My Experience Getting Over the Trusted Stranger Issue with TaskRabbit

I’ve been really curious about TaskRabbit ever since I heard about the service. While it has always sounded interesting in practice, I’ve struggled to find a good personal use case for the service. Like a lot of people, I’m busy and have a lot to do. But the idea of trusting tasks I need to do strangers makes me nervous. I try to think about the tasks I need to get done along three dimensions:

1. Is this something that has to get done?
2. Do I need to do it myself or would I trust a stranger to do it for me?
3. Would I be willing to pay someone else to do it for me?

The reason I’ve struggled to get my head around TaskRabbit is that I’ve been searching for a task that sits at the intersection of those three circles. I need something that needs to get done, where I would trust a stranger to do it for me, and where I’m willing to pay. I’ve considered a bunch of tasks, all of which have failed in the past. Below are a few examples

1. Pick up the dry cleaning (or other thing) – While this has to be done and I’d be willing to pay a nominal fee to have someone do it for me, I’m not sure I’d want a stranger picking up my dry cleaning even if it’s someone who has been verified by a 3rd party. Maybe that’s just me, but it’s how I feeel.

2. Wash my car – Definitely willing to pay to have the car washed and would be happy to have someone do it for me. But the person would have to come to my place and wash it for me – no way I’m handing over my car keys to a stranger to have them wash it and trust it. Perhaps that irrational – I have had parking attendants park the car for me without a second thought. But in those cases there is some company standing behind the individual who will make me whole if the valet runs off with my car.

3. Water my plants or fold my laundry – I have a class of household tasks I’d like done and would be willing to pay to have done, but they don’t pass the stranger-in-my-house test either.

As you have probably noticed, my big issue with TaskRabbit and similar services has always been my reluctance to trust personal tasks to strangers who are, from my point of view, independent contractors about whom I know very little and who are not backstopped by a trusted brand or service. While I’m happy to trade money for time in some circumstances, I need to know that there is someone standing behind the service who will make me whole if this “trusted stranger” doesn’t do right by me.

Well, I finally had a good task worth doing. I moved into a new place in San Francisco and had some IKEA furniture that required assembly. My guess is that it would have taken me about 5 hours to do it myself. I called the independent contractor that IKEA recommended and got a quote. They gave me a price of X and told me it would take about a week before they could come out to do the work. I posted the task on TaskRabbit and I received a price quote of about 75% of what the IKEA-referred contractor had offered and the gentleman was able to come over the next day. The whole thing was set up in less than an hour after I posted.

When it was time to do the work, they showed up on time (I was late). I let them into my place and just told them to call me when they were done. I got over my trust issue because it was a new place and there really wasn’t anything in the place – just some unassembled furniture. The team assembled my furniture, cleaned up well, and locked the door. And I was able to pay by credit card when the work was done. Overall, it was a really clean and simple experience and it has made me think more broadly about what tasks I could have done by the service.

In the end, I was really impressed with my first experience using TaskRabbit from booking to completion. And it’s clear to me that building a strong brand around the trustworthiness of their independent contractors is going to be key to their growth with customers like me who are slightly cautious. That’s going to take time, but it’s a big prize if they can win it.

  • James Young

    What are your thoughts on Airbnb and the recent scandal?