Big city dwellers who need a car for less than a day can rent Zipcars by the hour. Zipcar's ads emphasize environmentalism and community. But a recent study shows that most Zipcar users primarily consider their own convenience and cost, rather than being green or part of a user community. The study is in the Journal of Consumer Research. [Fleura Bardhi and Giana M. Eckhardt, Access-Based Consumption: The Case of Car Sharing]
The investigation is part of more general research about what’s called access-based consumption—basically very short-term rental—which has grown due to the economic recession and the cramped quarters of big cities.
In interviews with Zipcar users, researchers found that they tend to behave selfishly, and don’t worry about how their treatment of the car affects the next guy. As one user interviewed for the study put it: “You can just beat the hell out of it—it’s not your car.”
And since users assume everyone else is behaving the same way, they appreciate the rules that the company does try to enforce about, for example, cleanliness. Not surprisingly, these attitudes don’t engender a feeling of community. Because the condition of your temporary car depends on the user who cared the least about it.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]