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Shopping return startup launches in time for holidays

Mark Parker



David Mauerer, founder of Convee, a local startup that provides item return services. Photo provided.

David Maurer came up with the idea for Convee – a mobile application meant to alleviate the hassle of returning goods – due to stressful personal experiences.

As a busy father of two young children in charge of handling his family’s shopping returns, he was all too familiar with the time and effort required to load the kids up and make a trip across town to the store or a UPS outlet. Online providers like Amazon will typically send a courier to pick up a return, provided it is properly boxed and labeled.

“It was so painful,” said Maurer. “Especially when I had to print the label, and if the printer was out of ink – it was just so time-consuming. I thought, ‘man, it would be great if I could just leave this outside, and the driver or someone could do my return for me.’”

So Maurer and his team created a mobile application to do just that. They opened a beta version of the platform to friends and family in September and launched Convee – short for convenience – to the public last month.

While Maurer, a Palm Harbor resident, wants to take a measured approach to growth, he relayed that early feedback is “very encouraging.” The service first became available in St. Petersburg and Pinellas County and is now available in Tampa and throughout Hillsborough County.

“It’s a pain point that so many people identify with,” said Maurer.

The process is straightforward. Customers can use the desktop version or download the mobile app, now available on Google Play and Apple Stores, and then answer a few questions.

The platform asks users if they have printed receipts and an emailed label and if the return needs to go to the store, UPS or the post office. The last step is setting up a time and place for the driver to pick up the item.

“You can leave it by your front door if you don’t mind,” said Maurer. “If it’s a more valuable item, you could say, ‘hey, I’d actually like to hand it to the driver, and here are the time slots that work for me.’”

That is a noticeable difference from Amazon returns, as a customer is typically required to be home during a mandated time frame. Maurer explained that once a driver picks up the return, Convee provides notifications through each step of the return process.

He relayed that in-store returns comprise about 50% of Convee’s business, followed by Amazon at 30% and other online providers making up the remaining 20%. Most stores, said Maurer, allow the platform’s drivers to make the return and refund the cost to the customer’s credit or debit cards.

Some will not, and he said Convee securely sends the user a gift card in those instances.

“We’ll handle all of the aspects of it,” said Maurer. “If you don’t have a box, it’s OK. If you don’t have a printed label – we’ll still handle this return for you.”

Unlike ridesharing or delivery apps, Convee utilizes its internal team rather than third-party drivers due to the cost. To make the platform’s inaugural holiday season “simple and affordable,” Maurer said users pay a $6 flat fee for the service, regardless of where they live in Pinellas or Hillsborough.

He said that the flat fee would remain through January, but the startup may transition to dynamic pricing based on distance by February or March. Maurer noted that many people are downloading the Convee app and creating accounts in anticipation of future returns.

“We are increasing the amount of users dramatically over the last week and the number of returns we’ve picked up,” he added. “I predict that will continue to go through the holiday season, and then January is statistically the biggest month for returns.”

As far as Maurer knows, Convee is the nation’s only “all-in-one” online and in-store return service. He said his team is comfortably bootstrapping the startup for now and will further prove its business model before actively courting investors.

The plan, explained Maurer, is to perfect operations and focus on customer acquisition through the holiday season and then work on additional funding opportunities. While he noted that Convee operates in a “pretty wide territory” and expects to stay regional through a portion of 2023, the ultimate goal is expansion.

“We don’t want to bite off more than we can chew, and work out all the kinks locally,” said Maurer. “And then move on to the next city that makes sense. Which, honestly, will probably be Miami. But the goal is to offer the service nationwide.”


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