THE SHARING ECONOMY

Paris rentals from AirBNB

Paris rentals from AirBNB

Sharing your car, couch and kitchen are all part of the so-called “sharing economy.”

First we tried the Uber limo service — nice but expensive … “Uber X” is the cheaper version. The drivers are regular people who use their cars as taxis. To feel safe, you can check the driver’s rating, but they can also rate you. Bad passengers — for instance people who repeatedly fail to show up for the ride they order — are rated as bad passengers.

We were miffed recently when our phone went dead and we couldn’t use our Uber app. Uber X would have cost around $25 for a long ride from the airport; the regular taxi we had to use instead charged us $100 — not counting tip.

The last Uber X driver we used happened to be a driver for Lyft as well. This is a rival service. The driver said he likes Uber better because Lyft always tells the customer he’ll be there in two minutes, no matter how far away he is.

Our conversation with the Uber driver sparked a discussion of other parts of the sharing economy. We told him about “Eat This,” which lets you use your home as a restaurant. “My wife’s a great cook (of Iraqi food),” he said. To qualify you as a host, an Eat This manager checks your home environment and eats a meal with you. A lot of the people who sign up as hosts are professional chefs, or food bloggers, or are passionate about recipes. Some offer cooking lessons as part of the whole experience. But be sure to send a message to your host with any questions. We signed up and were then told the location was a fourth floor walk-up, but that was only after we had already paid. (Fortunately, it was an easy cancellation.) It could also be in a bad neighborhood, but they don’t tell you that either unless you ask. The locations are in most major cities so far, with more being added all the time.

The biggest sharing app is AirBNB, a bed and breakfast network that lists people willing to offer a couch or spare bedroom to strangers.

This has quickly become a big business.

Though the company is not public yet and owns nothing but a database, investors have priced it at about half the value of Hilton Hotels, which owns actual real estate. AirBNB has a hundred thousand overseas listings, though countries vary greatly: there are 37,500 places to stay in Paris, but only 2500 in Tokyo.

Comments are closed.