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Sharing your life with strangers is an important part of building the economy. The sharing economy involves freelance work often facilitated by a larger company that can choose who works for them, and sometimes supervises transactions between customers and workers. Companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, which encourage the social economy, have become very popular recently. With the rise of the internet, and advancements in app development, the ability to do freelance work is at an all-time high. The sharing economy comes more naturally to younger generations, because of the fact that they have grown up always having the internet. It is also a point in time for generations, typically Millennials, and the earlier members of Generation Z, that they may not be completely settled into the job they ideally want, and they probably do not have complete financial stability, so being able to easily make money while working another job, or studying in college is appealing to them. When thinking about anything, you should always consider both the benefits, and the detriments, especially when it comes to the economy. The most prominent argument people have against the sharing economy is that it is taking us away from more traditional businesses, however, there is always going to be a demand for both. I strongly believe that the sharing economy is improving the economy as a whole.
The sharing economy is helping to bring people together not only nationally, but globally as well. Being able to work with companies such as Uber and RelayRides to share your car with someone else, sparks the opportunity for people, who otherwise never would have met, to talk and share experiences. This gives you the chance to learn about other peoples’ cultures, which shows us a different perspective of life. It is much harder to connect to people who work for big businesses, since it is a much more formal setting. Simply going to someone’s house to get the keys to their car gives you a more intimate experience, because you are somewhere the purveyor feels completely comfortable, and you can immediately get a sense of who they are by how they surround themselves. The article “Some French Guy Has My Car” mentioned the author, Stein, loaned his mini cooper to a man for his wedding proposal, and, “His buddy returns a few hours later with the car and photos of the newly engaged couple.”
You typically do not just go around showing your engagement pictures to just anyone, so this shows they felt comfortable with one another. On the Youtube channel “Shut Up and Go,” the one co-owner of the channel, Damon Dominique, used CouchSurfing to stay at someone’s house for the night in Washington D.C., and ending up becoming good friends with the guy he stayed with. It just so happened that the guy he stayed with had no plans for the next day, and ended up giving Damon a tour of D.C. Fielding and Storch from the article “You’re Welcome” hosted travelers on CouchSurfing from many countries, and upon getting a request from a couple of Australians were enthusiastic to “check another country off our list.” Just like in Damon’s experience, the author of “You’re Welcome” was invited to spend time with her host, this time it was to “watch ‘The Bachelor’ with a group of reality-TV connoisseurs.”
This just goes to show that most of the people working for the sharing economy are genuine, good people who should not be feared. Becoming a host for CouchSurfing opens you up to people from a variety of places, and gives you the opportunity to learn about their lifestyles. Being able to connect with the people around you creates trust and respect within a community. For someone who is just visiting the area, being able to connect with the people who live there will allow them to be more comfortable in that new environment. In “Some French Guy Has My Car” the author takes a look into the customer’s behavior, not only the provider. More respect is given to the owner of the car or house someone is using when the customer actually meets them. At Airbnb’s, “Nearly everyone... hangs up their bathroom towels...” because they have to meet the house owner to get the key before staying the night. The mindset when staying at a hotel is heavily influenced by the fact that they have paid maids to clean the room, who they typically do not meet, so it is okay to leave a mess. Respect is a very much needed quality to have in these days of discrimination, and fear that everyone is either trying to kill us or scam us. There are always going to be people who prefer one economic tactic over the other, and it may take away from some of the money taxi drivers or car dealers are getting, but it is not going to completely ruin their business plus excess taxi drivers could become Uber drivers just as easily as anyone else could.
The sharing economy is also a way to promote travel. Having more options for cheap housing is a very easy way to encourage people to start traveling more. There are often times that my mom wanted to take my family on a vacation, but it was too expensive to stay at a hotel. Being able to stay at an Airbnb for less when we are often getting more space, and typically also the option to cook at the Airbnb, is the ideal option, especially for a family of four. I am sure that people with bigger families feel this way too. If you have more than four people in your family you are going to end up having to get two rooms instead of just one, which is not going to be an ideal situation whereas being able to stay at a two or three bedroom apartment would benefit them much more. CouchSurfing is also a typical option for young people traveling alone. Patricia Marx mentioned that, “the average age of members is twenty-eight, with more than a third between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four,” which is the average age for backpackers.
