Deflated
June 8, 2013 11:22 AM   Subscribe

High prices are driving more motorists to rent tires. 'Chains such as Rent-a-Wheel and Rimco are seeing business boom. Many consumers pay double or triple the cost of buying and face aggressive repossession policies.' 'Customers pay huge premiums for their tires, sometimes four times above retail. Those who miss payments may find their car on cinder blocks, stripped of their tires by dealers who aggressively repossess. Tire rental contracts are so ironclad that even a bankruptcy filing can't make them go away.' [LA Times link; use privacy setting in browser].

'It's also a booming business for specialized tire and wheel dealers that have become beneficiaries of a struggling U.S. economy. Fast-expanding chains with names like Rent-a-Wheel and EZ Rims 4 Rent that got their start selling high-end rims to car enthusiasts have discovered a lucrative market selling tires on time.

"We see tremendous opportunity serving people who are just looking for dependable tires to get to work," said Larry Sutton, founder and president of Rent-N-Roll. The Tampa, Fla., chain has 66 locations nationwide, including two in California, and plans to open six more this year.'
posted by VikingSword (129 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are there people in this country whose first thought on waking up in the morning is, "how can I exploit poor people today?"
posted by indubitable at 11:32 AM on June 8, 2013 [38 favorites]


About a two years ago I was faced with the daunting prospect of replacing the tires on my 2007 Toyota. I say daunting because of the prices involved.

I don't make a lot of money, although I am single and by South Texas standards I am considered middle-class. Yet to replace four tires on my car was going to run me about $400 for even inexpensive tires from Walmart. That is a little less than half my biweekly take-home pay.

Luckily I have access to credit, but I can only imagine how unluckier people could hope to swing that kind of capital expense -- with hungry kids at home no less. It's easy to imagine a situation where people must choose between food and tires: without tires you will have no means to get to work and get more food.

Naturally, vultures swoop in the Market's wake. Business as usual.
posted by Avenger at 11:33 AM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


The invisible hand, choking folks to death.
posted by aught at 11:36 AM on June 8, 2013 [26 favorites]


I don't really get it, you can get used tires for like $10-15 dollars at a junk yard.
posted by delmoi at 11:37 AM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


Why on earth would you want to buy a "used" consumable item? Do you understand what happens if your tires fail when you're on the highway?
posted by indubitable at 11:39 AM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see what percentage of their customers are replacing worn, damaged or otherwise unusable tires, and what percentage are upgrading.

All I can say is that after 18 or so years on my own and paying my own way, I'd be in a hell of a worse spot now if it weren't for the access to consumer credit. I try very hard not to criticize people who freely offer it and freely use it.
posted by gjc at 11:41 AM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Used doesn't mean worn out. You can get perfectly fine used tires that won't blow out on you on the interstate.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 11:42 AM on June 8, 2013 [19 favorites]


Used tires aren't necessarily worn out tires. If a car with brand new tires gets totaled, those tires are probably just fine. Everything wears out, but not everything is discarded until it is completely worn out.
posted by gjc at 11:43 AM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Or is it folks choking themselves to death by opting to drive vehicles they can no longer afford that require expensive tire sizes?

From the article:

When Birdie Smith and her daughter rented four tires for their Infiniti sport utility vehicle at the Inglewood branch of Rent-a-Wheel, they were reminded they had to pay $41.90 every Saturday, in person.

But money was tight and they eventually missed a payment.


Money is tight, but you're rollin' in a 'Finiti SUV? Would it not be more fiscally prudent to sell the SUV and get a Corolla?

My sense from the articles is that the bigger market is for people who want to live beyond their means, wheel-wise (both in car make/model, and rims/wheels).

Even the example of the Chevy Silverado that requires $1300 tires...wouldn't one sell it, and buy a Ford F-something or other that doesn't need bespoke wheels?

I don't get it.
posted by nacho fries at 11:44 AM on June 8, 2013 [29 favorites]


Why on earth would you want to buy a "used" consumable item?

I doubt it's a question of "want". It's more an issue of "What can I afford on my shit paycheck?" I guarantee if these people could afford a new set of tires, they would buy them.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:44 AM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Are there people in this country whose first thought on waking up in the morning is, "how can I exploit poor people today?"

Lately, it's starting to seem that there are very few people in this country whose first thought on waking up is not, "how can I exploit poor people today?"
posted by daniel_charms at 11:45 AM on June 8, 2013 [10 favorites]


I get that people can't necessarily afford new tires, but buying used tires hinges on the question of whether it's of any benefit vs. just continuing on your old, worn out tires. So, ok, you're determined to go buy used tires. Do you know what irregular tread wear patterns look like? Do you know what common structural defects you should be checking for (belt separation, etc.)? Do you know how to figure out the date of manufacture to make sure you're not buying something so old that it's already begun to dry rot? Have any recalls been issued on this model of tire? Etc.

I know some of this stuff, because I'm kind of a car nut, but is everyone who is struggling to make ends meet going to take the time to figure this out?
posted by indubitable at 11:52 AM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


When I was a kid I thought stuff like tires and batteries were more expensive than the car itself. It was like a year of planning to get tires. We actually got a ticket for having too worn tires. Then we had to worry about the state inspection. After that we started getting tires from a guy who knew I guy. I believe they were stolen. I don't know much about car stuff so I asked someone recently how much tires cost, I figured they must be like 5k, to have been such an issue. Long story short. I personally believe something like tire rentals would be just the thing to get you through inspection without having to buy stolen tires.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:54 AM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


I make a 6 figure salary and have bought used tires on more than one occasion. I'm cheap (or thrifty, if you're being nice) and less risk averse, I guess, but I've never had one of these used tires blow out on me.. slow leaks, sure, but no blow outs.. and I'm not exactly easy on them. I also don't roll in an Infiniti SUV, either.. I buy ~$5000 used cars and drive them till they drop. There is a part of me that feels bad about these sorts of exploitative businesses (pay day lenders, especially), but there is also a part of me that doesn't feel so bad for these folks and their SUVs.
posted by mbatch at 11:56 AM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Good questions indubitable ! My experience of poor people is that many are pretty knowledgable about cars and tires.
It's a common enough subject of conversation.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:56 AM on June 8, 2013


Why is public transportation not an option for these folks?
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:57 AM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


OHenryPacey, for the same reason it isn't an option for lots of people?
posted by bizwank at 11:59 AM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Why is public transportation not an option for these folks?

They live in the United States. Public transit is not a good option even in some major cities, let alone the countryside.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:00 PM on June 8, 2013 [47 favorites]


nacho fries: "Money is tight, but you're rollin' in a 'Finiti SUV? Would it not be more fiscally prudent to sell the SUV and get a Corolla?"

Can we not do that thing where we insist poor people can only live responsibly if they don't have a single nice thing to their names, where a satellite antenna on their roof or an iPhone in their hand is some kind of proof that they're only poor because they mishandle money?

We don't know these people. They might have that car from before they hit hard times and they'd like to sell it, but they owe more on it than it's worth. Or maybe they know it's an indulgence, but it's the only decent thing they have. Or whatever. We don't know them.

Life's a little more complicated than, "You can only claim money troubles if you don't own a single luxury."

