But fair is fair, and I must note she has hit on an interesting question: Is owning overrated?
Things that you can now rent instead of buying: a power drill, a song, a tent, an office for an hour, a Prada handbag, a wedding dress, a painting, a dog, your neighbor’s car, a drone.
This new way of consuming — call it the Netflix economy — is being built by web start-ups that either rent items themselves or serve as middlemen, connecting people who want something with people who own it. They are a growing corner of the broader sharing economy, in which people rent out rooms in their homes on Airbnb or drive people in their cars with Uber or Lyft. Soon, tech entrepreneurs and investors say, we’ll be able to rent much of what we always thought we must own.
I'm betting some New York City provincialism is sneaking in there, but perhaps she is on to something. For things that are relatively costly, but have a low utilization rate, and the need for which is predictable, that sounds like making sense. Particularly when aggregators remove the research overhead required to find what's out there. After all, that is one of the primary benefits stores bring with them: they, too, aggregate. The downside, of course, is the paying full freight for something rarely used.
Tools are a good example. Ten years ago I built a deck. I bought a power planer I have used once since. As part of the Hand-Me-Down project, I bought a vacuum pump and manifold gauge set to diagnose the air conditioner.
I failed, by the way. Far smarter to have rented these tools than to have bought them. Along with a bucket-o'-clues.
Other things, not so much. Outside dense cities, where car ownership really can be occasional, Uber and Lyft are just taxi companies by a different name. The rental market for aspirational fashions beyond the self-obsessed blue enclaves isn't as robust as it might appear from New York.
Still, at first glance, renting in lieu of ownership might be an economic game changer. We wouldn't need so much consumption, which means the earth could start to heal, and the rise of the seas slow.
This is, after all, an NYT article.
Perhaps not, though. Ms. Miller has forgotten that there already is a rental market for many things — including the AC tools I bought. Which I can, in yet another now familiar arrangement, put into the serial rental market.
EBay. You may have heard of it.
My guess: companies like Uber and AirBnB are alternative ways of doing the what we have long done, whose effect will be to greatly expand supply while not changing amount. RenttheRunway can put women into designer dresses and accessories for one-off occasions, but only in specific locales.
Beyond that: nothing.