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    Helping Illegal Home Depot Workers Get Jobs Faster

    Day Laborers at store around truck

    I don't care if they're in the United States legally or not, I respect people who make the attempt to work.

    If you wake up and stand in a hot/cold parking lot for hours for the chance to MAYBE get a $10/hour job doing boring ass grunt work....I respect that.

    This is the daily life of day laborers.

    Pretty much every single day they stand outside of stores such as Home Depot in hopes a building contractor needs some extra help.

    I wondered if a little copywriting could help these guys get work quicker.

    So I decided to try a little experiment.........

    I would like to acknowledge my good friend David Gonzales from Internet Marketing Party for his help in this experiment.  He's a real Mexico Person who speaks fluent Mexico and 100% of the communication I had with all these guys was through him.

    For this experiment he's the Mexican Neville!

    David GonzalesDavid Gonzales (This picture is completely un-altered in any way).




    What We Want To Accomplish:

    We'd like to see if we can help the dudes that stand on the street corner to work as day laborers get work quicker.

    Whatever method we come up with would have to be:

    • Repeatable across the country.
    • Cheap or free.
    • Simple enough to replicate by anyone.




    My Hypothesis: It's too complex and intimidating to hire from this market:

    Here's my original hypothesis:

    I think a HUGE problem that prevents people from utilizing these groups of able-bodied men for work is that it's super intimidating and scary to pull up to a group of them.

    They themselves don't look intimidating, but this is what happens soon as you pull up:

    Day Laborers Swarming Car

    You get freakin' SWARMED.

    This is actually a SMALL group of guys who broke away from talking to us to go see if the person in this car needed some day laborers (two guys ended up going with this car).

    Me and David both pulled up in black Lexus cars to a gas station, and before we could get out of our cars we both had 10+ dudes swarming each car.

    I ain't gonna lie, when 10 sorta-scrubby looking dudes surround you SOON as you park, your natural defense mechanisms go up.

    If a house-mom from the suburbs wants to hire some people to paint her house, she'd NEVER IN A MILLION YEARS use this method.

    It's too chaotic.

    It's too intimidating.

    It's too uncertain.

    I originally wanted to make binders showing their previous work, but this is a lot of work and money (and quite frankly, most of these guys have no specific skills to show off).

    So my hypothesis was that if each guy carries a small sign with their name and basic skills listed on it, you could easily choose who to pick.

    This way you can see which skills they have right away:

    day laborer signs

    So in the beginning, I was hoping to go talk to these guys and make them all signs.  I even brought markers and paperboard in my car.




    Where to Find Day Laborers:

    It was kind of hard to figure out online where these guys stand.  This isn't exactly a well-documented operation.  So we went off basic memory.  There were a few locations such as outside of Home Depot's where these guys always hang out at.

    We found an old torn-down Home Depot where across the street at a gas station these guys hang out.  So on a Wednesday morning David and I found the spot, we both pulled up into the parking lot of a gas station where these day laborers stand, and immediately were SWARMED by guys asking us (in Spanish) if we needed some help.

    "TRABAJO?  TRABAJO?  TRABAJO?" is all I heard.  (It means "Work?").

    The demographics of these guys were:

    • All men.
    • Primarily Mexican, Honduran, or Cuban.
    • Very few spoke English. At max some knew some basic English words.
    • Almost 100% are undocumented workers.
    • Age range from 22 to 65.

    We ended up speaking to a group of about 15-25 guys for an hour.

    We had to move parking lots when the owner of the gas station forced us to leave.

    There were 4 guys who were still interested in speaking with us, and talked with us for another full hour:

    Day Laborers ExperimentDavid, Neville, Laborer Dudes (for privacy reasons I chose to obscure their faces).

    We learned a lot from these guys about how this whole undocumented worker system operated. Here's what we learned about how this hiring "marketplace" works:

    How to hire day laborers (The Process):

    So here's what we learned about hiring a day laborer:

    At the specific corner we went to, they say about 40 people show up per day and wait around for work.  About 10 contractors or people will come through per day requesting workers.  This means about 15 - 20 of these guys will get picked up for work in a given day.  The others will not get work at all.

    They would call the contractors looking for help "Jefe's" which translates to "Bosses."

    They estimated about 30% of the "Jefe's" (Bosses) that pick them up are genuine and good people that pay them a fair wage.

    They estimated about 70% of the Jefe's try to weasel out of paying them, or blatantly lie about the work. For example a Jefe will imply they are going to pay someone $10/hour for work, then at the end of a 9 hour workday they'll say, "Here's your $10" and leave.  If the worker tries to protest or ask for more, the Jefe will call immigration.

