In the sharing economy, people rent goods and services directly from each other and everything is facilitated by technology. Business is booming, and according to author Rachel Botsman who wrote a book on the sharing economy, the consumer peer-to-peer rental market is currently worth $26 billion.
“Before the internet, renting a surfboard, a power tool or a parking space from someone else was feasible, but was usually more trouble than it was worth,” says Forbes. But now, on-demand apps and other advancements in tech have made accessing and paying for these rentables much simpler – and cheaper. Companies like Uber and Airbnb garner the lion’s share of press (as well as lawsuits and legislation) when it comes to businesses involved in the quirky rental or sharing economy, but we’ve noticed a much wider variety of goods and services bud, flower, and bloom over the past few years. From surprisingly useful to over-the-top to downright whimsical, here are a few of our favorites:
- Fake Funeral Mourners: Are you expecting sparse attendance at the final rites of a loved one? (Err, what an awkward question…) Don’t worry, there’s an app for that: Rent-a-Mourner (only available in the UK) supplies “professional, discreet people to attend funerals and wakes,” for about $55 an hour. Sometimes the fake mourners stick to the background and are simply a warm body (sorry) to increase numbers, but often the hired mourners actually assume an identity and pretend to have known, and even loved, the deceased – all while also appearing to mourn themselves. The practice of hiring professional mourners has been popular in China for a while but it’s catching on in the west, too.
- Bridesmaids: Jen Glantz, owner of Bridesmaid for Hire, is careful to note that her customers aren’t renting a “friend for a day” and are instead hiring a professional to take care of wedding details so that the bride can enjoy her day with less stress. We’ll admit that the concept sounds, at first, a tad self-indulgent, but Glantz’s services really amount to a more hands-on wedding planner – a service we’re sure overworked (and unpaid) bridesmaids everywhere would appreciate. And a reality check for brides everywhere: Glantz commands between $1,000 and $2,000 for her services, something to remember when choosing bridesmaids thank-you gifts for your real friends and family.
- Professional Wingman (or Woman): Moving right along down the hire-a-friend path we find the services of professional best friends (who help you get the girl or guy) with The Professional Wingman. They’ll teach you how to improve your social skills to land dates and even long-term relationships, claims founder Thomas Edwards. We’re pretty sure there’s at least one movie plot ringing a bell…
- A Friend: Doing away with all pretense of added-on services, Rent A Friend tells it like it is: you’ll hire someone to hang out with you, platonically, a venture that might be easier said than done, according to one writer at The Gloss.
- Crowds: Looking to fill out a big event (or political rally)? You can rent cheering and adoring crowds with Crowds on Demand.
- Goats for Lawnmowers: Really! Instead of gas-powered machinery and harsh chemicals for your lawn or farm care, you can instead rent an eco-friendly goat. Goats happen to be incredible natural landscapers, eating invasive weeds (like kudzu) and unattractive and dangerous plants (like thistle and poison ivy). Even better: kids and pets can play safely on lawns cared for by goats without the pesticide worry. Amazon has a goat renting service, and other companies, like Rent a Goat and We Rent Goats also provide goats to interested parties.
- Rent-a-Chicken: Before you commit to caring for chickens and buying all the supplies they need (like a coop and feed, all of which can cost over $500), you can rent them from places like Rent the Chicken and Rent a Chicken for about $90. You can even choose non-GMO feed (for an upcharge).
- Doggie Home Care: If a kennel isn’t right for your beloved pup, and you aren’t interested in a house-sitter, you can board your dog at someone’s own home with DogVacay. The service is generally intended for people who are traveling as well as those who don’t want to leave their dog home alone all day. You can also hire dog walkers and house sitters through the service.
For Special Occasions
- Short-term Live Christmas Tree Rental: Sure, you could always get a synthetic tree. But for those who love that fresh evergreen scent at Christmastime, opting for a real tree can pose a dilemma. Now, rather than cut down a mature tree only to discard it a few weeks later, you can instead rent a potted Christmas tree to use during the holiday season, and then return it, guilt-free, afterwards. Prices can exceed $200, however, this service currently only seems to be available in California.
- A Wedding Cake: Wedding cakes cost a fortune, but enterprising couples can save money by renting a fondant-covered styrofoam fake cake for display purposes from places like Fun Cakes, which ships worldwide. You can rent these cake decorations starting at $200 instead of a real tiered wedding cake, which can easily cost thousands. Your guests will never know: simply whisk the stand-in cake into the kitchen to be cut, and instead serve sheet cake.
- A Wedding Dress: Brides who want to say “Yes” without the expense can rent a dress (or buy one used) from Borrowing Magnolia. They’ll size you (virtually) to within one inch and you’ll choose from over 700 dresses. You can have a few sent for at-home try-on, and most alterations are allowed – all for a price they claim to be 85% less than retail. And former brides take note: you can list your dress with the site and earn about $535 each year.
- Children’s Toys: It’s a constant parental lament: often children only play with toys for a short time before moving on to the next developmental stage (or the next shiny new fad). While there are certain toys that kids will always gravitate to (like a favorite stuffed animal), others are more disposable. Enter the children’s toy rental market where parents can pay a monthly subscription fee for access to an ever-rotating stash of toys from places like Pley.com and ToysTrunk.com.
- A Driveway: Live in an area that’s short on street parking? In many major cities, you can rent part of someone’s driveway from sites like Spot.com and Just Park for an hour or two (“cheaper than a garage and more convenient than metered parking,” they say) or for months at a time.
Have you tried these services or similar ones?