From emergency toilets to petulant toasters, the sharing economy has birthed more than a few intriguing concepts geared to prevent us from throwing away our hard-earned cash on stuff that we don’t really need, stuff that they could easily and happily be shared with our friends and neighbors and, hell, even strangers. And in addition to serving as a thrift-oriented alternative to the robotic buy-use-throw away rhythm that propels American culture, the sharing economy is, of course, a great way for budding entrepreneurs to make a few bucks. After all, what’s more all-American than renting out your spare bedroom to Norwegian tourists for $175 bucks a night?
And there's community-based libraries for tools and small kitchen appliances. They've existed for a while now in cities like Portland and San Francisco (go figure) and, in a way, they're the very essence of the somewhat overbaked sharing economy — they’re all about saving money, saving resources, and living more simply with less stuff. But what about large household appliances like that money-guzzling beast known as the washing machine? Can they be shared too? Or is that what the laundromat is for?
In Amsterdam, a new startup named Bundles is indeed striving to make washing machines — fancy, high-end Miele models, at that — the newest must-borrow household appliance. Essentially, Bundles is a pay-as-you go monthly washing machine subscription service. The company’s tech team shows up at your home with a high-efficiency Miele WKG 120 WCS (sticker price: about $1,800.) The Bundles team installs the machine, shows you the soapy ropes, and, then, it’s all yours for free. Well, not exactly.
Like a cell phone plane (or cell phone plans of yesterday before everything became unlimited) Bundle subscribers pay a flat rate based on how many washes they anticipate performing each month. Plans range from about $26 for 15 washes per month to $30 for up to 35 monthly spin-cycle sessions. There are overage charges involved if one goes over their allowed monthly washes and if the maximum amount isn’t met, subscribers get a small refund (up to three washes). All this activity is measured by a smart plug that comes with each machine and, of course, subscribers have access to usage data so that they know where they stand each month.
Maintenance and repair service is included with the monthly fee and if you fall head over heels with your Miele, there’s also the option to buy. If after a couple of months you decide that washing machine rental-ship just isn’t for you, you can cancel. The Bundles team will come to fetch the unit, which, if still in good working order, will be spiffed up and put back into circulation and installed in someone’s else’s home. If it’s beyond repair, Bundles ensures that the machine is recycled properly.
I can see this working out best if you opt for the most-washes-per-month plan, recruit some washing machine-less friends or neighbors to get in on it, and divvy up the monthly bill in a democratic manner — a small co-op situation or something like that. Otherwise, unless you have a pack of filthy children running around, up to 35 washes per month does seem like an awful lot.
Any thoughts? Would you pay $30 bucks a month to rent a top-of-the-line washing machine? Or would you rather just save up and fork over the cash for your own?
Related stories on MNN:
- How the sharing economy has worked for me
- Test your cluck with a chicken rental service
- D.C. luxury development to entice renters with shared puppy
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