I'm gonna assume you're just speaking strictly in a practical sense about the matter of the car/tire situation, and you're offering a workaround. So I'm not slagging you or accusing you personally of anything, nacho fries.

But you know, let's just be careful we don't slip into that old trope of trying to shame a poor person because they have a nice thing we don't think they should. It's tiresome and kinda awful.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2013 [96 favorites]


no i wasn't being dense...i am making more of a broad...when will this country figure out that good sound public transportation is good governance kind of statement.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:02 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Public transportation isn't an option because the auto manufacturers purchased and dismantled as many transport systems as they could in the middle of the last century, then they realized it was far cheaper instead to sell the dream of owning a car as a rite of passage into adulthood, so basically anyone who could even by a tiny stretch afford a car bought one and then the transport systems simply shrivel up until they're useless, and anyway all those car buyers now live twenty minutes or more away from work because that's where the bank-sold dream of owning your own home is a rite of passage into adulthood houses were.
posted by seanmpuckett at 12:05 PM on June 8, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm gonna assume you're just speaking strictly in a practical sense about the matter of the car/tire situation, and you're offering a workaround.

Precisely.

I did a long stint on general relief, and am quite sensitive to the plight of people in similarly dire straits.

A big part of getting back on my feet involved making decisions that were worked out down to the penny, and finding creative workarounds. When I interviewed for jobs, I had one pair of worn-out shoes that could reasonably "pass" for acceptable. I borrowed a Sharpie from my neighbor (didn't have money to buy a pen) and inked out the scuffs.

I sold off a lot of my precious things to pay rent -- things that made me feel good to own, because they were nicely-made, and represented a time when I was on my feet and working and didn't have to worry about food, clothing, shelter.

It's all about working with what you have, and using it to advance your cause, vs. pouring money into sinkholes like expensive-to-own makes of cars.

As an aside: I am a car nut who lives in L.A., so I am also attuned to the nuances of car status in the area.
posted by nacho fries at 12:09 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


As an example, imagine a single mom who's in hard times who drives a luxury car because she's working as a low-end pharmaceutical sales rep. Even at her level, should clients see her roll up in say, a used Corolla, she can probably just save everyone some trouble and slam the door in her own face. Clothes, she can fake, through careful resale shopping. But the car... there's no way around it. If she does well, can get promoted into a higher segment where the car won't be such a crushing expense. But for now, she considers it a necessary evil.

There are all kinds of reasons it might make sense.

And in any case, a person doesn't have to be an across-the-board pauper saint in burlap rags to deserve empathy.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:16 PM on June 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Money is tight, but you're rollin' in a 'Finiti SUV?

They've been making Infiniti SUVs for a good long time. Right now, I'm looking at a '97 QX4 on AOL Autos listed at $3999. Just because it's a luxury brand, doesn't mean it's a recent model. Even Mercedes show up in the "Bad Credit? We Finance!" lots.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:16 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Can we not do that thing where we insist poor people can only live responsibly if they don't have a single nice thing to their names, where a satellite antenna on their roof or an iPhone in their hand is some kind of proof that they're only poor because they mishandle money?

Nice try, but there is a world of difference between an iPhone and an Infinity SUV. I personally am not poor by any standard, and I know better. I surfed craigslist real quick and found 10 year old Infinity SUVs were going for $15k. That is not a reasonable purchase for anyone struggling to pay for a set of tires. Trade in the Infinity and get a newer used SUV without the badge and have money left over for tires.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:17 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


FFS, with a minimum of concerted effort we could all be rolling in Infiniti SUVs. Except the majority of the country, apparently, is happy with a system where some have ten-thousand-peoples'-worth of shit while others can't afford food and tires. Otherwise, we wouldn't have companies that fucking rent tires and wheels at usurious rates.

It's fucked-up. It's wrong. And no matter what anyone says, it's un-American.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 12:19 PM on June 8, 2013 [25 favorites]


From a legal standpoint, is this "rent-to-own" business any different from selling stuff on installments?

Tires are clearly a consumable, I do not see the concept of rent applying in the same way that you rent a house or a car. It seems to me the word "rent" has just been included in the title to make it easier for the dealers to collect aggressively and generally screw the customers.
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:20 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Even the example of the Chevy Silverado that requires $1300 tires...wouldn't one sell it, and buy a Ford F-something or other that doesn't need bespoke wheels?

Most decent truck tires cost over $200 each. I have a Ford and I could easily drop a grand on new shoes for her.
posted by fshgrl at 12:21 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think we should make the tire renters face the payday lenders and the rent-to-own assholes in a giant steel cage match to the death. The winner gets a free one way ticket to the North Pole.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:22 PM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


For some people it works to sell off everything and dig themselves out that way, for others not. It's like losing weight: individual circumstances matter and you shouldn't assume that your personal solution works for everyone. What if I have a reliable car that I trust but it's expensive and so I sell it and buy a lemon because it's damn hard to spot some problems with cars (having bought a car that was a total disaster even though it was checked out by a mechanic, this would be something I dreaded)? What if someone in the household actually needs more space in a vehicle as part of their work or for some other reason? What if I don't have the time to sell my car for a good price and then buy another because I'm working 3 jobs? Maybe if you do it all the time buying and selling cars is easy and quick, but I've always found it a horror show on both ends.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 12:23 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Good grief.

Money is tight, but you're rollin' in a 'Finiti SUV? Would it not be more fiscally prudent to sell the SUV and get a Corolla?

(...)

Even the example of the Chevy Silverado that requires $1300 tires...wouldn't one sell it, and buy a Ford F-something or other that doesn't need bespoke wheels?

I don't get it.
posted by nacho fries


No, seriously, you don't.

I drive an SUV. I am a member of the working poor; why don't I sell it and buy a Corolla?

1) It's paid for
2) It's a '97
3) The master computer is gone; I can't afford to replace it.
4) It's got 188,000 miles on it
5) Its Blue Book value is roughly $1000, and
4) I can't afford a car payment.

I had to buy new tires last year; mid-range all-seasons cost me about $700 total - cutely, just about the amount I had in my "I need another car" fund.


Nice try, but there is a world of difference between an iPhone and an Infinity SUV. I personally am not poor by any standard, and I know better. I surfed craigslist real quick and found 10 year old Infinity SUVs were going for $15k. That is not a reasonable purchase for anyone struggling to pay for a set of tires. Trade in the Infinity and get a newer used SUV without the badge and have money left over for tires.

How do you know WHEN it was purchased? I have an SUV because it is the vehicle I had when I left my marriage.

"Trade in the Infinity and get a newer used SUV" - are you going to show up, co-sign for the loan and make the payments on a newer used SUV?


It is so easy to decide how other people are doing it wrong. I really wish people would recognize that they have NO IDEA the makeup of other people's lives. I hope I am never in a position to need to even consider having to do something like renting tires, but honest to Christ, if it came down to that or being able to get to work, guess what? In spite of how enormously, obviously, insanely fiscally stupid it is - I would. Because I would like to keep my crappy job, thank you very much, and I need a car to get to it.
posted by faineant at 12:24 PM on June 8, 2013 [82 favorites]


Didn't we have a fpp about people who bought loosies (single cigarettes) at ridiculously high prices simply because they couldn't afford to buy an entire pack of cigarettes?

