Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

The Best and Weirdest Requests and Errands at SXSW From Zaarly, TaskRabbit and Others

This year’s SXSW Interactive put attendees through a gauntlet of wind and rain, endless lines, plus Austin’s cab-dispatching system being down for days. It wasn’t all bad, though: There were free tacos and beers galore, and the sun finally did come out.

But inconveniences are exactly what just-in-time task and errand services like Zaarly and TaskRabbit thrive on. We asked them to send us their best and their weirdest requests from SXSW.

Here are Zaarly’s posts:

  • $30 for six to 10 orange life jackets, condition unimportant, for a nautical-themed event
  • $215 for a six-pack of Shiner Bock (lots of beer was requested, but this was the most anyone offered to pay)
  • $150 for a “huge ampersand statue”
  • $50 for a stuffed armadillo
  • $100 for an authentic cowboy hat
  • $120 for “120 beers delivered to the Airport Hilton in the next 29 minutes”
  • $25 to refill a CO2 tank for a T-shirt cannon
  • $1,200 for four tickets to the Jay-Z show — the single most expensive request of the event

And while some of the requests TaskRabbit received were pretty standard, others were unique to SXSW (the company didn’t include prices, as it’s a reverse marketplace where posters select from various bids on their tasks):

  • 70 umbrellas delivered on Saturday
  • More than 15 start-ups using TaskRabbit to pass out flyers
  • Get me my band costume for tonight
  • Buy me a phone and/or computer charger
  • Stand by my computer while it charges as I am presenting on my panel
  • Save me from drowning and bring me a poncho or umbrella ASAP

Though these prices can be negotiated and not every request is filled, Zaarly said its average request price was $95 and its median request price was $20, while TaskRabbit said its average price was $45.

Perhaps the largest demand of the weekend was transportation. Though SXSW provides shuttles between its sprawling session locations, and there are also city buses and a good showing of pedicabs, and even a traveling karaoke lounge on an RV, Austin’s major taxi-dispatching system was down, so calling for an official taxicab was a joke.

Zaarly said it saw huge demand for impromptu rides, sending the heat map above of where the requests came from (which is not super informative, but it’s a nice visual of downtown Austin being blanketed in angry red demands).

Meanwhile, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick told us that on Monday his company had a fifth as many trips in Austin as in San Francisco, Uber’s first and largest city. Getaround said it helped people with as many as 100 car rentals after launching just last week.

-Lauren Goode contributed to this article.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus