The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
I am 71 years old, retired and on a fixed income. I live in a home I purchased in 1978. The property has increased in value ... and the taxes have risen as well. For the last several years I have rented rooms through local language schools, reluctant to advertise more openly. Most recently I tried renting through a broker and had a particularly bad experience. Having tried AirBnB as a traveler, I thought to try renting through AirBnB. I have to say that I have had only very pleasant experiences through AirBnB. I like the fact that they are vetting the client -- they make sure the person is "for real," they handle the financial transactions in the background, so for me it is like having guests. The guest rates their experience with me, and I rate them as well, which keeps us both "on our toes" to make sure things go well. AirBnB has good safety checks in their system. One one or two occasions I thought someone who asked about booking looked a bit suspicious. I called AirBnB and they handled it gracefully in the background for me. I have a friend who rents through Craig's List, but I feel it's downright dangerous. As a little old lady living alone, I very much appreciate the safeguards built into the AirBnB system. I have hosted a number of parents visiting their children in Boston who are attending various universities and colleges. I have hosted people in town for a wedding, or on their honeymoon, or seniors traveling the world in their new-found freedom; people coming to Boston on business, or for a conference, or to work a limited assignment at one of the hospitals. People have stopped her for some weeks while moving into Boston -- house-hunting, or waiting for their lease to begin. Many have become friends with whom I continue to be in touch. I have had people for one night or for three months. The extra money has helped enormously to make the mortgage and tax payments, and to do needed repairs and enhancements to the building. I am also an active member of Zipcar and Uber, and appreciate those as well. Having a car at my disposal without having to own, insure, maintain, and pay for parking a car of my own is wonderful. Having a ride available through Uber -- prompt, courteous, and willing to carry groceries without being asked -- is terrific. Knowing who the driver is, what the license plate is, what he or she looks like, and being able to rate one another, makes me feel more safe. And I have to note that I have had more female drivers through Uber than through regular taxi companies, for much the same reason -- safety and accountability. The company has the credit card information for the rider. If something were to happen to the driver, they know who to go get. And for me, if I lose something in the car I can contact the driver who drove me last night very easily through the system. I am enjoying my relationships with these new sharing networks very much. I still call my local taxi company from time to time as well, but especially when I am in a strange city, knowing that I can get a reliable ride or place to stay is very comforting.