You gonna eat that? The sharing economy's worst offenders
Some things just don’t need to be shared with strangers. Like your leftover carne asada super burrito (ew) or a designer paisley necktie (why?). The sharing economy has spawned some really innovative ideas, but some startups might have innovated themselves right off a cliff.
The appeal of launching an app for people to pool their resources is understandable. These days, you can share your way straight to the bank. The industry’s breakout hits, Lyft and Airbnb, have allowed people bypass old-fashioned businesses like taxis and hotels to great success.
But the sharing economy’s worst offenders have taken a simple idea—providing a platform for people to offer goods and services to each other—and ruined it with apps that range from obtuse to just plain offensive. We found the best of the worst.
The concept: The best part about ordering takeout is all the leftovers for tomorrow. But LeftoverSwap, a San Francisco-based app still in beta, thinks you hate leftovers. You have to choose: Throw out your food or (yes, this is an option) or sell it to someone in your neighborhood who would want to buy your half-eaten dinner. Good luck finding such a lunatic.
Why so terrible? Besides the ridiculous notion that you would want to sell the rest of your meal rather than eating the leftovers or throwing them in the trash, there’s the whole business of germs to contend with. The kind of person who would sell you the chewed-on remains of burrito might also be the kind of person who at this very moment is also incubating some strain of the plague. Apparently, the San Francisco Health Department agrees. The app will likely face fines and/or a crackdown if it launches as planned on August 30.
Find out for yourself: Sign up to get notified when LeftoverSwap launches.
The concept: Tie Society is like Netflix for ties. Yes, ties. You subscribe to the service, select ties to add to your online closet, sit back, and wait eagerly for your first tie to arrive in the mail. You can keep the tie, wear it around indefinitely, and send it back when you feel like it.
Why so terrible? I just don’t understand why anyone would want this. Ties, unlike handbags, aren’t heinously expensive, and if you wear them often for work, buying a few seems like a worthwhile investment. If you never wear ties except for formal occasions, signing up for a service like this is probably useless. Then there’s the whole hygiene issue. The company guarantees the sterilization of each tie upon return, but a tie is just a weirdly intimate accessory to exchange like a DVD rental.
Find out for yourself: Subscribe away.
The concept: Park Circa is like Airbnb for parking spaces. (That very same sentence may be responsible for Park Circa’s funding.) If you own a parking space in a major city like New York or San Francisco, where finding a place to stow your car is both time-sucking and expensive, you can list your space on Park Circa. Looking to park for a couple hours? Use someone else’s space.
Why so terrible? Parking is one of those Big City Problems that’s easy to write off, but the real reason Park Circa is so silly is because renting your space through the service actually doesn’t net you any real cash money to offset your monthly costs. You get paid in Park Circa credit to redeem when you use other people’s spaces. Thanks, but no.
Find out for yourself: Get the gist.
The concept: It’s like Airbnb for boats! (Do you sense a trend here?) Boatbound has been described as “the fastest growing peer-to-peer boat rental marketplace,” presumably by employees of Boatbound. Are there are other peer-to-peer boat rental marketplaces? No, forget I asked. Boatbound aims to connect boat owners with people who want to go boating.
Why so terrible? Boatbound isn’t terrible, exactly. It’s just a little ridiculous. It’s exactly the type of startup that comes to mind when people talk about Silicon Valley’s hyper-focus on first-world problems. But hey, who am I to prevent boat enthusiasts from sailing the high seas?
Find out for yourself: Whatever floats your boat. (I had to!)
The concept: Instead of driving other people around, à la Lyft, RelayRides lets you rent out your vehicle like a regular, do-it-yourself Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Sounds great, right? Just set your availability and watch the requests roll in.
Why so terrible? RelayRides also lets you park at the airport for free. All you have to do is let the company rent out your car while you’re gone. Are visions of Ferris Bueller joyriding around Chicago in Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari racing through your head right now? They should be. You might not own a Ferrari, but still.
Find out for yourself: Give that free parking thing a whirl.