I'm a big fan of selling things through Craigslist, which is why a pitch from a service called Zilok piqued my interest. The premise of the site is that you can make money by renting stuff you've got laying around the house instead of parting with it once and for all. For folks who have something like a $500 Dyson vacuum that you bought and use once every six months, this service could theoretically help take a chunk out of the original purchase price by letting you rent it out to people who live near you.
The service works by letting users set up their own rental contracts and charge based on time. For instance, say you're renting out your snowboard. You can charge by the day, and whoever decides to rent it agrees to do so for X number of days. Like Craigslist, the buyer and seller can link up via e-mail and meet up locally to make the transaction. To avoid getting hosed by someone stealing your stuff, you can also set up a deposit via PayPal, which people can pay up front and get back once the rental is over.
While it's got a lot in common with Craigslist, Zilok leans more toward eBay in terms of member and item management. There's a built-in map to help you see where items are not only when you search for them, but also on each item page. There are also ratings and feedback to help the community separate the good from the bad. My favorite feature though is the calendar, which will let owners note when the item is not available for rental, or being used by other Zilok users.
I'd like to see Zilok launch an API that could be tied into CRM services, or at least partner with a site that offered them. Many of the items on Zilok are already rented out by businesses. While it's basically advertising for the time being--considering most rental services likely have their own tracking system and Web site--it's still an effective way to put rental items online with a built-in rental mechanism.
The company is based out of Paris, France. With its U.S. launch, there are only 11 included cities, and less than 100 items have been added to the service thus far. The site is completely free to use until 2008, which would bear some significance if we weren't less than two months away. After the New Year, Zilok is applying a system similar to eBay with per-item posting fees, although once an item is on there, you don't have to pay again even if you continue to rent it out.