Venmo

In 2012, Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail publicly launched Venmo, a money sharing app. Users can link their bank accounts to the app, and through Venmo’s top tier security, an individual can quickly and safely transfer money with members of their community. The app is also a social media platform, allowing users to publically or privately document their transfers. Venmo has become a crucial part of the rapidly growing shared economy. The shared economy is primarily defined by its environmental, economic, and social sustainability, and Venmo, a facet of the growing shared economy, encompasses these three aspects of sustainability.

Venmo’s Environmental Impact

An environmental appeal of using Venmo is the elimination of paper money. As paper dollars were originally made from freshly harvested cotton and linen, many people assume that paper dollars are still made from these materials. Cotton production in particular is an environmentally dangerous process. Vast amounts of resources and land are required for cotton production, and its extreme use of water, pesticides, and fertilizers negatively impact the environment. Eliminating paper money seems environmentally smart; however, what many people don’t realize is that today, paper money is no longer traditionally made from cotton and linen. In Nina Rastogi’s Slate article “How Green Are Greenbacks?” she states, “Dollar bills are made from recycled, low-quality waste fibers that would otherwise end up in a landfill.”

Another appeal of using Venmo is the elimination of coin production. Like paper money, coins today are often made from recycled materials, specifically old coins. However, a large majority of coins are still made from traditional methods and materials. Extracting the metals required to make coins is environmentally harmful and requires intensive energy.

Although paper and coin money production have improved drastically in environmental awareness over the years, using Venmo is a very appealing alternative to people who are conscious of traditional money-making methods.

Venmo’s Economic Impact

Venmo appeals financially to many people. Users of the app can pay their friends easily and instantly, free of charge. The app itself is free, and if used with a bank account or debit card, transactions are also free. Additionally, users can create a Venmo Wallet, which is essentially a small bank account. The Venmo Wallet is a convenient feature because rather than go through the process of transferring money from a bank account to Venmo then to a friend every time a transfer is made, users can skip that first step and instead just occasionally add money into their Venmo Wallet from their bank account. Users can also link their credit cards to Venmo; however, users who make payments via credit card accounts are charged with a three percent transaction fee.

Financially, Venmo is convenient for people who have access to a bank account. But those who don’t have access to a bank account are excluded from the company. In a CNN Money article, “10 million U.S. households don’t have bank account,” Blake Ellis reveals that about eight percent of U.S. households lack a bank account. According to the article, this is due to multiple factors. Many people do not have enough money to open and fund a bank account. Ellis states, “Greg McBride, senior financial analyst at Bankrate.com, said that checking accounts can be costly for some consumers — especially for those living paycheck-to-paycheck who can’t meet minimum balance requirements and get hit with fees or those who are chronic overdrafts.” Low income households are excluded from the banking system, and therefore, are excluded from Venmo. Another social group that faces discrimination from the banking system and therefore from Venmo is former inmates. For individuals with criminal records, it is very difficult and sometimes impossible to open a bank account. The article also reveals that many people cannot open a bank account because they lack proper identification. Such a requirement excludes non U.S. citizens from the banking system, so only U.S. citizens can access Venmo. Although Venmo claims to be a free, easy-to-use app, it’s requirements ultimately exclude various social groups.

Additionally, Venmo poses a threat to the traditional banking system and all those who are employed by banks. In an interview, a US Bank employee of a Portland branch chose to anonymously reveal her concerns about the growth of Venmo. “US Bank has our own online sharing system that’s kind of like Venmo, but our system isn’t free…I think for now, banks are fine, because even with Venmo, you’ve got to have a bank account. But Venmo limits banks in our ability to grow in areas like online transfer systems.” Clearly, with the way that the app currently operates, banks are crucial to the function of Venmo. However, with the success of Venmo and the danger it brings for the future of banks, those who work within the bank system are at risk of losing jobs.

For people with bank accounts and smart phones, Venmo is a financially appealing resource for sharing money. However, the company also limits its accessibility to certain groups of people and excludes groups such as non-US citizen immigrants, low income families, and former inmates.

Venmo in Social life

Venmo has many great features that allow for people to communicate with each other and safely transfer funds. As stated on the Venmo website’s information page, the company wants people to be able to “remember the moments you share with friends. Split dinner, send a birthday gift, or just say hello.” The app is designed to connect people and allow them to share their experiences through messages and pictures. The ideal situation for this app is for friends to do things like split the bill for dinner or to give a person gas money on a road trip.

The app is revolutionary because it uses a form of social media but also is used to make secure transactions and create business for those that are making small transactions. For example, Lewis and Clark Student Adrian Romero uses Venmo to buy and sell shoes. He claims that it is the safest and easiest way for him to assure that nobody gets ripped off. It insures confidence in both sides of the deal. In the app, it allows for people to not release the money until the product is received, allowing the buyer assurance that they will receive their purchase. This creates a new social norm where people can do business with complete strangers with confidence that sellers have no alternative motives or intent to harm. Adrian said, “It is perfect for the selling of rare shoes because it is easy to connect and negotiate prices in a secure environment.” Venmo helps bring the community together due to the security that it provides.

