WORKPLACE / AUG. 31, 2015
version 7, draft 7

The 9-5 Rebellion and Sharing Economy

So you’re a recent graduate, all starry-eyed, ambitious, and idealistic. Look at you, so adorable! I just want to pinch your cheeks and tell you that the real world is a horrible, competitive place, with very little to offer someone with a fresh, hot-off-the-press diploma and absolutely no work experience. I hate to break it to you but your future will be a revolving door of interviews and rejection letters (if you’re lucky; most companies won’t even tell you that the position’s been filled). And I just might be able to help keep you from becoming a faceless, perpetual job-seeking zombie that groans “Heealth Beeneefiits?” instead of “Braains”.

See Also: Are You Ready For a Freelance Economy?

A new observable trend has been emerging from the harsh, unforgiving post-Great Recession landscape that economists are calling the Sharing Economy. Even if you haven’t heard of the term, I’m sure you’ve heard of the services that are part of this new economic trend (think Airbnb, Uber and even eBay – arguably the pioneer of the “on-demand” economy as it’s also known). These companies are basically peer-to-peer based, like in the case of Uber where you use your own vehicle to offer rides to strangers for a fee. You are your own boss in the form of an independent contractor. So you can definitely see the appeal of setting up your own schedule, working overtime if you choose to, and making sure that all the money you make is yours. Sounds great, right? You can wake up in the morning, slowly integrate into mainstream society and make a decent salary, but is engaging in the sharing economy really all it’s cracked up to be?

Anti-consumerism

Due to the unavailability of stable assets such as real estate, more and more people are finding ownership of these things asinine (side note: I really enjoy the word “asinine” and I thought I’d share with you why: first, it’s a perfectly hoity-toity way of saying something’s “stupid” and, second, it’s a hoity-toity word for “stupid” that has “as(s)” in it. It’s like the high school crush of words, and that parallelism was asinine).

So we were talking about a shift in the paradigm between consumer and service/product provider. This new peer-to-peer economic model is more based on the experience (or frugality of the experience) than the quality of the product. Take for example an Airbnb rental property compared to a three-star hotel (which is what you could rent for the same amount of money).

Let’s assume that the hotel will be far from most residential areas, probably located in a touristy part of town or close to the airport/train/bus depot. Considering your Airbnb rental is a residential home, it’s going to be located in a residential area which will give you a much more authentic experience of the city you are visiting. Another benefit is that, if you have certain dietary restriction for religious or ethical reasons, the only way to be 100% sure is to prepare it yourself (although most hotels will be accommodating). That’s not the only benefit, though.

An unseen factor of the sharing economy is the fact that it creates social cohesion: one stranger allows another stranger to use their home. When they come face to face, it’s almost as if they have signed a nonverbal agreement which says the person “borrowing” the property should return it in the best shape he/she can. No, I don’t not know what the nonverbal contract says about doing weird sex stuff in their bed… maybe feel the room on that one.

The Unregulated Horror

Just like any fresh-faced, sparkly-eyed industry, they believe in the fundamental goodness of people. Big mistake. Airbnb renters have used their temporary tenements for makeshift brothels and sex clubs, and even murder scenes. This new industry though has transitioned from a virginal smiling schoolgirl to a gruff, cigarette-smoking, liquor-swilling brute.

Well, I’m being facetious, but the truth is that most of the companies that are part of this sharing economy are taking measures against instances like returning to a house so destroyed that the owner said he “would have felt better if it burnt down”, unwittingly renting out your apartment to someone who threw a sex party in it, or being locked into your host’s apartment and coerced into sex (it puts lotion on its skin or it gets the hose! I’m sorry, I know that story is horrifying, but I’m incorrigible).

So Ditch the Stack of CVs

I think these on-demand services actually have the potential to employ a relatively large number of independent contractors, and the pool of jobs is huge. TaskRabbit, for example, offers everything from hiring someone to wait in line for you all the way up to getting someone to help you with your academic research. If you have a pair of hands, or a marketable skill, you can defiantly be your own boss. If you have a clean record (yes, people are allowing you into their homes and places of business; trust is a big deal here) and a healthy appetite for work, then you too can be a “Tasker”.

All Is Well and Good

But… yes, there is always an inevitable, huge but (and I cannot lie). These companies went from small fry to huge, threatening carnivorous fish that have become major competitors to well-established franchises and corporations. New York was the first to point this out by scrutinizing the damage Airbnb has had on the hospitality industry (which is a huge industry in one of the most visited cities in the world). It’s even called out Uber for creating road congestion and damaging the city’s taxi industry. So there are some caveats that are still being ironed out.

On the other hand, it’s uncertain how much longer these companies will stay akin to their hippie commune of free love and free schedules. Eventually, a huge money-grubbing entity will rise up and make that shit go corporate so fast it will make even the most eager Tasker’s head spin. Honestly, on the back of that speculation, I can’t wait to see.

See Also: What is Airbnb and Why it’s a Pain in New York City’s A**

Do you participate in the sharing economy? Let me know in the comments section below!

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