Yeah times are weird all right. It’s not enough that we’re using random strangers as our taxi drivers with services like Uber, or hoteliers…thanks AirBnB, or even as our bankers, but now we’re apparently going to be able to send parcels around the world using people we don’t know too.
SocioTransit is a new service in beta, which aims to harness the power of the crowd (such a delicious cliché, eh?) to provide an auction based courier service around the globe. The idea is to connect up travelers with people who need stuff brought to their country, rather like when you ask Aunt Mabel to bring over some of that delicious local cheese when she comes to visit. The traveler earns some extra cash, the packagee (a word?) gets their stuff delivered cheaper and maybe even faster.
The service has a decent enough interface, although there definitely could be some improvements in clarity, so it’s easier to understand who’s offering what. At the moment, you get two tabs with wants and offers, so travelers who are booked to fly from A to B can list their services and those who want stuff carried can list their needs and the fee they’re willing to pay.
There’s a very cool chat function built into the app, so you can talk about the prospective deal before it happens. Payment is done through the site, via bank account or Paypal, so there’s a nice measure of security in place to stop rip-offs happening. One other cool fact is you can ask someone to actually buy the stuff first before bringing it over, so people who are missing the delicacies of home finally have a simple way to get their Marmite, Vegemite or Lucky Charms delivered cheaply and easily.
The developers are touting the undoubted advantages of a more eco way of doing courier shipments to help save the planet (if you’re traveling anyway, might as well carry something, right?), but there are obvious cautions which apply. For example, it may not be prudent to agree to carry something from a person in Columbia unless you’re absolutely sure it really is chewing gum.
But apart from these obvious concerns (which to be fair apply to all crowdfunded services in one way or another as far as we can see) this looks to be a rather cool venture. It’s currently based out of Copenhagen in Denmark, and from the looks of it there’s a strong connection with India, but once the service gets more traction it’s going to be interesting to see exactly what things people need moving and to where. Already there’s a demand for baked beans, which is totally mystifying. Definitely worth watching!