Another common use for Venmo is to communicate and send family members money for events or to support them in tough times. For example, many college students will run out of funds to buy essentials during the year. Their parents can send them a sum of money that can come with a message and remind them of the purpose of the money. As asserted by Julia Somers, a Lewis and Clark College student,  “I ran out of money for my last month of groceries so I messaged my mother in Venmo and made a topic of ‘groceries.’ My mother then transferred me money under ‘groceries’ and then I sent the money I didn’t use back to her under the same topic.” Venmo makes connecting and sharing money between family members quick and easy, and it records the entire process.

Venmo is revolutionizing the social sphere and how we are interacting our financial dealings. Venmo instills confidence in strangers, creates a safe way to quickly transfer money, and allows people to transfer money and memories. Thus, Venmo expands the shared economy and revolutionizes how we purchase items.

Conclusion

Venmo is a diverse app that allows for many new opportunities in social and economic life. It is revolutionizing the way people spend money and create business. The shared economy is exponentially increasing because of this app and creating new markets for people who can find a way into them. Venmo is creating a new way for people to communicate and expand their social sphere and share the memories they partake in. Venmo is greatly successful and has even been purchased by PayPal which increases its net worth and support system. This support from the traditional economy proves that it possible  

Works Cited 

http://www.chicagonow.com/chicago-political-commentary/2011/03/one-dollar-bills-versus-dollar-coins-it-would-also-aid-the-environment-and-our-health/#.VyOsfY-cEy9

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-11-20/mobile-payment-startup-venmo-is-killing-cash

Is PayPal’s Venmo the Bank Killer App?

http://money.cnn.com/2016/04/29/pf/venmo-ftc-investigation/index.html

http://money.cnn.com/2012/09/12/pf/fdic-bank-accounts/

http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2011/12/how_eliminating_paper_money_could_end_recessions_.html

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_green_lantern/2009/04/how_green_are_greenbacks.html

Somers, Julia. “Social Impacts of Venmo.” Personal interview. 25 Apr. 2016.

Romero, Adrian. “Venmo in Personal Sales.” Personal interview. 25 Apr. 2016.

“Venmo.” .com. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2016.

Bank Employee, Anonymous. “Economic Impact of Venmo.” Personal interview. 29 Apr. 2016.

Is Uber Sustainable

UBER

     Juliet Schor, in her essay titled “Debating the Sharing Economy”, explains how Uber came about. After the 2009 recession, renting assets became more economically attractive, and similar initiatives proliferated. In transportation, “this included car rental sites such as Uber” (Schor 3). Economic theory states that in a free market if there is a demand for a service, firms will step in to fill this void. Uber took advantage of this void and filled it, to alleviate the market inefficiency. The definition of the word uber leads to how they define themselves as “the smartest way to get around. One tap and a car comes directly to you. Your driver knows exactly where to go. And payment is completely cashless” (https://www.uber.com/). Uber lends itself to economic, environmental, and social factors illustrated by Schor. It is a fairer system in many ways except economically as it excludes many of the lower class due to financial burdens that the prerequisites for driving for Uber or even using Uber.

Is it really a sharing economy and does it impact inequality by class?

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 3.58.19 PM.png     On Uber’s website homepage they market the app as something that is “For the good of all”. Juliet Schor argues that a new sector, “the sharing economy” in which companies such as Uber have seen growth, has the potential to decrease economic inequalities. However, after taking a closer look, it becomes evident that companies such as Uber that partake in “sharing” practices do not necessarily decrease economic inequalities. In fact, many of these sharing platforms exclude a significant portion of the population from participating, which perpetuates and even increases economic inequalities. In Uber’s case, social classes that are financially able to purchase and maintain a vehicle that matches the company’s standards benefit more from sharing activities than those who do not.  

     Uber adheres to the principles of a sharing economy, but what if you have nothing to share? In a sharing economy individuals share their assets in turn for monetary compensation. If you are looking to make income from Uber, you must have a car to share, if you don’t you are only allowed to participate in the consumer side of this economy. The way Uber is setup; drivers must have capital in order to make capital. The requirements needed in order to become an Uber driver are more materialistic than skills oriented.

     In order to become an Uber driver you must own your own car that is a 4-door sedan. The car must seat 4 or more passengers, excluding the driver. The year of the car must be 2001 or newer and have in-state plates. The car cannot be marked, a taxi, or salvaged. The car must also be currently registered and insured. After all this the car has to pass an Uber vehicle inspection.(http://www.idrivewithuber.com/uber-driver-requirements/). Uber drivers must have access to the Uber app, which is only compatible on Windows and apple Iphones. This creates social inequality. Those who do not meet any of these materialistic requirements cannot take part in driving for Uber. There is a significant portion of the population that cannot afford to pay the price to participate in a sharing economy.

     So is Uber really for the good of all? There is a significant amount of the population that cannot purchase and maintain the type of vehicle that Uber requires. By only benefiting the individuals that are financially able to meet the materialistic requirements in order to be employed by this company, the sharing activities are not doing anything to solve pre existing economic inequalities. All this is doing is perpetuating them.

Does Uber impact inequality by race?