Seems to me that the underlying cause is the same, i.e. being so damn poor that you cannot afford to make financially sound decisions. The answer there and here shouldn't primarily be stop smoking or stop driving (expensive cars) but rather, why the hell are so many so poor in the world's richest country?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 12:26 PM on June 8, 2013 [16 favorites]


Stating the obvious: purchase price of a car doesn't reflect total cost-of-ownership. Yes, you can get an older Infiniti SUV for less than a newer Corolla, but it's most likely going to end up costing you more per mile than the Corolla over time. It's just sensible consumerism.

I do take the point that owning that Infiniti SUV may be fiscally-sound for that particular individual, IF it provides material gain that would otherwise be compromised by owning a different car. Not enough info in the article to know either way, so admittedly my assumptions about the owner could be unfair.
posted by nacho fries at 12:28 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


I drive an SUV. I am a member of the working poor; why don't I sell it and buy a Corolla?

That was a really sound explanation. I get it now. Thank you.
posted by nacho fries at 12:31 PM on June 8, 2013 [28 favorites]


I'd like to rent some tires for about an hour or two, next week.

These aren't rentals, they're leases. Leases are almost always a ripoff. I used to sell leases back when I sold computers. I was the worst leasing salesman ever, because I would always try to talk people out of it. I insisted the customer consult a suitable accountant or whatever, to determine if the tax advantages outweighed the higher cost. Only rarely did it benefit the customer. Apple used leasing to acquire their first cash hoard, I forget how large, tens of millions I suppose, it seemed unimaginably large, back in the 80s. I think this was how they survived through the lean times, it was hard to sell expensive Macs and Laserwriters to small business unless they could finance them too. And then they burned through the cash reserves and almost went bankrupt. They thought they could continue to profit from selling computers, and also profit from the financing. This is what Steve Jobs was talking about, when he said salesmen had taken over Apple. You need almost infinitely deep pockets to finance your own growth this way, and if sales are flat, you crash and burn.

But tires? This is just stupid. I had two sets of tires rot away because I only drove like 5k miles per year. After about 7 years, they deteriorate and just don't hold air anymore, you have to replace them even though they've got tons of tread left. So even if you never put any miles on them, they will be consumed, they're a consumable. Leases are for durable goods that you can put on a fixed depreciation schedule. I bet that's the business scam, the lessor writes off the tires' depreciation on his taxes. I can even see how they could get insurance to cover unexpected depreciation (like tire damage). This is the commoditization of everyday life. This is what happens when bankers and brokers take over the economy.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:32 PM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


Naturally, vultures swoop in the Market's wake. Business as usual.

Hey now. Vultures have a valuable role in the ecosystem. No need to tar them by comparing them to these assholes.
posted by emjaybee at 12:32 PM on June 8, 2013 [20 favorites]


Not what I expected.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:37 PM on June 8, 2013


It starts with renting instead of buying software, like the new arrangement for Photoshop, but soon we might rent our whole lives, our cars, houses, clothes, everything but the food we eat. We are already well along the way, might as well go full monty. Ownership will be reserved for the wealthy, just like in the good old days, and the rest of us wil be like feudal serfs.
posted by caddis at 12:39 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


Even if we're talking strictly about people who prey on people who actually ARE dumb, it doesn't make them any less nauseating a flavor of asshole.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:41 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's rage inducing how these conversations inevitably turn to "have you tried not being poor?" instead of "have you considered not exploiting people for profit?"

I had a whole screed explaining how I ended up a poor with an expensive car, but you know what? I'm not the one in the wrong here. Shit happens, life is complicated, but I still somehow manage not to take advantage of people in a worse situation than me. If only more people would do the same.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:41 PM on June 8, 2013 [52 favorites]


^ This.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:42 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Guys, can we not do that thing where every dynamic, visionary entrepreneur who sees a niche in the market and fills it aggressively and with stringent, byzantine conditions is just out to exploit poor people?
posted by Flashman at 12:43 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Fuck 'em, they're dumb," is not a solid excuse for running a predatory business that targets the poor.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:46 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Sam Vimes "Boots" Theory of Economic Injustice runs thus:

At the time of Men at Arms, Samuel Vimes earned thirty-eight dollars a month as a Captain of the Watch, plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots, the sort that would last years and years, cost fifty dollars. This was beyond his pocket and the most he could hope for was an affordable pair of boots costing ten dollars, which might with luck last a year or so before he would need to resort to makeshift cardboard insoles so as to prolong the moment of shelling out another ten dollars.

Therefore over a period of ten years, he might have paid out a hundred dollars on boots, twice as much as the man who could afford fifty dollars up front ten years before. And he would still have wet feet.

Without any special rancour, Vimes stretched this theory to explain why Sybil Ramkin lived twice as comfortably as he did by spending about half as much every month.

posted by Marcc at 12:48 PM on June 8, 2013 [27 favorites]


"have you tried not being poor?"

Has anyone said that, though?

I think what's muddying the waters here is that the article discusses two distinct groups of people: those who use the rental service to upgrade their bling rims/wheels, and those who have no other recourse than to use the rental service to keep themselves on the road so they can get to work, etc.
posted by nacho fries at 12:49 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


"how can I exploit poor people today?"

And military personnel. These places are a dime-a-dozen in strip malls near military installations.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:52 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Has anyone said that, though?

When you say, without particular knowledge, "sell your Infiniti and buy a new used SUV", this is exactly what you're saying: There's a right thing to do, and you're not doing it, so obviously you're choosing to be poor (and thus deserve your suffering).
posted by fatbird at 12:53 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


While its possible that renting tires for your mid-level SUV makes sense for somebody that doesn't mean that in some cases it isn't a bad decision. People who lack access to reasonable consumer credit do indeed get fucked over by rent-to-own places. But who knows, maybe it was just a bad choice and they really should get a cheaper car. Poor people are not idiots but they screw up sometimes like everyone. This particular example still sounds odd to me although certainly I can't argue against anyone's just-so stories.

My question is why are their no cheap tires? Clearly the market needs something there. Is it an issue of regulatory compliance driving costs? An oligopoly in tire manufacturing? What's the deal?
posted by GuyZero at 12:53 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had a long stretch in my youthful subsistence in which my '79 Motobecane Mobylette was my primary vehicle, and I rode to college and work (15 and 2 miles away) on that little humbunny at 65 MPG and in rain or shine for a long, long time. I was inspired by Diva, of course, and by the notions of a more romantic world that existed outside of a car in the Paris of my heart, but I was a young insecure man in a country that beats the drum for four wheels until we're all brainwashed, and I was sucked back into the world of cars for far too long.

If I ever had a time machine and a conviction to change the life I've led, I'd go back to visit '86 Joe and convince him that pretty much every stupid waste of money of scale in my life came down to my fervent unrequited love affair with the car.

"You know that Chevrolet Sprint you've been thinking about, the one that you can almost afford, but you're not sure about because you really want an MG?" I'd ask myself. "You should buy it, take meticulous care of it, and drive it until it falls apart sometime in 2006 or so. Even better, take the motorcycle safety course and get yourself a decent Honda Nighthawk."

