RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Here in Los Angeles, an entrepreneur has set up a social networking site for sharing. From member station KPCC, Alex Cohen reports.
ALEX COHEN: Web developer Jory Felice of Los Angeles recently found a 20-year- old Apple computer at a garage sale - just like the one he had in college. Only problem, it was missing a mouse - which Felice needed to see if the thing worked.
MONTAGNE: I thought, you know what? I could probably go on to eBay and find one, but I don't want to pay, like, weird computer collector prices for something that I may not decide that I really want.
COHEN: Felice logged in and searched for the old-school mouse. Sure enough, a fellow user in nearby Hollywood had just what he was looking for and was willing, via NeighborGoods, to lend it out for free. So Felice drove over to his apartment to pick it up.
MONTAGNE: And he had a bunch of friends sitting out on the front porch kind of, like, watching him do this weird deal in the driveway in front of his apartment. But it's a great mouse, and it looks beautiful.
COHEN: And then, says NeighborGoods founder Micki Krimmel, there's the goofy stuff. One guy is lending out egg-laying chickens.
MONTAGNE: His thinking was, maybe someone would like to try it out, see how it goes for a weekend before making a commitment. So he put his chickens up on the website.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
COHEN: The site started locally in Los Angeles, but now has users nationwide sharing $1 million worth of goods. Though users can charge deposit or rental fees, Krimmel says most people are happy to lend for free, just to take pleasure in helping a neighbor out. She adds the site promotes sustainability by reducing waste, and it saves people money.
MONTAGNE: Whenever you add an item to the site, we ask you: How much did you pay for it? And then whenever you lend that out, it tracks how much money you've saved for yourself, and also how much money you've saved your neighbors.
COHEN: So far, it's worked.
P: It's a very interesting idea.
COHEN: Zsolt Katona specializes in e-commerce at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley. He says the site operates on a sound principle that people don't want to buy things they don't have to. But, he adds, users may be reluctant to lend their items to a complete stranger.
P: Like eBay, a lot of people are very concerned about the sellers at the beginning. But with the rating system, it's kind of a reliable way of telling that the seller is reliable or not.
COHEN: User Jory Felice says meeting online and then in person not only provides confidence in the transaction, it also promotes a sense of community - something almost unheard of in the car culture of Los Angeles.
MONTAGNE: For NPR News, I'm Alex Cohen, in Los Angeles.
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