The Sharing Economy? I remember It Well

September 29th, 2015 by elaine

You’ve heard about it, right?  Know what it is?  I thought I would explain it to you, so I searched for a proper definition and guess what, er – it seems the experts can’t agree on what it is exactly.  I could actually pick and choose a few long sentences and pretend I understand what is meant, but I don’t so I won’t.  This is what I do understand:

Airbnb is practically synonymous with the sharing economy,

(b – See more at: http://www.greattransition.org/publication/debating-the-sharing-economy – sthash.Y2O0ptrl.dpuf )

And that is exactly what sets me off!

Airbnb Raises $1.5 Billion in One of Largest Private Placements

Home-rental service valued at $25.5 billion*

Updated June 26, 2015 9:01 p.m. ET

*The Wall Street Journal

Whatever it means to the experts, the “sharing economy” suggests the idea of people sharing.  The $25.5 billion suggests, at least to me, 1% of the people are making barrels of money with a very successful “app”.  If  – on the internet – you found a lovely apartment to rent on holiday,  chances are you were not sharing, in their absence, anybody’s home; you were renting a space from a person, corporation, or conglomerate for whom that space was an investment, i,e. a way of making money.  Just like a hotel, except you didn’t get clean towels every day, or have your bed made every day, and there wasn’t a front desk you could call to ask to please explain the written instructions on how to turn the tv on.

And oh – I forgot to mention -  Airbnb has INC after its name.

So does TripAdviser.  I mention them because it used to be my entré to the world of home-away-from-home, and I had some really good luck with it, until I didn’t.  One bad experience can be forgiven, of course, but when the complaint is false advertising on the “parent” website and there is no way to reach a PERSON….Even if you do find a telephone number, you get a recorded message that indicates you may not leave one.  And there is no address to reach “corporate headquarters”, etc.  It all becomes very clear – do as we say, click here and then there, and pay up and leave a lovely review of how great the host was and the place was so perfect. etc.  And PLEASE, the insurance we advertise covers you if you charge directly on line with us, don’t be silly, it is not really insurance that you will find the place to be as shown, it simply insures (why didn’t you read the fine print for heaven’s sake?) that if no one shows up to give you the key, you’re covered.  That’s it that’s all.

Oh – by the way – TripAdviser had:

Employees‎: ‎2,793 people as of Dec 2014 …and its

Revenue‎ (was): ‎$1.246 Billion in 2014

We are not sharing any of that!

So I don’t want to hear about Uber or the next new thing in “the sharing economy”.  You don’t have to understand economic theory to understand that we are not sharing anything more from these corporations than we are sharing from any other corporation unless we are stock holders.  It’s the same deal without “Customer Care”.  There’s no one to call.

So I think it’s appropriate to take back the word, indeed the concept, and return it to the world of  my youth – the 1930′s where I learned about a true sharing economy without the slightest knowledge of “the Great Depression”, without sadness or pity or complaint or regret.  I wasn’t the bread-winner, I wasn’t the parent who had to feed the brood, I was just a kid who thought everyone put cardboard inside their shoes to keep their sock from also getting a hole in it when there was a hole in the sole.  I thought it was a treat to go with my dad to distribute food he had brought from the country to my married sister and my aunts and uncles.  I never thought my dad was the rich one -he wasn’t.  That’s where his job took him, to the country to deliver produce and bring back live chickens and fresh eggs.  TO SHARE.

I wrote not long ago about why I love to shop at Costco.  Some people who know me couldn’t believe I shop there. – a giant corporation if there ever was one.  I explained: I love to buy in quantity because I always feel like I will have some to give to my family, my children or their children.  It just seems so natural.

But times are different, of course. There is so much of everything.  Lots of it so affordable.  I cannot give away a perfectly good toaster-oven because the kids (the third generation!) already have one, so I give it to charity.  That’s o.k. but somehow it ‘s not the same.  Not as it was in my youth when Daddy took me and my sister to drop off this basket for this one and that basket for someone else.

Does it make me sad to realize now how very “poor” everyone was back then?  No, not at all.  I do not remember ever not having something to eat.  I remember very clearly sometimes not liking what was on the menu and insisting, no thank you, I’m fine with Mama’s bread. We always had fresh fruit to eat, and always in the right season.

What a strange world – where even if I buy a whole magnificent cheese thinking to share it with a near and dear one just starting out, that one is too busy to come and pick it up, and I wouldn’t dare drop in on Sunday morning – after a late night gig on Saturday – are you kidding????

People! don’t let them kid you – the sharing economy is not a balanced economy – it is the same old same old corporate rip off.  It started innocently enough – someone had a room to rent and used the internet to let it be known, and made a few bucks.  And word got around – and someone else rented their whole apartment for a couple days  and went to camp out at a friend’s or mom’s, and made a couple of bucks.  And word got around.  And someone bought an apartment to rent for short stays, as an investment, you know?  And word got around, and someone invented and app and gave it away for free, just see what you can do with this, you’ll be rolling in dough.  It’s so convenient.

Boring!  The sharing economy is exploitative.  I’ve rented some lovely places on my trips.  I think I’ll find them still on the internet without sharing with Airbnb or TripAdviser or any of those greedy corporate types who can’t answer the phone or give an address where they can be reached.  They stand apart, aloof…what is it that they share exactly?

©Elaine A. Zimbel 2015

Posted in Eighty and then some..., Letters to the corporation, Uncategorized


(comments are closed).

-->