     Uber does a better job with not discriminating overall. Unlike taxi drivers it is much harder to discriminate based on race due to the anonymity that the app adds. That is significant when comparing it to the overt racism that taxi drivers have had and still have today. For instance, many taxi drivers refuse to pick up people solely based on the color of their skin. Specifically black people are having the most trouble still. Taxi drivers will either drive by them, with no one in their car, ignore them or harshly refuse when asked by the potential cab rider. Here is an account of a black man trying to get a cab:

“First, I tried to hail a cab at 8th Avenue and 30-something street with no luck. Next, my daughter tried with no luck as well. Then, I said to my child, “I know, let’s use the white girl for bait. It’s worked before.” Kathleen (his wife) then stood out on the corner, hailed just like we had tried, and don’t you know that a cab pulled over in less than 2 minutes. It doesn’t even really anger me anymore, because it has always been this way, as long as I can remember” (LaRosa).

     This happens all to often with cab companies and their drivers whether foreign born or not. One black taxi driver that was from another country even stated that he “promised himself not to pick up any more blacks” because of the hysteria that surrounds that race. For instance, Michelle Alexander points out in The New Jim Crow that in (un)conscious racist America, when citizens were asked to picture a drug user, 95% of them imagined a black man, when in reality they only constituted 15% of the users in America (Alexander, 106). That ties into what the taxi driver was talking about when he promised not to pick up any more black Americans. It is the rhetoric and hysteria surrounding African Americans and that is what is causing this overt racism and fear towards them. This ultimately leads to Uber being the fairer way for people to catch rides of all ethnicities. Uber makes things more equal strictly in this sense.

Socially Sustainable and Environmental Factors?

     Mills states that “In large part, contemporary humanity’s self-conscious view of itself as at least an outsider, if not a permanent stranger, rests upon an absorbed realization of social relativity and of the transformative power of history” (Mills). Uber is transforming the history of transportation as they are replacing taxis and their companies that have been around since the 1890s as many find it today much more convenient, savvy, and useful. Uber is socially accepted as a great alternative throughout the country as well as overseas which is why it has continued to grow rapidly. However, the environmental impact of Uber is unknown and that would influence the social aspect of it if it was known. As of right now whether or not Uber is hurting or helping the environment because there are so many factors that play into it. Some reasons on why it is very difficult to measure is that we don’t know how much biking, carpooling, or public transportation would have went up without it. Also the study has to “include how long the trips are (as well as the time driving to pick up a passenger); whether the rider would otherwise have driven alone, taken public transportation or not have taken the trip at all; and the fuel efficiency of the vehicles involved” (Eaken). Lastly they have to gage who is buying, selling, or abandoning their cars today. All these factors make it difficult to gage. However, the Natural Resources Defense Council is undergoing research and will be the first to have this data and hopes to release the data by next Fall.

Conclusion

Uber as a part of the sharing economy is increasing economic inequalities while gaining social acceptability around the world. Due to the high bar of entry this form of sharing requires, limits a high population from participating. Socially, Uber has been accepted around the world as the friendlier alternative to taxis from all angles. It has the potential in the sharing economy to reduce eco-footprints, decrease inequality, and continue to grow as a reliable transportation service. With that said, Uber has not been around long enough to draw out and finalize conclusive evidence that it is totally sustainable.

Sources:

Alexander, Michelle. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. N.p.:     n.p., n.d. Print.

Eaken, Amanda. “NRDC Urban Solutions to Lead First Climate Analysis of Uber and Lyft.” NRDC, 13 Nov. 2015. Web.

LaRosa, Paul. “Almost No More White NYC Cab Drivers, but Blacks Still Can’t Catch a Ride?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford UP, 1959. Print.

Schor, Juliet. “Debating the Sharing Economy.” Great Transition Initiative(2014): n. pag. Oct. 2014. Web. Apr. 2016.

Is Airbnb Sustainable?

 

What is Airbnb?

Airbnb is a shared economy, “an online community marketplace that connects people looking to rent their homes with people who are looking for accommodations. Airbnb users include hosts and travelers: hosts list and rent out their unused spaces, and travelers search for and book accommodations in 192 countries worldwide.” (Folger) The options for lodging include “single rooms, a suite of rooms, apartments, moored yachts, yurts, houseboats, entire houses or even a castle.” (Folger) The unique variety of destinations and lodging choices is very appealing to travelers. Hosts have the opportunity to meet new people and “to create a beautiful space” for travelers while making a profit off of otherwise unused space. (Mattraw) This shared economy can benefit both Airbnb travelers and hosts, but is it sustainable economically, environmentally and socially?

Economic Sustainability

The economic impact and sustainability of Airbnb have been extensively reported on and scrutinized, ever since Airbnb became popular. In 2013, Molly Turner, Director of Policy at Airbnb at the time, commented, “There are surprising findings – first is our impact on our community and our hosts, who have real economic incentives to use Airbnb. They can’t afford to stay there [in their homes] because of rising rents or [their homes] are underwater. Whether they’ve just graduated from college or are empty nesters or are retired on fixed incomes, Airbnb enables them to use the assets they already own.” The argument is that Airbnb offers people the opportunity to supplement their income.

