If you’ve ever had to move, either across town or from opposite ends of the country, you understand how stressful it can be. Because if you don’t own a pick-up truck (or a car, for that matter) how are you supposed to move things around?
Luckily, in today’s world, there’s an app for that.
Peer-to-peer shipping apps are working to disrupt the shipping industry, making it the latest trade to be overtaken by the tech business. In the same way you can use your car like a taxi, shipping apps now allow you to make money by delivering packages.
We decided to take a look at three different peer-to-peer shipping apps to figure out whether they’re worth downloading instead of using a tradition service like FedEx or UPS.
With over 1,000 helpers across five markets, Dolly, a peer-to-peer local movers app, has moved over 100,000 items. Unlike other shipping apps, Dolly specializes in connecting locals to locals, specifically with helpers who own a pick-up truck to move items for you.
Though owning a pick-up truck is not an actual requirement, the company has a motto stating, “Anything that could fit in the back of a pick-up truck we’ll move.” The saying describes the app’s focus on helping people who are moving into an apartment, studio or need help picking up items off Craigslist or donating furniture to Goodwill.
“To me, the product and service makes so much sense,” Kevin Shawver, Senior Director of Marketing at Dolly, says. “People always ask to borrow my truck because they want to buy things off of neighborhood boards or classified ads. But those people don’t have a way to get it to their house, so Dolly connects pick-up truck owners to people who need one.”
According to Shawver, Dolly Helpers make an average of $30 an hour, plus tips, when moving items with the app. It can often be higher, but Shawver says it depends on the size of the job. Dolly does take a percentage from the cost of a job, but declined to say how much.
From the perspective of the person who needs help, Dolly makes moving cheaper and more convenient. In the app, you take a photo of the item you’re looking to move, state the date and time you want to move it and select how many people you’ll need to help. If you want to save money, Dolly lets you opt to help with the move or select “curbside pickup” so the Helper doesn’t move the item into your house. After you fill out the job details, you get a rate and notification when a Helper says they can do it.
But why use Dolly over a traditional moving company or simply convince your friends to help you move?
Shawver points out that many traditional shipping companies first have to come out and see the items you need to move and give you a bid. Then you’re left wondering if that’s the best deal, so you call another company and a third just to make sure you’re not paying too much. When you go to schedule the move, you’ll then find out that the company is booked out for the next month, so you have to wait and plan ahead.
“Dolly was created to eliminate the delivery friction by doing it affordably and quickly,” Shawver says. “We also offer different flexibility options to bring the price down. That way, you feel like you pay what you want to pay.”
What if you’re trying to move items across state borders? Enter Roadie, the first “on-the-way” delivery network that connects people who have items to send with drivers already heading in that direction.
Based in Atlanta, GA, the company launched in January 2015 and already has 25,000 Drivers nationwide.
“By utilizing excess capacity of vehicles already on the road, we’re tapping into an existing infrastructure made up of the places people go and the patterns we drive every day,” Marc Gorlin, Founder and CEO of Roadie, says. “The result is a faster, cheaper, and more efficient shipping alternative for everything from cupcakes to couches to kittens.”
The idea for Roadie emerged when Gorlin needed to get a couple boxes of custom tiles to his home from a warehouse a few hours away. He was trying to finish a bathroom renovation and had no way to get the tiles the same day.
“I realized there had to be someone making that trip who’d be willing to throw some tile in their trunk on a drive they were taking anyway,” he says. “And Roadie was born.”
Roadie separates users as “Senders” and “Drivers.” In app, a Sender posts a “Gig” to the Roadie network with a description of what they’re trying to move, when and to where. A verified Roadie Driver will make an offer to pick up and deliver the Sender’s items along a trip they were already taking anyway-whether they’re in the area or just passing through.
Xavier Dillard, a Roadie Driver, normally does computer repair and contract work for businesses. He starts his day by logging into the Roadie app to see if there are any packages that need to go in the same direction that he’s going.
“Some jobs are at a set time and need to get there at a certain time. Others might just say you can take all day. It’s very flexible,” Dillard says.
After they receive an offer, the Sender can read a Driver’s profile and reviews, select the Driver they want to work with, and then schedule the pickup.
The app sets the price based on size and distance traveled. Gorlin says Drivers can make up to $50 on local gigs, or can earn up to $650 for long distance deliveries. Roadie does take a percentage out of each gig, though it does not state how much.
“For a small business like mine its basically virtual logistics. It’s easy and affordable,” Stacy Milburn, an artist who uses Roadie to move her large, glass, artwork to clients, says. “It enables me to sell across the country which I couldn’t previously do before I found Roadie.”
Milburn says the typical rate for her to move two pieces of art down to Santa Rosa beach in Atlanta is around $60, a much cheaper rate than using a traditional shipper.
