Good news: the sharing economy has now expanded to grandmas.
To promote its video-sharing service, a company called KeepTree is dispatching (with chaperones) grandmothers to offices around New York City today, where they will give you hugs, advice, and the option to record the encounter and send it to your mother on Mother's Day. Nothing says "Happy Mother's Day" quite like receiving a video of your child hugging a strange woman who isn't you. Whom they just met. At their office.
As KeepTree general manager Brody Ehrlich describes it:
"If your mother is really far away, you can record videos with the grandma and send them to your mother, and say like, 'Happy Mother's Day, I know that we're far apart right now, but I replaced you with this grandma. Hopefully she can stand in until the next time I see you.'"
KeepTree selected its pool of grandmothers from 65 respondents to an ad posted on Craigslist, 15 of whom had to do an interview at a Starbucks that included a trial hug. Four made the initial cut, but apparently demand is so high (30-to-40 people have ordered the service-some as a joke, some in earnest, some out of pity for their coworkers) that KeepTree doubled its granny offering.
The original Craigslist ad called for grandmothers from ages 50 to 80 and above. It was taken down, but based on a copy provided by KeepTree, the description seems preemptively designed to keep out grannies of the exhibitionist and shit-talking persuasions.
Need grandmothers to participate in an improv engagement, which will help spread Mother's Day cheer through hugs, high fives and other gestures of endearment. Nudity will be prohibited. Please keep all conversations/interactions G-rated. Grandmas must be mobile and in physical condition to travel around NYC. Grandmas must also be open to hug recipient, who may record short videos/take photos, which could be included in print, online or broadcast stories. Must give good hugs.
Renee McDonald, who does PR for KeepTree and co-wrote the ad, said she expected people to be wholesome, but you have to "dot your i's and cross your t's" with Craigslist. Anything weird they received was more along the lines of "quirky endearments," like grandmothers who were just a wee bit too enthused and wanted to hug right away.
Alessandra "Alix" Caffuzzi, 52, is one of the eight grannies on demand who beat 57 other applicants for the coveted (and compensated) position. Of KeepTree's four grandma archetypes, she said she would be "the talker, except for the fact that I'm not a braggart," so instead is "definitely the techno one," or what KeepTree deems the Insta-Grandma.
"I'm the only hugger in between my siblings and my parents," Caffuzi said.
"Instinctively, I read someone. I mean, some people don't like to be hugged or hugged so fast. My style is very personalized to the subject, but this is just all in split second. But certainly, if I know somebody ... I will definitely put both arms around and put cheek to cheek. If it's a new friend ... I definitely would put my arm around them-one arm though, and sort of pull them close to me. If they show they want a full hug, then I will. At the very least, I'm inclusive, putting someone's arm around my shoulder like you're one of me, you're one of us, whoever us is. I'm definitely the hugging type. Because of that, I stay aware of those that don't want so abruptly to be hugged."
It's pretty clear why Caffuzzi slayed the competition. She can cheer people up after talking for five minutes. And she isn't really into "sappy holidays" like Mother's Day, but wanted to "share that grandmotherly way" with people regardless.
"I'm the honorary grandmother to a lot of people," Caffuzzi said.