Approximately 40 million Americans move each year for a variety of reasons. While the moving industry is predicted to reach roughly $18 billion in value by the end of 2019, it still encounters payment frictions when it comes to compensating workers. Some consumers utilize marketplaces like Craigslist to find movers, who typically request payments in cash, which opens the door for both parties to disagree on how much is owed once jobs are completed.
Smartphone-based platforms like on-demand moving services firm Phlatbed aim to address and streamline these frictions, though, by assuring both sides of the transaction that their interests will be protected during and after tasks are finished. The company’s CEO, Alani Kuye, told PYMNTS in a recent interview that transparency and accountability are essential for consumers using platforms to post jobs, negotiate final prices and disburse funds.
The availability of faster, reliable disbursements is putting movers into a more respectable and professional bracket and pushing them away from an underground, cash-dependent one, Kuye said.
Making Moving Respectable
While the prospect of relocating may seem exciting, the act itself can create headaches. Those who are moving many belongings or bulky furniture often contact family and friends for help, promising pizza and beer as compensation. As Kuye can personally attest, however, this isn't always successful.
When he extended a similar offer 10 years ago and came up short, he decided to solve the problem a different way — he made a Facebook post offering $150 to the first person who agreed to help him move. This tactic, he said, yielded much better results than the promise of pizza and beer.
“Suddenly, everyone became available,” he said.
Kuye found himself in a similar predicament a few years later when he realized an IKEA purchase would not fit in his car. This was the experience that led him to launch Phlatbed, which allows users to find movers and make offers for their services. It started as a web-only platform with just 120 movers, but by 2016 it had transformed into a smartphone app that currently provides access to 11,000 movers nationwide, Kuye said.
When customers post jobs, Phlatbed holds the agreed-upon funds and disburses them once the tasks are complete. Wages are deposited directly into movers’ checking accounts minutes after they finish their tasks, or are made available the next business day if jobs conclude after regular business hours.
Faster disbursements are legitimizing the profession in several ways, Kuye explained. Movers receive digital transaction records and are guaranteed payment in the agreed-upon amount. Perhaps most importantly, the service allows them to shift away from cash.
“When you’re doing it for cash, it really feels like a side hustle,” Kuye said.
Improving Payments Performance
Phlatbed wasn't always able to deliver gig workers quick payments, though. The company hit some speed bumps early on, Kuye said, when it compensated workers through PayPal. The service froze Phlatbed's account after several transactions because the transfer rate was too frequent, forcing movers to wait several days for their earnings and prompting Phlatbed to switch to a new payments provider. Disbursements are certainly quicker under the new arrangement, but Kuye said the company is still working to make payouts faster.
“Speed is key for us,” he said. “The biggest challenge is we want to process payments regardless of time of day.”
Many same-day payments providers charge fees, though, and passing those charges on to drivers could create frustrations and frictions between the platform and its labor pool. Kuye hopes to leverage Phlatbed's high payments volume to negotiate lower costs for payouts.
“We have to optimize our payment processing time to make sure our labor force continues to be happy,” he said.
Offering consumers quick access to movers can go a long way toward taking the hassle out of relocating, and providing these professionals with faster payments and digital transaction records is helping them legitimize their operations.