Need Something From Another Country? Ask Someone To Bring It To You

Jonesing for some food you can only get in South Korea? Just get someone traveling from there to bring it to you with Jib.li, a new site that bypasses mail carriers and e-commerce for something much more personal: an old-fashioned network of people.

We have peer-to-peer networks for vacation rentals (Airbnb), car sharing, and dining. What about for carrying things?

Next time, you need to buy something from another country, or perhaps another state, you could think of using a new platform called Jib.li, which links up people "who need to send something" with people "traveling that way."

Perhaps, for example, you’re fascinated with a particular type of manga comic, something very specialized you can’t get in local stores, or on the Web. You could on Jib.li, find someone going to Tokyo and ask them to bring it back for you. As with Airbnb, you agree to a fee with the service-provider for their trouble.

The Paris-based site has been up since last October, and co-founder Ryadh Dahimene says it has 500 members so far. People can also use it to send stuff, but he says the most common transactions are people asking people to buy something they cannot find locally. The site works the same for domestic shipments as for international ones.

Dahimene, who is Algerian, got the idea as he traveled back and forth from Algiers. "Very often, people asked us to carry stuff, and we saw that there are people who need stuff, and don’t want to use the traditional way." Apart from being cheaper than a courier, Jib.li is also more suitable for some items, he says. "If your grandmother wants to give you cakes, it’s not very human to carry it using UPS. It’s easier to ask a friend."

To use the site, people post what they are looking for, or what they are willing to carry. At the moment, for example, a user called "Augustin" is willing to take something from Seoul to Paris on July 1. He wants 30 euros ($38) for a 1 kilogram load, and he says, "Not big stuff. I can easily take Korean goodies."

The obvious danger is that someone might try to ship something illegal, using someone as a "drug mule." To try to prevent that, the site sets out guidelines (don’t carry anything pre-wrapped), and has a system rating trustworthiness. Dahimene says: "It’s the same sort of risk with Airbnb, when people are renting their rooms to strangers. It’s the same with all crowd-based systems."

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