By Tim Hayes

“Some might have learned to adjust, but then it never was a matter of trust…” – Billy Joel

The unease first struck me at a fund-raising event probably 20 years ago.  The venue, a classic and historic museum, hosted hundreds of guests paying top dollar for the privilege of attending this citified soiree.  My role began and ended with working for my employer backstage to pull off the logistics of a presentation to be made by the CEO.

My uneasiness came with the realization that access to this black-tie event seemed pretty loosey-goosey for my taste.  The museum building shared a marble lobby with a different venue, which at the same time as the big-wig party, remained open to the sweaty masses – some of whom had been bitten by something we in Pittsburgh call the “nebby” itch.  A little too curious, in other words.

Where I come from, you bought a ticket, you stood in line, you handed over your ticket, and you went in.  A movie, a ball game, a fund-raiser, didn’t matter.  There were boundaries, walls and fences and gates.  Because you never knew who would try and sneak in or pull something funny.  This museum bash, though, eased up on the strictness, and it made me nervous.

In the years since, it seems like the looser-boundary rule has become the norm, and if it’s working, why not?  But now the sense of structure has blown past even those flimsy foundations.

A commercial on TV recently promoted a service where you can sign up to show up at people’s homes in countries around the world, as you tour their cultures on vacation, or whatever.  Total strangers!  You click on a face you like online, I suppose, and pretty soon – there you are, ready to move in and become a member of the family, if only temporarily.  Say what?!

Then there’s the transportation service that uses ordinary shlubs driving their own personal cars instead of registered taxicabs and drivers.  A friend told me she summoned one such a car and driver to take her to the airport not long ago, and I told her I thought she had a screw loose.

I had always taken to heart the adage that, if somebody wants to do you harm, once you’re in their car, it’s game over.  You’re finished.  Abandon all hope.  Yet here’s an entire business built on people ignoring that concept, climbing into any old car that shows up and assuming that they’ll be taken wherever they want to go.  The drivers must be a little off, as well, because they have no idea who they’re letting into their own personal four-wheeled property.  How does driving under this business model impact car insurance premiums?  I’d love to have an agent explain that to me.

A coachline business model that has been around for a few years now strikes me as weird, too.  Instead of a bus depot and garage, ticket windows and passenger areas, this bus operator says, get your own ticket online, show up at an agreed-to patch of sidewalk, and flash your cell phone screen as proof that you are who you say you are before climbing on the bus.  Huh?!

Yet, despite my incurable fuddy-duddy-ness, each of these businesses seems to be thriving.  It’s a brave new world, I guess.  Business built on a matter of trust.  Much more trust than I grew up watching, that’s for sure.

And in the end, maybe that’s a hopeful sign.  Maybe.

Copyright 2015 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting