Editor’s Note: I’m willing to share this column, but I’m not so sure about sharing other things

February 12, 2012

Lately I have run into a lot of people talking about the Sharing Economy.

As far as I can tell, the local buzz percolated about a month or so ago when former AOL chief Steve Case appeared on Stephen Colbert’s Comedy Central show to talk about his investments in things such as ZipCar, a car-sharing service, and Exclusive Resorts, where people share high-end vacation homes.

Apparently, it is hip to share, if for no other reason that, in this economy, it makes things affordable — and it respects our use of resources. It doesn’t hurt that the Internet makes it easy to be social.

Colbert, not surprisingly, had a bit of fun at Case’s expense. The show host said growing up as one of 11 kids, he learned it is not fun to share. Colbert also mocked the idea with a proposal for a company called Toasterster, in which people would share their toasters, because, after all, you only use your bread cooker for about five minutes a day.

Like Colbert, I never really thought of myself as a sharing kind of guy. Sharing takes a lot of planning and accommodation, and I’m too busy for that.

Or am I?

I guess I have shared when it seemed worth my while. I’ve shared vacation homes, for instance, and checked out books from the library. When the kids were younger, we shared a nanny with another family. I’ve paid for the privilege of sharing DVDs.

I don’t quite get why people share bikes, but then, I have a garage.

For sharing to work, you’ve gotta trust your fellow borrower. And you have to be careful not to get too attached to the thing you are sharing.

For a while, my wife shared a purse, renting it from some online site. I was dubious at first, and then marveled at all the compliments she got over that fashionable, high-priced bag. Hmm, I thought, maybe there’s something to this sharing thing. Then came time to return it.

Suddenly, sharing did not seem like such a good idea.

beyersd@washpost.com

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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