    We heard story-after-story from these guys about how contractors would take them 2 hours outside the city, make them do backbreaking work, not offer any food/water/restrooms, pay them only 10% of what was agreed, and then leave them 2 hours outside the city with no way to get home.

    The workers essentially have zero recourse since they are undocumented workers.

    Another common scam is a contractor will say they are hiring them for only 2 hours to do easy air-conditioned cleaning work inside an office building.  When they get to the job site, the contractor then makes them do backbreaking work like manually pick-axe concrete for the same price and many many more hours than agreed.

    Since most of these guys sometimes have a total of $3.00 to their name, there's not much they can do besides accept the money and do nothing.

    What to Pay Day Laborers:

    The standard rate for a day laborer seemed to be between $10/hour and $12/hour.  The Jefe's they liked would pay them $10/hr for a full 8 hour workday.

    If someone were to hire a day laborer, to NOT be a completely terrible person it'd be common courtesy to:

    • Give them water.
    • Let them have access to a restroom.
    • It's not required, but lunch or some food would be nice.
    • Drive them back to the location you picked them up at.

    The other way to pay is to offer a set price for the work.  Maybe tell them you'll pay $50 for someone to paint a wall or move some lumber, and they will tell you who is willing to go for that price.

    How Can We Help:

    OK, so we know there are problems with this broken marketplace:

    • PROBLEM: The day laborers have no idea if a bad contractor will screw them over.

      SOLUTION: This problem has been solved by "ratings."  Amazon uses ratings to rate good/bad products.  Yelp uses ratings to rate good/bad restaurants.

    • PROBLEM: There's no way to get hired again by the good Jefe's except through luck.

      SOLUTION: This problem can be solved by giving the Jefe their contact information.

    • PROBLEM: There's no way for a Jefe to know what skills a worker has.

      SOLUTION: This problem can be solved by holding a sign with their skills.

    As we all were talking, I kept explaining (through the translation of David) how I think they should all keep little signs with their skills on it. This idea was rejected over-and-0ver, and quite honestly, I was a bit frustrated.

    It's like they didn't even WANT to try.

    There were two main mis-conceptions they had:

    1.) The signs I was suggesting made them look like they were begging on the side of the road, which is illegal in that area and could get them arrested.


    2.) The signs I was suggesting would take away work from their fellow day laborers.

    THIS WAS A HUGE ISSUE FOR THEM.  They were shockingly loyal to one another, and anything that gave one guy an advantage over another they absolutely rejected.

    I kept persisting this method wasn't designed to screw over their friends, but rather make the whole marketplace more efficient.

    So then David pulled a business card out of his pocket as a demonstration of how the sign would work, and something shifted.

    When the conversation moved to them giving out business cards, they 100% agreed that would be a great idea!!

    However one guy pulled out his wallet and showed us he literally had $3 in TOTAL MONEY.  He couldn't afford business cards, or even knew how to get them made.

    Well fortunately we could maybe help them with that buy either paying for their business cards, or printing them out!

    So let's try a field-test of this business card idea.....





    Perform An In-Field Test by Printing Business Cards:

    So one thing that would help these guys tremendously is if a good Jefe needed work, he could simply text or call them for work.  100% of the guys on the corner had smartphones, so calling or texting wasn't a problem.

    It was actually a big revelation that the workers and contractors almost never traded contact info.  I explained to them how giving out business cards to the good Jefe's would dramatically increase their chances of getting a call or text from one of them asking for more help.  Perhaps even higher-paid specialized work.

    Four guys were down to try this out.  So we made some business cards for each of them.  I just bought a pack of Avery Business Card paper and printed them out manually on my inkjet printed (I purposely did not buy them online because it was 1.) too expensive for most of these guys and 2.) a lot of them don't have credit cards to buy stuff online.

    So we manually started making 4 different business cards for 4 different guys:

    It was pretty simple to make each business card using Avery Templates:

    Day Laborer Business Cards

    It took about 5 minutes to write out and print out each set of business cards (30 business cards each):

    Day Laborer Business Cards

    In a few minutes we got all the business cards printed:

    Day Laborer Business Cards

    I texted the day laborer dudes asking if I could come by the gas station and deliver their business cards, and surprisingly two of them were at David's house painting!  He was undergoing a big remodeling of his house and needed help, so he hired a couple of the guys:

    Giving business cards to day laborers

    So now armed with business cards these guys can "sell" their laborer more effectively without having to be at that street corner:

    Day laborer business cards jefe



    We then asked about skill level.  One guy was skilled at leveling entire foundations of houses. One guy was great at woodworking and cabinet building.

