NEW YORK – Forty-eight hours after Hurricane Sandy knocked out the power to more than 250,000 households in Lower Manhattan, Benjamin Lewis put up an ad on Craigslist. "Need power?" he wrote. "I run a professional pet sitting service and have some extra time tomorrow. I have power, and will bike to a location and charge your electronics."
By the next morning (Nov. 1), two people had contacted him. Over the course of the day, he biked more than 48 blocks and climbed 82 flights of stairs to fetch his two customers' electronics, recharge them at a friend's apartment uptown and return them, he said.
He earned $100 from each. "I mean, I was definitely overpricing it a little bit," Lewis told TechNewsDaily. "I was pricing in the stairs."
Amid news photos of young people charging their devices at public schools, Starbucks and Chase banks, Lewis' makeshift business provided a reminder that there are some who can't make the trek to north of 40th Street, where the power stayed on. One of Lewis' customers was an elderly man who lived on the 15th floor of a building whose elevator did not have power. The other was a woman with young children living on the 26th floor of a powered-down building.
Lewis' success also shows that even in tough times, those who can afford it like a little luxury. One of his friends ribbed him about making people pay for charging their phones in a time of need, but Lewis said: "They have money. I could tell by their furniture. I don't feel guilty about this."
In the case of the elderly man, it was actually the man's daughter who contacted Lewis. She wanted someone to check in on her dad and to charge his DVD player so he could enjoy a movie, Lewis said. "I guess it's like sending a Hallmark card," he said. "Or a singing telegram."
The woman with children wanted her devices charged to entertain her kids, one an infant and another 4 years old. "I guess it doesn't seem like something you call up a friend to do, because it seems kind of extravagant," Lewis said. "You could ask a friend to bring you water or food," but charging devices seems different, he said.
The mother wanted Lewis to charge her 4-year-old's Gameboy, a DVD player, an iPad, an iPhone and a MacBook laptop, Lewis recalled. When he took the devices away, he gave her $400 in cash as a security "deposit." He got it back when he returned, he said.
After a few days trapped indoors, he appreciated his extensive bike tour of the darkened city. "I felt so mobile on a bike," he said.
He thought about putting up the ad again today (Nov. 2) but was too tired. "My legs are sore," he said.
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