Every time I watch Rachel Botsman, a recognized specialist in collaboration, speaking about how ridiculous is to have a drill at home, I realize that it is the perfect example to explain the relationship between consumption habits and sharing economy. By Rachel’s calculations, when you buy a drill, you will pay for an asset that you will use for 12 or 13 minutes. In the rest of the time – unless you are a handy person who works with repairs – the equipment will pass unmoved in a closet. “It’s ridiculous, is not it? We need the hole, not the drill,” said her to the Ted Talks audience.
The speech reminds me the day I bought a drill to hang the pictures in the room. Just now, I am calculating how much each hole cost me. The tool is there, still and dusty, on the shelf in a room near the kitchen. If I had borrowed it from a neighbor, it would cost me nothing. Or, for a portion of the price, I could have hired a handy person to hang my pictures. The idea did not occur to me. I just grew up in a system in which the options were clear: asking someone to borrow it or purchase it. I also thought it would be useful to have a drill at home.
I was not mistaken just about the drill. At home, I have dresses, shoes, bags, appliances, and so much more. Stuff which I used only once and it is filling my house. In some years I wasted a small fortune.
The possibility of renting or exchanging items is something that has been facilitated by the internet. Connectivity has allowed the development of numerous applications that connect the owner to consumers. The access to a new marketplace is the basis of the much-talked-about shared economy. In that negotiating system, consumers pay for the use (or access to the property or product) and not for the possession of it. People who have stuff or proprieties can generate extra income, by renting it. The most famous companies in this model are Uber and Airbnb.
It is worth reminding that Uber’s initial idea was not to become a transportation company. But allowing car owners to monetize the goods in free time and, of course, to facilitate access to transportation for those who need it. Uber should be just a connection. If you, for example, work part-time and have a car stopped in the garage, why not earning some money by driving? But driving to Uber ended up becoming the only source of income for many people, making the company a subject of controversy. But that’s a topic for another post.
Airbnb, despite the complaint of hotels and inns, provides exciting experiences. The App gives us the chance to experience a different lifestyle. Last year, I rented a house, via Airbnb, in Las Vegas (USA), for a family trip. With two children, having an open kitchen available all the time makes the difference. We also had access to a comfortable property in an American suburb. The area is away from the hotel circuit. In there, it was possible to observe American culture, just watching day to day activities, as shopping at a neighboorhood grocery shop. That kind of experiences I would not have had in a hotel.
“Digitization has facilitated sharing, stimulating changes in the consumption habits,” explains Marcos Fernandes, a researcher at the Center for Policy Studies of Public Policies at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, in São Paulo. For him, the proliferation of systems creates opportunities for direct negotiations. “The application connects people, facilitates operations and brings reliability,” he says. It’s still an operation between strangers. But the application “validates” both sides of the deal. I know that if I do not fulfill my part, I will be ‘tagged’ on Airbnb or Uber. The same goes for the owners.
The change in consumer behavior is real and beneficial to society, recalls Fernandes. “It is a signal that consumers are more conscious and less willing to accumulate goods. So it is sustainable”, he adds. Sharing economy avoid the waste of natural resources. “There is no condition to keep a system based on accumulation. Sharing will change the economy, and we must learn how to deal with it,” he says.
Not everyone needs a drill at home. A designer dress or purse can be “rented.” It is possible to experience the feeling of wearing a luxury watch without compromising the family budget. A car stuck in the garage is a waste of money.
Shared consumption also improves the quality of life. The access to the goods, for a portion of the purchase value, allows the experimentation, which enhances well-being. “With the same income, it is possible to consume more. At the end of the month, there is still money left,” Fernandes adds.
In Brazil, the shared economy has made supporters. According to a survey conducted by the Credit Protection Service (SPC Brazil) and the National Confederation of Shopkeepers (CNDL), 79% of Brazilians agree that collaborative consumption makes life more comfortable and functional; 68% of respondents consider participating in sharing initiatives over the next two years.
The study identified that the most popular and used forms of collaborative use by Brazilians are renting houses and apartments in direct contact with the owner (40%), sharing car rides for work or college (39%) and clothing rental (31% ).
Other forms of sharing economy experienced by Brazilians are bicycle rentals scattered around the city (17%), renting rooms (16%), renting private cars (15%) and co-housing (15%).
According to the survey, Brazilians believe that it is worthwhile to rent books (56%), gymnastics equipment (53%), sports articles (53%), gardening items (51%) and musical instruments (50%).