To cover the costs of running Airbnb, hosts are charged a “3% service fee every time a reservation is completed” that is calculated from the reservation subtotal before fees and taxes. They also charge guests a “guest service fee.” The amount of this service fee, also based on the reservation subtotal, varies but is typically between 6-12% of the cost to rent the Airbnb. (Airbnb) As Airbnb provides an avenue to reasonably priced lodging and a way to earn extra income, it is fair for them to charge fees in order to maintain a successful, profitable business. The fees don’t seem to be a problem for users as the almost 8 year old company “has experienced exponential growth.” (Kaplan & Nadar)

While Airbnb is profitable for a certain demographic, it causes other businesses to suffer and it is not accessible to everyone. Hotels have seen decreased income with the increased use of Airbnb. This causes cities to complain because they receive less hotel taxes. In some cities, hosts pay taxes on Airbnb profits but it doesn’t supplement for the city’s profit loss. Cities see a profit through Airbnb with increased tourist spending. On a city-wide economic basis, Airbnb reported that in San Francisco 2012, Airbnb generated $56 million in local spending, $12.7 million of which went to support households (people paying off mortgage, rent, etc). In New York, the revenue generated was $632 million, $105 of which goes to the boroughs, which don’t often see tourism. Guests tend to stay longer and spend more on local businesses (Airbnb). Though there is some effect on the hotel industry, it is minimal. The “lack of actual competition between Airbnb hosts and the hotel industry may explain why one study, focusing on the Texas market, projected that a 1 percent increase in Airbnb listings results in only a 0.05 percent decrease in hotel revenues.” (Kaplan and Nadler) People who want hotel rooms aren’t going to be tempted to rent Airbnb if they want the hotel experience.

Environmental Sustainability

As far as environmental sustainability goes, Airbnb tends to be more sustainable than hotels. The Cleantech Group reported that Airbnb guests use 63% less energy than hotel guests, save more water, and produce less waste and emissions, in North America alone. 95% of renters say that they recycle. Cleantech also found that people who rent from Airbnb tend to use more public transportation or walk to their destinations, as opposed to hotel users who will drive, taxi, etc. While this report was well-timed, coming right when Airbnb was trying to convince people that it’s better than hotels, Cleantech is a third-party group, who performs similar tests and studies on other companies to help them become more green. As Joe Gebbia, Chief Product Officer and Airbnb co-founder said, With an impact that big, it’s clear that the Airbnb community is making a huge difference” (Airbnb).

Though most of the reporting is pertinent to North America, it is important to mention that Cleantech also reported on Europe, and the numbers were even higher (see figure)

 

airbnb-energy-consumption

(Airbnb)

In addition, an increase of Airbnb rentals would mean that fewer hotels would have to be built in areas that are growing as tourist locations. Building massive hotels uses huge amounts of materials and would spell more water and energy use, and waste creation.

Therefore, environmentally Airbnb is very sustainable, at least based on the current information. Future studies may reveal detrimental environmental impacts, but for now, it’s doing good for the globe.

Social Sustainability

On a surface level, Airbnb would appear to be great for social sustainability. Airbnb provides jobs for people who clean the Airbnbs and manage the guests’ arrival and departure. Hosts get to meet guests from around the world, gain extra income, and hosting for short periods of time is less responsibility than having a full time tenant. Travelers have somewhere to stay that is a more unique experience than a hotel and often costs less, as well as personalized service. Tourists can experience more of the true culture of the city or town they’re visiting.

As far as long-term living sustainability goes, Airbnb is screwing over the people who are trying to live in the city (especially big cities like NY and SF). People are buying/renting apartments, and then putting the entire place on Airbnb, thus undercutting long-term renters. Turner addressed this in her interview, saying that, “…we see that the majority are looking for short-term housing. Or, they’re a consultant and just in town for three months. Because Airbnb users rent the out homes they are living in, they are not taking housing off the market. If they were doing this 365 days a year, that would be one thing, but on average they’re just doing it a few weeks a year.” (Greenbiz)

However, it seems like what Turner claims isn’t always true. There are many stories about renters who buy several apartments and then put them on Airbnb, or who refuse to rent to long-term renters because they can make more money on short-term Airbnb users. In LA, Airbnb is pricing out long-term renters because short-term renters are willing to pay more. Roy Samaan, a policy analyst in LA, is quoted as saying that, “In places where vacancy is already limited and rents are already squeezing people out, this is exacerbating the problem. There aren’t 1,000 units to give in Venice or Hollywood.” (LA Times)

The same problem is occurring in the Mission in SF. “In neighborhoods like the Mission, which has become ground zero for displacement, you see that as high as 40 percent of the housing stock that could be rented is being Airbnb’ed,” said Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee Supervisor David Campos in an interview. (Business Insider) The classically Latino/Mexican populated area was always cheap and considered a sort of “ghetto”, or at least an undesirable place to live for middle class white people, is now as expensive as anywhere else in SF. As a result, the people who had lived there for years can no longer afford to (Business Insider). Where else are they supposed to go? If everything is too expensive for poor people, then where will they go? Airbnb fits into this because a lot of people are renting Airbnb spaces out in the Mission, promising the “Mission experience”. Those are apartments that could go to people who need to a place to live.

