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Personal Tech for Women: 5 Things You Need To Know About Apps For On-Demand Services in PDX

Monday, March 30, 2015


Apps like Instacart deliver groceries right to your doorstep.

Before drones start parking our cars, delivering our groceries and cleaning our homes, we’ll have to settle for smartphones. Since 2014, the market for mobile apps that deliver on-demand services has grown exponentially. And those trends are not slowing down, as investors continue to pour money into apps that will replace the old-world way of doing things and make us more lazy… if not more efficient. Here are 5 types of on-demand services available in Portland for daily tasks, shopping and errands.

1. Pay remotely to park

A popular parking app for Portland is BestParking.com. It does what one would assume, and steers you towards affordable and conveniently located parking facilities by comparing rates. But Portland has recently launched a new parking app specifically for visitors to Washington Park and the Oregon Zoo. The free app, which is a partner of PassportParking, allows visitors to pay for their parking remotely, without queuing at a pay station. You can add more time and receive alerts about your about-to-expire-parking all through the app. After Portland’s battle with Uber over taxi poaching, it’s unlikely we’ll see valet apps or private lots designated to a start-up app. It’s happened in big cities like San Francisco and Seattle, but Portland is yet to turn parking into a full-on commodity.   

2. Postmates has come to PDX

Postmates launched in Portland month and offers deliveries from a lengthy roster that includes Voodoo Doughnut, Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Elephants Delicatessen, Little Big Burger, ¿Por Qué No? and Greenleaf Juicing Company, among others. There’s also the Postmates General Store, where you can get everything from bath, body and baby products to household items, school supplies, pain relievers and even condoms. All of it can be detailed in a shopping list using a custom order field and delivered to your door within an hour. Their mission is “to become the on-demand delivery infrastructure for every major city in the world.” Agoraphobics unite – you’ll never have to leave the house. 

3. Food without foraging

Instacart delivers your groceries from the comfort of your smartphone. As an app worth 2 billion dollars, Instacart took the #1 spot this year on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies. It’s available in 15 cities across the nation, and since last year, Portland is one of them. Using the app, a customer pays from $3.99 to $9.99 to have groceries delivered from Portland-area stores, including Whole Foods, Costco, Uwajimaya Asian Market and Green Zebra Grocery, with more to be added soon. And somehow you don’t need to be a Costco member to order from Costco on Instacart. The company has recently partnered with Yummly, a popular recipe service, to deliver ingredients on-demand too. Instacart is also hiring – constantly it seems – for shoppers that can make up to $25 an hour. But if you don’t want to go with the goliath of on-demand grocery delivery, Portland offers other options: Store to Door, Portland Pedal Power, Organics to You, and The Grocery Bag.

4. Home cleaning with a handyman

At a moment’s notice you can book a house (or office) cleaning and within 24 hours a skilled cleaner will arrive at your door. You can even send texts to your cleaner beforehand with special directions and info about what rooms need attention. The app is called Handy and, go figure, you can also book an expert handyman to fix your apartment’s aches and pain, from knobs and locks to interior painting and furniture assembly. They also provide plumbing and electrical services. Handy boasts a 60-second booking process, secure payment, and a 100 percent money-back guarantee, in case you’d rather keep your home’s sanitation in your own hands.

5. Curbside convenience

Okay, you do have to leave your house with this app, but you won’t necessarily have to “enter” a store – just the curbside, as it promises. Curbside allows you to find and buy products available at nearby stores. These are going to be bigger, corporate stores like Target, Crate and Barrel, and Home Depot. Place your order and wait to be notified to pick it up. Then just head inside to the “designated area.” At some locations, Curbside has arranged actual attendants outside of the store, so you don't even need to park – they simply hand you the bag and you’re off. This app is obviously for people who either loath shopping at big box stores (but need them anyway) or have no time (so they think). Or maybe they just want to avoid another scene from their kids at Target. Plus, there’s no service free. Prices of items are the same in the store as they are on Curbside.


Melanie Sevcenko is a journalist for radio, print and online. She reports internationally for BBC World Service and Monocle Radio (M24) in the UK, and for Deutsche Welle in Germany. Melanie also reports for the online news source GoLocalPDX, in Portland, Oregon. Her work has been broadcast by CBC in Canada and the Northwest News Network, and published by Al Jazeera English, Global Post, Pacific Standard, the Toronto Star and USA Today, amongst others.


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