Sunday April 12, 2020 |Notes

An emerging gray market enabled by digital economy

There's a 'gray market' developing among local businesses in many areas. Officially, businesses are closed; doors are locked and store signs are indefinitely left on the 'closed' side.

However, many businesses are open on a will-call business. Need a bike repair? iPhone fix? It's still possible with a text or an email after a few searches. And it's certainly hard to argue that these aren't legitimate "essential" services nor more harmful than the local Peets coffee shop that serves dozens of customers each day.

Based on my observations, there's a lot more activity in the commercial areas near me - and not in an obviously unsafe manner. On Saturday, I visited my 'bike guy' where I've serviced my bikes and picked up a few used bikes over the last few years. He was overwhelmed with business - enough that he had sold all the bikes we had discussed via text on Wednesday. With most shops officially closed, he's been an outlet for people looking to get out on a bike while otherwise at staying at home.

Expect to see a pickup in these 'gray market' activities, where contact discovery online (google, yelp, etc), transactions are contactless (venmo, appplepay, etc), and physical transaction is set via text/email/app for quick exchange of goods only. This could go a long way to helping people get back to work now - and be a model for businesses less reliant on physical storefront space in the future.

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