Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

From Takeout To Breakups: Apps Can Deliver Anything, For A Price

On-demand delivery apps like Purple, which promises a full tank of gas in an hour, are proliferating in the tech market.
Jun Tsuboike
On-demand delivery apps like Purple, which promises a full tank of gas in an hour, are proliferating in the tech market.

No task is too small, no craving too diminutive to outsource to a smartphone app. The world is literally at our fingertips.

And here's a new pitch.

In a rush? Don't have the time to swing by a gas station on your way home from work?

The startup app Purple promises to fill up your tank for you. Just download the app, press a button, and presto! In an hour — or three — a Purple employee, clad in a purple t-shirt, will fill up your car. You'll get 10 to 15 gallons of gas at the price that Purple says would be similar to gas rates in your neighborhood. (Purple's first two markets are Los Angeles and San Diego.)

For now, the company isn't even charging a delivery fee, expect the nominal $1 for a rush service within one hour. All you have to do is make your tank available.

Purple is backed by millions of dollars in seed financing — meant to support the business until it can generate cash on its own. Uber co-founder Oscar Salazar is one of the backers. And with Americans using an average of 374.7 million gallons of gas a day, there's definitely demand for a full tank. Other companies, like Filld and FuelMe, are using apps to deliver fuel on demand and simplify consumers' experience at the pump.

But as The New York Times reports, there's a hidden cost to all the instant-delivery apps swarming to your smartphones.

Any time there's a middleman connecting consumers with a product, there are bound to be service charges. Different apps handle it differently. Some, like grocery delivery service Instacart, are opaque about these extra charges and where exactly they're coming from. Others, like deliver-anything company Postmates, have service charges that fluctuate, The Times reported.

Both of those companies focus perhaps on the most familiar delivery concept — food. But delivery apps venture much further than that — and we were curious to explore just how far. Here are a few of the zaniest we could find (though we have not tested and don't endorse them).

Washio: Who has time for laundry?

24-hour turnaround for laundry and dry cleaning — and a cookie with every delivery?

Saucey: It's 5 p.m. somewhere

Alcohol delivery, within the hour. The company says, "staying in ... just got easier."

Zeel: Relaxation with the touch of a button

Got a kink in your neck after a long day at work? Download this app for massage on demand — complete with the table. Spa music and incense not included.

Eaze: Medical marijuana on demand

If you live in California, have a medical marijuana recommendation and are over 18, you're in luck. Jimmy Kimmel joked, "whoever pairs this with a pizza delivery app will probably get the Nobel Prize."

Somebody: Send a stranger to say "I love you"

If you can't be there to utter a sentiment in person, send someone else in the area to do it for you. After the Reply All podcast produced an episode on the app — telling the story of a girl who used Somebody to tell her ex she still loved him from across the country — examples of similar stories abounded.

Someone even used the app to propose.

The Breakup Shop: End your relationship — with a rush order

A Canadian app is offering to do your relationship dirty work for you. Feeling generous? For $80, send a "breakup gift pack." For those on a shoestring budget, the app also has a $5 option — breaking up via a Snapchat message.

It just goes to show that for every unpleasant thing you have to do, there's probably an app that will do it for you.

Kylie Mohr is a digital news intern at

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Kylie Mohr