Aug. 13, 2010— -- Is TaskRabbit the solution for America's unemployment problem? No, but it might be a lifeline for some jobless Americans.
The new website offers quick jobs and fast cash to its more than 300 runners – people with time on their hands who sign up on taskrabbit.com to run errands for those who don't. They're paid a mutually agreed upon fee for each task, which can range from picking up groceries or laundry, to transporting a pup across the country and finding someone the perfect roommate.
Call it local outsourcing.
About 70 percent of the runners on the site are unemployed or underemployed, says Anne Moellering, chief marketing officer for the online service.
"A lot have lost their jobs, or had their hours reduced, and are using us as a way to supplement their income," says Ms. Moellering.
But a quick buck isn't all the site offers its runners – it also brings a sense of purpose to people who may have just gotten laid off, or have been looking for work for months.
"What's fascinating to me is the incredible human connection that people make," says Moellering. "Our runners realize our customers are across the board and really need help," she adds, recalling one time when a runner went out to help with a grocery trip and learned upon arrival that the poster was blind and visiting the store for the first time – she needed help tracking where the aisles were.
Right now the service only runs in Boston and the San Francisco Bay Area, but TaskRabbit is looking to expand. The company has asked its more than 1,000 fans on its Facebook page to vote on the city it should move to next. New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles are in the running, although Moellering also mentioned Austin as a possibility. Of those cities, Los Angeles could perhaps benefit most, with the highest unemployment rate at 11.6 percent.
How can you get in on movement? If you'd like to list a task, you can do so for free on the company's website, though you do have to sign up by providing your zip code, phone number, and e-mail address.
If you'd like to be a runner, you can fill out an application online. The hiring process also includes an interview and a full background check. Once you're in, you can grab any posted tasks. You're allowed one mistake as a runner, but on the second strike, says Moellering, you're out.
She recommends that potential hires list any special skills they can provide, and that they be Internet savvy – most of the tasks are posted and distributed online.