I sent postcards without leaving my house

In the context of a pandemic, going out to send love letters to my friends is clearly non-essential travel. I just couldn’t do it. But that didn’t stop me from continuing my yearly (biannual?) tradition of keeping the snail mail industry alive.

Before anyone asks why it’s blog-worthy to send a postcard –there are no residential mailboxes or community collection boxes in the Philippines. No outgoing mail carriers either. As far as I know, you have to drop your mail in the post office for PHLPost, the public Philippine Postal Corporation, or you have to use a private courier.

I was spoiled the last decade living in the heart of cities (mostly). A PHLPost branch was always just a few minutes away. Now that I’m back in the suburbs, it’s a lot harder to send letters and postcards out. Message me if you want to join the mailing list!

This is the spiritual sequel to I paid real estate tax in Parañaque. I’m getting all the adult things done, without the actual doing.

What is an errand running service?

I first heard of errand running services from “School 2013″. Yes, a K-drama —which I apparently blogged years ago. In the early episodes of that show, charming but troubled orphan Go Nam Soon (played by the charming but probably untroubled Lee Jong Suk, who’s now back from military service!) worked part-time as an errand runner. In one scene, he bought food as ordered then delivered it to the client. He was supposed to be reimbursed but I think he took too long being melodramatic… his client got mad and didn’t pay him in the end. This was before GrabFood and UberEats were popular. (But apparently rude clients are forever.)

It was just a random scene, but my lazy yet efficient self took hold of that industry concept. To me, having temporary assistants for any variety of services will be the future of delegating and personal management. It might not be particularly stimulating for the worker, but I thought demand would eventually be pretty high.

Enter a pandemic. Demand, apparently, has sky-rocketed. It’s listed in business.com as one of the top 20 businesses you can start on the cheap in 2021. You can take some time to Google; there’re businesses geared especially for the elderly. There are also Facebook groups for this kind of thing.

I found this article written by Uzair Khan. It’s probably a paid article, TBH. They used MyKuya all-day for so many errands, from morning coffee to bills payment to a pharmacy run to grocery shopping. Another Google spree revealed a lot of 2020 PR articles for MyKuya. It checks out.

If it isn’t clear yet, an errand running service is an on-demand business where runners do various jobs for a fee.

How is it different from other on-demand services?

There’s GrabExpress, which offers on-demand door-to-door deliveries, and GrabFood, which is Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing food delivery service (they have everything from street food to restaurant dining). There’s Lalamove, which I find to be a cheaper courier service in general, and its sister LalaFood, which touts itself as the fastest food delivery service. There are other names: foodpanda, honestbee, Metro Mart, etc. If you need a shopper for food or grocery or things to deliver, you probably already have an app for it.

For laundry, I’ve had my clothes picked up and dropped off to my door by the app Swosh! to repeated great success. For home services such as maintenance and repair, I’ve booked plumbing services from Gawin.ph (safe and efficient, but pretty costly). I’ll probably try one of the home cleaning services listed in this article.

So why use an errand running service?

The big difference is in the variety of services you can ask for. The apps above are specialized and therefore very efficient in what they do. But if I wanted to send postcards to multiple people (I had around 25 people in my mailing list), delivering all postcards directly via GrabExpress or Lalamove would have been a very expensive nightmare. Also tiring. I’d be paying an average of Php150 or $3 per address, with a total of Php3750 or $80 –granted that I could even figure out how to sent to other islands. Still no clue. In contrast, PHLPost has the infrastructure I needed for just Php300 or $6 for everyone. A steal!

I just had to get my postcards to a PHLPost office.

Enter MyKuya mobile app. Right now, it’s the only service-on-demand app of its kind that I know of in the Philippines. But there was a similar service before called Hey Kuya, which was a text-based personal concierge service. Given the branding, these were probably developed or acquired by the same people.

Taken from MyKuya.com. The current user interface is slightly different. But the design elements are mostly the same.

With a hashtag #YourHelpingHandOnDemand, the brand My Kuya is a reference to all those kind brothers and sisters and uncles and aunties who would lend a helping hand whenever you’re in a tight spot. (Kuya is a Filipino word referring to a man, usually older. Ate refers to a woman.)

How does MyKuya work?

Like many other service apps, you make an account and cough up a credit or debit card upfront. From their homepage, you can choose from delivery services, government errands (like picking up government documents), maintenance work, housekeeping, and more. There are specific descriptions for each service within the app.

But MyKuya really shines in areas where there are virtually no direct competitors.

For example: personal mall shopping. The Kuya or Ate can visit several shops in a particular mall just to complete your to-buy list. The only direct competitors I know are personal shoppers in Alabang and on Instagram. (Expensive!) There’s barberdashery –apparently you can get a premium haircut or shave wherever you are? And then there’s all-around, which I’ve tried first in 2018, and again last October.

After choosing the service, you get matched with an errand runner. The timer starts ticking once the Ate or Kuya arrives at the first job location. Once the job starts, you have the option to end early or extend. I think. The time-based service fee is exclusive of parking fees, entrance fees, toll fees and other miscellaneous expenses.

Here’s how it worked out for me.

(For a more concise version of the buy-in vs buy-out of this app, check out the pros and cons section near the end.)

