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Hate shopping? Scratch’s personal shoppers do the work for you, for free

This weekend, I started Googling around for bar stools. I recently received a high table from a friend who didn’t have room for it in his apartment, and my regular chairs make sitting at it an Alice in Wonderland-like experience, like I’ve shrunk after eating a teacake. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, because I’d find a style I liked from a roundup of cool bar stools on design sites, only to find they were no longer available or the price had increased.

Therefore, I was interested to try out Scratch, a free, invite-only service that pairs buyers with their own personal shoppers. Using the mobile or Web app, users can ask for help finding home décor items, gifts, or clothes. The experts receive the request and can chat back asking for further clarifications, then they’ll start searching for you.

Once they find some matches, you can buy through Scratch. “It’s just like buying directly from a retailer,” the company promises, so they won’t tack on a finder’s fee. There’s also a price guarantee, so if you find the same item priced lower within 30 days, you’ll get a credit for the difference. Initially, Scratch was going to charge users for the service, but decided to make it free instead. “We make money by taking a percentage of the retail price from brands and retailers with which have have partnerships,” CEO and founder Matt Zisow tells Digital Trends. “We have a few hundred of these partnerships in place already, and we plan to expand our brand partner network significantly over time.”

He adds that site’s experts won’t push the company’s brands over others but instead will strive to be unbiased and simply choose the best fit for the user. “With this business model, the key is to build up a big, loyal customer base that uses us a lot,” he says. “The more purchase volume we have flowing through our platform, the better our service gets, and the better brand partners we’ll be able to attract.”

Related: Shopping for a sofa? This app will let you see it in 3D inside your house

Scratch Expert Shopper AppRight now, there are six in-house experts, as well as a few dozen outside experts who tackle special requests. I was testing out a beta version of the service, but the shoppers were really responsive. I made my bar stool request, as well as one for a bookshelf, and two separate shoppers answered me within 10 minutes, asking for a few more details, like how many bookshelves I wanted and what height stools I wanted. I asked around noon Pacific Time, and they promised to get back to me the same evening. Zisow says customers can expect their first round of suggestions within four to six hours of a request, as long as it was made between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

An hour and a half after my bookshelf request, my shopper had sent four bookshelf options in different styles and under or just above my price point. She also included comments about the shelves and a note explaining her choices overall. My four bar stool recommendations came in in under an hour, all within my budget. There was a share button next to each choice, so it was easy enough to email around for a second opinion. Four options doesn’t give you much choice, but it is a jumping off point. I at least knew that I didn’t want red stools with a rounded back, for example, and could presumably have given my shopper some feedback to get closer to the mark on the next round.

The experts also create lists of products on the site, making suggestions for host gifts, home office supplies, and bedroom makeovers. The roundups give you a little more insight into who the experts are and what their idea of style is.