'86 Joe would fuss and fight and not do what I suggest, but if I could make Poverty Joe listen, I'd point out that the mythology of a car being something to deliver you up the class strata is the purest bullshit imaginable. Almost-Middle-Class Joe, having arrived in middle age with mountains of debt and a history of not having adventures because of the mundane realities of the expected world, often looks back and wonders how it all would have been if he'd had just a motorcycle, or just one dull little 50 MPG car that would never, ever impress anyone ever, and all that money he's blown on bourgemobiles in the last generation.

It's hard to change people's expectations when you're trying to be florid about the joys of humble living, so the rat race runs on, complete with low-pros. Gack.
posted by sonascope at 12:59 PM on June 8, 2013 [8 favorites]



Life's a little more complicated than, "You can only claim money troubles if you don't own a single luxury."

its equally true that life is more complicated than "tire rental providers are evil and want to exploit the poor."
posted by jpe at 1:00 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


There are cheap tires, but every vehicle has its particular range of acceptable tires, and owning something other than a common econo-box or sedan can trap you in a narrow range of options that seems unproblematic when you have a decent standard of living, but is suddenly a huge difficulty when you're saddled with a less-common vehicle you can't dump for various reasons.
posted by fatbird at 1:00 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you say, without particular knowledge, "sell your Infiniti and buy a new used SUV", this is exactly what you're saying: There's a right thing to do, and you're not doing it, so obviously you're choosing to be poor (and thus deserve your suffering).

I said nothing of the sort.

My rallying cry is this: because it is BRUTAL out there, we (those of us living on the edge) need to be extra super savvy, and keep our critical thinking skills dialed up to 11.

As I acknowledged, I made a bunch of assumptions about the Infiniti owner that were based on information not in evidence. If that car is the best option for her, given her circumstances, then so be it. If it is driving her toward a deeper hole of poverty, then it deserves a rethink.

Unlike some in this thread, I don't view the poor as some big undifferentiated group of dumb-asses incapable of thinking through problems. I give them (us) much more credit than that.
posted by nacho fries at 1:03 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


Part of the problem is that driving into a deeper hole of poverty might be the least bad option available. :-/
posted by anonymisc at 1:08 PM on June 8, 2013 [3 favorites]


When you say, without particular knowledge, "sell your Infiniti and buy a new used SUV", this is exactly what you're saying: There's a right thing to do, and you're not doing it, so obviously you're choosing to be poor (and thus deserve your suffering).

That conclusion doesn't follow from the statement. Firstly, it was couched as a question, rather than an instruction. Why doesn't x do this apparently obvious thing that would seem to make more financial sense? There isn't any implicit judgement there that I can see.

Some people have explained why it doesn't make financial sense for them. Other people have said that they'd rather keep that one luxury item that makes them feel good, even if it does cost more. Fine. Go for it. But don't be surprised if some people find your decisions puzzling.

I've just changed my car about a month ago. Until then, I was driving a fifteen year old Honda Civic that I bought when it was five years old. I've never bought more than a single tyre at a time for it, and I've never bought anything that wasn't part-worn and cost me around £10-15 a pop.

My 'new' car is a 2006 Toyota.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:10 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


wonders how it all would have been if he'd had just a motorcycle,

Likely more expensive overall. At least with reasonably modern economy cars (which, I realize, isn't what you were talking about, but it's the numbers that I've seen run over and over and over again), the TCO of a motorcycle is almost invariably higher, and the utility lower. Tires, especially, wear out damn fast.

I say this as someone who absolutely loves his bike (and should probably be down in the garage doing some basic maintenance so he can ride it safely again)! It's just not usually an economical choice, at least up to certain safety baselines.
posted by flaterik at 1:11 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wonder if institutional racism plays a factor in keeping the poor from becoming as "savy" as the rest of us. This would make them easier to exploit, no? But capitalism.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:11 PM on June 8, 2013


My rallying cry is this: because it is BRUTAL out there, we (those of us living on the edge) need to be extra super savvy, and keep our critical thinking skills dialed up to 11.

Indeed. And so it's a failure of education, a lack of effective mathematics education and fundamental thinking skills, that hurts. Moreover, it's a failure to pass on a culture of intelligent thriftiness. Everyone is not special, and you will all get tripped up by bullshit like this if you fail to pay attention.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:12 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're poor, having an SUV might actually be a savvy move, as it would probably be a bit easier for your family to live out of, and still haul tools to jobs, especially compared to an old Corolla or Civic.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:14 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can you rent used tires? The risk equation becomes less preposterous if for safety reasons you must only rent new tires to people.

Also, expensive rims are in the equation. If you take a look at a Rent'N'Roll site you can see that the $50/wk + "tires" are actually tire/rim combos -- expensive 20"+ rims. The regular tires for cars and trucks are down in the less-preposterous $15-$20 week range. I suspect for tires that aren't garbage, it's up in the $20 + range.

As an aside: In regards to risk, used tires are incredibly dangerous. If you buy used tires, you need to know date codes, be able to identify chemical damage (ie: Chlorine and oxidisers) on the inside and outside fo the tire, and read a tread like a tire savant. Tires are incredibly important for safety.

Oh, and don't be the kind of person who knows what brand of tires are on their car.
posted by graftole at 1:14 PM on June 8, 2013


jpe: "its equally true that life is more complicated than "tire rental providers are evil and want to exploit the poor.""


Well, sure. To call them evil, they'd have to be: specifically targeting poor areas, offering usurious rates, and using stringent, byzantine loan conditions to sting people into sudden repos to maximize their profits.

Did you, um, happen to read the article? Or even the post?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:14 PM on June 8, 2013 [13 favorites]


@DirtyOldTown

I think that the location of high-risk credit sources (payday loans, title loans ... tire rental stores) is a function of demand. Affluent people don't need them, because affluent people are able to either tap other sources of credit, or can make operational cost outlays on the order of a $600 set of tires.
posted by graftole at 1:17 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


No. No one but me specifically typed out the exact words "have you tried not being poor?"

But when the overwhelming focus of the discussion is how people on the wrong end of predatory financial practices are fucking up, and not whether those financial practices themselves are fucked up, we're looking at the wrong end of the equation.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:20 PM on June 8, 2013 [5 favorites]


"have you tried not being poor?"

Has anyone said that, though?


Maybe not explicitly, but look at the comments on this thread. We're debating how the poors should wise up, but it's harder to talk about the greed and immorality of rental tire businesses because there's not really an easy target. It's easy to malign the poor person with an (seemingly) expensive consumer item.

But to attack the businessman for making a buck? "That's business." "That's the way things work." "That's capitalism!" And we shut down against this kind of thinking, because it's true. Business is kind of ruthless. But I think this kind of business can most definitely be controlled, restricted, limited. That takes political will, and that's another wall we hit. So we turn to "solve" the problem by attacking the very poor people that are being exploited.

If we spent our energies fighting the power instead of squabbling amongst ourselves, we could maybe just maybe see something change. Not just rental tires but a whole host of industries that prey on poor people, not to mention middle class folks as well. Remember, the jerks who think up shit like this are ecstatic when we attack each other--it takes the heat off them.
posted by zardoz at 1:22 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


You know, if these people were really price-sensitive, I bet you could make a killing selling retreads right next to the rental places.

