About The Bay: Community Of Sharing Emerges As Economy Limps Along

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Remember when neighbors used to borrow things from one another? It’s a concept that’s coming back, though often with a price these days.

For example, you drive your car to and from work, though it sits idle for 8 hours – or more – per day. Why not rent it out?

“I have a yellow Mini convertible. It’s available for $8 an hour in Noe Valley,” said Shelby Clark, founder of RelayRides.com, a website he himself uses to rent out the car, making about $400 monthly by doing so.

“It makes sense if I have a car that’s just sitting around, that I should let a neighbor use it and help them out. And I can make some money in the process,” said Clark.

Should something go wrong, RelayRides.com maintains insurance on participating cars – an assurance that is helping people who were initially skeptical warm to the concept.

“They would sort of look at me with a weird eye and say ‘you want a stranger driving my car?'” recalled Clark.

Other such sharing sites are also catching on.

“I can’t even count how many websites and how many technologies there are trying to address this problem, whatever you want to call it,” added Ro Kumar with the sharing site LocalBlu.com, which allows you to borrow anything from a lawn mower to a vacuum. “If you don’t use it all that often, why buy it when you can share it?”

Kumar said he thinks the growth of the sharing trend is inevitable.

“I think sharing is in our DNA,” reasoned Bay Area parent Neal Gorenflo, who shares his son’s nanny with three other families. He has stayed in people’s spare bedrooms on vacations, and rents cars as needed. By his count, he’s saved upwards of $20,000 by sharing instead of buying, in a year.

“It is old but I think it’s also being reinvented,” Gorenflo said of the sharing trend.

KCBS’ Mike Sugerman Reports:

KCBS reporter Mike Sugerman’s son, Max, has put the concept of sharing to good use – overseas. He “couch surfed” his way through Europe to save on lodging costs.

“It’s like a whole global community of people that host each other just because they know how expensive traveling is,” Max offered. “It cuts way down on the costs.”

He’s keen to return the favor, which means people coming to their house – an idea that doesn’t thrill his mother all that much.

“Just random foreigners…every other week a different group of foreigners hanging out in the guest bedroom,” said Max.

The plus side, Sugerman said he’s learning bits of German and Swedish.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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