When asked why she trusts someone she’s never met in an app over a professional moving service, Milburn says there’s more of a trust component built in with the app.
“I trust that they have vetted the drivers. I trust the piece will get there in good condition,” she says. “When you have that level of confidence you don’t want to look elsewhere or try anything else. They have great customer service and I think they really value their customers.”
The one aspect of peer-to-peer shipping Dolly and Roadie have yet to tackle: international deliveries. However, there’s already an app offering an alternative to getting items across the boarder.
Grabr helps you get any item from around the world delivered to you by a trusted traveler who is heading in your direction.
Grabr co-founders Daria Rebenok and Artem Fedyaev had just moved to San Francisco from Spain when they found themselves longing for their favorite Spanish wine and gazpacho. One night, they thought, “there’s got to be a way to get it,” but after searching the internet, they realized not even Amazon Prime could satisfy their needs.
Grabr’s founders Artem Fedyaev (left) and Daria Rebenok (right)
“I decided I was willing to pay someone to bring it to me because there are so many flights coming in from Barcelona to San Francisco,” Rebenok says. “We figured there must be an app that would connect us with someone in Barcelona to do this, but we couldn’t find one. That’s when we realized this was a valuable idea.”
When the beta app was ready, the first “grab” posted was for gazpacho and wine. Rebenok says they got the wine pretty quickly, and though the gazpacho took a few months, they eventually received it.
Currently, there are close to 70,000 users on Grabr, though 70 percent of those are shoppers and only 30 percent are travelers. Rebenok says this is intentional, as they wanted to focus on building a demand first so travelers could see that there was enough of a demand for them to travel and make money grabbing the items.
When you place an order for a grab, you’re asked to include a photo of the item and a link showing where it can be purchased. You select how much you’re willing to spend on the item and how much of a “reward” the Traveler will receive.
Basically, the Traveler pays for the item with their own money and you’re “rewarding” them for bringing it to you with a tip that’s either the same price of the item or more. In a way, it’s a bidding system similar to eBay, because you’re saying how much you want to pay.
When you place the order, your money is put on hold until you receive it. Though Grabr says they are compiling with customs, it seems the company has found a loophole in the process to essentially bypass it and bring the cost down on items.
“You pay much more, especially in customs when you use a traditional shipper,” Rebenok says. “Some stores don’t ship to a particular country and if they do, it ends up being a long and expensive process. And Amazon doesn’t ship to countries like Brazil and Argentina.”
In those countries, Rebenok says people use Grabr to get things they can’t find, like a specific kind of baby formula, smaller gadgets and adaptors or clothing and beauty products.
Since your money is being held in escrow and the Traveler uses their money to pay for the product, there’s no re-selling that’s happening, so the rules technically aren’t being broken. Every country’s customs varies on the amount of goods being brought into a country. In the U.S. it’s around $500 depending on where you’re coming from. If a Traveler goes over the limit, they’ll have to pay a custom tax, which they either eat or see if the Sender is willing to pay.
“I went online and made a spreadsheet and saw I can bring $3500 worth of goods into Thailand,” Jamie, a Traveler for Grabr who was fulfilling an order for an American candy to be brought to Thailand, says. “The candy is like five times more expensive there so I was just bringing over candy at a more affordable price. The guy was so thankful to get the chocolates and surprise his girlfriend.”
Jamie was able to pay for a plane ticket and two night’s stay in a hotel using the money she made from Grabr. Though she admits you might spend a lot of time working on getting the grabs, it ends up being worth it when you’ve walked away with $1,200 and new friends in a foreign country.
Grabr is intended to build a community for people to meet. Though they encourage meeting up with your Traveler in person to receive your items, you are able to opt for having them shipped instead. But why use Grabr instead of ordering directly from a company or using a regular shipping company? Rebenok says it’s about bringing the cost down while also connecting people across the world.
“In the U.S. market, customers have so many options and websites that can get us anything we want, but if we want someone unique like macaroons directly from Paris, you can’t use Amazon Prime to get that,” she says. “We’re also serving the rest of the world to help them get goods from developed countries. In addition to that, we’re letting travelers subsidize their travel by making money during their trip.”
Grabr is not like a typical start up system because it’s not on-demand and they’re trying to build a community where people meet up and exchange items from their country. Most courier services are incredibly expensive and the custom fees usually deter a person from ordering something they really want. And at the same time, Grabr is opening up the travel industry to make it more affordable.
Whether you’re trying to get an item from overseas, across state borders or simply want to move a couch a few blocks down, peer-to-peer shipping apps are benefiting both those in need of help, and those looking to make money with their spare time. In an age where just about any job is being handled through an app, it only makes sense that we’d be able to ship and receive products for cheap, through a stranger connected to us by our phones.