I keep hearing about all these different companies going out of business.  With the advancements in technology, it’s easy to understand how some of them just can’t cut it – with eReaders, bookstores are taking a hit; with streaming movies, rental places like Blockbuster are taking a hit – but there are also a few businesses that don’t seem to be hurting as badly as they should.  Rent-to-own places are a good example.

Rent-to-own places were all the rage when I was growing up.  I saw commercials for them all the time (I can remember at least three jingles off-hand), they were popular mall-adjacent stores, and several family members were frequent customers.

At the time, these stores made sense.  Everything was expensive (my dad got a bonus one year of $700 and he went out and bought a new-fangled four-head VCR) and no one had credit.  So if you were a working stiff and wanted nice things, you couldn’t just head on down to Ikea, redecorate your kitchen online, then put it on your credit card; you had to have the money right there are not at all.

But now, with 50” TVs costing like $500 and streaming movies costing $8 a month and microsuede couches being practically free, I don’t understand the concept of renting something until you own it.

Here’s the only scenario I can think of in this day and age where you’ve thought about going to a rent-to-own store enough to actually drive down there and buy something: you used to have a lot of money but the recession has hit you pretty hard; maybe you were a pilot.  Since the FAA and Delta have screwed you over, your wife left with the kids and you’ve been unable to pay the mortgage.  Because you got behind in that, you got behind in everything and have since been kicked off of all insurances, no credit card company will have you, and the only possession you still have is your 1970 El Camino (which you’ve been living in).  After a serious bout of addiction – could be drugs, could be booze, could be sex – you finally hit rock bottom when you decided it would be a good idea to snort/drink/use as lube the roadkill you were going to eat for dinner.  It’s been a while, but you finally cleaned up your act, you got an apartment, and you met a girl (she’s got a saggy midsection from not exercising after each of her four kids, but that’s ok, you’re kind of a slouch too).  The only problem is, the only thing you own is a barbecue tong and a Frisbee you stole from the kid-next-door’s birthday party.  You only get one shot with “Bend Over” Belinda, and you want to make that first impression count.  What do you do?  Go to Rent-a-Center, get a couch, a TV, and a toilet seat for only $25 a week for eight years.

Unless America is bursting with Larrys from Three’s Company, I don’t really see this as a booming business.

Yet it still exists.


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