The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
We are relative newcomers to Airbnb. Having learned about it from friends, we booked last summer's travel accommodations through Airbnb. It was a great experience and when our son left for college, we decided to dip our toe in as Airbnb hosts. We've been hosting for just 3 months now and are wholly convinced this is the best thing to happen since the birth of our child. Airbnb provides us with additional income, which helps fill the gap between my husband's modest teaching salary and our need. I have a very small coaching practice, which fulfills me emotionally and spiritually though not financially. Having worked in the corporate world for 35 years and been downsized multiple times, I dreaded having to give up my practice to go back to a job. And I'm doubtful I can even get a job. Airbnb has been the answer on many fronts. Yes, it fills a very important economic need. But it also allows us to stay in our home. It more than pays our mortgage and we feel good putting our home to positive use. Now, instead of rattling around in an empty home, we have filled it with wonderful guests who need and want a safe, clean, comfortable, affordable place to stay. Lately, we've realized we are also building community and contributing to world peace. Both sorely needed. We've had guests from all over the US, Canada, China, France, India and Malaysia so far. With each new guest, we make a new friend. We share our home, our knowledge and ourselves. They all leave as treasured friends and sometimes newly adopted family that we look forward to seeing again. World peace, one friend at a time. We've been impressed by how much our guests teach us about our own city. They are all here for difference reasons. Some to work, some to visit family & friends, most just to experience our corner of the world. They enjoy the great food, beer, wine, coffee, night life, festivals, natural sights, you name it. The money they save on accommodations goes to many other parts of the local economy. Yesterday a helpful friend warned me about squatters. She was concerned that someone might enter my home and never leave. We've heard this kind of fear from others and especially on the news. It is upsetting and troublesome to hear. Bad things do happen, but we've personally experienced none of it. The Airbnb site is a brilliant design, where hosts and guests build profiles, get and receive reviews and get to know each other via secure email. All personal contact information is hidden until the booking is made. Guests often offer their website or Facebook addresses as a way to let the host know they are ok. I found this blocked information frustrating at first, but now appreciate the wisdom of protecting the guest. We've also learned for ourselves that guests who communicate thoughtfully and are willing to answer questions make the best guests. Our neighbors are curious and supportive of our new venture. We are big believers in the sharing economy. It has given us control over our own lives and livelihood. Control we lost after the last economic bust. As baby boomers, our options are becoming ever more limited. Please be thoughtful in your deliberation. The sharing economy is a good thing and thousands of people just like us depend on it. Thanks for reading.