Uber has officially taken its first step towards becoming the next Amazon—or the next vertical-crazy, growth-chasing Icarus (Fab.com, Gilt Groupe, Groupon, take your pick.) The car-hailing company began testing a $15 to $30 courier option in Manhattan today called UberRUSH and yes they're very serious about the caps lock.
Josh Mohrer, general manager of Uber NYC, artfully described the new button in your app as "an Uber for things." At least the "things" and "stuff" economy seems more honest than "sharing." It's the kind of rhetorical shrug that tells customers: We're not really sure about this either!
CEO Travis Kalanick has teased this kind of expansion before. "Once you're delivering cars in five minutes, there's a lot of things you can deliver in 5 minutes," he told Bloomberg TV in November. Uber isn't promising five minutes, but it is promising a lot considering how previous New York City pilot programs have sputtered out.
Mohrer told CNBC that most deliveries from the southern tip of Manhattan to 110th Street will take under an hour and that Uber intends to "always have enough" people to make this available 24/7. Venturebeat found this Craigslist posting offering messengers $20/hour and a free iPhone 4S, if you have the "Ability to get around the city: bike, unlimited metro card, etc." Fair warning to the underemployed, Uber will snatch the phone back if this doesn't work out.
According to Venturebeat, Uber promises "stringent background check, in-person interview and screening, and ongoing quality controls."
UberRUSH is missing a key feature compared to competitors like eBay Now, Postmates, and WunWun. "Messengers will not purchase items for delivery," the company states in bold. In that case, the service is much more in line with existing delivery services already employed by Manhattan's media, fashion, publishing houses and priced comparably, reports Bloomberg Businessweek:
An Uber messenger showed up at my office within about 10 minutes; within 90 minutes the courier reported the package had been delivered to the messenger center at my friend's office building. (I was glad to hear it because the carrier wasn't wearing a helmet, and I would have felt like a real jerk if he'd gotten himself killed in traffic in the service of my writing a Bloomberg Businessweek story.) It took 30 minutes of negotiations before my friend could wrest the package from the mailroom at his office. So the experience closely resembled using a typical Manhattan courier service.
Uber told Businessweek there is no surge pricing on deliveries "at the moment," and that Uber will take its customary 20 percent cut. But if the delivery trajectory is anything like Uber's other options, it will start out premium, build its network, drive out competition, slash prices, then bring on the surge.
Let us know how UberRUSH is working out for you: firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Image via Uber.com]