Share and Share Alike: Can You Trust a Peer-To-Peer Rental System?

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Ann Kadet of The Wall Street Journal looks at some of the new product service systems that are popping up, letting people live with less. She notes: "New Yorkers have always been big on sharing. It's not that we can't afford to buy our own stuff, it's more that we just don't have room for it." She exposes the WSJ readership to Freecycle, the new SoBi (treeHugger here) bicycle system, but the most interesting way to get stuff that you might only occasionally use is Snapgoods. It is a sort of peer-to-peer rental system that builds trust into the program.

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PSFK described the service earlier:

SnapGoods is a hyperlocal goods sharing service which relies on trust and uses a model similar to ZipCar. The process is simple: you reserve an item, pay a daily rental fee, put down a deposit via PayPal, and meet with the lender to pick up and return the item at a safe spot designated by SnapGoods.

Kadet tries out the service with a Roomba rental, then a GPS unit and finally a sleeping pad, but notes:

Falling asleep on the purple pad, I suddenly realized that given the city's bedbug situation, renting a mattress from a stranger qualifies me as a total moron.

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OK, but outside of mattress rentals, the system looks really interesting. For one thing, it is hyperlocal; you have to meet the person you are renting from or two. It assumes that people are basically honourable. John Biggs wrote in Crunchgear:

The product hyperlocal in three ways: first, you create groups and deal with only people in your are physically close to. You need to be able to meet these people to rent from them. Second, you meet in local businesses that could be affiliated with Snapgoods either as a partner or as a drop-off point. Finally, you rate those you did business with ensuring weirdos get weeded out. They call it an access economy.

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Trust is tough, especially in New York. Lets hope it works out. More at SnapGoods

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