Sometimes, you get a ridiculously specific, ridiculously urgent craving for something and you have to satisfy it right then. I’ve been known to order pizza just to get someone to bring ice cream to my house, but a new raft of concierge apps have made that unnecessary (if you live in London or certain other big places, at least). There are apps to bring food from your favourite restaurants (Deliveroo being the most famous), to deliver printer paper in an emergency (Amazon Prime Now), to acquire products from shops and takeaways (Jinn, Henchman…), to fetch stuff from Gumtree sellers for you (Shutl), and there’s Dispatch – a chat-style app that can bring you pretty much anything you like.
The difference with Dispatch is you don’t have to know where the product you want is sold, or even what it is – you can ask them for “the shoes in the advert near Old Street station” or “a dress like the one in this photo.” They can’t guarantee they’ll nail it, obviously, but it’s cool that a service like this exists.
In my case, it was New Year’s Day, I was in my pyjamas, and my scented candle was running low. I suddenly really wanted a giant Yankee Candle jar like I saw at my sister’s house at Christmas, and in my post-NYE foetal state I couldn’t face going outside to forage for one. Also, it was a bank holiday and all the shops near my house were shut, if they even sold stuff like that.
I’d been waiting for the right challenge to set Dispatch, and this seemed like it. A stupid first-world problem on a national holiday. Would Dispatch even be ‘open’, so to speak? The app and website gave no indication other than to say they’re “available across London from 10am to 10pm” so I gave it a shot.
The app works just like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or [your preferred IM client here]. When you open it, you get an instant greeting: “Hi, welcome to Dispatch. What would you like to buy today?”
Clearly, this wasn’t sent by a real person, so I was skeptical. I replied “I would like to buy a Yankee Candle” – and then waited. There’s no way to tell if someone’s there (double ticks would be useful) and it seems if you switch away from the app, it disconnects: when I reopened to see if anyone had replied, it said “Connected,” implying I wasn’t before.
14 minutes after my message, I got a reply! But would they just say “it’s New Year’s Day, go back to bed, you daft clownshoe”?
They did not.
Two to three hours! Amazing.
Next, they confirmed the order (they even managed to find the Vanilla Cupcake scent I mentioned – no knockoff Wankee Candles here) including a breakdown of charges:
The candle itself was just under £22 (yep, there’s a lot of money in jars of olfactory wax), delivery was £6.57, and there was a £1.43 service charge. So in total, the charge for getting someone to research, find, buy, and hand-deliver the exact item I wanted in 2 hours on New Year’s actual Day was £8.
I think that’s pretty good.
You confirm you’re happy with pricing and charges before anything goes ahead, so if that’s a bit steep for the thing you were after (it’d probably be too much for ice cream, for instance – though still cheaper than me ordering a 12-inch stuffed crust margherita just to hit the delivery minimum), you can just say “no thanks” and not get charged. But if you’d bung your housemate a tenner to go and fetch what you’re craving, this is probably cheaper and doesn’t involve so much arm-twisting.
So did I get my candle?
I DID. It’s so sweet-smelling that three teeth fell out when I lit it, and I love it very much.
Dispatch is not a service you’re likely to make use of often (unless you’re a forgetful millionaire) but it’s great to know that if your trousers split at midday, something exists that can rush you some non-obscene ones. Or that someone will actually try and find those trainers you saw on Pinterest. Or just that if you really, really need a jar of overpriced smellwax to cheer you up, there’s an app for that.
Dispatch is available across London (and further afield if you’re willing to pay for it). Costs vary depending on what you’re asking for, when, where and so on. It’s free on Android and iOS, and if you try to Google it you’ll get an email app, so here’s the website.