Avoid Black Friday rent-to-own woes
The Caller (Corpus Christi, TX)
22 November 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI — If Black Friday bargains beckon you for big ticket items, but you don't have the cash, beware of turning to rent-to-own stores, Better Business Bureau warns.
Electronics, computers and furniture often costs three times as much at these stores.
It's sometimes a last resort for folks, said Melissa Goonan, market development representative for GreenPath Debt Solutions, formerly Consumer Credit Counseling Inc. in Corpus Christi. "It can become a whirlwind," Goonan said, "and people can get way over their heads very quickly."
Nationwide, the BBB processed more than 900 complaints through October against rent-to-own companies. Problems with service, collections and quality of merchandise topped customers' concerns.
Watch out for companies that advertise payment amounts, not payoff costs, the BBB warns.
One rent-to-own company with locations throughout Texas offers a complete desktop computer for $25 a week. But the 18-month term costs almost $2,000, when the average price new at retail stores is about $700. Another company has a similar computer for $36.99 per week over 91 weeks, costing more than $3,300 for a computer available elsewhere as low as $500.
The two multiple-location, rent-to-own companies in the area respond to complaints but have had a lot of them.
There are a dozen Rent-A-Center locations in the Coastal Bend. None of the company's 492 locations are BBB accredited. And 666 of 898 complaints closed in the past three years locally were for product and service problems.
In Corpus Christi, Aaron's Sales & Lease Ownership, which has three locations, is not accredited with the bureau. Only 73 of the national company's 1,248 locations are accredited. The Corpus Christi headquarters has a B- rating, partly because 1,135 complaints the past three years have been filed — 742 of them were for product and service problems. There have been 418 complaints closed in the past year.
Read and understand contracts that offer low weekly or monthly payments with no credit check.
Think about buying used — secondhand and pawn shops can have quality merchandise at huge discounts.
Consider a credit card, its interest rates can be lower than rent-to-own pricing.
Look into layaway.