But nobody does. Ergo, most of the customers are not truly price-sensitive and are renting rims, not tires.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:23 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think I see what you're getting at, graftole, and that certainly explains where the businesses are located to a large extent.

But I still find "we didn't create the demand for this crappy, usurious business" to be a fairly empty excuse. The absolute kindest way to read these businesses is that they do not set up shop specifically to exploit the poor for profit, but do so anyway with no apparent qualms. That would still make me very comfortable calling them assholes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:28 PM on June 8, 2013


I'd say straight up that those rent-a-rim places are for fools. Renting tires is not what they do, it's rims + low profile tires. If you were truly only renting tires the price, as mentioned, it wouldn't be $50 a week.

I drove a shitbox 97 Volvo 850 that couldn't pass an honest smog/DEQ into the ground and recently replaced it thanks to Honda having .9% financing but while driving it I had to replaced the tires with used ones which is absolutely not an issue in LA. I could get a nearly new set for $25-$35 a tire that worked fine. Even if I had to replace them more often than new tires its still infinitely cheaper than rentawheel.

And that's for nearly new used tires too, "rich" people here get new tires like most people get oil changes so the market is flooded with good used tires.

I know there's a lot of people in these threads that bring up the you don't know what it's like being poor but c'mon, rims are fucking stupid for a long list of reasons and more power to you if you have the budget for them. But if you have to lease them then something is wrong with your ability to make a good choice in your budget.
posted by wcfields at 1:32 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


I read an article the other day (can't find it unfortunately) where two rational people were talking to a conspiracy theorist.

The conspiracy theorist was saying that the Rothschilds were in control of the system and that we needed to fight back against them.

The two rational people explained to him in detail: No, there's no systematic group controlling the system; instead, the political system is such that power logically accrues to a tiny group, and the economic system such that there are systematic incentives for the haves to increasingly grind every last penny out of the have-nots at every turn.

The conspiracy theorist said, "Boy, you guys have a depressing world view."
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:33 PM on June 8, 2013 [21 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell: You know, if these people were really price-sensitive, I bet you could make a killing selling retreads right next to the rental places.
But nobody does. Ergo, most of the customers are not truly price-sensitive and are renting rims, not tires.

The Article: "We see tremendous opportunity serving people who are just looking for dependable tires to get to work," said Larry Sutton, founder and president of Rent-N-Roll. [...] Sutton registered the trademark RNR Tire Express last fall and has been rebranding many stores to focus on tires instead of the oversized chrome rims that were the chain's mainstay. Today, Sutton said, tires make up two-thirds of RNR's sales, up from less than half several years ago.
[...]
Four years ago, 70% of Rimco's sales were aftermarket rims and the rest were tires; today that ratio is reversed.
(emphasis mine)

Just because a business does not exist does not mean that there is nobody who would patronize that business were it to exist. And I suspect that selling or renting-to-own retread tires to very poor people for much less than the established rent-to-own tire shops is a less lucrative business opportunity than you think.

I came into this with limited sympathy for people who are renting shiny rims they can't afford. Yet the rim/tire rental people themselves are now saying it's people who need practical tires. Who am I to argue otherwise?
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 1:36 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


One of the reasons you don't want to sell your car and buy a used one is that it's hard to know how reliable used cars are. If you've had your car for years, and trust that it's totally reliable and never gives you any trouble it would be a huge risk to sell it and buy something less expensive, because you could potentially end up with a Lemon that needs to be replaced much sooner then you would if you'd stuck with your original.

There's also the fact that unless you do person to person sales both times then you're going to lose money on both transactions, and will probably end up spending more money then you get out of it. Cars, in the hands of consumers, are not liquid commodities that can be transferred easily.

As far as having the car, maybe they've had it since before 2008?

___
Why on earth would you want to buy a "used" consumable item? Do you understand what happens if your tires fail when you're on the highway?
They're only partially consumed, they come off old cars when they're junked, that kind of thing. If you want to spend 4x the price for something that's going to last twice as long that's obviously your choice. Or if you can't afford it you can pay 100x the price to rent some tires each month for a few years. Either way.
but buying used tires hinges on the question of whether it's of any benefit vs. just continuing on your old, worn out tires. So, ok, you're determined to go buy used tires. ... I know some of this stuff, because I'm kind of a car nut, but is everyone who is struggling to make ends meet going to take the time to figure this out?
Obviously you've never been "struggling to make ends meet". The benefit to replacing one of your tires with a used one is that it will hold air, and you'll be able to take the donut off your car.
The regular tires for cars and trucks are down in the less-preposterous $15-$20 week range. I suspect for tires that aren't garbage, it's up in the $20 + range.
Less preposterous!? The price of a used tire per week? I assume it's a set of four, but still. That would be like renting a Honda Civic for $10,000 a month.
As an aside: In regards to risk, used tires are incredibly dangerous. If you buy used tires, you need to know date codes, be able to identify chemical damage (ie: Chlorine and oxidisers) on the inside and outside fo the tire, and read a tread like a tire savant. Tires are incredibly important for safety.
Oh please. That's just completely paranoid nonsense. Why the hell would you need to know date codes? Chemical damage? How many people chemically damage their tires? What are you talking about?
posted by delmoi at 1:38 PM on June 8, 2013 [4 favorites]


The absolute kindest way to read these businesses is that they do not set up shop specifically to exploit the poor for profit,


how do you know that they're exploiting their customers? (which is to say, absurdly high profit margins over and above other lines of business).
posted by jpe at 1:40 PM on June 8, 2013


"how can I exploit poor people today?"

And military personnel. These places are a dime-a-dozen in strip malls near military installations.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:52 PM on June 8 [1 favorite −]


This, a million times. I served as a pastor for six years in Newport News, Virginia, and I have never seen so many of these places in my life as I did there.
posted by 4ster at 1:43 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ad hominem: "After that we started getting tires from a guy who knew I guy."

Obligatory Mr. Show
posted by symbioid at 1:55 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


GuyZero: "My question is why are their no cheap tires? Clearly the market needs something there. Is it an issue of regulatory compliance driving costs? An oligopoly in tire manufacturing? What's the deal?"

Clearly it's those greedy unions and government regulations.
posted by symbioid at 1:57 PM on June 8, 2013


I came into this with limited sympathy for people who are renting shiny rims they can't afford. Yet the rim/tire rental people themselves are now saying it's people who need practical tires. Who am I to argue otherwise?

I have no evidence, but FWIW, I think these quotes from the rental businesses are actually self-serving about the nature of their customers. It's better PR to say you're serving people that have nowhere else to turn than to say, "Yeah, we're totally renting flashy rims to stupid people and oh by the way, renting tires to broke people, too."

It's like the ads for bail bondsmen you see and hear. Make the business look like it's helping people afflicted by arbitrary accidents and an unfeeling, unjust system. "We'll help you get through it." As if you got hit by a tornado and need a leg up. Instead of, you know, legalized loan-sharking.

Also, think about the journalist's angle. The better, consumable story is businesses preying on the downtrodden, not asking why they're downtrodden.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:57 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


@DirtyOldTown

It does suck. But, these businesses don't always do so well. Unless you *really* know your clientele, and can do *really* good risk analysis without clobbering yourself with overhead, you're going to end up charging preposterous interest across the board to stay on top. Even then, without a broad footprint to soak up risk, you can go upside-down quickly. There's no investment in customer service for most of these businesses.

