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Spoofy Poop Startup Claims to Have a Fix for San Francisco’s Nastiest Problem

The next big sharing-economy idea or a load of unicorn crap?

 

It's well known that San Francisco has a serious sidewalk poop problem. What if the sharing economy could come to the rescue? It just might, if the supposedly in-beta app Pooper—an on-demand service that sends paid scoopers out to geolocate the remains of Fido’s last meal—is for real. In the very wink-heavy video announcing the service, a scooper arrives in an Uber-style black car, complete with a poo-emoji-style logo where the Uber “U” would be. The gag is clear: It’s like Uber. For poop.

While Pooper may not be sweeping next year's Crunchies, we wanted to be absolutely sure, so we sent an inquiry to the email address behind the app. Lo and behold, this morning the phone rang: “Hi, this is Ben…from Pooper?” says cofounder Ben Becker, with some hesitation. 

Asked how it feels to identify himself as “Ben from Pooper,” he recovers: “It feels great. We’ve been contacted by a lot of people curious about the service who want to get their hands on it.” According to Becker, who started Pooper with collaborator Elliot Glass, “the amount of people who have signed up to be both poopers and scoopers is in the hundreds now.” The three cities in beta are San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York, says Becker, who lives in Venice and works as an advertising creative director.

The not-so-subtle Pooper logo.

Given that line of work—and Glass’s as a web designer—Pooper certainly does feel more like a, well, load of crap than the next big sharing-economy service. Becker won’t say, for instance, which VCs they’ve pitched the app to, but he insists they’re for real: “There’s been a mixture of excitement and skepticism given the levity and the tone that comes with an app dealing with dog poop, and we decided to embrace that and use it as our launching pad.”

Becker won't elaborate on how much scoopers will be paid, but says that deciding factors will include distance, time of day or night, the scooper’s mode of transport, and the competition from other scoopers in the area. For poopers, there’s a Netflix-style tiered-rate structure ranging from $15/month for two scoops a day in a 15-mile radius all the way up to $35/month for the unlimited "Pooper Elite" plan. 

So, what’s to stop a scooper from flaking out and collecting the fee but never showing up? A turd, after all, isn’t like an Uber passenger—it can’t give a scooper a bad rating. Becker says the whole transaction gets verified via photos: The pooper requests a scoop by sending a photo and a geotag, and the scooper confirms the completion of the task with a photo of his own. And, just like that, legions of people have been persuaded to go around with smartphones full of real-live poo emoji. “That sounds awesome,” Becker says when we relay that image to him. “That’d be the dream.”

But what of San Francisco’s very real problem of human waste lying out in the open? Would scoopers take care of that, too? “That is a gray zone,” acknowledges Becker. “We’re trying to have a singular message around dog poop,” he says, but “yes, you could in fact report other fecal matter and have that picked up, whether human or cat or what have you.” As long as you’re willing to pay for it.

 

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