When common people become extraordinary- Bilbo Baggins, Shabari and my new Airbnb host

“Every act of normal folk that keeps the darkness at Bay” – JRR, The Hobbit.

In J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Lady Galadriel asks Gandalf, “Why the Halfing.”  Gandalf replies saying, “Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I’ve found. I’ve found it is the small things, every act of normal folk that keeps the darkness at bay – simple acts of kindness and love…”. The simplest act of kindness is sharing. As parents, we teach and always remind our kids that they need to share their toys with each other and friends. Kids easily adopt the concept of sharing when you give them an incentive. As a civilization, we have now taken this basic concept of sharing and monetized it through Airbnb, Lyft, Upwork, Uber, etc.


The simplest act of kindness is sharing

As Arun Sundararajan says in this book The Sharing Economy“What is new, in the “sharing economy,” is that you are not helping a friend for free; you are providing these services to a stranger for money.”While Arun talks about how the “crowd-based capitalism” will be the new way of organizing economic activity, as a frequent consumer of these services, I continue to be amazed at the simplicity of this everytime.

Imagine a decade back, why decade, just a few years back, the cost of travel was so expensive. One way to look at it, there wasn’t another way to travel. We tried to get the best deals for travel, lodging, rental, and food. We used your loyalty points where possible to get a bargain. Now we don’t have to look for best deals, the economics of the supply and demand through the sharing platforms, present to us a variety of options. All we have to do now is to look at the reviews and ratings and chose. In this new world, we are consuming these very transactions with a flavor of extraordinary experiences.

Ride Sharing vs. Rentals: A Stress-free Experience

Let’s just look at Lyft line. I use Lyft more than Uber just to do my part in creating a healthy competitor. A few years back we had to find the best car rental deals. At times we used our points. We were concerned about paying for insurance and about pre-paying for the tank or filling it up before we return it. Imagine the experience of filling up the tank. It’s usually the last thing we do before boarding that plane. Sometimes we even have to show the receipt as proof that we did refill the tank and then wait for a shuttle to get you to the airport before we can start boarding. With Lyft line all of that is gone – poof. The whole experience has not only been light on our wallet by order of magnitude but has created a stress-free experience.

Ordinary residences can leave extraordinary experiences by delightful customer service

Airbnb is not only light on our wallet, but also the idea of sharing our lives with a stranger provides us with a new experience. My recent Airbnb host had the most beautiful house. It wasn’t contemporary with cool furniture but somewhat rustic, almost medieval and pretty ordinary as well. She explained the procedures at her home in detail and provided a directed experience during my stay – there was a Post-It on pretty much everything, making sure that I am not second-guessing. The visit made me think of how ordinary residences can leave extraordinary experiences by the delightful customer service. Boring can be engaging. It reminded me of Sabari’s story in the epic – Ramayana.

Shabari welcomed everyone to her home with respect and kindness

There is a legend about Shabari and Rama in epic Ramayana. The tale that’s popularly known talks about when Rama stopped by her modest house, she welcomed him with an open heart and offered him the best “treats” fruits in this case. The story then goes that she tasted the fruits herself and offered him only the tasty ones. There is a not-so-popular tale about Shabari, which talks about how she welcomed everyone to her house as Rama and treated everyone with the same amount of respect and kindness.

What does this have to do with today’s world of sharing economy? The platforms provide the technological foundation without which none of would be possible. It is also about the people,  the respect we share, the processes we create with attention to detail which makes the sharing economy succeed. It’s about ordinary folk who make extraordinary things happen by focusing on smaller aspects in their everyday acts.

It’s about ordinary folk who make extraordinary things happen by focusing on smaller aspects in their everyday acts.

Photo by Robert Collins on Unsplash

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