a lady driver. . . sign me up. :)

My personal preference is to give through organizations that take their screening process seriously. Since meshulachim don't show up at our door too often, we don't have to deal with the constant stream.

10:33 AM, September 01, 2006

Anonymous aishel said...

Alan, I was in NO WAY making that insinuation. I apologize if it came out that way. You had just mentioned to me that you do that type of thing on a seemingly regular basis, so I figured that you'd want to start charging, and thats what you meant by: "I am already involved in other entreprenurial enterprises"

Again I was not thinking that when I made my comment, and I do thank you for doing what you did. You can come over and help me finish some of this stuff :)

1:35 PM, September 01, 2006

Blogger Soccer Dad said...

A few months ago a couple of Meshulachim who had collected from us the previous left copies of their teudot at our door accompanied by a note complaining that the commission charged by the drivers made their trip unprofitable.

This was a clear violation of the terms of their teudot. I also didn't buy their complaint.

Meshulachim travel across the Atlantic because they make a rational choice that spending the $1400 or more for a round trip will pay off handsomely.

They engage drivers because the drivers know the neighborhood and save them from knocking on doors where they're less likely to be successful.

If the drivers charge too much, meshulachim will stop coming to Baltimore. If that happens then those earning their living as drivers will have to find a new line of work.

Whether or not the job of driver is appropriate really isn't the issue. If they were asking too much, meshulachim would stop coming to Baltimore.

That they don't suggests that the trips to Baltimore are still profitable.

I suppose that the Va'ad Hakashrus could set up guidelines for drivers, if their cut is deemed too much. After all Rabbi Heinemann is already regulating the industry.

I still think that the bottom line is that if drivers were asking too much we'd stop seeing Meshulachim.

10:53 PM, September 04, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...

SD - first off: correct, the issue isn't whether the job is appropriate or not. It's just my opinion that taking a ridiculous cut off of poor people because, well, because you can, is a sleazy way to make a living.

Next off, I've had plenty of mishulachim come without drivers that had detailed lists of all the hot spots in town (ie, big $$). Thus, you don't always need a driver to tell you which houses will be futile, and which will not.

Finally, I never claim that the drivers make it 100% not worth it for the mishulachim to come to town. Thus, they won't stop coming. Why not? Because they're poor. They NEED the money, whatever the amount. They need to come here whether or not they're netting $500, or $2000. The bottom line is that poor people, because of their situation, are completely at the mercy of us when they come here to collect. To see 30% shaved off the top is overboard.

3:54 AM, September 05, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard from a reliable source that the annual take for meshulachim in Baltimore is $1.5 million and there are 3 main drivers who probably do 80-90% of the driving = 120K plus for each of them. Not bad!!!!

8:33 AM, September 05, 2006

Anonymous David Gottlieb said...

As a true believer in free markets, I do not think it is my place - nor yours - to determine how much others should charge for their product or service. Rather than your claim of being "already involved in other entreprenurial enterprises", you sound more like a communist. Perhaps we should all decide what YOU earn?

12:51 PM, September 05, 2006

Blogger AlanLaz said...


I work for the government. Your tax money helps pay for, in addition to other things, my salary. If I was to make $200,000 a year for my just-out-of-college, entry level job, wouldn't that bother you?

Because my money is paying the drivers' salaries, I do feel that I can express an opinion on the matter. I don't know enough about communism to know if these sentiments would classify as such, but maybe they do.

For whatever reason, I always thought that the service provided by the drivers was one mainly of Chesed, but one that allowed them to be compensated for their time. Obviously, I have since found out that this service is no different than that provided by my doctor, dentist, etc. But, I do believe that those that are paying his salary (us) do have the right to have an opinion on the matter.

1:15 PM, September 05, 2006

Blogger SephardiLady said...

Considering the fact that significant sums of money leave every sizable community in the US on a weekly, if not daily, basis, when each community's own vital institutions are more than likely suffering. . . I would say it is imperative to provide information on just where the money is going.

9:45 PM, September 05, 2006

Blogger nircgrad said...

The numbers I've heard in Baltimore were:
About 1.5 million leaves Baltimore on an annual basis so 30% is $450,000 goes to drivers.

8:57 AM, September 06, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm starting to get a resentful feeling about this meshulachim. Some of them are very slick. And some are very sleezy. Especially the ones that come from Israel. What? The State of Israel can't keep these people and their institutions out of poverty? Israel is a wealthy country. What's the deal. What would happen if I went to Israel going door to door to collect for our local Jewish school, mikvah, shul, familes having a rough times. I think they would look at me like I came from another planet. I've posted the following sign outside my door. What do you think?

Dear Collector/Solicitor:

Thank you for supporting your institution.

Donations from this location will be considered only with
current written certification from
Rabbi (chief orthodox rabbi in your town or whoever your Rov is) or other authorized board member of Congregation ______ who has reviewed your charity.
Office phone: xxx-xxx-xxxx

If you do not have such certification, please return when you do.
Thank you for your understanding in this matter.

12:08 AM, February 04, 2008


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