New platforms for sharing rides, homes, tools and experiences are changing the way Canadians buy, sell and own just about anything. Are you ready to embrace the “sharing economy?”
If you've ordered a ride home through an app instead of hailing a cab, you're in. Perhaps you've driven yourself downtown in a $10-per-hour car-sharing service and then pedaled home on a community-owned bicycle. If you've used an app to stay in someone’s spare room– or to rent out a room of your own – then you're definitely at home in this strange new world of sharing our lives and stuff.
What might you share next? Most cities now have “makerspaces,” where members can share specialized tools such as industrial sewing machines and 3D printers. Non-profit “tool libraries” serve more basic household tasks, while for-profit businesses let you rent a neighbour’s lawn mower, surfboard or camping equipment. Services are available to help you find people to tackle your to-do list (such as, cleaning the house or assembling furniture), while sites help you learn from or teach your neighbours, whether it’s crocheting, belly dancing or language lessons.
Sharing on a Global Scale
What makes sharing platforms better than old-fashioned bulletin boards? Trust. The same technology that matches buyers and sellers is used to rate the trustworthiness and reliability on both sides so that you can get a quick idea of who you intend to do business with. But don't forget, that works both ways they’re rating you on how easy you are
to deal with.
Give and Take
And, of course, the sharing economy wants you to participate on both sides. You too can rent out your stereo equipment or get paid to trim a neighbour’s hedges. Ideally, the sharing economy increases users’ quality of life by letting us access goods, services and experiences from other people while marketing our own highest-value skills or possessions to them.
How do you get the most out of the sharing economy? Follow these six principles:
- Keep aware of how the market is evolving. The sharing landscape is always changing, as new service providers enter the market and other providers fade. Conduct regular searches to find out who the major players are in your area. You may find you don't have to buy that specialized wrench or rent a full crew of movers, or that you can afford to hire your own knitting coach.
- Understand the rules. Sharing doesn’t always save you money. For instance, car-sharing services at $10 an hour only make sense if you want the car for a short time; for three hours or more, a traditional rental agency may make more financial sense.
- Read the fine print. Make sure you know exactly what you're arranging to buy or borrow. Shared bicycles are often clunky and slow, and that bargain-priced rental room may not include a private bathroom or kitchen privileges. Find out what kind of satisfaction guarantee the platform offers.
- Read reviews and feedback scores. Learn as much about each provider as you can. It’s also important to verify how each platform vets their suppliers: do they receive any training or hold special qualifications? How do these sites weed out or penalize those who violate any policies?
- Make sure you understand how your platform of choice uses your data. Sharing sites collect tons of information about their members. Make sure they are transparent about how they protect the data.
- Rate the supplier (or product) when you're done. The sharing economy works best when everyone provides feedback and reviews. That’s how communities grow.
Rate the supplier (or product) when you're done. The sharing economy works best when everyone provides feedback and reviews. That’s how communities grow.