Just when you thought Mother’s Day had passed for another year, it turns out having a mom has taken on a whole new meaning in Hong Kong. Don’t have a mom that lives close, or sadly have lost yours? Never fear, you can rent one. Or a pet. Or, well, pretty much anything at all. The uberization and AirBnB effect has moved well beyond vacation rentals and rides home from the local pub.
Enter the brainchild of Parkson Yip Tak-yin, vice-president of strategic business development at Sharing Economy International, which launched an app called BuddiGo this month. BuddiGo’s delivery service relies on a network of “buddies” who practically become couriers while commuting.
According to an interview Yip gave to the South China Morning Post,
As an example, the buddy nearby your location has to go to work in Hong Kong’s Central business district and you give him HK$20 (US$2.50) to help you deliver something to, or buy something from, Central … The HK$20 can help subsidize his transport cost and save you the trouble of going to Central in person for the errand.”
BOOM — you have someone to handle your random errands for you. A pretty intuitive business model for the elderly or the super lazy. Imagine, you never have to leave the confines of your couch if Amazon and BuddiGo can take care of everything for you. But wait, there’s more.
Before working for Sharing Economy International, Yip was the managing director of ECrent, one of the largest online sharing platforms in the world. ECrent encourages people to share through renting to protect the environment.
Set up in Hong Kong in 2013, it rents out all sorts of products, from bicycles to popcorn machines, and offers services such as bridal make-up and venue decoration. Among ECrent’s more eccentric offerings are moms-for-hire for people who miss the Sunday pot roast of their childhood.
With around one million users worldwide, ECrent charges $6 for putting an item up for rent online but nothing for renting it, leaving the two parties to agree terms for the rental.
Want to rent a pet to see if you can cut it as a parent to a fur baby? ECrent will help you with that too. In 2016, their pets-for-hire service caused a lot of concern with animal rights advocacy groups, with an understandable view that this type of service can diminish the value of life.
Pet-for-hire services are very popular in Korea and Japan with young couples who like to rent pets for their holidays and returning them before they go back to work. Pets for hire have also become popular in the advertising and marketing space. If only the tortured animals of the abomination that is the Yulin dog meat festival were revered as much — dogs are friends, not food.
As for the ECrent pets for hire service — to ensure the welfare of the animals, the owners can be with the pets throughout the rental period. Many do not allow overnight visits in the renter’s home.
While pet rentals may raise eyebrows in the animal welfare community, proponents of the practice argue that the concept is just the same as the long-standing practice of household pets serving as therapy animals in the children’s wards of hospitals and at old people’s homes.
Humans, on the other hand, are harder to share, though there is a plethora of online platforms where you can hire someone to act as a temporary relative or lover.
Within the sharing economy of Japan, rental family services have become extremely popular. the New Yorker recently reported on a widower who rented two women to fill in for his deceased wife and estranged daughter. Family Romance, one of the Japanese companies offering this type of human sharing, lists replacement relatives among its services.
Chinese singles on the mainland have also taken to the idea of renting a fake partner to throw their aggressive parents off the scent of their lack of marriage candidates. Yip told the SCMP that Honk Kong residents are still too conservative to take the leap of hiring fake boyfriends and girlfriends for show.
What kind of benefits beyond the platonic may be included in the package? As yet undisclosed.
Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons