Why Uber-style dog walking services are a bad idea

Dog in iPhone costume

The last few years has seen a revolution in the way consumers search for and purchase goods and service online. Companies like Amazon and Uber have raised the bar in convenience, have changed our expectations as customers and will continue to innovate new ways of shopping in the future. They offer one-click ordering from smartphones and tablets and the convenience of being able to manage our personal customer info from secure apps.

So it’s natural to assume that this model will spread to other areas of consumer sales with the same success. But will it necessarily work in every industry?

Take dog walking. Recently we’ve seen a handful of companies appear, with the help of large cash investments, which purport to be the “Uber of dog walking.” The idea is that you can pick up your phone and order a dog walker wherever and whenever you like. One large service in particular aims to hook up dog owners with thousands of independent walkers registered on their site. While the idea initially sounds fantastic to people who enjoy the convenience of other similar app-driven services, the fact is that ordering a dog walker or pet sitter is inherently different from ordering a pair of shoes or hailing a cab.

Here are some good reasons why you’re better off using a long-established NYC dog walking and pet sitting company like King Pup:

  1. Our NYC dog walkers and pet sitters are trained and observed by us. Not only do we do a full background check, but we also speak to previous references the employee has provided to get a good idea of their past employment performance and personality. We then spend a trial training week out on the job with them, observing how they get along with animals and correcting anything which does not meet our strict standards of safety and professionalism. As a company, we are able to impose our own safety procedures and policies – something which is somewhat of a crapshoot when hiring a walker from a large app-driven agency.
  2. We have a strong connection with all of our employees and know them personally. Companies which have hundreds or thousands of caregivers on their books have a fundamental disconnect with the people who are working for them. They’re just names on a screen, items in a database. When you’re providing a service which involves sending people into private homes in order to care for their animals, having a close connect with those employees is essential. Inviting strangers into your home to provide a service is always going to carry with it some small risk and will always be a little stressful. This is why it is so essential for companies which provide such services to keep a close relationship with and get to know their employees on a personal level. The NYC home cleaning app “Handy” was, for example, linked to over 50 home thefts in 2016. This is the risk you take when your “employees” are just names in a database.
  3. Because most NYC dog owners require regular, rock-solid reliability on a daily basis, we assign the same walker to their dog. While Uber-style dog walking apps often promise the same thing, a common complaint we hear from clients who have previously used those services was that the availability of their preferred walker wasn’t anywhere near as reliable as they thought it was going to be. They often found themselves having to use alternative walkers they didn’t know because their regular walker had taken on work which made them unavailable. Once you’re locked into a weekly schedule with us, you have that time slot and walker guaranteed on a daily basis (except in cases of sickness or emergency) and you don’t have to worry about your preferred sitter being unavailable.
  4. We’ve spoken to walkers who were registered to a large app-driven dog walking agency and they all say the same thing – the work is oftentimes unreliable and spotty. One week you might have a full schedule, the next you’re only half full. On top of that, the agency takes a large percentage of the sitter’s profits when they’re already having to keep their prices at rock bottom to compete with the thousands of other sitters on the app. This also puts pressure on walkers to cram as many dogs as they can into their schedules, with the inevitable cutting of corners.

In conclusion, it’s worth saying that while the Uber model is indeed very attractive and convenient for a range of goods and services, we feel that for certain kinds of services – child care, animal care, things which involve people coming into your home when you’re not there – you are much better off looking into smaller companies which have a closer relationship and connect with their employees, and which have a comprehensive set of safety regulations and policies you can be sure of.

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