posted on April 21st, 2020

How All-Star Host Saimah C. is mobilizing to support COVID fighters

In the throes of troubled times, people can feel powerless — powerless to affect the change we yearn for, especially when the most action most of us can contribute is inaction. However, the brightest spots in dark times are often stories of collaboration, resilience, and shifting our perspectives to find constructive ways to contribute. A couple weeks ago Bill H., a Detroit-area All-Star Host, shared his story of endeavoring to support his hard-hit community by discounting his cars for essential workers, and now Saimah C., longtime Turo host and self-made car sharing queen of YouTube renown, is stepping up to do her part. 

Yearning to contribute

With the shockwaves of the coronavirus reverberating throughout her native LA, Saimah was frustrated by the general inability to take action. “There’s only so much you can do to try to turn a profit — this situation is only going to be resolved with time,” she reflected. “So what are we going to do in the meantime? What can we do?” Taking inspiration from local businesses springing into action, she wondered if she could somehow offer her services to first responders who may need a car.

So she took to her network — she has a popular YouTube channel, Saimah’s Experience, where she shares her experiences and insights as a Turo host — and put out feelers to gauge interest with her fellow hosts. “This is an opportunity for us to use the resources that we have as hosts; otherwise your cars are just going to sit there. So I wanted to see if people would be interested in offering rock-bottom prices — $10 is the lowest we can go — and just putting their cars out there for first responders,” she says. 

With an “overwhelming response”, she and a collective of hosts across the country started advertising the $10-per-day price for verified essential workers in their listings, and have been finding organic, grassroots success.

Equipping a traveling RN with a 4 Series

Currently, she has a resident nurse who flew in from Hawaii to help out at an ICU in Riverside, “which has been hit pretty hard by COVID-19,” she shares. The RN was taking Ubers to get around, but she started feeling uncomfortable with the close proximity to people combined with the sensitive nature of her work. So she found Saimah on Turo, booked her BMW 4 Series for the low, low price of $10 per day, and she’s continued to extend her booking for two weeks now as she continues to work the front lines at the ICU. “I just want to thank you so much for this,” she wrote to Saimah. “This means so much to me because Uber has been getting a little rough. I’m filled with gratitude.”

And what’s more, “it’s not just any car, it’s a nice car, a car you can enjoy and feel safe in, and it can make you feel better about what you’re doing,” Saimah notes, suggesting that adding a bit of luxury can go a long way in times of stress.

In addition to the Hawaiian RN, Saimah’s hosted a lab tech who works at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital in LA, as well as a grocery worker who needed to get around. 

Tips to adjust car sharing practices to a post-coronavirus world

A seasoned business woman, Saimah knows the importance of adjusting with a changing market. Here are her top tips for hosts wanting to support their local communities.

1. Offer rock-bottom prices to medical workers & support local trips

As mentioned above, the lowest daily price hosts can set is $10, so Saimah recommends that hosts advertise the offer in their listings to serve this community of workers. Be sure to ask for a photo of their medical ID to ensure they are who they say they are before providing the discount.

In addition to first responders, she’s noticed her current customers are mostly locals who need reliable access to a car for whatever reason. Some shared that their cars were in the shop prior to lockdown, so now they’re locked away in shuttered garages across southern California. So to serve these guests, optimize your listing for local trips by lowering your lead time, offering “Book instantly”, and offering remote access via lockbox or Turo Go remote unlocking technology (available only in California currently).

2. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.

A self-proclaimed germaphobe by nature, Saimah’s always been a stickler for cleanliness. But especially now, and considering many of her customers are on the frontlines of the COVID war, sanitization is of the essence.

And Saimah really goes for it — “Mask on, gloves on, I take a towel and sanitizer spray and really thoroughly wipe down everything,” including frequently touched surfaces, like the  “shifter, keys, steering wheel, door handles, radio dial, visors…” and the list goes on. She then closes the car up and lets it sit for a day or so, letting the disinfectant sink in and work its magic. She takes the car to the car wash, and then sanitizes the frequently touched surfaces again — for good measure — before handing over her keys to her next guests. “I double, triple check that I just wipe down everything,” acknowledging that her slight OCD tendency is really finding its place in today’s world. “I just couldn’t stand it if someone got sick from one of my cars,” so she takes her sanitization methods extremely seriously.

3. Shift your mindset

With gloom and doom tinting the headlines, “it’s really easy to only look at the negative and get stuck in that mindset,” she reflects. “But if you can change that mindset and look at it like, hey, I still have a resource that I can offer and hopefully help somebody else out who needs more help right now, it shifts your mindset that you’re at least doing something positive.”

“Things are different now,” she notes. “It’s no longer about meeting your guests — which used to be my favorite part! Now what people really value is the reassurance that it’s contactless — I’ve switched all my cars over to Turo Go to make everyone feel comfortable and to not have to worry about the human interaction of it. That’s probably been the biggest way that I’ve reframed the business.” But despite the lack of physical interaction, she continues to emphasize customer service, using messaging to check in with her guests, answer questions 24/7, and continue to provide an outstanding, supportive experience, albeit remotely. 

Also, leveraging her skillset as a pro vlogger, she’s taken to creating little video walkthroughs of her cars to share with her guests, so they’re still supported and in-the-know, but from afar. “Little things like, how to take the top off the Corvette, or answering any questions that may come up” so they don’t feel alone, but do feel safe and distanced.

A continued call to action

Saimah is doing what she can in the here and now, and encourages all Turo hosts who are able to follow suit. If you’d like to join her collective of hosts offering deep discounts to essential workers, please add the offer to your listing, and share your listing here so we can aggregate them and help spread the word.

Megan is the copywriter and content tsarina at Turo. She lives to wander near and far, never met a beach (or dog) she didn’t like, and loves to talk postmodern lit and theory to anyone who’ll listen.