Have you dreaded making a run for essentials in the past few weeks, not out of fear of contracting COVID-19, but because you're worried you’ll find a line-up rivalling that for a Disneyland ride standing in between you and your shopping list?
If so, fear not: a new website launched by a pair of Vancouver entrepreneurs is working to make sure long lineups for essential services don’t take you by surprise ever again.
Co-founded by Mae Woods, who works in marketing, and software engineer Pan Khandtidhara, Howbsy.com (“How busy, but without the u,” explained Woods) shows its users the current wait times at a wide range of local establishments.
The idea for the website came about while Khantidara was speaking with her mom. She was frustrated after waiting in a long line and suggested that her daughter might be able to create a platform to share wait times and help ease the frustration.
After bringing the idea to an eager Woods, Khantidara built the website in only five days.
Now, one week since its launch, the duo has already seen over 20,000 people visit the site, ranging from about 3,000 to 5,000 users daily.
The website runs off of crowd-sourced data, offering its users the ability to update wait times based off of their experiences at grocery stores, banks, liquor stores, pharmacies, hardware stores and recycling depots across Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Users can either post their estimated wait times, or the number of people they currently see standing in line.
However, “the most popular store is Costco by far,” said Woods with a laugh. “I don't think it's a surprise.”
Woods said that since neither her nor Khandtidhara's professions put them on the frontlines of the pandemic, “we wanted to band together and said, ‘How could we use our skills and help right now?'
"Howbsy.com is kind of what we came up with at the end," she explained.
While the site’s founders are currently looking to expand the service to other regions in Alberta and Ontario, Woods said they’re also working on a second project that could transition Howbsy.com’s momentum into a way of helping restaurants struggling to get back on their feet, once physical distancing measures begin to ease.