Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Trust 2.0

 

shutterstock_225204676On Monday, I ordered lunch from the Japanese take-out I frequent. At the register, I realized that I’d forgotten my wallet back at my desk. Sheepishly, I offered to run back and get it, but the owner handed me my food, smiled, and told me not to worry, just pay next time I come in. This was smart on a number of levels: it was good customer service, and — given how often I come in — he was all-but-guaranteed payment within 24 hours (unwilling to to jeopardize my future access to chicken katsu or udon soup over a measly eight bucks, I was back within the hour). But he was only able to do this because he knew me well enough to trust me.

Trust, however, often takes some work to build and can be difficult between strangers (though our ability to so at all is among the things that distinguish humans from the rest of nature). Remember when eBay started, and the idea of sending some random schmuck your money in exchange for a promise that they’d send you an item — as-described and in a timely manner! — seemed crazy? Turns out that worked rather well, with those who attempted to game the system getting punished for it.

But it’s one thing to fork over money for a product and quite another to (potentially) put yourself at risk of physical harm. Only a few years ago, very few people were willing to let perfect strangers into their car, let alone their spare bedroom: too darn risky. But thanks to services like Uber and AirBNB, putting that kind of trust in someone from out of town whom neither you nor anyone else you know have ever met, and who you’re unlikely to ever see again, is now a perfectly rational, relatively safe thing to do.

For anyone familiar with them, these are both web-based services that operate under very similar models. AirBNB connects travelers with those willing to rent out their spare bedrooms (or entire houses) for a fee; Uber and Lyft do much the same for drivers and those looking for a taxi-like ride. Both services charge their users — i.e., the hosts and drivers — a service fee, handle all the financial transactions, and provide some insurance options. I’ve used both multiple times during the past month, and it’s been a great experience every time.

One of the least-discussed aspects to both services are the trust-building layers built into their systems. To begin with, there’s the simple fact that every transaction is logged, time-stamped, and mapped in the cloud. If my AirBNB hosts or Uber drivers were planning to murder me — or I them — the police would have a treasure trove of information to follow-up on that would include our names, locations, credit card information, etc. Additionally, both services require their clients to submit to an identity verification and/or background check, and most AirBNB hosts require the same of their guests (I had to upload a photograph of my drivers’ license; I assume this is deeply racist, but didn’t have the heart to press the matter with my MSNBC-watching hosts).

Moreover, the systems’ reliance on electronic, photo ID-backed payment in itself deters crime. As one of my Uber drivers explained during a half-hour drive, one of the reasons he switched from driving a cab to Ubering is that the latter was free of prostitutes and drug dealers, who — for obvious reasons — use cash and eschew real credit cards. Forcing people to disclose their identity (to the service, if not each other) keeps the unsavory characters at bay.

Finally, the services’ rating systems go both ways: guests and passengers rate their hosts and hosts and drivers rate their clients. On AirBNB, this is very transparent and the system (cleverly) only lets guests read the comments their hosts leave if they write one of their own. On Uber, it’s much less transparent but — according to the Uber driver I chatted with in Florida — passengers with low ratings are automatically kicked-off the system, and most drivers will refuse to pick up anyone with a rating lower than four out of five stars.

Are their still risks and ways to game these systems? Of course there are, though the costs of misbehavior — in terms of being caught and punished, either by the system or law enforcement — are pretty steep. Likewise, I could have abused the trust of the restaurateur on Monday by claiming that I came back in after he left and paid cash, and likely have gotten away with it. But by expanding the means by which people can make intelligent, rational decisions about who to place their confidence in, they’re making the world a slightly better place.

There are 12 comments.

  1. Misthiocracy ingeniously Member
    Misthiocracy ingeniously Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    So, the restaurant owner discriminates against people he doesn’t know?

    HE’S A XENOPHOBE?!?!?!

    #checkyourprivilege

    • #1
    • April 29, 2015, at 10:01 AM PDT
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  2. carcat74 Member

    I have thought about a similar post since I joined, but along a slightly different line. Think about this—our culture is still based in trust; it’s (for the moment) even on our money.

    We trust the other guy on the road will stay on his side, that everyone washes their hands after using the bathroom, that the check you take will be good. Some breach of trust can be rectified—the person is forced to make his bad check good, if you survive the crash, avenues can be pursued.

    However, the breach of trust demonstrated by most congress critters cannot be repaired, at least not without major surgery. The patient still might not survive.

    • #2
    • April 29, 2015, at 10:19 AM PDT
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  3. Fricosis Guy Listener

    It’s a little different twist, but I just listened to an unexpectedly excellent Econtalk w/ Leonard Wong from the Army War College in Carlisle, PA. Here’s the link and a précis:

    Based on a recent co-authored paper, Wong argues that the paperwork and training burden on U.S. military officers requires dishonesty–it is simply impossible to comply with all the requirements. This creates a tension for an institution that prides itself on honesty, trust, and integrity.

