Would you carry something abroad for a stranger?
The next time you take an international flight, how about transporting something in your suitcase for a complete stranger? If your answer to that question is a resounding “no way”, and the very thought conjures up terrifying images of unwitting drug mules and long prison sentences, you might need to think again. “I always take things back from my travels for family and friends,” says 45-year-old French airline worker Olivier Kaba. “Now not only am I able to bring things for others, but I get rewarded financially for doing it.
“In the past two years I have made about 1,000 euros ($1,100; £860).”
Olivier is a regular user of Worldcraze, one of three similar firms that have launched in recent years to help connect people who would like to buy something from a different country, with travellers who have spare space in their suitcase and want to make a bit of money by being informal couriers.
The idea is that the buyer can quickly get his or her hands on a product that may not be available to buy or import where he or she lives (country A), or that the item may simply be a lot cheaper abroad (country B). So with transactions made via the three companies’ websites and apps, travellers who are due to fly from country B to country A can purchase and transport the products for the buyers. They can then arrange to meet to hand them over.
Over the past 24 months Olivier says he has transported everything from three months’ supply of French salami to the US, bags of Japanese sweets called “Tokyo banana”, and 20kg of fabric samples for a woman starting her own business. “I discover new products I have never heard of,” he says. Worldcraze was launched in 2012 by French entrepreneurs Frederic Simons and Guillaume Cayard. On a trip to New York Frederic noticed a large price difference between Levi’s jeans in France and the US, and the idea was born.
Today Worldcraze says it has 10,000 users, with Apple products being the most frequently delivered items. From each transaction Worldcraze takes €2.50 from the buyer, and 10% of the traveller’s payment, which is up to 10% of the cost of the product being transported. Singapore-based Ouibring has a similar business model. Founded in 2016 by developers Joel Gordon and Andrew Crosio, they say that one Ouibring delivery is now made every day on average. Goods delivered so far include artisan coffee from Japan to Hungary, a baby carrier from Thailand to the US, a candle carried from India, and a room spray from Singapore to the Czech Republic.