Retail

When Shopkeepers Moonlight As Marketplace Luggage Concierges

Vertoe

Travelers may face a dilemma when they explore a city: they might want to see the sights, but they have luggage that they can’t store in a vacation rental. To help create a marketplace solution to this problem, Sid Khattri developed an online platform called Vertoe that helps shopkeepers with people looking to visit landmarks without having to carry a suitcase or a backpack. Through the site, consumers can search for locations that will take their bags and make a payment online through technology powered by Stripe.

Vertoe Co-Founder and CEO Sid Khattri told PYMNTS.com in an interview that all sorts of shops can use his platform: “Anything under the sun, which is in the right areas in the city and has some capacity and wants to make a little extra supplementary income,” he said. Stores on the platform can range from small coffee shops to gift shops. But, regardless of the location, Khattri works with them to manage capacity when they come online. The goal? He doesn’t want a customer to show up to a shop to store their bags only to find out that a shopkeeper doesn’t have space for the luggage.

Once a consumer does arrive at a location, however, the customer checks in by showing an email or phone confirmation. That customer will, in turn, take a photograph of a unique code on the tag that identifies his or her bags and also use as a token when he or she picks up the bag. The idea is to reduce the steps in the process of storing a bag, as Khattri took out the step of downloading an app to use his service. “Most users would get frustrated with that experience,” Khattri said.

Building Trust In The Marketplace

As with many marketplaces, Khattri noted that safety works both ways. That is, customers want to feel comfortable dropping their luggage off at a shop, and shopkeepers want to feel comfortable storing it. To tackle these needs, Khattri takes steps to ensure that shopkeepers and luggage owners feel comfortable using his platform.

To give the consumer peace of mind, Khattri noted that his platform isn’t open to all shopkeepers. Before bringing them onto the platform, he evaluates potential shops and checks if they have features such as security cameras and secure space in their stores. After a shop makes the cut, he offers them training along with tamper-proof seals. The latter, Khattri said, were a cost-effective and easy way to see if bags are opened, as the only way to open to seals is to simply cut them off. And, the provide additional reassurance, the company offers $3,000 insurance to customers.

On the other side of the marketplace, Khattri has taken steps to make shopkeepers feel at ease offering luggage storage. For starters, consumers can’t use the site to locate a shop that would store their luggage and simply walk in to buy the service on the spot. (In order to prevent this from happening, the site doesn’t share the locations of its shops until a booking is made.) Why? Khattri’s site takes in personally verifiable information online from customers, who are supposed to show photo ID upon arrival. “This helps us verify who you are,” Khattri said. He also noted every shopkeeper has the authority to search bags that customers present for check-in if he or she feels uncomfortable.

Khattri’s company was founded out of an idea that started when he was on a vacation staying at an Airbnb, which, unlike a hotel didn’t have a front desk that could help with bag storage. But he noted that the platform can even be useful to customers who have the option to leave their bags at their hotels for safekeeping.

That is, some customers might be staying at a hotel in one neighborhood of a city but spend the day visiting another neighborhood that is far away on the last day of their stay. His service, then, could provide an alternative to backtracking to the hotel to pick up bags at the end of the day. (And, along with his offering, Stasher is in the U.K. provides a similar service.)

In another emerging use case, Khattri noted that visitors may not be able to bring bags into some event venues like stadiums or theaters. As a result, they might find themselves going back to the office or a friend’s place to store their bags. Vertoe, however, provides an alternative to scrambling to find a place to put bags away for safekeeping at the last minute — and suggests that luggage storage services can serve a wider customer base than just travelers from out of town.

 

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