 

Interviews

Three Airbnb hosts were interviewed about their experience using Airbnb. The hosts are all middle aged and have children who have moved out of the house. Rob Friedman rents out his house while he travels, usually 4-6 months a year. Lisa Yank’s Airbnb is a basement apartment, attached to their house but separated by a locked door and its own entrance. Stacey Mattraw rents out the downstairs apartment of her duplex, where she lives upstairs.

All the hosts said they enjoy using Airbnb to host guests, as well as using it to travel. One specifically likes the “convenience and secure payment system” (Friedman) and a second said she and her husband “love how easy Airbnb it is to use” (Yank). The easy user interface is important to note because it determines whether people will continue to use Airbnb. They all report no complaints from neighbors and haven’t experienced any weird experiences hosting or traveling. “I like having the flexibility of having people come and go in my home as opposed to leasing long term. I always like to be able to control the space that I rent out.” (Mattraw) This “flexibility” and sense of “control” makes Airbnb very attractive to users, and may have a lot to do with its exponential growth.

Based off of these responses, Airbnb is sustainable socially and as a business itself because it’s accessible to a wide range of people.  

When asked to compare if it’s more profitable to use Airbnb than have someone on a lease, the Rob said “yes.” (Friedman) Lisa said “it might be but it is harder as we have to schedule cleaning, spend money on supplies and update towels, sheets, etc. more frequently.” (Yank) Stacey answered “Hard to say, because there are periods when I block my Airbnb for personal/family use.” (Mattraw) They all pay taxes on the income earned from Airbnb. It isn’t assured that Airbnb is more economically sustainable than having someone on a lease. However, even after taxes, it’s still profitable enough that they want to continue hosting so, for now, Airbnb appears economically symbiotic with hosts.

Conclusion

Those who can afford to use Airbnb are offered a convenient, unique location to stay while they visit a city whether it’s for pleasure or for business. It may offer a less expensive place to stay for those with low income, however it seems unlikely that this demographic has the ability to travel in the first place as they are living paycheck to paycheck.

Economically, Airbnb is sustainable for users but is disadvantageous to the people who want to rent or buy a long term home and neighbors who want to maintain a sense of connection with the people living near them. It takes away business from hotels and does a disservice to cities who don’t receive adequate taxes to make up for the lack of hotel taxes.

As of now, Airbnb is environmentally sustainable. However, the company is still young so as it grows, this may change as more research is done.

Based off of articles, research and interviews with hosts, those who are able to host or travel using Airbnb both seem to gain a lot by using Airbnb. Airbnb has the potential to be a sustainable shared economy but some changes must be made if Airbnb is to remain a successful company that provides symbiotic services.

 

SOURCES 

Airbnb. “What Are Host Service Fees?” https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/63/what-are-host-service-fees

Airbnb. “What are Guest Service Fees?” https://www.airbnb.com/help/article/104/what-are-guest-service-fees

“Airbnb Economic Impact” http://blog.airbnb.com/economic-impact-airbnb/

Carson, Biz. “The Fight Between Airbnb and San Francisco just got nastier.” http://www.businessinsider.com/san-francisco-report-blames-airbnb-for-housing-shortage-airbnb-strikes-back-2015-5

Folger, Jean.”The Pros and Cons of Using Airbnb.”http://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/032814/pros-and-cons-using-airbnb.asp?performancelayout=true

Friedman, Rob. “Airbnb Survey.” E-mail interview. Apr. 2016.

Isaac, Mike. “Airbnb Pledges to Work With Cities and Pay ‘Fair Share’ of Taxes.” November 11, 2015.http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/12/technology/airbnb-pledges-to-work-with-cities-and-pay-fair-share-of-taxes.html?_r=2

Kaplan & Nadar. “Airbnb: A Case Study in Occupancy Regulation and Taxation.” 2015. https://lawreview.uchicago.edu/page/airbnb-case-study-occupancy-regulation-and-taxation

Logan, Tim, Reyes, Emily Alpert, Poston, Ben.“Airbnb and other short-term rentals worsen economic shortage, critics say”. http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-airbnb-housing-market-20150311-story.html#page=1

Mattraw, Stacey. “Airbnb Survey.” E-mail interview. Apr. 2016.

“New Study Reveals A Greener Way to Travel: Airbnb Community Shows Environmental Benefits of Home Sharing”. https://www.airbnb.com/press/news/new-study-reveals-a-greener-way-to-travel-airbnb-community-shows-environmental-benefits-of-home-sharing

Wong, Kristine.“Lessons from Airbnb about Business in the Sharing Economy” https://www.greenbiz.com/news/2013/02/15/lessons-airbnb-about-business-sharing-economy

Yank, Lisa. “Airbnb Survey.” E-mail interview. Apr. 2016.

 

A Survey of Three Airbnb Hosts in the Portland Metro Area

1. Rob Friedman – Thurman, NW Portland

2. Lisa Yank – Sellwood, SE Portland

3. Stacey Mattraw – Thurman, NW Portland

The hosts who were interviewed are all middle aged and have children who have moved out of the house. They have all lived and owned property in Portland for at least 20 years.

