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Breather bets US$25 is a fair price for an hour of peace

Caitlin McGarry | April 10, 2014
New York requires Herculean focus to accomplish even the smallest tasks. Honking cabs, construction, chatty coworkers, and the general inescapable din of life in Manhattan all conspire to prevent you from getting work done. Last week when I found myself in a cozy lounge in the heart of SoHo that I booked for an hour with an app called Breather, I had difficulty concentrating for a new reason: It was almost too quiet.

Smith said the app has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of bookings since launching in New York a few weeks ago.

A little privacy

Of course, there are many less-than-professional purposes a person might want a by-the-hour room for, but Smith said those concerns aren't really rooted in reality.

"It's really a perception issue," Smith said. "We've seen thousands of bookings and we clean after every stay. Someone comes in and checks in on everything. We've done that thousands of times now. Whenever some sort of disruptive service comes out, people think it's gonna be bad because of this — Twitter is a place where you talk about your lunch. Snapchat is nothing but teenagers sexting. But the actual product is much bigger than that."

If the app's cleaning service has reason to suspect any funny business has occurred, Breather will ban the offending user.

"Someone smoked in a room one time, and we banned that user," Smith said. "That literally is the only time that we've ever banned anyone. There's no need. People always perceive that someone else would take advantage of it."

Like the sharing economy's biggest success stories, Uber and Airbnb, Breather has a smooth, easy-to-use app and knows exactly who its core clients are: busy professionals in major cities craving a little quiet time. That niche market might be larger than you'd think, given the success of drop-in desks at coworking spaces across the country and the business lounges offered by Regus. Coworking spaces tend to be cheaper, but less private.

After an hour of working on notes for a story and chatting with coworkers, I finished my coffee and packed up my bag with a twinge of sadness that my office has no quiet spaces of its own. Next time I book a Breather, I'll leave my laptop behind and bring a book instead for some true downtime. For some, $25 is a small price to pay for an hour of peace. For the rest of us, there's good news: Your first hour is free.


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