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The Los Angeles Times has a piece about Dumpling, a new shopping app that offers consumers an alternative to using Instacart - the service is sort of an Uber for shopping.

 Here's how the Times frames the story:

"Instacart is well-known for enlisting freelancers to shop for other people’s groceries. However, making a decent hourly wage with this app became increasingly challenging in a COVID-changed world. That’s partly because the app sets the terms of work, including the delivery fee. And that fee hasn’t been adjusted for today’s market, where personal shoppers can spend hours waiting in line to find still-scarce supplies."

A new alternative is a new smartphone app called Dumpling, which "helps set shoppers up in business for themselves. With this app, you say when you’re available and how much you charge to shop and deliver. You even set your own minimum tip. If the customer books your service, they are contractually obligated to pay all the fees, including the tip.

"This allows shoppers to price for things like distance to the store and whether they’re likely to wait in line."

The story goes on:  "First, when you buy groceries through Instacart, you pay a mark-up on each item. That mark-up may or may not be apparent to the customer.  There is no grocery mark-up with Dumpling. When you buy groceries through Dumpling, the app estimates the cost. But the real cost will be whatever the shopper pays to complete your order, plus shopper and site fees. You are provided a receipt, showing how much was paid for each item.

"Additionally, customers choose their Dumpling shopper based on location and the shopper’s reviews. Assuming you like that person, you can have that same shopper complete your order every time."

The Times notes that while "shoppers with Instacart only have to pay for their own transportation and insulated bags, Dumpling shoppers have to pay fees to list and sell their services through the platform too. That said, Dumpling’s fees are modest.

There’s a $10 fee to get set up on the site. That gives you access to a Dumpling credit card, a listing on the company’s website and Dumpling’s ZIP Code-fueled shopper search tool. In addition, shoppers pay either a $39 monthly fee or a $5 per-transaction fee each time they book a job … Dumpling also adds a 5% fee onto customer orders for payment processing."

KC's View:

It is hard to know whether this is a sustainable model, though I was impressed by how easy it was for me to get set up on Dumpling as a consumer.

It does make me wonder whether there are partnerships between retailers and Dumpling - or just some of its shoppers - that could be created here.   Or whether there is something to be learned from the model that retailers could adapt/steal, allowing them to have more proprietary offerings that reflect their value proposition rather than outsourcing it.