A Kuya sent my postcards to the post office

It was a little more tedious than the first time since I had to re-download the app and work out my old password. I filled up the job details form after choosing “assistant on bike“; I pinned all the necessary locations. This is what the first message in the chat history looked like:

It’s a match!

[Service] Assistant on Bike

[My location]

[Expected hours to complete] 02:00

[System-generated Job ID]

[Location 1 to Location 2] … to Philpost – Parañaque City Hall, 149 San Antonio Avenue, San Antonio, Parañaque

[Notes] Pickup postcards to mail at the PHLPost Parañaque City Hall

I immediately got matched with a Kuya. Unfortunately, the Kuya was coming from two cities away (I know right???), so the actual job started around 2 hours later. The timer only started ticking once the Kuya arrived at my place to pick up the postcards –actually, he had the option to start the job much sooner, but that would have been a huge loss for me given the traffic. No thanks!

Like other apps, MyKuya had automated notifications regarding the status of the job, from the Kuya being on the way to near to arrived at the first job location (my place) then the second (the post office).

Custom art with little messages painted on Papemelroti DIY postcards. I put these along with many others inside a plastic bag. I also included cash for the stamps (postal rates thankfully haven’t changed in forever) and the tip. I can’t believe half of the cards in this photo are lost in the wilderness that is the Philippine postal system (more on that in the postscript).

The Kuya was really great at keeping me updated with his location and status through the in-app chat. It was no problem for me to extend the booking, since there was an unexpected queue at the PHLPost office. He even took a photo of the queue. (Maybe it wasn’t so unexpected; it was a Friday.)

All in all, it was a pretty successful run!

You can add increments of 30 minutes to the total job time. He’s from “One D Courier Express”, which makes me think most MyKuya runners have other courier jobs.

He later sent me proof that all postcards were sent, which I appreciated. The Kuya also paid for a minimal parking fee. He kept the change. Finally, as in all service apps, I rated the job and called it a day.

What are the benefits and pros to MyKuya?

First, it has a great variety of services on demand. There’s really no limit to the flexibility and even willingness of the errand runners. My Kuya didn’t even blink when my errand was basically a postcard drop-off. Frivolous.

Second is the added safety for senior citizens and vulnerable persons. It may require a transition to tech-savvy personal management, but if our Lolos and Lolas can do it, MyKuya would be a great help in terms of daily living during a pandemic.

Third is the flexibility of the job details. One of the necessary yet unfortunate changes in GrabFood was that you can no longer change your food order once it’s been processed by the system. What if you suddenly crave for another dessert? In contrast, with MyKuya, you can just keep adding things to do as you go (as long as you can pay for the time). You’re in communication with the errand runner, so that gives you more insight and control over unexpected events.

Finally, this app is really for the convenience of those who are busy at work or at home. There’s just a lot of things in this world that are limited to 9-to-5, especially government offices. It’s not always possible to take a leave or have an extended lunch break.

In terms of the app itself, I think it was user-friendly and intuitive. The payment options were a bit limited, with only VISA or MasterCard accepted. I think the next step is clearly to add GCash or Paymaya.

What are the downsides to MyKuya?

First is the relatively high cost-effectivity. Other specialized apps might have greater value for money, since they’ve fleshed out their logistics more compared to this jack-of-all trades. Lalamove is faster. Grabfood is more convenient with its integrated menu and order system. You have more options in Lazada and Shopee today. And so on. Then again, there is no app to send postcards… so…

Second is the time-based pricing. I can’t remember the specifics, but I think an all-around errand cost me around Php120 or $2.5 per hour. Each 30-minute extension therefore cost Php60 or $1.25. Obviously if there’s traffic or your Kuya/Ate doesn’t know what they’re doing, then the bill will steadily rack up. Boo.

Third, there is no in-app wallet. I hate handling cash!!! I haven’t touched an ATM in months. So it was TRAGIC that I had to physically hand over money for the PHLPost stamps instead of just having it deducted from an in-app wallet or payment system or whatever. Imagine if I didn’t have cash??? Half of the services, like shopping and delivery and bills payment, would be impossible to do.

Finally, I think there aren’t enough errand runners out there. While it was super easy to book an errand when I was Pasig, it was so much harder getting a convenient booking when I was in Parañaque. I waited 2 to 3 hours before the booking started; it was a good thing that sending out postcards was the opposite of time-sensitive.

But basically that’s it. I kinda really love the concept of this app. I’m not sure how it is in the supply-side, but I imagine that in the ideal setting, this is great for part-timers with a bayanihan spirit. Just like Go Nam Soon.

This is not a paid post, but a girl can wish.

P. S. The postcards have been received

…by half of the intended recipients. Two months and some change later, and the postcards to Taguig, Bicol, Mindanao, and (some in) Pasig are still lost in the wilderness. No idea if some of those who live in condos just haven’t checked their mailboxes.

Proof of receipt. I’ve been writing a new batch recently, but I hesitate to send them out with so many others still unaccounted for… Also, follow me on Instagram for random personal stories like this, I guess.

MyKuya was 100% reliable and convenient, though the process could be even smoother for demanding users like me. I honestly recommend it for the odd errand! PHLPost? A little less reliable and a lot less convenient. Get a functional app already.

Until next time!

An Adult with An Adulting Tag

One Comment Add yours

  1. lol at pque being referred to as ‘suburbs’ 😅

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