NEW YORK —
People can rent many different things today: cars, apartments, party dresses -- even surf boards to ride the waves. People handle these rentals between and among themselves. They do not need to involve any company. This system is called the sharing economy.
It adds up to $26 billion in business each year. It is easy to do because of the Internet, online payments, and social media.
One group, RelayRides, helps owners earn money from their cars.
Anas Kasawat made more than $1,000 this month.
"I’ve always thought about, why can’t I rent my own car, and it was difficult to find the right insurance, and no one would do it. So RelayRides was the perfect choice in the end.”
Still, people worry about security and safety. For example, an international ride-sharing service called "Uber" has had some criticism involving accidents and theft.
Car owners and renters both feel safer when they learn about RelayRides’ million-dollar insurance policy. The company also offers many kinds of vehicles that other companies don’t have.
RelayRides CEO Andre Haddad says RelayRides is 35 percent less expensive than traditional rental companies in major cities. And he also says that is not the only reason that people like it.
"I think a lot of people are sensitive to their footprint. Their societal footprint, their environmental footprint, and, when you think about all the cars that are out there that could be better utilized and we’ll have less need for more cars, that also is a big motivation for a lot of our users in listing out their cars on RelayRides.”
Daryn Swanson rents out his bicycles on "Spinlister." He says he cares about making connections with other people in his community.
"I just like the idea of sharing my things. I have three or four bikes and I don’t use them all at the same time, so I thought it was a good way to meet some people and share what I have.”
For Spinlister’s Andrew Batey, this kind of rental helps people who like the same things to meet.
“I really see that everywhere. We’re in 66 countries now. I could go to Bangladesh and feel the same way in meeting someone who loves biking as much as I do."
One time, Swanson’s bicycle was not returned on time. He was happy with Spinlister’s response.
“They were so good about it, they gave me a credit, and they were very helpful, like immediate responses. Part of that might be the size; they’re still pretty small, I believe, and you get a lot more personal attention with that.”
An independent opinion study ordered by Spinlister reports that only 4 percent of Americans are using the sharing services.
"That’s not a critical mass at all. I think that at the end of the day that companies that will be here in 10 years in the sharing economy space are going to be the companies that focus on (center on) customer service and making sure that everyone on both sides is as happy as possible.”
For now, it is easy for people to share their bicycles and cars in New York. They do not have to spend very much money. But in the future, the services may become more costly and more difficult to use.
I'm Marsha James.
Words in this Story
insurance - n. an agreement in which a person makes regular payments to a company and the company promises to pay money equal to the value of something (such as a car) if it is damaged, lost, or stolen
footprint – n. the ecological footprint is a measure of human demand on the Earth's environment
economy – n. the system by which money, industry and trade are organized
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