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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Guinea pig rentals

Tyler Cowen, ever alert for markets in everything, posts this:

Attention all you hedge fund readers: if these people can arbitrage and convexify their guinea pig market, you’d better not bet against their currency peg.

What the heck is he talking about?

Küng, 41, rents out her guinea pigs, a service that has been in high demand in the Alpine nation ever since animal welfare rules were tightened up a few years ago. Switzerland has forbidden people from keeping lone guinea pigs because the animals are sociable and need each other’s company.

There’s more about economic theory in the post, which is based on this story.  The story is sympathetic to the guinea pig point of view:

Some return after just a few poignant weeks, others after months, but some stay away for years. "Sometimes people realize that they still get so much enjoyment from the guinea pigs that they want to go on keeping them and come back for another one once their supposed last pet has died," says Küng.

Sometimes she rents out a young guinea pig, sometimes an old one. She gets two to three enquiries per week. Recently when Zürich daily Tages-Anzeiger ran a story about her service, she got 10 calls in just a few days. To cope with demand, she has set up a network on the Internet, www.leihmeerschweinchen.ch.

"It's important that none of the rental guinea pigs just keep getting passed on," says Küng. "If an animal has been hired out once, it either stays with me for the rest of its life or it moves somewhere else for good."

To me, this is a nice, warm story. Sure, she’s a bit batty about guinea pigs (she has 80, and is president of the guinea pig breeders group). But she’s probably a nice woman trying to do a nice thing for probably no net profit.