Yeah, the Market Has a Solution for That

Yesterday in the Wall Street Journal, there was an article detailing a new trend in friendships. As expected, nationwide increases in unemployment and cutbacks in work hours translate into more stay-at-home time for many adults. In addition to catching up on daytime TV, they have been the targets of “favor-hunting” from friends, relatives, and community groups alike. Many of these people thus feel a bit exploited, sensing an obligation to pick up groceries and mind children for free in a very poor economic climate.

The market, however, has come to the rescue. Taskrabbit.com, currently operating in Boston and San Francisco, matches people’s errands with “runners,” or individuals who have the time to complete their tasks. The “pricing” section of the webpage nearly brings a tear to my eye – Taskrabbit operates on an “open marketplace model. Most tasks are completed between $10-$15. Runners are able to make counteroffers to your proposed Runner fee or bid on your task.” In negotiating prices and offers in a competitive arena, there is consent between two parties, ensuring that nobody feels guilty or stiffed. Runners are also evaluated for their performance, giving opportunity to build reputations for credibility. I look forward to watching the popularization of a site that stay-at-home adults can use to commodify their free time and working stiffs can use to get their “favors” without feeling like a moocher.

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