Umbrella-Sharing Startup Loses Most of Its Umbrellas

Inside Sharing E Umbrella's woes
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 11, 2017 9:45 AM CDT
Umbrella-Sharing Startup Loses Most of Its Umbrellas
People hold umbrellas in the rain.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

If you have a habit of regularly misplacing your umbrella, Sharing E Umbrella feels your pain. The startup intends to do what its name suggests: provide shareable umbrellas—like a rain-themed version of Citi Bike—in China. Except not even three months after launch, it has a big problem in the 11 cities it has a presence in: Most of the 300,000 umbrellas it started out with have now been lost. The Guardian suggests the fault lies with the company's founders: While a would-be umbrella user must pay a roughly $2.80 deposit and about $0.07 per half-hour of use, the paper reports no additional penalty is levied for failing to return an umbrella. The Verge suggests another problem, that "the startup apparently didn't provide enough information on how customers can return the umbrellas when they're done."

It gets even more confusing from there, with the South China Morning Post noting the original report on Sharing E Umbrella's woes didn't specify the return policy but quoted CEO Zhao Shuping as saying, "Bikes can be parked anywhere, but with an umbrella you need railings or a fence to hang it on"—and so taking the umbrella home for safekeeping is likely the "best" route. But Zhao sounds undaunted, saying his company intends to spread 30 million umbrellas throughout the country by the end of the year. Sixth Tone notes there are roughly 15 Chinese umbrella startups, and the deposits they charge get as high as $14.50—raising the possibility this is just a clever way to sell, not rent, umbrellas. As for whether we'll see this stateside, the Verge points out the idea was called the "worst ... ever heard" when it was pitched on Shark Tank. (Of course, Americans don't use umbrellas as protection from gross snow like the Chinese do.)

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