A Chinese mobile phone user uses the taxi-hailing app Didi Chuxing on her smartphone.
Folding stools that people can use for free without paying any deposit or registering are the latest manifestation of the "sharing" business model in Beijing. Yanzhao Evening News commented on Tuesday:
Few would agree the randomly distributed stools are part of the sharing economy, although their operators argue that what they are doing is in the interest of Beijing residents, who do not have enough public seats.
However, the business is simply not sustainable. Only four of the over a dozen "shared" stools at a bus station remained after less than a day. And the advertising and promotions on the stools are not authorized. Also, the stools may constitute illegal use of public space.
They offer a glimpse into the country's sharing model if it gets out of hand.
There are successful precedents in tapping the potential of the sharing economy, for example, the station-less hire-on-demand bikes which have made their way to overseas markets. But many companies are simply following and copying that model with other items in pursuit of instant sensation and short-term gain, rather than a sustainable business operation.
Laying a solid foundation for the sharing economy means companies must observe the law and ensure the safety of the services they offer. Shared tandems have been banned in Shanghai because of safety concerns. Likewise, "shared sleeping capsules" in office buildings in Beijing and Shanghai have been laid to rest due to security concerns. The same rule should apply to the "shared folding stools", which do not carry notable security risks yet risk misleading users with promotional quick response codes.
In the same way the influx of the short-hire bikes began to be a challenge to civic order, the so-called shared stools are another wake-up call to city managers that the sharing business craze needs to be cooled down.