Even in an era where no errand is too small to outsource to a smartphone application, startup Purple, which dispatches a stranger to fill up customers’ gas tanks, might smack as on-demand capitalism gone too far.
That’s right. In two California cities, it’s now possible to push a button and get gas – no trip to the station required.
With Los Angeles-based Purple, which expanded into San Diego in October, folks in both cities can use the company’s iPhone or Android app when they’re short on fuel. A Purple “courier,” clad in a purple T-shirt, will come to the customer’s location in one to three hours, depending on preference, locate the car, and either add 10 or 15 gallons of gas (using portable gas cans) to its tank.
The customer’s credit card is billed the going rate for gas, as advertised in the application, with rates comparable to what might be found at neighborhood stations. A service charge is being waived for the time being. The customer’s only task is to make sure his gas tank is accessible to Purple’s people.
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With Americans filling up on more than 9 million barrels of gasoline per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, perhaps there’s a real market for a new kind of full-service fill-up. Purple isn’t the only startup to think so. At least two other apps, Filld and FuelMe, are delivering fuel on-demand in different markets.
Purple says it has signed up “thousands” of users in its first two markets, Los Angeles and San Diego, with a bulk of its audience in the larger metro where it has been operating the longest.
Though the number may sound humble, Purple sees 50 percent of daily orders come from recurring clients, said co-founder Bruno Uzzan. A sign, he said, that the service is proving useful to its earliest adopters.
“Most of us don’t like to go to the gas station,” said co-founder Bruno Uzzan. “Our customers are saying they are losing time. It takes 10 to 15 minutes to fuel a car, and they wish they could spend the time on something else.”