Zipcar, the shared car system great for running errands or escaping to the countryside without the hassle of owning or renting an automobile, has caught on in many large cities. Imagine a similar system at a more micro level: perhaps you have aspirations of being an “early adopter,” but do not have the cash or gumption to buy that new iPad, MP3 player, or smartphone. Or maybe you are handy at home repairs, but just do not have the space in your apartment nor budget to buy that expensive tool. It’s possible you have a small child and you want to take the little one for a walk in the Hummer of strollers, instead of the cheaper one you own that just got mangled after flying to the other coast to see the relatives.
Snapgoods, which recently caught on in New York, describes itself as the place “where good people meet, share, and put each other’s stuff to good use.” There are lots of cool products out there, but chances are that you just want to take them for a test run first. Or on the flip side, you own a cool bike or electronic contraption that you just do not use daily and you would like some help paying that credit card off.
Snapgoods allows the owner to put his trusted iPad, Trek bicycle, Wii, or waffle maker on the market for rental. The owner chooses whether the device can be rented by the day or week.
The user, in turn, clicks on the coveted gadget, and then the conversation gets started. Right now, only one’s “Facebook friends” and Meetup Groups can access owners’ stuff. The two parties involved can then reserve, negotiate, and secure payments online through a service like PayPal. Right now the service relies on an honor system: the onus is on the borrower to return the device in the same condition in which it was received.
The system needs some work: first of all, there is no insurance mechanism yet—owners can require a deposit, but considering the costs involved, a few day’s rent and deposit would hardly make up for the loss of an expensive gadget. For now trust is based on the presence and reputation one has in the “online community.” An insurance plan would probably give this solid idea even more traction.
But once the details shake out, numerous opportunities will emerge. For a little extra wear and tear, it would not take long for an owner of that DIY Seafood Boil kit to recoup that initial investment. And the truth is, whether macroeconomic factors are at work or the fact that some people are just plain thrifty, the appeal of being a geek for a day, loaded with an iPad, Droid phone, with You-Vision Video Glasses to boot may become more attractive. For others who just are not on the consumerism bandwagon, Snapgoods offers a comfortable middle ground. Do not be surprised if this catches on outside of New York.
Best of all, we may just get out of the house more, meet our neighbors, and regain our lost social skills.