alexandra alger

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GoButler, Chapter 2

Update on GoButler, the free text-based butler service I joined a few weeks back:

If you read my original post, you know that I was put on a waiting list for my “butler.” Eleven days later, I got a cheery text: “Hi and welcome to GoButler! 🙂 I’m Ian—what can I help you with today? I can order food, make reservations, book travel…whatever you need!”

Naturally, I sent back a cheery hello and a I’ll be in touch soon. Funny thing was, with my husband’s birthday out of the way (it was a big success—I’m off the hook for another year), I couldn’t think of a task for Ian. Order groceries for delivery? Giving a list to Ian to give to some delivery service is more work than my doing it myself (Freshdirect couldn’t be easier). Order take out? I suppose I could say, “Ian—one order of Massaman curry, thanks!” but that would go against the grain. Like many New Yorkers, I have my usual places I order from; I don’t want curry from just anywhere. I suppose I could ask Ian (Eloise-like), “Please order me Massaman curry from Café Chili on Court Street, thank you very much!” But….am I really so busy that I can’t call Café Chili myself? Honestly, I’m not too busy to call myself.

So I didn’t contact Ian right away. A few days went by. He must’ve guessed I was at a loss. Or maybe he just needed something to do. He sent this: “It’s Wine Wednesday—let GoButler get you some nice old grape juice, some cheese, and help you unwind. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll get started! :)”

I was charmed by his idea—wine and cheese! I happened to be in St. Louis last Wednesday night, but I suggested I might order some wine for Friday night. A rosé, for toasting the final days of summer.

But what bottle, exactly? This would not be an issue if I were stopping by the neighborhood wine shop. I’d swiftly choose a bottle in the quasi-random way I usually do. I could’ve asked Ian for advice, but that seemed risky. I suggested a Sancerre rosé, about twenty bucks, which I remembered having earlier in the summer and liking.

I asked where Ian was going to shop for the wine, and he told me GoButler used an online service called MiniBar that checked pricing and availability in stores around me. So far so good, but then guess what—Ian informed me that Minibar had a minimum of $25 for a delivery.

Ha! There it was, the catch: If you want your butler to order you wine, you gotta spend at least $25. I couldn’t offhand think of a $25 bottle of wine, so I added an Albariño to my order. Total spent on my GoButler experiment: $40 (which I paid through a link GoButler sent me, connecting me to PayPal).

The wines were really nice. I suppose I could see myself texting Ian some Friday to send over another bottle of that rosé. But I think I’m much more likely to stop by my local wine shop.

It seems clear that for GoButler to succeed, people like me have to order frequently and spend more money than they might otherwise spend. I may not be the ideal client, but Ian may get a bit of work from me yet. I wonder if he knows who gives the cheapest facials in the ‘hood?

Oh, Jeeves….

I know there are all kinds of apps out there that will do almost anything for you, but I’ve never gotten on the bandwagon until now. GoButler (gobutler.com) is text-based and free. You sign up on the website—by which I mean, you type in your cell phone number—and you’re on the way to getting your own Jeeves. For the cost of whatever it is that you ask for, your butler will deliver sushi, make dinner reservations, find theater tickets, arrange travel, and, theoretically, do anything you ask, as long as it’s legal. (The website specifically mentions this. Think how big GoButler’s pot-delivery business will eventually be!)
My daughter, Vanessa, is the one who discovered GoButler a few days ago, and when she told me about it I understood in a flash we urgently needed a butler. Why? My husband’s birthday is coming up. He’s one of those guys who actually buys stuff for himself. Clothes. Gadgets. Shoes. Underwear. (Really nice underwear, too.) But he also happens to love presents, especially on his birthday. You can see where such a situation leaves me: First, in a state of denial, which leads to lengthy procrastination. Then panic, and a burst of random shopping a few days before the birthday, August 18, ending in the purchase of the first nice shirt I find. This year, I’ve managed to find a short-sleeved button-down with a cool gray water pattern—perfect for casual Fridays, yes?—and a sophisticated navy button-down that was frankly a panic buy, but he really could use a navy shirt, I’m sure of it.
But when Vanessa looked up for her computer with the news about five-month-old GoButler, and its phalanx of eager-to-please, one-text-away personal assistants, I saw a game-changer. I imagined Dan, thrilled beyond measure at receiving a fantastic birthday present; a present I didn’t have to find. “I could ask for three suggestions for cool gadgets for a fifty-year-old who thinks he’s a hip thirty-year-old,” I said happily.
“And they could tell me what I could get him for under forty dollars,” Vanessa added.
She signed up immediately; I figured there was no need to be greedy; we could share a Jeeves. And that’s when we learned the catch: The service is so popular there’s a waiting list.
Rats.
I see the silver lining, and it’s a thick, bright thing: If Vanessa is assigned a butler sometime this fall, I can get him or her working on Christmas-gift ideas.
A terrible thought just came to me: Is it possible coming up with gift ideas isn’t on the list of butler services? Say it ain’t so!

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