    Anyone who has worked for a heavily-regulated industry, signed a SOX certification, or vetted tax returns knows of what Professor Wong speaks.

    • #3
    • April 29, 2015, at 10:47 AM PDT
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  4. Blue Yeti Admin

    I use Apple Pay on my phone whenever possible. Looking forward to the time in the near future when I won’t have to carry a wallet any longer.

    • #4
    • April 29, 2015, at 11:03 AM PDT
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  5. Fricosis Guy Listener

    Blue Yeti:I use Apple Pay on my phone whenever possible. Looking forward to the time in the near future when I won’t have to carry a wallet any longer.

    I had my Professional Nerd credential renewed when I was the first person at my local BJ’s to use Apple Pay.

    It was then withdrawn once the board realized it was BJ’s, not Costco.

    • #5
    • April 29, 2015, at 11:20 AM PDT
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  6. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Discriminating between customers on the basis of behavior is something businesses should do more often.

    In brick-and-mortar retail, many stores waste limited resources on habitually irate or otherwise needy customers who hog employee time and make the store an unpleasant shopping environment for other customers.

    This is also an argument for local, prudential control.

    • #6
    • April 29, 2015, at 11:24 AM PDT
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  7. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Fricosis Guy:

    Blue Yeti:I use Apple Pay on my phone whenever possible. Looking forward to the time in the near future when I won’t have to carry a wallet any longer.

    I had my Professional Nerd credential renewed when I was the first person at my local BJ’s to use Apple Pay.

    It was then withdrawn once the board realized it was BJ’s, not Costco.

    Philistine!

    • #7
    • April 29, 2015, at 12:19 PM PDT
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  8. Casey Inactive

    carcat74:Think about this—our culture is still based in trust; it’s (for the moment) even on our money.

    I always find it amusing when people look at something like Baltimore or Iraq or some other place of chaos and act like that’s crazy. No, that seems normal… this is crazy.

    • #8
    • April 29, 2015, at 12:51 PM PDT
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  9. Guruforhire Member

    I drove all the way to my butcher (20-30min from home) and forgot my wallet and they offered to just hold the bill a week until my next visit.

    I am there just about every saturday for my weeks worth of meat. This was because I am a regular customer and I make custom orders and treat them all courteously.

    • #9
    • April 29, 2015, at 1:24 PM PDT
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  10. Mountie Member

    I travel as part of my living (only travel editors for newspapers “travel for a living”) and use Uber somewhere between 10 to 15 times a week. The cost is typically lower but it is the convenience that drives my usage. I can remember, in the beginning, standing on a street corner in New York City for 20 minutes trying to get a cab. Finally, in frustration, I pulled out my cell phone and requested an Uber. I had my ride in 5 minutes.

    I’ve been using them constantly for a year and a half. I’m not sure what my total ride count would be but at 10 to 15 times a week, week in and week out, you can get the picture: several hundred rides. In all of that I’ve only had one dodgie ride. In Newark NJ. It was the only ride that I didn’t give 5 stars to as a rating. I gave him a single star (I won’t go into the details but trust me it was well deserved). I was contacted by Uber within minutes, I provided them my rational, they thanked me, and that was that. I love the service. I rarely, if ever, use taxi’s anymore.

    • #10
    • April 29, 2015, at 7:28 PM PDT
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  11. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Trust is the element that separates a first world country from a third world country. In the US, you can trust that you will get electricity if you pay your bills, and that other people will not steal it. In a country like Iraq, people will run wires off the main grid until it collapses, because there is no guarantee the power company will actually deliver anything you pay for, and other people will take the power if you do not. Families and clans become more important, as you cannot trust strangers. Civilization becomes more raw, as the rule of law only extends to where the government troops are (at best), and everywhere else defaults to the local Big Man. Riots and blatant disregard for the law / property rights are part and parcel of the Third World.

    The first element of a successful state is the Rule of Law. This doesn’t have to be perfect, but the average person needs to be able to get fair treatment from the state – most of the time, their rights will be defended. Rule of Law is far more important than democracy, as it allows for trust to develop. If someone robs you, the state will have your back, and potential robbers know this. The support for the law will encourage your neighbors to report or stop crimes, rather than join in them, because they would believe in the value of the law.

    This is not something easily regained if lost.

    • #11
    • April 29, 2015, at 9:38 PM PDT
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  12. Fricosis Guy Listener

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Fricosis Guy:

    Blue Yeti:I use Apple Pay on my phone whenever possible. Looking forward to the time in the near future when I won’t have to carry a wallet any longer.

    I had my Professional Nerd credential renewed when I was the first person at my local BJ’s to use Apple Pay.

    It was then withdrawn once the board realized it was BJ’s, not Costco.

    Philistine!

    You misspelled ‘Murican.

    • #12
    • April 30, 2015, at 5:48 AM PDT
    • Like