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Consumer Updates

Rent-to-own deals may only shine on the surface




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The author of this entry is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or wilsoncountynews.com.
Better Business Bureau
November 16, 2011 | 1902 views | Post a comment

BBB recommends using caution with rent-to-own companies

SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Buying furniture and appliances can be a daunting task for those with little or no credit. Such items are considered necessities and can carry large price tags. Securing financing can also be difficult as many credit providers are hesitant to provide loans since the economic downturn.

As a result, consumers may turn to rent-to-own stores that offer big-ticket items for low weekly or monthly payments with no credit check. However, Better Business Bureau advises consumers read and understand rent-to-own contracts completely before signing.

“In my opinion, it’s more of ... a last resort deal for people,” said Adrian Urquidi, a Midland man who had a bad experience after he rented a television. “So the demographic is people who won’t complain or aren’t in a situation to complain.”

Nationwide, BBB processed more than 900 complaints regarding rent-to-own companies from January to October of this year, alleging problems with customer service, collections, quality of the merchandise and more.

Urquidi said he had no trouble getting approved for a lease-to-own agreement with a local store. But when his television started to have problems, he said he had issues with the store’s customer service department.

Urquidi said he did not get his television back until five months after he brought it in for repairs, and the problem still was not fixed. After several more months and intervention from BBB, he finally got a replacement TV he felt was equivalent to the original model.

The whole time, he had to continue making payments. In total, he said he paid between $3,600 and $3,800. He bought a similar television from a competitor for $1,100.

“I paid for two or three TVs in my opinion,” he said.

Big mark ups are common for rent-to-own companies and many advertise payment amounts, not the full payoff amount. Several of the most recognizable companies list products on their websites, television, print and radio commercials, but not prices.

One company with locations around the state has an all-in-one desktop computer for $25 per week. Multiplied over the 18-month term, that computer ends up costing almost $2,000. Bought new at other stores, the average cost for the same computer was between $600 and $900.

Another company offered a similar computer for only $36.99 per week over 91 weeks for a total cost of more than $3,300 for a computer other stores offer for as low as $500.

For many customers, the convenience of low regular payments is worth the inflated price. However, BBB suggests consumers consider how such a purchase will affect their credit.

Rent-to-own companies can put late payments on a consumer’s credit report, and may have aggressive collections policies. Consumers should be sure they can make the regular payments before agreeing to a contract.

BBB also advises consumers to inspect the merchandise closely before making a purchase. Some consumers have complained to BBB about the poor quality of their goods.

Austin resident Zanetria Edwards said when the living room suite she ordered from a local rent-to-own store arrived at her house, the coffee table had a large hole in it.

“They attempted to deliver three times after that. Each time they tried to deliver, it had holes in it,” she said. “We had to constantly wait and be on standby.”

She said in the future, she will take her time and maybe pay a little more for better quality furniture.

“I’d tell anybody, be patient; shop around,” she said.

BBB offers the following advice when shopping for furniture and appliances:

· Shop around. The prices at many rent-to-own establishments can be high even when consumers buy their products outright. Check the prices at other stores before committing.

· Avoid finance charges. When possible, pay in full at the time of purchase or shop around for zero percent interest, same-as-cash offers. If you must pay over time, multiply the number of payments by the payment amount to calculate your total cost, then decide if you think the item is worth that price.

· Consider buying used. Second-hand shops can have quality merchandise for deeply discounted rates. Also check classifieds in print and online for people selling items they no longer use. Some people are even looking for someone to take items off their hands for free. However, remember to take extra precautions when dealing with people you don’t know.

· Use a credit card. Interest rates on credit cards can be lower than you would pay for a rent-to-own deal, and you can dispute the charges if you are unhappy with the product.

· Look into layaway. Many major retailers are offering layaway programs that allow consumers to pay off a purchase in small payments, without the mark-up of rent-to-own stores or the interest that comes with credit. Such programs may be a great option for those with poor credit.

To check the reliability of a company and find trustworthy businesses, visit bbb.org.

About Better Business Bureau:
BBB's mission is to be the leader in advancing marketplace trust. BBB accomplishes this mission by creating a community of trustworthy businesses, setting standards for marketplace trust, encouraging and supporting best practices, celebrating marketplace role models and denouncing substandard marketplace behavior.

Businesses that earn BBB Accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization's high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB is the preeminent resource to turn to for objective, unbiased information on businesses and charities.

Contact BBB serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin at (512) 445-4748.
 
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