Vetting P2P shippers, et al

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Peer-to-peer (P2P) shipping might be the fastest growing sharing-economy segment. We found 13 companies that allow a consumer to send or receive something via an individual who travels to a particular location. As with all sharing marketplaces, your ability to trust the diligence of a company that connects you with a “shipper” is paramount. In an article at airfreight-logistics.com, Daria Rebenok of P2P shipper Grabr conceded that spurring trust is a major challenge.

Sjoerd Handgraaf of Sharetribe, which helps companies to create online marketplaces, concurs. “Can we as a buyer trust the other party who provides the service?” he says. Handgraaf hits upon keys that you can apply to vet any P2P company.

Verification of P2P providers by the company that connects you with them—for example, the people who will take your package—is at the top of Handgraaf’s list. If a company uses an email address to “verify” someone as being suitable to operate as a provider, then you should be concerned. “An email address is too easy to obtain,” Handgraaf points out. “It doesn’t really verify anything.” He puts much more credence in a process in which a company verifies a provider via a Facebook account that has a public name. “It is time-consuming and quite some trouble to fake/create a credible Facebook account, with a decent amount of friends” who also have credible Facebook accounts, he says.

Regarding transactions, Handgraaf says it’s important that a P2P company’s platform uses an escrow system “to ensure that the money [for a payment of service] is temporarily held by a third party and not paid out until the service has been completed, preferably confirmed by the buyer.”

He says it’s important, too, that a P2P company prevents feedback extortion, that is, “If you give me a bad review, I’ll give you one.” He’s impressed with the way that Airbnb tackles this problem via a double-blind review system. “Both parties have 14 days to leave the review, after which both reviews are published simultaneously. Once the reviews are published, they can no longer be altered.”