Cubbyhole is a mini-Airbnb for your suitcase

From smartphones and texting to ATM’s and self-checkout, consumer technologies have been helping us avoid each other for years. But a handful of new apps and online services, collectively termed “shared economy,” have begun to reverse that trend.

Cubbyhole, the newest addition to this growing field, does for storage what fellow shared-economy services Airbnb and Lyft have done for lodging and transportation, respectively: It lets users rent their storage space out to strangers.

Renters specify how much space they need and for how long, and snap a photo of the goods they need to store. The request then goes out to registered hosts, who can accept it with a single tap. Prices start at $15, renters pay via credit card directly through the app, and hosts collect 70 percent.

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The app, which launched in September, has over 250 registered users and sees an average of three to five transactions per week. Most of the users are tourists who want to stash their luggage while they explore the city. But Jason Kaplan says the app is also well-suited for longer-term and larger-scale storage, and expects it to make many college students’ lives easier come move-in day.

Cubbyhole has multiple security features to ensure the safety of both renters and hosts: All users are verified via Facebook and credit card, the items that renters drop off with hosts are insured up to $1,000 and Cubbyhole has a 24-hour telephone hotline in case something goes wrong.

But many users have reported that the greatest assurance of security actually comes from the face-to-face interaction that Cubbyhole involves. “Meeting someone in person you get a great sense of trust or distrust,” Kaplan said. “That doesn’t exist on the digital plane alone.”

Although the shared economy market’s main driver is cost savings, Kaplan believes that a large part of its appeal is the way it brings people together.

“What I love about the shared economy experience is that it brings human beings back into what is really, essentially human,” he said. “It allows human beings to interact again in a way that has been missing for a while.”