Delivery Services

Crowdsourced Delivery: The long journey of a backpack

Marc's Tortuga, ready for its first trip

When I got the request from Marc to bring him a Tortuga travel pack on my trip to the U.K. I thought this would be one of my easiest crowdsourced delivery jobs yet.  Once again, on PiggyBee I found a match for my travel route. And Marc seemed like a super nice guy who shared my love for a good travel backpack. The PiggyBee site is surprising because it is one the least sophisticated in terms of technology, but yet it’s the one on which I find the most matches. And this time I wouldn’t have to figure out how to ship drugs through the Colombian mail system or carry a pair of shoes around for a month in my small suitcase as I traveled through Spain.

Marc's Tortuga, ready for its first trip

Marc’s Tortuga, ready for its first trip

PiggyBee doesn’t do anything to help secure the deliveries, nor do they facilitate transfers of money, so there’s a risk for the person making an initial outlay of money. Marc asked me if I could share a Linkedin or Facebook profile with him, to help him feel more comfortable that I’m a real person before he bought an expensive travel bag and had it shipped to my home. I offered instead to have Fred, one of the Tortuga founders, vouch for me. This is, of course, not typical. It was a random coincidence that Marc wanted to buy a Tortuga pack and I happen to not only own and love my own Tortuga, but also know one of the founders of this bag company from the local travel community. Marc’s mind was set at ease and he ordered the pack.

Marc’s Tortuga sat under my bed in a plastic bag for a few months until it was time for my trip to the UK. We had worked out a plan that involved meeting up in the London train station before my wife and I hopped on a train up to Edinburgh. I gave us plenty of leeway in the schedule, opting for a leisurely transit from the airport to an afternoon train. And I figured we were all set, Marc would just pop over to the train station for this meet up, and as “payment” we agreed that Marc would take us to lunch somewhere nearby before we left on the four hour ride.

A day before my trip I got a message from Marc that he was changing the plan. It was actually a very funny message, explaining that he wasn’t in London (I’d never thought to ask this) and it didn’t really make sense for him to buy a ticket to fly from Spain to London just to “save” money on the delivery of this American travel bag. So instead he was going to have his friend Kate meet us in London, and then Kate would hand off the bag to Josh who would be meeting up with Marc in Mallorca in two weeks where Josh would hand over the Tortuga.

This was his message (in part):

I decided spending 100€ on a return flight to London to save $50 on shipping completely defeated the purpose of what I’m trying to achieve. On the other hand, I seem to have no qualms bothering three people for the purposes of my crowdshipping experiment. If it all ends up working out in the end, I admit, I’ll be rather proud — but I still think next time it’ll be easier to just fork out the $50. Lesson learned. I apologize for making you my Guinea pigs. I’m also a bit bummed out we won’t get to meet (yet), but hopefully eventually…

Thus ensued a long WhatsApp discussion between the four of us coordinating all of the bag handoffs. Actually at some point a fifth person got added to the coordinating group as logistics between Kate and Josh got complicated. I was done with my part at that point and so not paying close attention to the many messages going back and forth trying to work out the London hand off. I did, however, notice that when Kate finally got rid of the pack she realized she had left her umbrella in it…..and thus ensued another round of London logistics.

In the end this wasn’t actually a hardship for me. Kate was a lovely person and she was very easy to communicate with about timing and meeting places.

Marc's empty Tortuga hanging out with mine at the meeting point in Kings Cross Station

Marc’s empty Tortuga hanging out with mine at the meeting point in Kings Cross Station

Kate also offered to help us out with recommendations in London, and invited us to a party she DJs. And none of this actually changed my plans except for the lunch date at Kings Cross station in London. In lieu of lunch Marc agreed to pay for our transportation between the airport and the station, to compensate for the “work” of carrying his Tortuga to the UK. That worked out just fine for me. And now I’ve made two new friends through this crowdshipping service. Some day I hope to actually meet Marc (who is apparently nomadic right now, so his speculation on being in London in June wasn’t all that crazy). Meanwhile, the cult of the Tortuga is spreading to Europe. Kate was a bit jealous when she saw the bag and wondered if she should have asked me to bring her one too.

On July 16, four weeks after I left the U.S. with Marc’s Tortuga it finally got to him. I requested photo evidence of the success of this mission.

The Tortuga with it's new owner (finally!)

The Tortuga with it’s new owner (finally!)

I have no affiliation with Tortuga, but I love my pack so I’m including the link in case you want to check them out.