For $20 an hour, you can hire someone to save your spot in line
There’s nothing sweeter than a Black Friday deal… except maybe a few extra hours of sleep. And thanks to the internet, some lazy shoppers have figured out a way to have their sleep and 70%-off TVs, too.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports consumers have been using TaskRabbit, a platform that lets users pay to “outsource” any job, no matter how minor, to hire people to wait in line for Black Friday doorbusters.
“Every year hundreds of taskers are hired to wait in line for Black Friday deals,” said Aaron Gannon, a spokesman for San Francisco-based TaskRabbit, told the Chronicle in an interview. And how much does line-waiting pay, you ask? In high-demand areas like San Francisco and New York City, the average wage is $22 an hour.
That’s hefty chunk of change—enough to make this journalist wonder why he didn’t double major in standing-outside-a-Target—and shoppers must be careful to weigh their line-waiting payroll against any potential savings.
But I suppose if the deals are good enough, and you’re sufficiently immune to feelings of shame, hiring a “tasker” (the technical term for a TaskRabbit employee) could make a lot of financial sense. For example, Walmart is offering a 65-inch Vizio television for $648 this Friday. On Amazon, that same set will cost you nearly $1,300. After, say, two hours of personnel (line-waiting tasker) costs are deducted, that could still yield savings of roughly $600.
Perhaps that’s why line-waiting has turned into a big business, even outside of Black Friday. The Atlantic noted the emergence of line-waiting businesses, like SOLD Inc. (an acronym for “Same Ole Line Dudes”), as well as entrepreneurs who use Craig’s List and similar sites to sell their services. Robert Samuel, SOLD’s founder, has made as much as $1,000 a week just taking up space.
And make no mistake, high-level line-waiters don’t mess around when it comes to their trade. “I’m a professional line waiter, here’s a business card,” said Samuel in an interview with Racked, describing a potential encounter with a curious pedestrian. “I can wait for you for your next sample sale or your next sneaker release.”
Line-waiting is apparently such a money-maker for TaskRabbit that the company has an entire page advertising its cast of warm, upright bodies. Paying a tasker to wait in line is “the easiest way to get the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus” announces the firm’s website. TaskRabbit even created a marketing campaign around the event: #SkipTheLine.
So is this new societal trend good or bad? On one hand, there’s something a little unfair about giving people with money to burn an advantage on holiday deals. There’s something meritocratic, even American, about giving extra savings only to those motivated enough to wake up before sunrise to wait outside a Best Buy. With paid staffers snapping up all the doorbusters, the rich would seem to be using Black Friday to get richer.
But at the same time, using your hard-earned cash to free yourself from unpleasant labors is also very American. Besides, it turns out that professional line-waiters may make life easier for actual retail employees. As one former Ralph Lauren cashier told MONEY, “The people who go out [on Black Friday], they’re just not afraid to really get angry… I’ve had a lot of merchandise thrown at me.”
Maybe leaving waiting to the pros will at least result in more relaxed shoppers, and a little less stress for the poor souls forced to work on Thanksgiving weekend.