I spoke to a woman that is selling her time through a personal ad on the internet. "I work 30 hours a week as a chef, but I'm a single mum of a 13-year-old girl with a mortgage over my head and my wage doesn't go where I need it to." Her name is Lisa.
I asked her how business was going. "From putting this ad out two days ago I have slept with someone for money, and I have arranged to out on a dinner date with a doctor, of all people, and pretend that I am his girlfriend." She continued, "I have also sold my worn underwear for extra money." I asked her why, and she told me, "I am willing to do whatever it takes to make sure I can pay my bills and take care of my daughter."
A quick scan of the personal ad website The Gumtree will show an increasing number of ordinary people with full time work taking up odd jobs to increase their income. People are dog walking, babysitting, cleaning, and naked butlering - whatever that is, to simply get enough money to pay their bills and put food on their table. And with Christmas round the corner, the number of ads has surged as people look for ways to be able to give their loved ones the Christmas they want.
Saddened and interested as to why she had placed the ad, I spoke to Lisa about her experience, and if I can make some extra money the same way.
Me: You told me you work as a chef; you have a daughter, a mortgage and bills to pay. Can you tell me when you came to the realization that you didn't have enough money coming in?
Lisa: In the last month or two I have had trouble paying my bills. I went to a doorstep loan company. That was a big mistake. I had to get home to Ireland for a family member that had passed away. I am now finding it hard to manage my finances because of the A.P.R I'm charged on the loan. I wasn't thinking clearly at the time I agreed to it.
Me: What gave you the idea to sell your time?
Lisa: I thought of selling my time because I read in the paper about a chap that sold himself on ebay for £16,000 and ended up with a good job.
[Lisa is referring to 18 year old Essex born Josh Butler, who sold himself on ebay to perspective businesses under the title "Josh Butler Wants A Job"]
Me: What has been your best experience so far?
Lisa: Shopping with someone for Christmas presents. It was so laid back and so nice. Someone just wanted my thoughts on what to get. He was a nice chap.
Me: Selling your time is a very wide spectrum. What are you hoping people will offer you as work?
Lisa: I would hope people would ask for something honest, but I've had a bit of a shock.
Me: Is there anything you have turned down?
Lisa: I have now started to turn down escort work, as it makes me feel uncomfortable. I am happy doing most things, but find it hard to sleep with someone.
Me: What was it like sleeping with someone for money?
Lisa: To me, sleeping with someone means love. In this case it is just using someone - a means to an end. The first time, I felt dirty and degraded. I cried when I got home. I felt so shameful. I just walked in to their hotel room. He wanted a striptease. I stripped. Then he had sex with me. I couldn't bring my self to kiss him.
Me: Does it make you hate men? Just hearing about it makes me hate men.
Lisa: No I don't hate men. I hate myself first because I had the choice, and I made the choice to support me and my daughter.
Me: What tips would you give someone in a similar situation? Would you recommend they place their own ad?
Lisa: If you do it, I would like to give the tip to always stay safe. Always make sure someone you trust knows where you are, and give them as much detail about the person you are meeting. Always try and stay somewhere you know.
Me: It sounds horrible, and it sounds like there are a lot of things you don't enjoy. So, why do you keep doing this?
Lisa: In my chef job I only get minimum wage, and it's hard to find a better paying job. There are too many people applying for the same jobs, and I have no GCSEs, so employers would rather give their job to someone that has. Its not that I want to keep doing what it, I have to do what I do to put food on the table and pay for my house.
Me: How long do you plan to do this?
Lisa: I will do this as long as I need to.