What do you like about Airbnb?

1. I like the convenience and secure payment system.

2. We love how easy Airbnb it is to use. We especially appreciate how guests review us and we review them.

3. I love hosting people at my Airbnb and I love staying at Airbnb. For hosting, I love interior design combined with hospitality, and my Airbnb was an opportunity to create a beautiful space for people to be in Portland. I also love meeting people from all over, and it is fun to have people come visit and share Portland with them. For visiting other Airbnbs, I always choose a space to stay based on the aesthetics of a home. Is it visually pleasing? Then, I read carefully how much the hosts interact with the guests. I like interacting with the hosts as it gives me an opportunity to know someone locally, and potentially make a new friend. I have had amazing experiences doing this and have made some wonderful friends all over the world as a result.

What do you dislike about Airbnb?

1. The calendar.

2. So far we haven’t found anything we are unhappy about. We love their business model.

3. I really don’t have any complaints. I have not had negative experiences with Airbnb.

Do you have concerns about hosting strangers in your home? If so, what?

1. No, I do not.

2. We used to but after testing it out, we realized that all our guests are respectful and treat our home well.

3. None at all.

Do you find Airbnb more comfortable than having someone on a lease? Compare.

1. Not applicable in my case.

2. Yes. We have been asked numerous times to rent full time but we are not wanting to have guests always in our home full time. This allows us to have time to block out for out of town and family guests to visit and use our space.

3. Yes, I like having the flexibility of having people come and go in my home as opposed to leasing long term. I always like to be able to control the space that I rent out. Then if I don’t want people there for whatever reason, I can choose not to host.

Is Airbnb more profitable than having someone on a lease?

1. Yes.

2. For us it might be but it is harder as we have to schedule cleaning, spend money on supplies and update towels, sheets, etc more frequently.

3. Hard to say, because there are periods when I block my Airbnb for personal/family use, so I do not do it exclusively for profit.

Do your neighbors have problems or concerns with strange people coming in and out?

1. No complaints from neighbors.

2. We have alerted neighbors and our guests have their own parking spot so they don’t have to concern any neighbors. We have really nice guests and really great neighbors.

3. Not that I am aware.

Are there any weird experiences you’ve encountered while hosting or using Airbnb?

1. No.

2. Never.

3. No.

Do you use Airbnb yourself?

1. Yes.

2. We do and more frequently now than hotels.

3. Yes, see above.

How do you compare/compete with other houses in the area and in the city?

1. Act in a cordial/professional manner and compete price wise.

2. We have a great person who helps with cleaning and managing the space, we provide a lower rate, offer wine and stock our kitchen so there is everything needed. We think the cleaner and well stocked the space is the better advantage. We rely now on our reviews and we almost always get 5 star reviews and are superhosts so I think that helps.

3. I have never made a comparison, so I don’t know.

Have you found any demographic of people more pleasant to host?

1. Families.

2. I like all our guests but it is quieter and easier if there are not young children but we never discriminate and let everyone have a chance to book if they have reviews and references.

3. Not particularly.

What kind of people stay at your Airbnb?

1. Families.

2. We host a lot of families and a lot of newer Airbnb guests but I have found the younger the guests are as just as respectful as the older ones and sometimes even more grateful and thoughtful.

3. All kinds, I’ve had young families, groups of friends meeting for a reunion of sorts, couples of all ages, mother and daughter trips…

Do you pay taxes on the income earned from Airbnb?

1. Yes.

2. Yes and we have extra insurance on our home owners policy.

3. Yes.

TASK FOR TASK

What is Task-for-Task?

Breaking off from the umbrella of the shared economy, is the task-for-task group. Task-for-task is an exchange of errands between two individuals. Though the main principle is based around rewarding each other with tasks, individuals cannot function in today’s society, without money flow, and therefore, sometimes bring in money for the exchange. Looking at three different organizations, the shared economy, is proven to be a beneficial source of exchange. The first task-for-task group is TaskRabbit. TaskRabbit is “an online and mobile marketplace, that matches freelance labor with local demand, allowing consumers to find convenient help with everyday tasks” (Wiki). This program helps focus in on the economic factors of the sharing economy. The second group is Simbi, they label themselves as a symbiotic economy. A symbiotic economy is a mutually dependent system. While this company is a mutually dependent system, they also offer a social aspect that appeals to the population. Finally, B-line, is a transportation company, focused on “redefin[ing] how goods and services are transported in our increasingly urban environment by simply providing the right tool for the job” (B-Line). This company makes use of the “go green” attitude of today’s society, bringing in an environmental feature to the sharing economy. Overall these task-for-task groups have a major impact in the shared economy and on our society as a whole. They have proven that there is more to the way that people interact, than more of a basic level.

