I was talking to a friend yesterday who shared with me a conversation he had with his Uber driver a couple weeks ago. The Uber driver, from Somali, was complaining how all his riders in San Francisco only wanted to rent things and never to own them. Specifically, he said he understood if people don’t want to own a house or a car because they are expensive, but what’s the incentives for participating in carrier programs where you pay $100 something per month for the latest iPhone model and then swap them in for a new one couple years later? For him, it’s essentially like you’re on a continual phone rental with AT&T and he was just confused.
I never took the time to formally think about how much my life has changed in the past 5 years, and this sudden realization that I am essentially the exact type of consumers that that Uber driver would disagree with shocked me, because I am the generation that witnessed the transition from standing on the street hoping a cab would show up around the corner to booking a rider on Uber in three seconds; going to shopping mall and later regretting half of my impulse purchases to renting my clothes, jewelries, and even my bags. Having experienced both sides, I was shocked that I never once thought about how everything just changed, and I never questioned any of it nor tried to resist.
I am aware of all the downsides and I walk into all my 2AM uber rides praying my driver is not a serial killer, but instead of taking public transportation (which honestly can sometimes be equally dangerous in NYC so what can you really do), I just subscribe to one more app on my phone that tracks my location in real time and has an emergency bottom which I can press to alert the police and all my close friends. It’s really double the efforts, but jumping in a stranger’s car becasue it will get you where you want and comes with a pretty accurate ETA just feels so convenient.
Owning something means you need to take care of it, maintain it and be responsible for it — whether it’s a house, a car, a dress or a CD. Renting takes all that away — it widens your options and takes all the burdens off your shoulder. I always think there are two ways to build a business — one is to actually make people’s lives more convenient, the other is to make people really believe their lives will be more convenient. They are similar concepts but not exactly the same, and many successful firms realize they need to do both to gain popularity, markets and expansion in a quality way. The brands that only have one but not the other either die too early because there’s simply not enough traction or they tank after a short moment of hype.
For me though, I’m just excited to imagine how many more things I’ll be gladly renting as a consumer over the next 5 years and blatantly ignore the attached price tag that says “2x the efforts”.