Imagine getting your packages delivered right at your doorstep by a man on a bicycle or on foot. It sounds like the old postman is back, in a post-modern setting, cycling his way through skirts and shoulders in Manhattan.
Uber, the smartphone app-based ride company, takes the streets on two wheels, and two feet, as it expands its business to an on-demand courier service. The trial service of UberRUSH launches on Tuesday and is available 24 hours a day.
UberRUSH accepts pick-up and delivery of items through a smartphone application, promising a cheaper, faster yet better service, according to general manager Josh Mohrer of Uber. Messengers cannot purchase items for their customers, however, unlike their rivals Postmates and EBay Now.
According to its blog, service rates are based on zone pricing.
"If a delivery begins and ends within the same zone, it's a flat $15. Each zone crossed during delivery is an additional $5. Additional stops may result in a higher fare," the company's blog post said.
The post also said UberRush guarantees delivery of items, and covers lost or damaged items of up to $250. Customers can also track their items with the Uber app, but tracking may be put on hold if the messenger goes through the subway. Customers can also communicate with the messenger for any concern on location.
Uber likewise requires someone must be at the delivery address to receive the package because the messenger needs to take a photo of the item with the business card or ID of the receiver for proof. Otherwise, a text confirmation saying no recipient needed will do.
For a start, deliveries are within Manhattan below 110th Street only, an area stretching from the Upper East and Upper West sides to lower Manhattan. The company, however, promised to expand its coverage quickly, within New York and other cities, if things go well as planned. Since messengers are on bike or on foot, make sure that a normal person can carry the packages easily.
To ensure that couriers are trustworthy enough to deliver the goods, applicants go through a rigorous process such as a strict background check, in-person interview and screening and ongoing quality controls. Applicants must be more than 21 years old and able to travel by bicycle or an unlimited Metro card.
The company also extends partnership with nonprofit organizations to look after the welfare of its couriers and as part of its advocacy.
"We're proud to announce our partnership with the Bike Messenger Emergency Fund (BMEF). The BMEF is a nonprofit public charity organization that provides emergency compensation to bicycle messengers who are hurt on the job. With the launch of UberRUSH, we will donate $1 from each delivery to the BMEF," the blog post also said.
Uber isn't the only one in such a business endeavor. It faces tough competition from some tech companies trying to make use of networks of smartphones to boost speedy deliveries in urban areas.
In New York City, for instance, the market has been saturated with on-demand pick-up and delivery services. In fact, there's another car service that competes with Uber: Gett. It has also announced today a similar scheme and has partnered with New York-based delivery star-up WunWun.
Regardless, research says investments have started to pour in to the company because of its enormous goals. Uber, currently estimating its worth at $3.5 billion, has received around $400 million already.