"There's a third way to shop," Crisson Jno-Charles, the founder of Fetchmob tells me. Like other pickup-gig services--Zaarly, TaskRabbit, GigWalk ( )--Fetchmob is about not going to a store, nor going online to shop, but rather getting someone else to shop for you. Fetchmob lets you post quick shopping jobs that friends or acquaintances can take on.
It sounds a lot like a crowdsourced version of Kozmo, but Jno-Charles sees the service as being more intimate than that or any of the current open-call gig services. He views it as being used primarily by people in close proximity to each other: students in the same dorm, or co-workers on a floor. He thinks people will use it not to make money, but simply because it's what you do when you live with people or work closely with others.
Some other services (like Taskrabbit) certify their runners, which adds reliability and trust to transactions. But Jno-Charles says that's an expensive way to build a network. Fetchmob isn't just about money (see Zaarly), and in fact the company won't try to take a cut of person-to-person cash transactions. Only if people want Fetchmob to manage money for them, or store a balance on the site, will the company charge a fee.
Will it work? The service has one trend working in its favor and another working against it. On the plus side, other start-ups have made it easier and more socially acceptable to share resources: AirBnB, Couchsurfing, Loosecubes ( ), ZimRide, Relayrides, and the like. So why not share your time, for financial or karmic profit?
The downside: You can't really rely on the kindness (or availability) of friends or strangers when there's something you need. The DVD-swapping service Peerflix, for example, left too many users in the lurch when they wanted a particular movie that everyone could see was in the sharing network. Using Peerflix cost a little less than Netflix, but it was a lot less reliable. And "shopping" isn't about wondering if you'll actually get what you want. It's about getting it, full stop. For a lot of users, it'll be easier for them to just to go out and get their own sandwich.
Fetchmob is a two-person, bootstrapped business. The service, open to students of Massachusetts' Babson College, should become widely available sometime in August.