 

TaskRabbit (Economic Factor)

Watch how TaskRabbit participants interact with the community around them: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlUvHQwLT7k

taskrabbit 2As briefly mentioned above,
there are three separate aspects to the shared economy (task-for-task). TaskRabbit contributes to how individuals connect with one another on a basic exchange level. In 2008, 28 year old Leah
Busque, an engineer at IBM in Cambridge, Massachusetts was in need of dog food for her yellow lab, however she did not want to trudge outside in the cold night air (
Wired). This inspired the creation of what is now known as TaskRabbit, a company that was originally called “RunMyErrand” on the basis that individuals can run errands for each other. Once a person decides they need an errand run for them “TaskRabbit senders and runners [will] negotiate with one another through TaskRabbit’s messaging system.” (Wired) It starts with the person in need of an errand (the sender) posts on the TaskRabbit forum, along with their maximum amount they are willing to pay for the labor. Next, the “runners” begin bidding. They bid the minimum amount they are willing to accept, and wait for the sender to choose. The sender has full view of the bidders and can choose on their own based off credentials, reviews, proximity and pricing. After the sender chose their runner, the task is accomplished within a short period of time. The next phase is based off of the “top rankings of each runner” which comes from the senders. It is a matter of points based on reviews, bidding, and number of tasks. Based on the website, the incentive for runners is to earn as many points as possible in order to gather both tangible and virtual benefits. TaskRabbit “turns work into a game.” (Wired)

TaskRabbit creates connections amongst individuals who would not necessarily interact otherwise. It allows for both the elderly and the young to work together to form a positive and enriching community. Though, society has created the idea of “stranger danger”, TaskRabbit pulls away from this idea, making a comfortable and safe environment for people to work alongside each other, in effort to build a trusting economy. This program instigates a helping mindset for all who use it. It is a virtual site for individuals who wish to participate in a different form of volunteering. Ultimately, TaskRabbit is a growing program using technology as its foundation to build a community for the sharing economy.

A big part of TaskRabbit is the game-like process. Much of this is seen through the points system, giving each errand some economic value. TaskRabbit is similar to an occupation. A person starts at the bottom of the career chain and is able to work their way up to the top. One remarkable aspect about the company is the way it benefits the individual, as well as the community around it.

“For the runners, meanwhile, at a time of deep and persistent unemployment, the site serves as a way to make regular money without giving up control of their days. Unlike a temp service — which sets workers’ rates and presents them to employers — TaskRabbit lets workers get hired directly by consumers and thereby build up their own reputations” (Wired).

Economically, TaskRabbit offers a new way of living into today’s society. Branching from traditional professions, this program provides the opportunity for individuals to work independently as their own bosses. TaskRabbit is a way for people to have an independent job and still have the benefit of promoting oneself. Interestingly enough, this way of applying oneself to the workforce has struck an appeal for people of all practices. Much like a promotion in one’s career, runners are able to “level up” through a points system. In addition to the intention of helping others, this system instigates competition for earning more points and employment. The monetary benefits of TaskRabbit provide an interesting lens into potentially what or how future businesses will be run. Relating back to what Wired stated, TaskRabbit truly does “turn grunt work into a game”.

Simbi (Social Factor)

Take a sneak peak into the world of Simbi: https://vimeo.com/130821893simbi

Simbi is a new up and coming task for task program. They call themselves a “symbiotic economy”.  Much like TaskRabbit, Simbi works towards a “golden rule”-like manifesto, where participants give to get. In reference to Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb’s book, The Hidden Injuries of Class, Simbi takes on an individualistic quality to form an overall connected community that focuses on one another and their achievements. The authors discuss the idea of one’s badges of ability and how they are influential on the many aspects of a person’s success. These badges of abilities can consist of anything from awards to personal accomplishments to your level of education. Focusing on Simbi, these badges of ability allow people to see what tasks others can handle, while also expressing their own personal talents. Along with this, Simbi also gives a person virtual badges as a reward system.

Socially, Simbi offers a way for members to exchange services with one another, which for some  is more valuable than receiving money. A unique aspect of Simbi is the community they build in the cities where they are established. This is seen through their Facebook page, where they post social gatherings and community builders for Simbi members to attend. This is particularly different from any other task-for-task program. They target goal is to bring individuals, who are more interested in “participating in an alternative economy that provides and exit from the current dollar-dominated corporate.” (Simbi, Francisco) This individual puts a perspective on how this organization works socially. As for within the shared economy, Simbi’s role is still developing, and creating its foundations as an exchange system in society. Altogether Simbi works towards a social community where they can rely on one another to provide specialized services.

B-Line (Environmental Factors)

B-Line offers a different aspect to the task-for-task community, as an energy efficient delivery system. As a newly graduate college student, with a major in history and environmental studies, Franklin Jones biked across the world, starting his impact on the global environment. In creating B-line, Jones took into consideration the climate conditions of several cities. He decided that in order to have a successful cycling-based company, Jones needed a somewhat temperate climate, leading to his moving to Portland. In 2009, Franklin Jones created B-line, continuing his influence and love of the environment. It has stayed locally in Portland, with a staff of fifteen people. Despite its slow start-up, B-line is growing and becoming more well-known.

