The "Sharing" Economy: Issues Facing Platforms, Participants, and Regulators A Federal Trade Commission Workshop
As a retired person who is engaged in hosting people via the Airbnb.com service, I have found this to be the prefect supplement to my fixed income. In my opinion, it is the perfect way for the average American to supplement their income. It keeps the money they generate, and their guests spend, in their local community, and provides for a competitive hosting environment. Guests rate each host and that is how it works - if you do well, provide a great service, keep it safe, clean and inviting, then you will thrive. If you don't, your ratings go down, and you don't have customers. The money I make pays for the renovations I made to a small guest house on my property (took a loan to do so), and pays half my mortgage. As a retired person, I live on a fixed income, which, quite simply, is not keeping up with the real cost of living... not the CPI, which is, in the real world where Americans live, useless. The income I generate with this small business is taxable (generates income for Uncle Sam), stays mostly in my community, stays out of the hands of overpaid executives of huge companies, and generates, through the spending of my guests, income for local businesses. Airbnb, the online provider of this service fosters a very competitive environment among those who host for them. They stress safety and accountability. I, for instance, provide accommodations for my guests that include smoke/fire/carbon monoxide detectors, fire extinguishers, monitored security system, first aid kit, safety information, and a means by which they can immediately contact me either by phone, text, or by knocking on my door! There is another, very important dynamic in this system. Each and every guest I have had corresponded with me, and has had, and took the opportunity to ask questions about the services I provide, the community in which the property is located, and really, anything else that comes to mind. They can even ask for exceptions, such as a requests for an exception to the "no pets" rule I have. Another wanted decaf coffee available, another had special dietary needs and asked about restaurants, etc. Where else can you get that type of communication? Where else do you get to communicate directly with the owner? I am all for rules and oversight, but as with so many things, too much of either stifles growth. I ask that when reviewing this and other like services in the "sharing" community, you realize that fairness and safety, while important, does not necessarily come from regulation, and that any regulating ought really to take place at the local level.