Loan sharking is not a stable business, especially when you're doing it legally. If you are really good at it, you aren't going to target (or market to) a $500-here $300-there clientele.
posted by graftole at 2:07 PM on June 8, 2013


Buying used tires isn't inherently dangerous. Just make sure to get a matched set, or if you have to, make sure they match in pairs up front and in the rear (for fwd and rwd cars; for 4wd/awd you DO want all 4 to be the same). And when I say matched, you want both model and tread wear to match.

Do that, make sure they're in good condition visually (no uneven wear, good tread remaining, no obvious condition issues), and that they are in fact a size match for your wheels, and you'll most likely be ok*.

It sounds more complicated than it is, but if you can't afford new tires, it's worth the hour worth of researching on the internet to not rent. I know this last sentence is kind of dumb because I'm sure that's exactly the barrier that enables the rent-a-tire industry in the first place.


*IANYmechanic, and this isn't automotive advice.
posted by danny the boy at 2:08 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Clearly it's those greedy unions and government regulations

Are tire buyers in China and Vietnam paying USD $200 per tire?

I don't get the sarcasm here. A cheap, new tire is possible, so why doesn't it exist?
posted by GuyZero at 2:18 PM on June 8, 2013


@delmoi
The regular tires for cars and trucks are down in the less-preposterous $15-$20 week range. I suspect for tires that aren't garbage, it's up in the $20 + range.
Less preposterous!? The price of a used tire per week? I assume it's a set of four, but still. That would be like renting a Honda Civic for $10,000 a month.
Are you sure that they were talking about used tires? The site I was referring to did not specify that any of their tires that they rent are used. Is that something you have learned about Rent'n'Roll? If your research shows that is for *used* tires, I agree that it is beyond preposterous.

As for expertise in judging tire quality, I guess I'm in the better safe than dead camp. I was thinking of the junkyard tires you mentioned. For me, it suppose it would depend on the warranty.
posted by graftole at 2:28 PM on June 8, 2013


I've heard stories about this before, although it was more specifically about renting high-priced rims (and the accompanying expensive low-profile tires).

Are we really talking about poor people renting plain ol' metric tires for their Tercels, or is there a chance this is just exploitation of those who want to "live large on a shoestring budget"?

I mean, it's still exploitive, but might it be more a case of "a fool and his money" rather than "screw the poor"?
posted by ShutterBun at 2:29 PM on June 8, 2013


I don't get the sarcasm here. A cheap, new tire is possible, so why doesn't it exist?

Quick check of Sears.com for a 1997 Toyota Corolla has the cheapest tire for $42. ~$75-80 if you want a name-brand.

Installed for $186.92 and that's deselecting the extras: Rubber Valve Stems and 90 Day Tire Balancing.

I hardly believe the article saying that rent-a-rim places are making 70% of their income on these kind of tires.
posted by wcfields at 2:29 PM on June 8, 2013


Hey now. Vultures have a valuable role in the ecosystem.

Tire rentals, payday loans, RTO etc also have a valuable role in the system.

The thing is, folks who get worked up about it don't seem to realize that making these unsavory businesses disappear also amounts to a "fuck them if they're poor" attitude. Having been poor, I can understand having the option to rent some tires may mean the difference between having a workable car and keeping that job, or not.

It hurts feelings among the sensitive that, fwiw, the industry also doesn't discriminate between the deserving poor and the stupid poor, my father being among the latter all his adult life until his death. When he passed, I was the only one willing to clear out his crap, as he'd pretty much been estranged from everyone, including myself. And it turns out the only thing he owned was the clothes in his closet and the food in his rented fridge. A pattern that cost him his wife, family, and virtually every substantial piece of property he ever owned. The industry served my family as a whole when we needed it. And continued to serve my father because he had to have things that he couldn't afford outright.
posted by 2N2222 at 2:35 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


For my car and both my motorcycles (all bought used) I will never put used tires on, I'll eat ramen three meals a day before that. I used to travel a lot of interstate and saw countless wrecks of bikes and cars that were attributable to tires. Also, wcfields, eliminating wheel balance is a particularly good way to loose control of your car as your steering wheel shakes itself out of your hands at certain speeds. Also, inspect your valve stems, if they're rubber and at least five years old, you need new ones. They sun-crack and oxidize just like tire sidewalls do.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 2:41 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, wcfields, eliminating wheel balance is a particularly good way to loose control of your car as your steering wheel shakes itself out of your hands at certain speeds. Also, inspect your valve stems, if they're rubber and at least five years old, you need new ones. They sun-crack and oxidize just like tire sidewalls do.

Ok, so add that into the tire cost: $246.84 installed.
posted by wcfields at 2:45 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


But you know, let's just be careful we don't slip into that old trope of trying to shame a poor person because they have a nice thing we don't think they should. It's tiresome and kinda awful.

Agreed.

OTOH: Renting tires??
posted by DU at 2:49 PM on June 8, 2013


> But to attack the businessman for making a buck? "That's business." "That's the way things
> work." "That's capitalism!"

What is it, then, when your governments overwhelmingly target the poor and uneducated through enormous state-run lotteries (which everyone who isn't poor and uneducated refers to as "the stupid tax")? Not capitalism, at any rate, just a thing big organizations that want money tend to do.


> But I think this kind of business can most definitely be controlled, restricted, limited.
> That takes political will, and that's another wall we hit.

Sure, and government can most definitely be controlled, restricted, limitedBWAAAHAHAHAHA, sorry, lost it there for a moment. I kill myself sometimes.
posted by jfuller at 3:01 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've never seen tire rental in the UK, but we do have coin-op TV rental: put money in the sealed meter (discreetly sited at the back of the set so visitors won't notice it), the nice man from the rental company comes round every so often to empty the coins, which are tallied against your weekly instalment. An incentive to pay is that if you don't, then the TV powers off.

The poor really are screwed by this sort of system, just because they pay far more for consumable goods than someone who can afford to buy them outright. Perhaps there is a lack of education about what cheaper options are available, but I think it's also predatory lending to a market that has very limited options if they want to have the stuff of modern life.
posted by wilko at 3:09 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


That conclusion doesn't follow from the statement. Firstly, it was couched as a question, rather than an instruction. Why doesn't x do this apparently obvious thing that would seem to make more financial sense? There isn't any implicit judgement there that I can see.

The question is a rhetorical device to facilitiate the judgement. That's the point. It's the same kind of thing that's all over the Cataline Orations. "If X, I would Y, but I won't talk about that" despite having just talked about it.
posted by hoyland at 3:13 PM on June 8, 2013


I mean, it's always possible a genuine question, but that's why people are reading it as a judgement.
posted by hoyland at 3:14 PM on June 8, 2013


But you know, let's just be careful we don't slip into that old trope of trying to shame a poor person because they have a nice thing we don't think they should.

Shame has gotten a bad rap lately. I think there needs to be more of the right kind of shame in society.

Bad shame: "You shouldn't do XYZ because XYZ is morally wrong. People that do XYZ are depraved."