“The company was selected as a winner of the Oregon Next Generation Companies Awards. This program recognizes businesses that employ industry-leading strategies in the way they manage their employees, generate profit and pursue environmental economic sustainability. Jones was also a panelist at the GoGreen Conference, a sustainable leadership summit held in Portland.” (B-Line)

With B-line’s environmentally friendly purpose and growing sustainability it is becoming a more recognized small business.

B-line begins to solve the challenges that conventional trucks and vans face in getting to the “last mile”. The tricycles used by the delivery staff have the ability to get through narrow alleyways, and avoid major traffic, unlike many delivery vehicles. The use of tricycles for transportation and delivery reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help lower levels of pollution in the air. This energy efficient program brings a new light to task-for-task. As mentioned previously, B-line’s core values and manifesto provide a clear vision and inspiration as a model for future environmentally conscious companies.

Is the Task-for-Task Sustainable?

Taking a look at the way in which individuals with freelance lifestyles  and small business owners operate, there are several characteristics that can be seen across the board that fall in both the pros and cons categories.

PROS

  • Flexible scheduling
  • Ability to work for multiple companies
  • Freedom from constraint of a 9-5 office job
  • Hourly pay can be set as wanted
  • Entrepreneurs working together

CONS

  • Pay can be insufficient
  • No health insurance, disability, or retirement
  • Cost of jobs– such as mileage and car maintenance– is not reimbursed
  • Scheduling dictated by peak demand on the map
  • Difficult on understanding task obligations
  • Difficulty finding enough hours

(Mercury News)

Looking at the pros and cons of the task-for-task system in the sharing economy, the question comes up of whether this idea is sustainable and beneficial. It also brings in the aspects of equality in the system. In order for task-for-task to be successful for an individual, the person needs to already have had a career and made a living for themselves. In programs like TaskRabbit and Simbi there is no guarantee that one can make a career off their skills and tasks they perform. This brings up a class issue. One must have the money to provide the service, whether that is teaching music lessons or housekeeping, the person must have their own supplies. This means lower class may not have a chance to be successful. Task-for-task is indirectly class and monetary based. Middle and high class people have the money to provide these services, but lower class don’t get off as easily.

Overall considering task-for-task’s connection with communities; it has shown no significant impacts thus far, due to its online social networking foundation.  It could potentially cause gentrification seeing as most of these programs are located in major cities across the world. This would cause participants in the program to feel the need to move from rural areas to urban or suburban communities, in order to gain the perks of task-for-task. As task-for-task grows in popularity there is a chance for the programs to adapt and cater to the needs of rural regions. Therefore, it will be interesting to see what the future of the sharing economy holds for this aspect of task-for-task.

Conclusion

All in all, task-for-task is a progressive program that is focused on bringing a community together for the benefit of aiding one another. Using TaskRabbit, Simbi, and B-line, one can see the economic, social, and environmental factors brought by task-for-task programs. Each organization has specific characteristics that set them apart from one another, and other shared economy companies. TaskRabbit shared a game-like aspect through a complicated points system. Simbi presented a way to be social while helping one another. And B-Line serves as a middleman between larger corporate businesses as an environmental conscious delivery system. These programs do have their downfalls, with inequality of the class system, and location. But prove to be a prosperous systems, focused on bring people together. The future of the sharing economy has great potential especially if they stick to the three core aspects: social, economic, and environmental. By doing so, they can ensure success for the companies, while providing to the people, creating a healthy balance between the two.

Sources

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Bloomberg. “Outsource Your Errands: The Life of a TaskRabbit.” YouTube. YouTube, 30 Dec. 2013. Web. 01 May 2016.

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“Meet the Team – Simbi.” Meet the Team – Simbi. Simbi, INC, n.d. Web. 01 May 2016.

Owyang, Jeremiah. “The Master List of the Collaborative Economy: Rent and Trade Everything.” Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang Digital Business The Master List of the Collaborative Economy Rent and Trade Everything Comments. Web Strategy LLC, 24 Feb. 2013. Web. 01 May 2016.

“The Rise of the Sharing Economy.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 09 Mar. 2013. Web. 01 May 2016.

Sherman, Erik. “Uber, TaskRabbit And Sharing Economy Giveth To Workers, But Also Taketh Away.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 4 Aug. 2015. Web. 01 May 2016.

“Simbi – Welcome to the Symbiotic Economy – Simbi.” Simbi – Welcome to the Symbiotic Economy – Simbi. Simbi, INC, n.d. Web. 01 May 2016.

Simbi. “Hey, Simbi.” Vimeo. Vimeo, LLC, 15 June 201. Web. 01 May 2016.

Somerville, Heather. “Pros and Cons of On-demand Contract Work like Uber, Taskrabbit.” San Jose Mercury News. Digital First Media, 20 May 2015. Web. 01 May 2016.

Sundararajan, Arun. “Why the Government Doesn’t Need to Regulate the Sharing Economy.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 22 Oct. 2012. Web. 01 May 2016.

“TaskRabbit.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 01 May 2016.

Tsotsis, Alexia. “TaskRabbit Turns Grunt Work Into a Game.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, n.d. Web. 01 May 2016.

“We Do Chores.” TaskRabbit Connects You to Safe and Reliable Help in Your Neighborhood. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2016.