On the flaws of the TaskRabbit Model

Via, excerpted from ALYSON SHONTELL:

“Like any startup, TaskRabbit is not without flaws.

A few weeks ago, we received a troubling email from one of the TaskRabbits (people who are hired as contractors to run all the errands).

We were told TaskRabbit has a number of fundamental flaws. Particularly, while becoming a TaskRabbit is a highly vetted process, the TaskRabbits themselves are guaranteed no protection. They have no insurance. They walk into unknown situations and often get paid less than minimum wage to do unthinkable tasks.

This person found themselves knee deep in cat diarrhea.

In addition, the TaskRabbit we spoke with thinks the startup actually takes closer to 70% of high transactions, which is much more than the 15% it says it takes on average.

Here’s our Q&A with the disgruntled TaskRabbit:

(We spoke with TaskRabbit about all of the issues mentioned. The company’s response is at the end of this post)

Business Insider: What were you doing to generate income before TaskRabbit?

TaskRabbit: I do massage work, and I still do it, and that is part of what I support myself with. I’ve picked up about $3,000 in three months from TaskRabbit, so TaskRabbit is paying my rent. It has made a big difference. The rest of my money comes from massage work. Before that I worked in technology.

BI: How many hours would you say generated the $3,000?

I actually keep a list of my tasks but I haven’t been detailed in documenting the number of hours. I can spend anywhere from 10 to 30 hours a week on TaskRabbit stuff. And you definitely, if you’re going to do this work, have to have healthy boundaries. You have to be able to say no to people and know what your limits are because it goes 24 hours.

BI: What do you think is the demographic for the average TaskRabbit?

Me…I’m 41, I’m single, I’ve never been married, I have no children, I’m college educated. I’m working on getting into grad school to go find something else to do with my life As far as the other TR’s, I think most of them are at least mid-20’s or older, and there are quite a few of us who are middle aged who are either doing this on the side or have other things going on.

BI: How does one become a TaskRabbit or a task poster?

TaskRabbits go through a screening process. I guess it’s like most job interviews these days, and it’s a video interview, not an in person interview.

Obviously they don’t screen the people posting the tasks, and indeed, people posting tasks are not required to be familiar with the rules and regulations of TaskRabbit at all, all you need is a credit card number. You don’t even have to supply a phone number. All you need is an email address.

BI: What has your experience as a TaskRabbit been like?

First of all, my experience with TaskRabbit has been overwhelmingly positive. But even from the beginning I could see potential problems and I had concerns. If you’re supposed to go to someone’s house, you really don’t know what you’re walking into. It could be a sketchy situation. There could be weird people there.

Luckily none of that has happened to me. If anything, I think a more common complaint would be, you have a prescribed task, you go to the house to do it, and they want you to do more work than what they’re paying for. Certainly there is no safety net; we’re independent contractors, not employees. It’s up to us to take care of ourselves, it’s up to us to decide what we will and will not do. You can review a task poster but the thing is, nobody sees the review. It just goes into some back end database. It’s not visible to you, it’s not visible to any of the other TaskRabbits. So if you are a real pill to deal with, even if I put that in my review, no one sees my review presumably. It’s not visible to you or any of the other rabbits.

Why are you a TaskRabbit then?

I do definitely need the cash. But I’ve been reading the press about TaskRabbit and there’s some real conflict of interests here. For one thing, the image and the verbiage they use — it’s neighbors helping neighbors — as if I’m doing this out of the goodness of my heart. As if I don’t care about the money — and I do care about the money. I want to get paid and I want to get paid properly.

Certainly TaskRabbit cares about the money, it’s a startup. When they go looking for funding, do you think they portray themselves as the company who doesn’t care about money? I think they probably bend over backwards to show themselves as a profitable venture and to show they have good sales profiles. Well, where do you think that money comes from? Someone actually described TaskRabbit as revolutionary, and I’m like, which revolution? The French Revolution? Where Marie Antoinette was beheaded? Because it’s very much people wanting peasants, anonymous elves to come in during the night and do the dirty work, and they don’t want to pay very much, and the markup on the task is actually much higher than what they claim it to be. They claim the markup is 15%. It’s actually more like 70%.

BI: TaskRabbit doesn’t have to require minimum wage payments?

No one is obligated to pay minimum wage, and that happens again and again and again. I have worked 12 and 15 hour days doing really strenuous physical labor and had $80 to show for it.”

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