Borrowing Shop

Reggie draws our attention to a “borrowing shop” in Berlin.

The idea is simple. The shop has a stock of useful things like tools. Customers borrow the items as if the shop were a lending library instead of buying them for keeps.

It’s a way for a community to pool resources and for individuals not to suffer the burden of ownership.

If it were common to see this in neighbourhoods and the idea of borrowing, say, a lawnmower or a drill were a dependable one, it would be a real boon for minimalism and community spirit.

Just as you don’t need to own Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because it’s definitely in your local public library, you wouldn’t need to own a drill if you knew there was one to be borrowed from the borrowing shop.

I made the mistake of reading some of the comments thread in the article about the Berlin borrowing shop and it was filled with variations of the obvious criticism: how does it make money?

Generously overlooking the fact that “making money” shouldn’t be the aim of every last goddam thing (especially a community initiative for the benefit of everyone), the answer would be to charge a nominal fee per lend.

I don’t know why that would be a problem. Charge £2 per lend, perhaps with exceptions for the superpoor. Obviously. Everyone’s a winner.

It’s a great step back toward common public resources (payphone, town clock, public baths) instead of the private ones we’re all supposed to love under Neoliberalism.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

5 Responses to “Borrowing Shop”

  1. mannix says:

    I love this idea!

    Check out . It is basically a workshop that operates like a gym. You pay a membership and then get to use the machines that you need.

  2. Briony says:

    Where we used to live had a toy library which was very cool. We paid £2 a year to join and then 25p per toy, per fortnight. You could also “earn” credit by helping out or donating stuff. It was a great way to borrow things we wouldn’t want for long (eg starting-to-walk toys or jigsaws that you only do once or twice) or to try things out before committing to it (or not!), or just to enjoy some novelty. We miss it now. Our proper library lends out energy meters, e-readers and grown-up jigsaws and has a drop-in lego free-for-all on Saturdays. I would love them to extend to tools and toys but apparently it’s The Cuts (and they don’t like unpaid volunteers eroding their jobs). So I “hire” from ebay/car boots etc. instead.

    If only things that make money are worthwhile, then we truly are doomed. I prefer a “noble loss”.

  3. That is so, so good.

    I use eBay like a library too. It’s all just distribution of existing goods. Trumps buying new things all the time.

  4. Joe says:

    Following on from the first comment, a similar thing exists in the UK: Thanks to the existence of my local hackspace, I’m now fulfilling a long-held dream of building a guitar without having to pay for the space and tools I could otherwise not afford. People in hackspaces respond in the opposite way to God when you tell them your plans (I don’t mean that they cry, but they do take you seriously and try to help).

  5. Nice one. Thanks for the link. Good idea, that.

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