What is the best way to share a single object (say, a lawnmower) amongst of about 15 people?
December 9, 2010 5:11 PM   Subscribe

What is the best way to share a single object (say, a lawnmower) amongst of about 15 people?

I've noticed that everyone on the block that I grew up on has their own lawnmower. The yards are small, so this really makes no sense to me. I want to learn about others' experiences trying to share objects like this that worked.

The fact that sharing is not easy has not escaped me. There's always the inevitable person who drops the ball. But I am curious in what cases this has worked out and what helped to make that happen.

The reason why I ask this question is I am interested in developing a web application which eases sharing items and creating accountability for individuals in a group.
posted by peetle to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
There's a service for Portlanders called Bright Neighbor which is intended for this type of thing.

I haven't tried it yet but I imagine it would work very, very well if it every individual who signs up for it has a personalized scope, instead of just saying "X neighborhood". It would also be great for particular blocks, etc. but what if someone just one street over has the thing you need?
posted by lhall at 5:15 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The biggest problem with this is that somebody has to play police. My dad is both extremely generous and has a well-stocked garage, and he's always happy to loan stuff to neighbors when they need it. Stuff would get lost, damaged, come back late (if at all), used improperly (sometimes causing injury/damage to the property of the person who borrowed it and somehow this made it my dad's fault?)--you name it, it happened. People don't play nicely with other people's things.

Maybe the best way to do this online would be to have some sort of rating/feedback system (like ebay?) where you'd have to establish yourself as a Good Borrower before someone loans you their stuff. Also, what happens when the lawn mower has a part that needs replacing (even if no one knows) and something malfunctions and the borrower's hand gets chopped off? Who's liable? It's one thing if it's a neighbor you've known for ten years, but if it's the dude from the next street over who you've only met once...etc. Something to think about.
posted by phunniemee at 5:33 PM on December 9, 2010

I know I've heard of a place online that is set up so that you can allow people to borrow stuff. The way they site is set up, they pay you a deposit so that if the item gets messed up or never comes back the owner isn't just totally out of luck. The deposit is theoretically returned when the item is returned in good enough condition.

The name escapes me, and it was something I only heard of and didn't use. But something like that, where you either pay for the thing and get "refunded" or at least have an agreement that things will be paid for if lost or messed up, could work well.
posted by theichibun at 5:42 PM on December 9, 2010

Some sites that do this: Loanables ; SnapGoods ; NeighborGoods ; Share Some Sugar
posted by candyland at 6:12 PM on December 9, 2010

maybe you want to start a tool library?
posted by jindc at 6:53 PM on December 9, 2010

You need to make sure people are economically invested in the resource they're using. Generally this is called a co-operative. Everybody pays $X and then whoever runs the co-op uses the $Y left over after basic expenses to improve the co-op, e.g. by buying new tools. Instead of requiring an initial monetary investment, you could allow people to become vested in the co-op through "donation" of a tool worth $X. So they give up personal ownership in return for access. There will still have to be ongoing costs. Instead of a monthly fee, you could also have an agreement with all members that damages will be paid communally, so when a tool needs to get replaced the cost per person is $COST/$NUM_MEMBERS.
posted by beerbajay at 1:27 AM on December 10, 2010

I'm a co-owner of a bouncy house. A bunch of us went in on it together and paid equal amounts for it. We have a Google calendar where people can sign up for it, and we all have each other's e-mail addresses in case someone needs to track it down or has a question. Whoever had it last has to store it until the next person comes to pick it up.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:05 PM on December 10, 2010

I found the book How Things Don't Work at a yard sale years ago and it discusses this exact topic among a number of others.

If i'm remember it, they definitely suggest that you'd need a lawnmower that was industrial strength, so that it was much more resilient to abuse.

I have the sharing relationship with my next door neighbors, but we know that if we don't have something, it's next door, and not at any of fifteen houses. If you're looking for pragmatic advice, I would suggest to start small. FWIW, I ended up sharing my car with my neighbor since I don't use it during the day (take public transit to work) and they need to be a two-car family, but only for an hour every morning.
posted by desl at 10:28 AM on December 11, 2010

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