Backpacking has been gaining recognition in the past few years, so for a backpacker staying at someone’s house for the night for a cheap price will most likely be the best option they will have. There are also college students who are often trying to save money in any way they can, such as the one who stayed with the CouchSurfing host Deborah Yarchun who traveled there from France to “work on a paper about Grant Wood.” There is still balance for traditional corporations though, because even though staying at a hotel might not be the best option for everyone, it is still an option for some. It would still make sense for someone going on a business trip, or even someone who has the means for it to stay at a hotel. Hotels are not going to just completely go out of business, it is just better to give options for those who need them. If people are staying in cheaper places, they are going to be able to spend their money to support the traditional economy in other ways. Tourism is a major means of revenue for most small countries. If we are offering travelers ways to save money in one area, they will be able to spend more money at restaurants, or in grocery stores if they prefer cooking for themselves, going to theatres, museums, or whatever exciting attraction they may want to explore. While traveling, some people might even find public transportation to be a better option than renting someone’s car, because it makes your traveling experience more authentic to the daily life of someone who lives in that area. Spending money is inevitable, and more often than not, that money is going into traditional businesses.
Although I believe the sharing economy is a very positive business idea, I can see the perspective of those who are concerned. It can be difficult to forget everything you have learned about not immediately trusting strangers, so some people are just not trusting enough to go to a strangers house to pick up their car, especially in situations such as Stein’s whose house is “tucked away up a bunch of steep, winding roads.” Some people would much rather play it safe, and rent a car from a dealership, or rely on public transportation than risk their safety to save a couple of dollars. In the case of Airbnb’s and CouchSurfing people, or in Marx’s case their friends, are scared of being, “bludgeoned to death in the middle of the night.” In this situation, getting positive results is just a matter of taking the extra time to thoroughly read reviews of whoever you are buying or renting something from. According to a Time Magazine poll, “44% of U.S. Adult citizens,” have already used the sharing economy as, “lenders and borrowers, drivers and riders, hosts and guests.” Many issues with the safety of the shared economy can be resolved by ratings and reviews. When Stein had problems with flaky customers when driving for Lyft all he had to do was “change my settings to accept only passengers with 3.5 stars or more,” and his problem was solved.
There is also the concern that businesses such as Airbnb and Uber are not following the law. While it is very important for businesses to follow laws, many changes have been, and are being made to laws solely because it is a different time period than when the laws were made. Gay marriage and abortion laws are two that come to mind when thinking of laws that have changed due to the time period, but have both been extremely controversial, which seems to be the same trend that is happening with the sharing economy. It is controversial right now, but because of the popularity of the shared economy businesses, inevitably, it will become legal, and the controversy will settle down. Outdated laws are holding back the progression of businesses and the sharing economy is finally bringing attention to this topic. Traditional businesses are worried that because the shared economy corporations are not following the laws, they are going to lose business to their cheaper prices. They are right to an extent. They are going to lose business, but as I have reiterated throughout my whole argument, and as shown in the Sharing Economy Sector and Traditional Rental Sector Projected Revenue Growth graphs show, traditional businesses are still going to be just as important as the new sharing economy businesses. In the graph, it shows that the projected revenue growth for the sharing economy is $335 billion, which is the exact same expected revenue the traditional economy is predicted to grow. Once the initial thrill of what the sharing economy has to offer is passed, the amount of business each type of corporation is doing will balance out. There are still instances that a hotel is cheaper than an Airbnb and vice versa. The amount of customers a business will get depends on the type of customer that is being attracted to each business. There are plenty of ways to resolve all of the negative factors of the shared economy. It is still a very new way of doing business, so obviously, there are going to be kinks to work out. It takes time to perfect, or even get close to perfecting a business, but some people just want to give up on the shared economy before it even has time to improve.
The sharing economy is improving the overall economy. It is saving people money, which in turn, is put back into the economy in other ways that may not have been getting the attention it was before. It is bringing respect into communities by providing an increased intimacy between provider and consumer, and it is promoting travel, which does both of the previously mentioned. Providing job opportunities to those who truly need them is extremely necessary as the job market is currently lower than what it needs to be to support everyone. Even though there are risks that come with working for a shared economy, and buying into a shared economy the benefits outweigh the risks immensely. The traditional corporation economy is not going to be harmed by the newly found necessity that is the sharing economy.