One year after that Rod Watson's Buffalo News series that criticized rent-to-own stores, Senator Schumer is still out there flogging them.
Nationwide, the fast-growing rent-to-own industry has more than 8,300 stores serving an estimated 2.7 million customers. The industry is dominated by two publicly traded companies — Rent-A-Center of Plano, Texas, and Aaron Rents of Atlanta. There are about 60 rent-to-own stores in the Buffalo area, including 13 Rent-ACenter locations surveyed last week by Schumer’s staff.
Citing that research, Schumer said a 27-inch Toshiba television that retails for $299.99 locally cost $909.35 after 65 weekly payments at Rent-ACenter. That’s a 203.13 percent markup over 15 months.
Similarly, a Whirlpool stove selling at retail for $699.99 was $2,183.09 after 91 weeks or 21 months, while a $299.99 Whirlpool air conditioner sold for $779.70 after 30 weeks and a $529.99 Whirlpool refrigerator cost $1,637.09 after 91 weeks.
If the rent-to-own stores state the terms of payment up front and deliver the product as advertised, then Senator Schumer should have nothing to say about it. "But, Craig," you ask, "what about those high prices?"
Look, it's safe to assume that a solid chunk of rent-to-own customers don't follow through on their payments and that the store will have to send people out to reclaim its inventory. Given their customer base, it's also not a stretch to imagine that a fair portion of that inventory will have been mistreated and damaged to the point that it's not fit to be re-sold.
How else are they to offset those costs but by charging high prices?
No one forces people to buy from these stores. There are plenty of options: save up first and then buy, buy used (cheap) or clean up your credit and go into hock like the middle class does. But Senator Schumer has based his career on treating his constituents as if we all have an extra chromosome (as Al Gore would put it) and with praise like this from the Buffalo News he's not likely to stop any time soon.