Good shame: "You shouldn't do XYZ because it's objectively unhealthy and/or wasteful. People that do XYZ display a kind of poor judgment likely to affect other areas of their life."

In other words:
"Hey, check out my ride!"
"You spent how much on that? Dude, you're better than this."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:23 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


Purposeful Grimace: "I used to travel a lot of interstate and saw countless wrecks of bikes and cars that were attributable to tires."

No doubt, but how did you identify that the cause of an accident that you drove past was the result of a faulty tire--and more specifically that the faulty tire was purchased second-hand and not new? Isn't it more likely it was just improperly maintained, like most cars on the road?

I'm not saying that used tires aren't without risk, but that there are ways to mitigate that risk to an acceptable degree, if you simply cannot afford new tires. I don't recommend used tires if you can at all help it, but the scenario isn't simply: buy new, be safe; buy used, get into an accident. It's just a different level of risk acceptance. Way better than not getting replacement tires when you need them, and to my mind far better than renting.

Look at the developing world for example--their automotive standards are WAY more lax than the western world, but they mitigate by driving a lot slower than we do.
posted by danny the boy at 3:25 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean, it's always possible a genuine question, but that's why people are reading it as a judgement.

Since I stated plainly that it was not asked as a form of judgment, and also explained that I have first-hand experience with being poor (and, let me add, being judged for it), the "why" has more to do with what people are projecting.

I've stated my intent, and clarified my position. If people choose to continue to assign mean-spirited judgment to my words, that says more about their own internalized biases than my own.
posted by nacho fries at 3:28 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


A cheap, new tire is possible, so why doesn't it exist?

Well, here's the Wikipedia entry for tyre manufacturing. It's fairly long (and not a good encyclopaedia article even though it seems correct), but the key thing is that it's a big multi stage process that requires both fairly specialised equipment and a lot of manual intervention, basically due to the layering of steel belts, nylon belts, and various sorts of rubbers

I don't think that's going to change until there's a lot more sophistication in 3D printing.
posted by ambrosen at 3:32 PM on June 8, 2013


No doubt, but how did you identify that the cause of an accident that you drove past was the result of a faulty tire--and more specifically that the faulty tire was purchased second-hand and not new? Isn't it more likely it was just improperly maintained, like most cars on the road?

Good point, my rebuttal would be that blown retreads are easy to see when you drive by; and if it's only a single tire that's blown that would equate neglect in my binary world. If see two tires (or more) shredded, that makes me think faulty tire/used tire. YMMV.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 3:35 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every tire on the road is a "used" tire, to some degree or another.

And tires can last a ridiculously long time these days. The need to replace all four at once has been extremely rare in my own 25+ years of driving (most often I've had to replace them 1 or 2 at a time due to damage, etc.)

Even if you do find yourself faced with the prospect of having to replace all 4, you ought to be able to plan for it many months ahead of time. Anyone who can afford to drive at all ought to be able to squirrel away $10 a week to save up for a new set. It seems pretty rare that someone is going to be in a situation where they're saying: "oh shit! I'm broke, my credit is in the toilet, and I need 4 new tires TODAY!" without having missed a few steps.
posted by ShutterBun at 5:16 PM on June 8, 2013


ShutterBun: "Every tire on the road is a "used" tire, to some degree or another.

And tires can last a ridiculously long time these days. The need to replace all four at once has been extremely rare in my own 25+ years of driving (most often I've had to replace them 1 or 2 at a time due to damage, etc.)

Even if you do find yourself faced with the prospect of having to replace all 4, you ought to be able to plan for it many months ahead of time. Anyone who can afford to drive at all ought to be able to squirrel away $10 a week to save up for a new set. It seems pretty rare that someone is going to be in a situation where they're saying: "oh shit! I'm broke, my credit is in the toilet, and I need 4 new tires TODAY!" without having missed a few steps.
"

Well, not unless it turns out your last set got repo'd.
posted by Samizdata at 5:22 PM on June 8, 2013


But when the overwhelming focus of the discussion is how people on the wrong end of predatory financial practices are fucking up

The "overwhelming focus of the discussion" is roundly scolding the very, very few people who had the temerity to suggest that some of the people who resort to these services might have better options available to them for being heartless bastards who clearly think that every single poor person is a poor solely because they're wanton spendthrifts who deserve every bad thing that every happened to them, right down to their dog getting run over by an extra-crushy steamroller.

If we're talking about "things we could 'please' not do" I'd like to add "dramatically declaring how much more wonderfully empathetic I am than all you largely imaginary scum" to the list.
posted by yoink at 5:36 PM on June 8, 2013 [7 favorites]


And tires can last a ridiculously long time these days.

Not really. Their composition is such that time and weather have an effect of them, rendering them increasingly more dangerous (or less reliable) as they age, even if you don't actually use them much.

Then of course wear and tear take their toll, but that's largely a fuction of how much you drive, how and if you maintain them always at correct pressure (few people do that regularly), and how you park the car (too close to street side, bumping them a lot, etc).

And of course one may keep on using them till they literally break apart, but god forbid you were to drive with bad old tires in a dangerous situation, any situation which may or may not occour frequently (such as heavy rain), but if and when it occours it may become deadly in a second because bad old tires, for that fraction of a second, are not nearly as realiable as when they were new.
posted by elpapacito at 5:53 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


People who actually don't have a choice are often told they have one.

You are to choose between renting tires and buying tires, so you have a choice: formally that's correct, because you are _free to_ choose from two options the one that you like the most or that is the least expensive for you.

For instance when travelling it may be less expensive to rent a car than buying one, because you are going to use that car in that spot for a short time.

But if you, for instance, need tires to get to work, you actually don't have a choice - altought we are often said we can choose between getting the tires or losing the job.

Formally you still are _free to_ choose, but you are not also _free from_ the need to have tires to hold your job. Because of that, I can ask you an higher price to rent the tires because you _need_ them badly.

Repeat again and again, and I can bring you to the point your ability to save for the future is close to zero - formally you are not my slave, but you pretty much are.
posted by elpapacito at 6:11 PM on June 8, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't think this is necessarily evil people exploiting poor people, as it is asshole people exploiting unknowing/oblivious people.

I have been broke. With a car being necessary to get me to work. One day during after almost losing control for "no reason" during a heavy rain, I realized i had no treads left on my tires. I searched stores and online, but this car, being the SE model of a very common sedan, was 200 per new tire.

So I bought used 50% treads tires for 45 a piece, two at a time for the next two pay checks. After that experience, I have treated tire care the same as oil changes and putting gas in the car. I pay attention to the treads on my tires, rotate them as needed to prolong their life, and keep an eye out on line for deals on my tire size. I have no credit, so I save up and buy two at a time. If I get in an emergency with a blowout or severe tire damage, I know that the used tire place is there.
posted by Debaser626 at 6:59 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyone who can afford to drive at all ought to be able to squirrel away $10 a week to save up for a new set. It seems pretty rare that someone is going to be in a situation where they're saying: "oh shit! I'm broke, my credit is in the toilet, and I need 4 new tires TODAY!" without having missed a few steps.

