Los Angeles Times staff writer Julie M. Makinen explored different types of personal assistants that can be hired over the Web, reporting on the pros and cons of each.
Naturally, I started with the cheap one, a new outfit called Sunday ( www.asksunday.com). For $29 a month, the assistants at Sunday would do 30 tasks for me.
The rules were simple: Each task could take no more than 30 minutes, and each had to be something that could be accomplished, ahem, at a distance: These assistants, I learned later, are mostly in India.
The assistance-at-a-distance model ruled a lot of things out. The assistants could not pick up my dry cleaning or go stand in line to mail a package.
But I was surprised at how much they could do. Once I had registered at the website, I uploaded some personal data, such as my frequent-flier account numbers, and the names and phone numbers of my dentist, hairdresser and doctor. If I wanted an assistant to make purchases on my behalf, I could also load credit-card information in encrypted form.
Sitting on my couch at 1 a.m., I dashed off a flurry of requests via e-mail:
* Contact all my frequent-flier airlines and inform them that I had recently changed my last name and wanted my accounts updated.
* Schedule a teeth cleaning for sometime in the next few weeks, any time before 9 a.m.
* Make an appointment for a haircut.
* Find out how much an airline ticket to Las Vegas would cost on Labor Day weekend.
Within 30 minutes, there was an e-mail in my in box saying that my requests were being processed. By noon the next day, the folks at Sunday had sent a list of flight options, a confirmed dental appointment and a date for my haircut.
There was a snag on the frequent-flier accounts: The assistant found out that only I could change the name. But thoughtfully he had prepared a list of what each of seven airlines required in the way of documentation and where to send my requests.
Quickly accomplishedWow, three and a half things knocked off my list before noon. And it had cost me only $4!