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Sharing Economy Arrives in Fairfield, Sort Of

September 2016

I was excited about PeerRenters, so I downloaded the app to my iPad. Such a great idea: people can rent out things that they own, such as cameras, musical instruments, bikes, skis, tools.

I downloaded the app, created an account, logged in, gave approval to the app to use my location. I was eager to see what rentals were available in Fairfield. Instead I got this message: "Congratulations. Be the first person in your area to rent your items."

So it was with DogVacay, RelayRides, TaskRabbit, Spinlister, Saarly, Getaround, Fon, Zilok, etc.

Still, there's been progress since I first wrote about the sharing economy. At that time Airbnb and Uber were hot topics, but zilch in southeastern Iowa. Now however, Uber serves Ames, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Iowa City, and the Quad Cities area. And Airbnb has 43 listings for Fairfield.

No doubt you've heard of Uber, the taxi service that allows people to use their personal car to provide taxi service to those in need of a ride. The beauty of Uber, and of many facets of the sharing economy, is that it's mediated by a smartphone app.

If you need a ride, you open the app and request a ride. The app already knows your location because of your smartphone's GPS capability. When a nearby driver accepts your request, you'll see information about the driver, including name, photo, type of car, and license plate number. You'll be able to use an on-screen map to track the car's progress toward where you're located.

Before the car arrives or at anytime during the ride, you enter in your destination. Once your ride ends, the app automatically bills the payment method that you've linked to your Uber account. The app even lets you share the cost of the ride among friends. Plus, you can send a text message from within the app with a link that allows those at your destination to track your progress on a map. After your ride the app asks both the driver and you to rate each other from 1 to 5 stars.

Uber operates worldwide, and is hugely popular. It's convenient, and often cheaper than a regular taxi. And best of all, it's now in Iowa.

Airbnb appears to be the sharing service that's most ubiquitous in southeast Iowa. The 43 listings for Fairfield start at $25 for a private room in a house near the Fairfield Square, with a minimum of two nights. The price goes up to $35 on weekends.

You can see photos and read the reviews for each listing on the Airbnb website or by using the app. In this case, the 18 reviews are quite positive, with an overall rating of 4.5 stars. Some of the reviewers have stayed there multiple times.

Also available is an entire upstairs apartment for $45 per night, with a four-night minimum. For $140 per night you can rent an entire two-bedroom house in Maharishi Vedic City, with a minimum stay of three nights.

I'm looking forward to more services coming to the area. DogVacay lets you leave your doggie with someone while you're on vacation. It's cheaper than a kennel and your dog will likely be happier.

TaskRabbit lets you hire people to help you out: fixing things, cleaning, deliveries, moving, assembling or moving furniture. Zaarly is similar, but only available in seven cities. Zilok is similar to PeerRenters and claims to be the #1 rental site. You can rent cars, cameras, tools, electronics, bikes, boats, or whatever. Spinlister offers bike rentals. Getaround offers car rentals. A guy in San Francisco is bringing in $750 per month by renting his car out when he's not using it

The sharing economy not only offers you goods and services in a convenient fashion at what is typically a lower price, but it also helps save the planet. Most people's cars just sit for much of the day. The sharing economy means that fewer cars can serve more people.

And while many of these services aren't available in rural Iowa, some residents of Fairfield have taken matters into their own hands. The Facebook group StuffShare Fairfield gives people the opportunity to sell or trade items they aren't using. HomeShare Fairfield offers room rentals and housesitting opportunities. RideShare Fairfield offers ride sharing.

All credit to Noah Ouellette and others for having the vision to create these services.

If you know of any sharing services available in southeastern, please let me know:

This month's hot tip

If you're an art lover, Google's new smartphone app Google Arts & Culture is a tool for discovering art from over a thousand museums in 70 countries.

© 2016 by Jim Karpen, Ph.D.

E-mail Jim Karpen

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