One Saturday in August, Selim Nurmuhammedov lined up at DO, the buzzy Greenwich Village sweet-shop that draws huge crowds for its unbaked cookie dough. Along with 70 or so hungry customers, the 23-year-old waited for more than an hour — but upon reaching the front of the line, walked away without even buying the coveted dessert.
As it turns out, Nurmuhammedov was on line for a different kind of dough. In exchange for waiting, he was paid $25 through a new app called Placer, which allows people to hire line-sitters for entry to the city’s buzziest eateries, stores and shows.
Launched in June and available only in NYC right now, the app connects line-averse “Jumpers” (who pay to jump out of line) with “Placers” (who charge a fee to stand in their place). So far, it’s been a hit with convenience-loving city dwellers and tourists, long accustomed to outsourcing everything from laundry to grocery shopping.
For line-sitters such as Nurmuhammedov — who has completed two jobs with Placer since signing up when the app launched — the app offers a painless way to score some extra cash. At DO, he passed the time by chatting on the phone with his girlfriend.
‘It was actually a nice experience because I met some interesting people.’
He also tried the dough samples that employees distributed to patient customers and admits he wouldn’t have waited around for a full serving if he weren’t being paid.
“One hour just to get some kind of dessert is ridiculous,” says the Bronx resident, who also works as a deliveryman. “People make money out of anything these days” — including just standing around.
Here’s how it works: Line-sitters receive a mobile alert when a nearby job is available and are prompted to set their rate. Jumpers then can select a Placer based on the bid and user ratings. The chosen Placer waits on line and alerts the user when they he or she is near the front. At that point, the Jumper arrives, and the Placer is dismissed. Mission accomplished.
Placers earn an average of $45 per job, says founder and CEO Dan Filmer, who is based in Australia. To date, about 1,800 people have downloaded the app, which includes 366 line-sitters working in the five boroughs.
Anyone interested in hiring a Placer should consider calling the venue ahead of time and finding out if the wait is worth the fee, users say. Midtown resident Jacques Beim was dispatched to Dominique Ansel Bakery on a weekday afternoon in July to stand on the shop’s legendary Cronut line — and found hardly anybody there. Beim waited for five minutes and walked away $30 richer.
“The [client] said he was kind of disappointed, but since I actually went out there and did the job, there was nothing he could do [about it],” says Beim, a 44-year-old deliveryman who has completed two jobs for Placer.
With the app still in its early stages, some line-sitters say gigs are too few and far between.
Brandon Albuquerque had been hoping to earn enough to make a dent in his college tab — he recently completed a degree in auto mechanics — but so far hasn’t finished a gig.
“[Placer] gave me a shirt and a hat, and I’ve been waiting for someone to message me,” says the 19-year-old Bronx resident.
One gig in Brooklyn fell through when the Jumper canceled on him about an hour before the appointed time. He says he’s had better luck with friends hiring him to wait on lines for $10 to $20 a pop.
Filmer says his team is working on an update that will enable Placers to purchase goods on Jumpers’ behalf, then deliver them to the Jumper directly. The hope is that this will cut down on cancellations from users who are too lazy to even cut a line.
‘I do feel slightly guilty having someone wait in line for me — a tad privileged.’
Edward Sabin, a 50-year-old Los Angeles resident, happily followed through on his Placer request during a visit to New York last month. He hired a line-sitter to stand in the cancellation queue for a “Dear Evan Hansen” matinee so that he and his 22-year-old son could sleep in and enjoy breakfast.
Their Placer, a 26-year-old nanny named Danicka Sutherland, didn’t mind the three-hour wait for tickets. “It was actually a nice experience because I met some interesting people,” says the Jersey City, NJ, resident, who earned $30. It helped that Sabin and his son surprised Sutherland with coffee and a muffin when they arrived to relieve her.
“I do feel slightly guilty having someone wait in line for me — a tad privileged,” Sabin says. “But if there are people happy to do it and get paid, it’s an efficient tool.”
Lucrative NYC lines
Passport offices: A rep for Placer says that long lines for travel documents are a brisk place of business for city users.
Shake Shack: At the packed Theater District location, many Placer users are too hungry to wait for their own burgers.
Madison Square Garden: Instead of lining up for Knicks tickets, some sports fans use Placer so they can pregame at bars nearby.
Empire State Building: Tourists leery of long waits to visit the Observation Deck are now building Placer into their travel budgets.
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