    I was curious if he had photos of his work, and he was proud to show it! Here's some pics he texted me:

    Cabinet and wood work

    Not bad huh?

    What's interesting about this is a lot of these guys have specialized skills which go completely under utilized.  This guy can do great woodworking and cabinetry, but since his sole way of getting business is standing at a gas station corner hoping for someone who needs day laborers, he's relegated to digging holes for fence posts and busting up chunks of concrete with a pick axe.




    Neville Medhora


    P.S. What else do you think these guys could do to get more work?  Let me know in the comments!

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    Guest Gary


    There's often a group of men standing around our local hardware store in the same way. I would've never thought to hire them for personal work. I've always stuck to Thumbtack and Craigslist for general work around the home. If none of them spoke English however that would be a major hurdle.
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    Guest Mike GH


    I think the biggest problem is getting "regular folk" to want to hire them - and that's got to happen by them being less intimidating when you drive up. They do all have cell phones.. simply throwing an ad up on kijiji or Craigslist from their phone could be enough.. stating that they need to be picked up and include pics of their work etc. (Will probably require a translator to help them post)
    Link to comment
    Guest Tom Sharp


    If they agreed to have a spokesman (ideally the dude with the best English) who speaks for the group when a Jefe turns up, that would help with the intimidation aspect. He finds out what is needed and gets an idea of the manpower and pay, and then takes the info to the group. They'd have to decide amongst themselves who goes of course, but it's better than it looking like a scene from The Walking Dead when you pull up. This sounds like it might work better than I would have first thought too given Neville's comments about their loyalty to each other.
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    Thanks Neville :) It's so refreshing seeing good people without prejudices willing to help :)

    I think the idea of one guy organizing the deals is good too, and since they have such a strong solidarity among them it shouldn't be a problem. They could rotate the people that have similar skills needed for that job, in order to guarantee everyone gets a chance :)

    The business cards was an amazing idea! Way to go man

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    Guest Jonathan


    Will you follow up with the 4 guys in a few months?

    Would be interesting to see if the business cards works.

    Link to comment
    Guest Tom Sharp


    'Hey Neviiille, my amigos need like 300 more cards, pleeeasse..."
    Link to comment
    Guest Peter


    Wow MUCH respect for doing things like that!!! It's really how marketers should work. This story and the one where you helped the shoe makers is so inspiring! I'll do my best to notice and act when I see an opportunity to help someone with very basic, but very effective and life-changing marketing :D

    My extra ideas are:

    - give them t-shirt that has the name and the list of top 3 things they are good at (at the back and front) and maybe give those who are special at woodworking or something an icon that represents it

    - print a nice A4 brochure for Jeffes (with hard paper underneath and spiral... and a nice front page... so it looks professional) with a list of all 40 workers and write what they are good at + contact info, PLUS 1 paper with really good copy that describes their story and explain they need the fucking bathroom and water... so good that it will convince Jeffes... or at least plant a seed in their inhumane mind.

    - maybe use one paper in the brochure to mention Jeffes and highlight the ones who are fair, honest and friendly... (without exposing the bad ones, to avoid chaos)

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    Guest judy


    Go back to where they came from and don't break our laws. They are here illegally. If we were picked up illegally being in their country we would be put in jail.
    Link to comment
    Guest Bosco William


    I think if they had someone who would vouch for them would help a long way. Imagine if I befriend one of these

    guys and really got to know what he was good at, where he had worked etc. almost like did up his resume and was a reference for anyone who would want to hire them - this will give the hirers or the bosses some level of comfort because somebody else is vouching for them and would go a long way in helping them get these assignments. Maybe an employment agency could vet them and help them get jobs while taking 10% of the pay they make for the services. People may be more ready to go through an employment agency or a middle man who is not too greedy but provide a referential service.

