Call it Uber for snowplowing: A new smartphone app made available in Anchorage this week promises to arrange, estimate and take payment for snowplowing.
Customers use an iPhone or Android app to request a plow and estimate the cost for the job, and they are charged only after the job has been completed by a local plow truck -- a picture is sent to each customer to confirm the job's completion. The app automatically charges the fees to a credit card.
Plowz & Mowz was created by a pair of New York state residents, Wills Mahoney and Andrew Englander.
"I got the idea because we had a pretty big snowstorm in Syracuse (in 2012), and my mom need a snowplow because she couldn't get out of her driveway," Mahoney said. "I tried calling snowplow companies, but no one would pick up their phone."
During snowstorms, plow companies are concentrating on plowing. Mahoney said their phone lines are often so busy during a big dump of snow that it is impossible to get ahold of them. Plowz & Mowz solves that problem, Mahoney said, and even makes it easier for snowplow companies to efficiently clear the way because they can simply take orders for work within the same neighborhoods where they are already working, saving time and money and keeping the plows busy.
The Plowz & Mowz app went live in Anchorage, its 30th city, on Tuesday, and it now has more than 30 available Anchorage-area snowplow providers, according to Mahoney. The app automatically selects the nearest plow truck and, unlike Uber, currently locked in a stalemate with municipal officials and the local taxi industry, Plowz & Mowz is being embraced by some Anchorage-area plow and landscaping companies because of its simplicity and its potential for bringing in customers. It also handles all the payments and charges.
"With them taking care of the customers, it gives us more time to focus on actually plowing and not having to track down payments," said Andrew Jones, whose company, 907 Plow Kingz, is participating in the Plowz & Mowz launch in Anchorage.
Mahoney claims, and Jones confirmed, that Plowz & Mowz providers are required to have a minimum of $500,000 in liability insurance, although most have as much as $1 million in coverage. Mahoney said his company prefers to work with established providers.
"That's really important because you don't want to have someone that is not very experienced with a big heavy plow on their truck," Mahoney said. "We go on the Better Business Bureau and other rating websites to check drivers."
Mahoney said that, as with Uber, plowers are rated after each job. If a Plowz & Mowz driver gets consistently poor ratings, he or she will be kicked off the service.
Also, Mahoney said, his company keeps a call center open 24 hours per day throughout the year to help customers with questions or problems. The app also schedules lawn maintenance during the summer. And Anchorage, according to the app's creators, is a fertile market, both summer and winter.
"We started doing some advertising on social media in Anchorage, and we got a ton of signups," Mahoney said.
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