Millennials mourn the days of Seamless, Ubers, cheap Airbnb

In 2015, the Manhattan jet-set in Miami was a no-brainer for 31-year-old Samantha Chin. It only cost $82 a night to rent a room on Airbnb in a luxury apartment she had all to herself. Palm trees were the backdrop for selfies on her private bay-view balcony, and pool access was only a few minutes away on the elevator.

“People thought I lived in Miami because I went there so often and talked about it. They had no idea I was just finding these cheap Airbnb rooms that were way more affordable than hotels,” he said. Chin recalls She paid $113 in 2017 for a similar apartment in downtown Miami — a subtle price hike, but still worth it.

“The view was amazing and I was so close to all the restaurants and bars I wanted to try,” Chin recalled. Today, comparable one-bedroom Airbnb stays in Downtown Miami cost more than $184 per night on a weekendand Chin can only afford getaways once or twice a year.

Samantha Chin, 31, in Miami.
Courtesy of Samantha Chin
Chin spent $82 on an Airbnb in downtown Miami in 2016.
Received Airbnb from Chin following a stay in downtown Miami in 2016.
Samantha Chin
Chin spent $82 on an Airbnb in downtown Miami in 2016.
She spent $82 per night.
Samantha Chin

“I look forward to the days when I could stay in Miami for the price of a sushi dinner,” she lamented.

For much of the past decade, millennials like Chin have been living Kardashian lifestyles on Kmart budgets. Startups like Airbnb, Uber, ClassPass and MoviePass had risk capital to explode and were eager to gain subscribers quickly and eliminate the competition. They kept prices incredibly low, profitability to hell. Silicon Valley was happy to subsidize stuff – until now. the avocado toast generation, notorious for complaining about the added cost of guac, must pay up or down for their once lavish lifestyle. And they are not happy about it.

“It was so cheap,” said Tegan Nelson, 29, who mourns the passing of MoviePass in 2019. “It allowed us to do fun things on the cheap; we didn’t have to worry about not being able to pay the actual expenses otherwise.

The administrative assistant from Omaha, Nebraska fondly remembered the good old days when he only paid $9.95 a month to see dozens of movies in theaters with the subscription service. She joined the platform in May 2018 and said at the time that she saw at least four movies a month. It was a refreshing change from her college days in the Bronx when she spent over $15 to see movies in Manhattan. She knew it was too good to be true.

Tegan Nelson holds up her old Moviepass card.
Tegan Nelson is waving her old Moviepass card and missing out on the days of paying $9.95 a month to see unlimited movies.
Tegan Nelson

“I remember when we got it we said, ‘There’s no way it’s going to be sustainable for them, but we’re going to use it while we can,'” Nelson said.

Nelson realized it was the beginning of the end in July 2018 when MoviePass implemented a “maximum pricing” feature that required users to pay additional fees during peak demand times. Then, a month later, she received an email from MoviePass telling her that she and other users would be limited to seeing only three movies a month for the same $9.95. After the service shut down in 2019, she started seeing fewer movies in theaters.

Peter Boatwright, professor of marketing at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business, said the undervalued services that many of these companies offered early in their startups must increase over time.

“Acquiring customers is more expensive than retaining them. These early startups are going to spend a lot on customer acquisition in the hopes that retention costs would be much lower in the long run,” Boatwright said, explaining that incremental price increases are even more apparent now. “With inflation, these costs have already increased and people are careful because they are sensitive to the drain on their wallet. If we remember how little we paid, this increase is all the more noticeable.

Adem Selita, a 31-year-old man from Staten Island, has certainly noticed how much he pays extra on the Seamless food delivery app. He fondly recalls receiving a promotional email in December 2016 announcing in large bold print: “$8 off your next Seamless order of $10+ when you pay with PayPal.” He ordered two cheesesteaks and fries for about $14 and only paid $6. Such agreements allowed him to order food nearly five times a week.

Adem Selita near his home in Staten Island.
Adem Selita near his home in Staten Island.
Faruk Hasanaga

“They would give you promotions as soon as you open the app. When they integrated new restaurants, the restaurants also offered discounts,” Selita recalls.

Now he pays $14 for a single cheesesteak, plus tax, fees and tip.

Selita also recalled Uber’s cheap glory days. In 2013, when he was a student at NYU, he took Ubers — often city cars or massive SUVs — around town for just $5 or $10, thanks to heavy promotions and discounts. He felt like he had a private driver.

“I will take [Ubers] all the time. Nicer cars were given away more frequently, and I don’t think I’ve ever paid extra for bigger vehicles, it’s not something I would usually do today unless I was with a large group of people,” Selita said.

These days, he has to limit his food delivery to once or twice a week and rarely uses Uber.

Meanwhile, Chin said she had to work harder and bring bigger clients to the hospitality company she worked for in order to meet her expenses. And, even then, it is reduced. Since blowouts now cost over $60, not just $29 like they once did with the defunct subscription Glam+Go serviceit’s not something she does as regularly.

Samantha Chin, 31, in Manhattan's Meatpacking District.
Samantha Chin, 31, in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Chin talked about the rising cost of living compared to the early days of the tech boom.
Stephane Yang

“I used to go before dates just because it was a lot,” she said. The same goes for pedicures, which are now a special occasion and not a regular maintenance.

With various beauty and grooming things, she said, “I learned to do them myself or do them a lot less often.”

Even though she earns more than before, she doesn’t live as big as before.

“Obviously it all added up, but I was like, ‘This is such a good deal that I can’t say ‘No,'” she said. “My lifestyle was ambitious in many ways. , [but] from the outside looking inside it looked glamorous.

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