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    Judy, the U.S. is a nation of immigrants: we all came here from someplace else. What makes this country different from others is that this has always been known as the Land of Opportunity. People come here to make a better life for themselves and to give their children a greater chance to be happy, healthy, and successful. Along the way, ultimately these strivers make this country stronger. For example would you lock Neville and his family out? Clearly he's contributing to the overall well-being of this country. Obviously you think his contributions are valuable because you're reading his e-mails and articles, looking for ways to improve your own life. Lighten up, Judy. Let these Latinos -- who certainly aren't lazy -- have their chance at a better life.
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    For those that have photos of nice work they have completed, create a free web site/wordpress blog to display the photos. Portfolio templates are free and easy to work with and finding help from family or friends could be simple (and free). Web and computer access at the public library is also free. Once the portfolio site is up and running, add that URL to a business card with other contact information. If a worker doesn't have job photos, encourage him/her to take before/after pics of the projects they are working on now.
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    Guest Jacob Ponce


    This story hits home, as my grandfather had to do something like this when he first came to the United States from Mexico. He told me "Son, if you knew English, then you were blessed." He was doing roofing work for very little pay, even though he was extremely skillful in woodwork and carpentry. He was approached by an American man that said, "Your English is terrible, but come work for me and you will never have to look for work again" and he agreed.


    It is fascinating that you and David did this project. It makes me happy to hear that you weren't afraid of these men like many other people are. The advantage that these guys have are smartphones. Utilize this tool, and they can change the way the world looks at them! Good work, Neville and David!

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    Guest Matt


    Funny that an American is complaining about immigration. How do you think you got there?
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    Guest Arnaud


    You mentioned most of them have smartphones and are non-English speakers. How about pre-loading some Spanish-English and/or English-Spanish work-related phrases (can be audio or text) on their phones? Just click play when the jefes and the laborers need to communicate with each other on the specs. Would make their working process smoother.
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    Guest Priscilla Wood


    I'd make them a website, let's say if they do remodeling I'd build a site about kitchen remodeling, connect their phone number to it and rank the site in their city so it comes up first in Google search, so when someone goes to Google to look for "kitchen remodeling" they're front and center. It could triple or quadruple their income or maybe more, the only "but" I see is they will need licensing and permits.
    Link to comment
    Guest Priscilla Wood


    Unless you're Native American chances are you came from somewhere.

    I'm Hispanic, welcome to America, the land of diversity! :)

    Link to comment
    Guest Denise Renee


    Hey Neville,

    I applaud you and David for trying to help. I think you could take the business card idea one step further by upgrading to a postcard size or full 8 1/2 x 11 flyer, both of which could be printed on a home printer. Since some of the guys had pictures of their finished work, the bigger size can accommodate some pictures. On days that they don't pick up any work, they can put their flyers on car windshields in the parking lots of places like Lowe's, Home Depot, and Pike Nursery to increase their visibility and chances of getting calls. They might want to switch up their locations and day and time they "share" their marketing material because I know that kind of marketing is frowned upon. But I come out of Walmart and the grocery store all the time to find flyers on my windshield. If I don't care about what's being advertised, I don't get huffy about it, I just throw it away. But these guys just need that "one" good Jefe to give them a call to build their income, and potentially a long lasting relationship.

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    Guest Ann Eichenberger


    Home Depot and it major supplier, Masco Corp., should set up training classes for this group. The home building and remodeling industries are in desperate need of skilled workers. Both companies would help themselves if they trained these willing to work folks. Masco has a foundation.
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    Guest Rick Siderfin


    Top marks Neville - really great experiment. Someone needs to create an app for these guys. It should have a Spanish interface for them but allow them to offer their services in English to the Jefes. The workers can rate the Jefes and the admins can blacklist the bad Jefes.

    It would have to be administered by a charity, at least to begin with, as payment would be cash in hand, not through the system. I imagine you have charities over there set up to help these kind of folks?

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    Guest Jeff


    Ah, the old "Nation of Immigrants" fallacy:

    Colonization is most definitely not the same thing as immigration, and illegal immigration is more akin to invasion than to legal immigration.

    - There are reasons that countries limit the number of foreign people who are allowed to move in.

    - Those who move in without the express permission of the host country are doing so illegally.

    - While these folks may be hard workers, their presence here has many other negative effects on the economy.

    I feel for these guys in some ways (they are trying to make a living just like we all are), but they broke and are breaking the law, as are the people who hire them.

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    Guest Jeff


    Purchasing a home /= home invasion

    Colonization /= illegal immigration

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    Guest douglas churchill


    They need an app. Sell it for $1 Venmo, bitcoin, or other payment solution. Worker, buyer ratings just like eBay, Fiverr. Android first, surely almost 100% Android phones. Google translate. Space on description for skills. Also skills checkboxes for raters to confirm what they were hired for. Bad contractors would eventually be out of system because I could show my rating to worker on spot as could worker show his to me .... verified by our matching smiling faces.
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