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Sharing Economy Nightmares

Are you going to want to share that ice cream now?

When the sharing economy gets scary

The gatekeepers are gone. In today’s digital age you don’t always need a license, qualifications, certifications, or even experience to offer the services or products that you want to. The upside is vast: greater opportunity, cheaper services, less red tape and much more. But where there is an upside, there are, occasionally, grim cautionary tales.

Keep in mind, we’re big fans of sharing economy services – but it’s never a good idea to imagine that anything in this brave new world is guaranteed.

Home Away

To think you were worried about Airbnb guests using coasters… It gets worse, much worse. Consider the seemingly countless cases of renters who unwittingly have their spare apartments turned into brothels. The issue became so pressing that Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky addressed the matter in an interview with Katie Couric. Hey, at least there weren’t “meth pipes everywhere”.

It’s No Flowbee

Thanks to Kickstarter, the hurdles for bringing a product to market have gotten a lot lower. That also means much of the expert oversight in vetting a product is left to funders. Last year, the Anonabox – promising NSA-proof internet browsing – raised more than $600,000 in only three days. But that was before funders on Reddit began to get suspicious – the product was pulled by Kickstarter a day later. The Ring promised to give users the ability to make payments, control lights, and adjust the volume on their TV, via gestures that you made while wearing the eponymous ring. The problem was that the product didn’t work. At all. Just take a look at this video and see for yourself. And there’s a lot more where that came from.

Home Help

If you need a light fixed, your toilet plunged or any other menial task completed for that matter, TaskRabbit can offer a great solution. The app allows anyone to offer up a service for nearly anything and similarly allows anyone to order that service. So what’s the downside? Well you could start with all the protections you receive from an HR department. Since users bid against each other, the price for tasks is significantly driven down and there is no obligation for anyone to pay minimum wage. Additionally, while they did recently offer insurance, there is no one to really vet the actual post or to protect you if you end up doing a task that puts you knee deep in cat diarrhea (something someone actually claims happened).

Gone to the Dogs

Dog Vacay….. no it’s not a tropical island in the Caribbean that offers belly rubs from cabana boys and dog treats in the mini bar. It’s an app that allows users to find random people to take care of their pets. And what happens when random, untrained professionals take care of other people’s pets? Well, lots of things. Like this horror story from a woman named Helen – she took care of a dog that ate her shoes, clothing, and artwork, destroyed her furniture, and threw up in her car.

But Wait, There’s More

There was peer-to-peer luxury car sharing startup HiGear – they were forced to close in 2012 after four members’ vehicles worth a total of $400,000 were stolen. And this one didn’t even have a tech angle – Oakland’s “casual carpooling” program fell victim to armed carjackers in 2013.

Don’t let these horror stories scare you away from the sharing economy. Just remember – trust, but verify.

Now go forth (and watch out).


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