Judging from the number of new companies that were founded, 2013 was a big year for innovation in the peer to peer delivery business. This sharing economy service allows travelers to generate some extra income by carrying things for other people while they travel. For instance, if I’m traveling from Paris to Istanbul, there’s someone looking for shipping services between those cities. If I agree to take the job, I just take the item, pack it with my stuff, and then deliver it when I arrive.
You can check out my list of these businesses by viewing the “delivery” category in this google spreadsheet.
While I love the idea of offsetting the cost of some of my travels by making use of the free checked bag on international flights that I never need, or the trunk space that’s empty on my driving trips, I do wonder about the safety of carrying random things for strangers. Some of the companies operating this business stress the importance of knowing exactly what you are carrying, and of packing your luggage yourself. But ultimately they say: “it is the responsibility of our users to comply with any applicable laws and regulations including being truthful to government officials and authorities.” Inspection of what I’m carrying is probably good enough to assure me that I’m not transporting drugs, but I think there is some risk of carrying stolen goods. I guess I’d say that if someone asks you to transport a suitcase full of iphones, you might want to first check with Apple to see if they are stolen.
One interesting variation on this delivery service business is the purchase and delivery of products. This is a market that takes advantage of wide disparity in purchase prices on some items in different countries. For example, people traveling from the United States can purchase relatively cheap electronics. Through Zaagel travelers can earn money by purchasing specific items like Iphones for people in Egypt, and they plan to expand to other countries in the future. Jib.li plans to launch a similar service soon.
Some sites like Piggybee offer non-monetary “rewards” for delivery, like a ride from the airport. While others focus on payments for delivery. (I did an interview with the Piggybee founder, which can be read here.)
Friendshippr provides delivery services only between people who are in your circle of friends (using facebook), ensuring a higher level of trust, but also significantly limiting the likelihood you will find a match for your delivery needs/offer.
Most of these companies in the international shipping arena encourage travelers to advertise their upcoming trips, in addition to the shippers who advertise deliveries they need. Ultimately this will only work with sufficient volume of both travelers and shippers so that it’s possible for both to find matches for their routes. Most of the sites I found only had a few requested deliveries listed and none from my home city, but they are new and if the shipping really is significantly cheaper than commercial services this might catch on and become a popular service.
Within the United States, Rideship and Citizen Shipper focus on the driving delivery market. Citizen Shipper is the most established of the companies in this space, and offers a variety of services including pet transportation, apartment moving, and vehicle shipping. They also verify drivers to help ensure confidence in the service. Using their price estimator I’m told that delivering a car from San Francisco to Los Angeles would earn $218 while delivering a letter that same route would earn $339. Clearly this algorithm needs a bit of work, but the concept is good and something I will try to take advantage of on future trips. If someone else wants to pay some or all of my gas expense on a trip I’m planning to take anyway, that seems well worth the effort of delivery. And I’ll consider doing car delivery if it gets me somewhere I want to go and covers my cost of the transit.
I’m interested in hearing from anyone who has used any of these delivery companies, either as a delivery person or for their own shipping. Tell me how it worked out for you. Here’s my story of delivering shoes to Spain.