Monday, January 28, 2013

Dog Vacay #Review

If you haven't noticed, the sharing economy is kind of turning into a big deal. The classic example is AirBnb, a service which lets travelers stay at someone's home instead of at a hotel. The idea is to make better use of resources that already exist. Why build another hotel when there are already vacant rooms in existing homes? If everything goes to plan, the visitor gets a nicer room and/or better pricing, and the host gets to earn some money off an unused room. Or, you can go the altruistic route and use CouchSurfing which doesn't charge anyone money. I haven't used AirBnB or CouchSurfing yet, but someday I would like to (I need to actually travel first).

Another big area in the sharing economy is transportation. Think about all the cars on the roads with a single driver... all headed in the same direction. Then think about all the homes with cars sitting in the driveway. There MUST be a better way to allocate these resources. The utopian view is a society with less cars, generating less pollution, decreasing road congestion, and yet remaining convenient. Companies like Getaround, Uber, and SideCar are each tackling this space. I would LOVE to use these services, but alas, I don't live in a big city where these services operate.

If you haven't figured it out by now, this is a space I've been watching. I love that it's a way to better allocate resources, and for someone to generate a little bit of fun money on the side.

Enter DogVacay.

What is DogVacay?
DogVacay is a website, which they call a community, that helps connect dog owners to care for each other's pets. Instead of leaving your dog at the vet's or a boarding house, your dog can stay at someone else's home. Think "AirBnb for pets".

How Does It Work?
You visit and search for homes in your area. When you select one, you'll see a profile like mine pictured above. You can check their calendar, see where they're located, send a message, and make a reservation. The host gets to choose the rate and accept/decline reservations. I must admit though, that I'm horrible about keeping up on my busy/free days.

How Much Does It Cost?
It's free to join and list your place (here's my listing). The only cost to the customer is the amount the host charges ($20/day/pet for me). Then DogVacay charges the host 15% of the income. 15% is pretty reasonable when you consider Apple charges their developers 30%.

Great, But Does It Actually Work?
Yes. After 3 almost-bookings (like I said, I'm bad at keeping my availability up-to-date) we recently had our first booking. We had 2 dogs visit us for the day while the owners went off on a trip to Portland. It was so much fun! Vinnie and the dogs played pretty much all day. They ran around the house and chased each other in the backyard a bunch. A few days later DogVacay sent us a check in the mail. Easy. We were a little nervous at first about opening up our home to strange animals, but it turned out to be a great experience.

A Few Other Observations

  • I'm glad that we got to ease into it by booking for only a single day. I think I could do multiple days now.
  • We noticed after looking through some other listings that you don't have to own a pet to host other pets. Actually, that might even be better. (?)
  • You might be tempted to try and save 15% by making side deals, but I really think it makes sense to play within the online system. First, you get their insurance coverage and customer support. Second, actually having bookings helps you rank higher in their results, helping you earn more.
  • I got an email from DogVacay requesting I email some photos to the owners (by simply replying to the email). I did it, but don't actually know if they got it. Perhaps this feature works better over multiple days. (?)
  • The message system works pretty well. In each of my interactions, it started with a message before making a reservation. I think people using this service are looking for someone they can trust.
  • I like profiles with lots of pictures and a medium-length description. I don't know if that correlates to a better host, but that's who I tend to be attracted to. It also helps to be the only one in your city (like I am).
  • Since I don't travel much and, again, I'm the only one in my city. I haven't left Vinnie with anyone yet, but if someone joined near-by, I would definitely give it a go.

Should you try it? Definitely. Setting up a profile is easy and hosting dogs is fun. Depending on where you live, don't expect to be inundated with requests, but you will get a few. In general, I support the sharing economy. I think it's a great way to use resources you already own and provide value back to society.

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