How do you decide whether or not to trust someone you've never met before renting them your car or apartment? Christopher Maag looks for answers in an interesting article he wrote for credit.comcalled, "Collaborative Consumption, Trust and the Evolution of Credit."
Jeremy Barton owns a nice Subaru Impreza, but he rarely drives it. As a co-founder of a tech startup in San Francisco, he usually just rides his bike to work. So when Barton heard of a new website called Relay Rides that lets regular people rent out their own cars, it sounded perfect. "Not only does it help pay my car payment and my insurance, but I also get a really good feeling knowing that someone can use it," says Barton, who's 27. But getting started as a do-it-yourself car rental company proved more difficult than Barton expected. For weeks after he joined Relay Rides, his Subaru continued sitting in its parking spot, unused. With no reviews of Barton or his car on the website, borrowers skipped over him to use cars that already had been well-reviewed.
And when Barton finally received a text message informing him that the car would be rented, he had some concerns. Who was this mystery borrower? Would they trash his car?
"I was nervous about it, to be honest," says Barton. "I didn't panic. But I would've liked to know more information about the person. It would've given me a bit more ease." [Article: Companies Consider Credit Card Purchase Data for Ad Targeting] So Barton, the very definition of an early adopter, decided to do something about it. His company, Legit.com, uses data culled from social media sites including Twitter and Facebook to help users on websites similar to Relay Rides figure out who's trustworthy and who's not. After all, if Barton had a moment of trepidation about lending his car to a stranger, imagine how much work lies ahead for Relay Rides, as it tries to expand its network of car lenders and borrowers across America. "To create a true collaborative consumption industry, finding a way to establish trust between strangers is an absolute requirement," says Shelby Clark, co-founder of Relay Rides.com. And yet, despite the hurdles, it's happening. Tonight in Manhattan, fewer visitors to the city will sleep in a hotel bed than in beds reserved through Airbnb.com, a website that lets people rent out their apartments directly, says Rachel Botsman, a writer and entrepreneur who focuses on collaborative companies. In the United Kingdom, 10 percent of all lending is done through peer-to-peer websites like Zopa.com, Prosper and Lending Club, Botsman says.