How It Works
The Live Search feature allows potential lenders to see what items are currently needed near their location. For example, you may see an out-of-town visitor searched for a pack’n’play for their baby. You happen to have one stored away, so you message the borrower-to-be and suggest a price. In this way, the live search allows lenders to learn which items they already have on hand can be listed on the site with a promising return. Live Search also allows borrowers to make their needs known by simply searching for an item without having to go through the hassle of making a post.
2-Stage Identity Verification
Fat Lama has learned from the pitfalls of services like Craigslist, whose anonymous users often resort to meeting at police stations for personal safety. With Fat Lama, all users—both borrowers and lenders—have to pass a two step identity verification. This includes uploading a clear photocopy of government-issued ID as well as taking a photo with the ID to verify the card is not stolen.
Additional Safety Factors
Fat Lama also uses a top secret algorithm to analyze users who visit the website. They claim their vetting process looks for “over 100 factors” from the moment a user opens the website. This information and the ID verification are manually checked for red flags.
Fat Lama runs off a simple, flat 15% service fee on all total rental prices. Borrowers pay the additional 15% on top of the listed price. The fee not only keeps Fat Lama running but doubles as an insurance policy. If the borrower damages or loses the item, he or she is protected. (Lenders can contact Fat Lama to ensure separate coverage for items valued over $30,000.)
Good “Turnover Rate”
According to Fat Lama, half of rentals are booked and collected on the same day. This is thanks in part to Fat Lama’s one-hour policy: lenders have one hour to approve or deny a borrower’s request. In fact, their internal stats show that 91% of borrower requests are answered within 15 minutes. The unique accountability process makes it faster and easier for lenders to make more money, while borrowers get their needed items as soon as possible. Lenders also have the flexibility of charging their own “delivery fee” if they bring the item directly to the borrower—Fat Lama won’t take anything off the top of privately arranged fees. Weekly and monthly rates can also be negotiated between the two parties.
Borrowers Save over Traditional Lending Sources
Fat Lama claims borrowers can save up to 40% over other options, like rental shops. When it comes to borrowing entertainment equipment, this is especially apparent. Consider the savings for a wedding when Fat Lama is used to borrow DJ equipment, upgraded camera lenses, smoke machines, projectors, lighting equipment, etc. These items would cost significantly more at rental locations, and insurance and deposit are often expensive surcharges. Even a weekend home improvement project could cost hundreds less by allowing people to borrow tools.
Using Better Items
Borrowers using Fat Lama can obtain higher quality items than they ever could if they need to buy things new or even used. Imagine you are vacationing in New York City for the first time. If you want photographs of a higher quality than your typical cell phone camera, you can now rent a $1,000+ DSLR camera for as little as $5/day.
Ease of Use
The Fat Lama searching and listing processes are exquisitely simplified. The website is intuitive without extraneous buttons or options. We expect an inevitable mobile app will make borrowing and lending even more convenient.
Helpful for Freelancers
Freelancers who own their own equipment can start a legitimate side hustle renting out their items. Photographers, musicians, DJs, among other professionals, can list extra or unused equipment that can make far more over the long run than selling it used.
Traffic is Still Growing
Fat Lama is still new to the U.S., so the options are somewhat limited for both borrowers and lenders. However, the site is always worth a look for borrowers who need to save money for a short-term need, and lenders lose nothing by listing their available items.
On the flip side, lenders who get ahead of the game in their area can find a huge upside in the early stages of expansion. It costs nothing to list items that will stay on the site indefinitely as more and more consumers learn about Fat Lama. Getting in early can allow lenders to build a reputation that will make new borrowers more likely to choose them.
“Mysterious” Insurance Process
Another downside of Fat Lama’s shiny newness is the lack of reviews on its insurance policy. While the company says lenders are protected against damaged, lost, and stolen items, the process of making a claim and receiving reimbursement has not been thoroughly tested out by American consumers, leaving it a bit of a mystery for the average user.
The Verdict About Fat Lama
Although Fat Lama is still new to the U.S., its unique solution to an everyday problem makes it a promising platform. Early lenders get an opportunity to establish themselves and set their own prices. From that vantage point, there’s no harm in spending a few hours setting up a handful of valuable items. Just don’t expect to make a bundle overnight while the company is still launching stateside.
The potential uses for Fat Lama are really innumerable. With consumers feeling more comfortable using technology to rent rooms, share rides, and deliver food, we feel Fat Lama will soon be the next household name in the “sharing economy.”