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TaskRabbit: The US Economy Really is in the Pooper

I ran across TaskRabbit, which matches you with people who can run your errands for you–or hooks you up with people who need errands run–while reading this excellent Wall St. Journal article on work-at-homers. With TaskRabbit, you put up a task, price it, and a “runner” (errand runner, rabbit, person who does your errands) picks it up, usually within 30 minutes. Once the task is complete, you pay and rate your runner.

There are currently around 300 runners, most of whom earn around $15 per errand, according to the WSJ. Most runners are self-employed, unemployed, or work-at-home parents. TaskRabbit currently operates in Boston and San Francisco, but is looking to expand.

Recent tasks on the website include:

$10 – give me + a few things a ride
$25 – Pick up Jacket left at Fillmore Theatre
$15 – pick up rent check in downtown SF, drop off on Piedmont Ave. in Oakland

I understand that a service like TaskRabbit is helping create jobs and all, but let me rant for a moment. In many less-developed countries, it’s really easy to find someone nearby to get something done for you–whatever you need, really. When I lived in Ghana, we had a lady come to our door and sell us bread; we had our laundry done whenever we wanted by a nearby man; if we wanted something fixed in our rooms, we just had to put word out and a guy would arrive with a hammer and toolbox and take care of it. We’d pay them cash in return. It was convenient and effective.

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But here’s the clincher: “developing country.” Are things really so bad here in the States that wealthy people are employing the unemployed masses on command, to run errands for a little change? Worse yet, have all those transactions on record so that they can be taxed? As neat and effective as TaskRabbit is, I can’t help but see it as symbol of our own society’s economic degredation. There aren’t enough jobs to go around, so those of us who are better off are employing “the help” through the Internet.

Somebody please give me a good reason that we’re not in another Depression.

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