Shut up With the ‘Sharing Economy’



If I hear one more pitch about a product or service taking advantage of “the sharing economy,” I’m going to shoot a hole right through my Uber app.

Companies like Uber, Airbnb, DoorDash and Rover are touted as hallmarks of a new, more collaborative economy. These business models are a kinder, gentler way of commerce — you don’t rent a car, you share one; you don’t pay for a hotel room, you share a couch; you don’t hire a dog walker, someone “shares” your dog.

Oh, you millennials.

News flash: You’re not really sharing anything. You’re paying for services. Sharing a car is when you carpool to work for free. Sharing your house is when you let your adult daughter move home for a semester of law school (sigh), or when you and some strangers swap houses without swapping any money. Sharing your dog is when you and another person actually share a dog because you’re both busy, and you each pay for half the upkeep. That’s “sharing.”

Uber is not sharing. It’s an efficient and less expensive taxi service. Airbnb is a hotel/housing business. DoorDash delivers food for a fee. It shares nothing.

Crowdfunding campaigns are considered a big part of all this sharing. They allow people to give money to a start-up which has an exciting idea. They’re sharing money and expect a return. That’s not sharing, that’s investing.

But since we’re all now supposed to be about sharing, let’s use the word for other financial transactions. The bank shared its resources with me so I could buy a house, and I paid the bank back with interest. My employer shares some of its profits with me in exchange for a product (news stories) it sells to advertisers who will buy commercials so my employer can make even more profits. I share some of my money with the cleaning lady, and she shares her cleaning expertise all over my kitchen.

Wow, that’s so cool! By referring to business transactions as “sharing,” they sound less greedy. It’s not about the money. It’s about the …

Oh COME ON. It’s always about the money. And what makes businesses like Uber and Airbnb and DoorDash and Rover so compelling is that they cut out the bureaucratic and regulatory middlemen. The result of that is customers usually pay less, and service providers usually keep more of the profits.

So perhaps the only thing we’re really sharing, is the win-win.


Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Newtown grafitti

About the author: Jane Wells

Jane Wells is a CNBC business reporter based in Los Angeles where she covers retail, agriculture, defense and California’s economy, West Coast real estate and Las Vegas. Before joining CNBC, Wells was a correspondent for the Fox News Channel and a contributor for international reports for CNN. She has received many awards for her work including the 1992 Peabody Award and duPont Award for her role in the live coverage of the Rodney King Trial. She holds bachelor’s degrees in broadcast journalism and philosophy from the University of Southern California where she graduated with honors. She and her husband have two children and live in Los Angeles.

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