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Holy home delivery! New start-up brings Manhattan to your apartment

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If you have ever longed for someone else to pick up your organic lamb chops from the greenmarket, swap out your size 7s for 7 1/2 at Bloomingdales, wait in line for you at The Spotted Pig or rustle up a quartet of Shack burgers to your roofdeck, your deliverance has arrived.

ZipGigs, a Manhattan delivery service that beta-launched last week, aims to take care of all of these chores plus pretty much any other running around that doesn’t involve alcohol or prescription meds.

“We’re an on-demand personal assistant,” explains co-founder Antonia Abraham. “We send someone to do your errands for you—whether you need someone to do all your shopping because you’re home with sick kids, or it’s raining and you don’t want to go out, or your guests are arriving in 20 minutes.”

Most of these errands cost anywhere from $10 to $33 depending on the distance involved and time it takes to complete the task.

Here’s how it works:

1.  Register on ZipGigs online, then submit a request for each task you want performed and a rough estimate of any money your personal “Zipster” (ZipGigs’ handle for its couriers) will have to shell out to accomplish it.  During ZipGigs' initial launch phase, which will be capped at 200 users while the service undergoes some fine-tuning, ZipGigs is imposing a $100 maximum spend. 

    (Note: ZipGigs can put your name down at restaurants that accept cell phone numbers, like Mary's Fish Camp, L'Artusi, and The Spotted Pig, or wait in line for you until your entire party arrives. But you'll have to dine early, as for now ZipGigs is only open from 9am-8pm during the week and 9am-5pm on weekends.)

    2. ZipGigs tells you how much your errand will cost (in Zip-speak, this is called a 'bid'). A simple Duane Reade or Fairway assignment in your neighborhood usually runs around $10, while punching your shopping list at the Union Square Greenmarket will cost you closer to $21 if you live on the Upper West Side, or $12 if you live in the neighborhood.

    3. If you decide to proceed, ZipGigs transfers your estimated spend (the price of the item plus the courier fee) onto a debit card that your Zipster presents to the merchant.

    4. If the merchant doesn’t accept debit cards, the Zipster can withdraw cash from the card at an ATM. Also, if your purchase turns out to cost more than projected, your Zipster will contact you before spending more than $20 above your estimate. (Easy workaround if you don’t want to be bothered with predictions: Estimate generously.)

    5. Unspent funds are automatically credited back to your ZipGigs account, which may be used for your next errand or put back on your credit card or into your checking account, depending on how you set things up to begin with.

    6. Tipping is encouraged, in the range of $2-$5 per delivery.

            "Gigs" are limited for now mostly to Manhattan below 86th Street. Abraham, a lawyer, and co-founder Ricky Ng, a former investment banker, plan to scale uptown first then conquer the boroughs (beginning with Brooklyn) before venturing out to other urban areas.

            We gave ZipGigs a try this weekend, requesting a chicken from the Upper West Side greenmarket and a pound of sugar snap peas to be bought and delivered to our apartment a few blocks away. 

            The online registration and order-taking was a little on the buggy side (Abraham and Ng say the glitches have since been resolved), but our haul materialized exactly as requested (between 10-11 am Sunday morning), delivered by Ng himself, who is hitting the streets to get a better grasp of how much time the couriers need to allow for each type of job.

            Total cost: $12, plus tip if we had remembered to give one instead of grilling Ng about his company.  Not bad for resolving a schedule conflict (or a quarrel over whose turn it is to bag the bird), though perhaps on the pricey side to justify mere laziness.

            At present the ZipGigs’ gang of Zipsters consists of 3 full time couriers who work on commission (and tips), though Ng and Abraham say they have a deep bench at the ready as business picks up.

            “The advantage of using vetted and bonded Zipsters is that it’s a safer system for consumers. They don’t have to worry about who’s coming to the door or whether they’ll ever come back with the shoes that are being exchanged,” says Abraham.

            As ZipGigs fine-tunes its service during its beta launch, it's capping the number of registered users at 200. Customers who sign up before the cap is reached and type "BrickUnderground" in the comments section get 50% off their first delivery.  

            So how does ZipGigs expect to succeed where now-defunct dot.com delivery services Kozmo and UrbanFetch failed a decade ago?

            Their problem may have had more to do with rapid, venture-capital-fueled overexpansion than a lack of NYC demand for their services.

            "Kozmo was very successful in New York, where people were very receptive to getting things done on demand from a single site," says Abraham. "Our model expands upon what Kozmo did while providing additional services."

            Also, she notes, Kozmo and UrbanFetch "had inventory that they pulled from, whereas our inventory is New York. We will go to the local cheese shop rather than a warehouse somewhere. You know what you're getting and where it's coming from."

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