Uber for laundry?

We all know Uber, and what makes it special and different from other car services or businesses. It is a freelance drivers- user-controlled mobile app/taxi service.

Let's step away from laundry for a second. Why is it user-controlled? Because we are the ones who decide which driver to hire, we decide their fate by rating their driver profiles, we can make it look good or bad. It's a service enabling anyone to be a driver with a proper car and proper license. You don't get hired, you don't get fired, unless, of course, your rating goes downhill.

The beauty of the Uber strategy is that it is self-managed. There is no need for a dispatcher - the app regulates the position and cars to choose, the user ratings regulate the quality of drivers, give good ones more liquidity and kick bad ones out of the service. The app calculates the cost of the ride and processes the payment.

The Uber strategy can be applied to many different businesses, especially to delivery businesses where having a fleet of hired drivers and paying them salaries by the hour is not an option. Much more cost efficient would be to just have a driver for one job and pay them the portion of the hired delivery person. The more pieces to be delivered simultaneously, the more cost efficient it is. An example of Uber pool whereby you can share a ride.

A lot of companies tried applying that strategy to different businesses. Laundry and dry cleaning on demand is one of them. Wouldn't it be beautiful to schedule laundry pickup and delivery with the click of a button, and choose the driver or laundry service, or even both based on the user ratings, track the location of the delivery person and know when exactly they'll arrive? It definitely would.

So what should be the problem if the app can manage itself, choose the driver, choose the laundromat, get the cost, pay by a credit card registered by the app? It all sounds simple and should work in theory, but there are a lot more complications than it seems.

Complications:


Number 1: Uber drivers only deliver from point A to point B. Even pizza delivery brings pizza from the store to the customer, which is one way trip. Laundry has to be delivered back to the customer.

Number 2: Distance to the customer to arrange a pickup. There are a lot more Uber or taxi drivers around, but one laundry company can only have so many drivers hired / signed up to work with. So when choosing Uber, we can pick one a few blocks away, and the distance to the customer is minimal. But when the number of drivers is limited, the distance they need to cover when picking up increases. So now drivers have to drive from point A - their current location to point C - location of the customer and to point B - the laundromat. And then back through A - B - C, which triples the distance needed to drive, time, fuel, etc.

Number 3: Need to park the car and to bring garments to the customer! It's great if there is a doorman, and much worse if it is 6 floors to walk up. With every minute and every step inside that customer's building, parking cops are closing in on your illegally parked van to issue a ticket for those blood earned $115.

Number 4: Customer isn't at home, but their laundry is having a ride for free. There is statistically an 8% chance for customers to leave early or come late and miss the pickup or delivery. So there goes driving A to C if it was a pickup or even worse A - B - C - B if it was a drop off. Plus walking the stairs, plus the search for parking. For any driver it would be extremely annoying to arrive at an empty apartment in a walk-up building with 40lbs of laundry on your hands and keep ringing customer's bell and calling their phone for a while. It could only get more annoying to receive an angry customer call within 20 minutes while you're already on the other side of the city and have them tell you that you should have knocked louder because they were sleeping. So there goes A - B - C again, plus negative feedback.

Number 5: An app can't track lost garments, can't tell you how many and which bags are supposed to be for washing, which are for dry cleaning, and which for wash/press. God forbid they mistakenly mixed it. Laundry can't be done by machines. People have to load it into washing machines by colors, then into dryers, separate the hang drying items, then fold it. In dry cleaning they need to do spot removing, color sorting, pressing, and packaging with extremely difficult dry cleaning process in between. At every step of the way there are so many things that can go wrong.

Number 6: Liabilities are huge. Even though it sounds funny to compare transportation of a live person with a chance to get into an accident and a loss or damage of a few pieces of clothing, the bag of clothing is worth hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars, and our material lives depend on it and on the condition of it. If not looking at extreme situations like getting into a traffic accident, having a ride to a wrong place is the worst thing that can happen to you. It is very reversable, unlike damage or loss of your garment.

Number 7: Laundry customers don't rate unless they are extremely angry or disappointed, or unless they are given incentives, which is a different story. Writing reviews takes time and thinking, which is exactly why they use a laundry on demand app - to save time and get it out of their heads. So Uber customers - control of the rating, doesn't work as it is supposed to.

Number 8: COST! Even if we look at the cheapest New York laundromat, the price of wash/fold service is $0.75 per lb. Let's say that we want to wash an average bag of 20 lbs. We need an Uber driver to drive it to the laundromat and back. If we are talking about citywide laundry pickup and delivery, then 20 blocks could cost us $10 on the Uber with tips. So the cost of laundry and two-way trip would be $35. That does not include walking the stairs and paying parking tickets, and similar expenses. Add the cost of refunds for unsatisfactory jobs, reimbursements for damaged or lost items - none of that exists on Uber.

Conclusion:

While all of the above is very frastrating, why can't laundry be done so seamless? Liox has changed its strategy since 2011 many times. We have looked at many ways to change laundry industry, but let's leave that discussion for some other time.

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