I think, though, that these probably aren't people who went to the movies instead of saving their $10 or something. They'll be the people who, I don't know, cut themselves making dinner, needed stitches and there went $100+ for the urgent care place, so much for that $10 a week they'd been saving. It's the same sort of reason people go to pay day loan places. They're not stupid and know they're getting ripped off, but there's not much they can do about it because they have to pay the rent, or put gas in the car to get to work or whatever.
posted by hoyland at 7:17 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Trade in the Infinity and get a newer used SUV" - are you going to show up, co-sign for the loan and make the payments on a newer used SUV?

I was away for most of this hilariously bad thread, but I'd like a quick rebuttal on this point.

If someone has an SUV worth a significant amount of money, such as a 10 year-old SUV selling for a minimum of $15,000, that costs a lot to maintain, and chooses to rent tires, they are stupid. I don't care if they are rolling in money or not. They can't see beyond the small problem in front of them that they need tires now and nothing else matters. What will they do when there is an engine problem and it costs $5000 to fix instead of $2000 because they have the luxury SUV? The obvious thing to do is to get out from under something you can't afford to maintain and into something you can. Further, the opportunity cost of selling that SUV and buying something else is relatively small. It's not as if I'm saying "move across the country," something that takes significant time, money and resources.

My point was this: it's completely understandable for someone with money problems to still want luxuries. Having a big screen TV with satellite or cable is a luxury. Owning an iPhone is a luxury. Owning a $15,000+ used luxury SUV is a luxury. The difference between the TV with cable or an iPhone and the SUV is that the TV or phone are something within reach of someone who has less money; owning an expensive SUV is not within reach.

Also, My $15,000 estimate was low. I looked further and most Infinity SUVs that are 10 years old are closer to $18,000. You can buy a brand new cheap car for that kind of money and dump nothing into repairs.

And one last thing: asking me if I'm paying for some random person's car payment or co-sign? Of course I won't be doing that. As much as I appreciate your obvious strawman, I'll pass on doing such things.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 7:37 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


And one last thing: asking me if I'm paying for some random person's car payment or co-sign? Of course I won't be doing that. As much as I appreciate your obvious strawman, I'll pass on doing such things.

It's almost as if you find it offensive that someone who doesn't know you would presume to tell you what you should do with your money, isn't it.
posted by faineant at 8:03 PM on June 8, 2013 [8 favorites]


Can't afford new tires? No tread left? Have your tires regrooved. Warning: illegal in most states.

I never heard of tire regrooving until I read about it in a Phil Dick novel. It was his example of the lowest, scummiest job possible.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:21 PM on June 8, 2013 [2 favorites]


And tires can last a ridiculously long time these days.

My OEM tires on the new car I purchased lasted exactly the length of the warranty (3 years) plus one month. Same as the battery.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:14 PM on June 8, 2013


So I don't get it. I searched online for tires for a 2010 Infiniti EX and I found some for $72 each. Re-reading the article they blame higher prices on higher oil prices (which isn't that new) and higher rubber prices.

But... it looks like there are cheap tires?

I don't get it.
posted by GuyZero at 9:19 PM on June 8, 2013


It's almost as if you find it offensive that someone who doesn't know you would presume to tell you what you should do with your money, isn't it.

I'm not telling anyone what to do with their money. They aren't calling me up and saying "Mister Fabulous, what should I do?" I'm not calling them and saying "Sell your car!" I'm making a judgement call on a hypothetical situation that I'm not involved in. I'm calling people who can't handle their money in a responsible way "stupid."

It doesn't take a graduate education to see that owning a car you can't afford to repair is a poor position to be in. I personally purchased a car about 1.5 years ago. I had the option of picking a 10-year old Porsche Boxster at the same price as a 4-year old Nissan Altima. The Boxster was being offered to me by a family friend at under value. The two cars were then the same price, with a minor price difference in financing, but both in my price range. I chose the Altima. Why? I know I couldn't afford expensive maintenance on a Porsche.

This is the hypothetical situation: Person has car worth $18K. The car in question is a used luxury brand SUV. They can't afford basic maintenance on said $18K car. They can sell $18K car for at or near its value. They can purchase a different car that's not a luxury brand, is as old, but probably newer, and likely has less miles for $10-15K, keep $3-8K that's leftover and be prepared for inevitable maintenance. Future maintenance will also be cheaper. They choose to instead purchase tires on at a scam price. In the future they will continue to have more expensive repairs, because they have a luxury car, and because all cars will inevitably need repair.

Based on that hypothetical person's actions, I would consider that person to have rather poor judgement. Or as, I actually feel: they are stupid.

I don't think the rent-to-own business is a good one, and I do think it is ethically wrong to charge people exorbitant costs for basic items. At the same time, it's no secret that the businesses exist and that their prices are ridiculous. If I met someone who chose going to a rent-to-own tire place instead of trading down to a car they could afford, I would call them stupid.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 9:44 PM on June 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


The major thing I have learned from this thread is that there is no end to the stories people want to tell about crap cars they have driven and cheap tires they have bought.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:49 PM on June 8, 2013


Not really. Their composition is such that time and weather have an effect of them, rendering them increasingly more dangerous (or less reliable) as they age, even if you don't actually use them much.

So do Americans not have a US equivalent of the MOT test? Here in the UK, any car over three years old has to be tested to ensure that it's safe to drive. Tyres are one of the components of that test. Not enough tread, damage to the sidewalls, etc. your car won't pass and you need to go away and put it right before you'll get the certificate that allows you to drive it again.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:06 AM on June 9, 2013


So do Americans not have a US equivalent of the MOT test?

It's a state by state issue. Less than half of the states require a safety inspection at all. Here is the relevant wikipedia link describing all of that. There's a fair number of states that require emissions testing, but not safety testing for things like tires. The other states basically leave it to the police, meaning you are only forced to fix something if an officer catches you and writes you a "fix-it" ticket. Mostly those tickets are handed out for headlights or taillights being out between the hours of 10pm-3am... DUI hours.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:31 AM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks, Mister Fabulous. That all seems really peculiar to a European. I'm sure far more of us would be driving around with bald tyres and defective brakes if we weren't forced to get them sorted out once a year.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:51 AM on June 9, 2013


God must have really loved poor people because He made so many of them!
posted by telstar at 2:31 AM on June 9, 2013


delmoi: "I don't really get it, you can get used tires for like $10-15 dollars at a junk yard."

Junkyard tires start at $25 each when you buy a set around here; and ones at that price point have significant wear. Mounting and balancing is at least $60. With tax you are pushing $200. And those tires are likely to need replacing twice as often.

At one time I ran nothing but free tires on my car. That stopped once my buddy working at a service station quit and I need to pay for mounting.

nacho fries: "Even the example of the Chevy Silverado that requires $1300 tires...wouldn't one sell it, and buy a Ford F-something or other that doesn't need bespoke wheels?
"

One of the problems is in the last 10-15 years rims have exploded in size for mostly cosmetic reasons. Many trucks come with 20" rims right from the factory; 17-18" is an extremely common stock rim size on even stripper half tons. 15 years ago LT235/75R15 rims were the stock tire on most 1/2 ton pickups. You can almost buy a complete set of those for what a single 20" would cost.

It's the same with cars. 30 years ago a 195/55/15 (Like those on my '01 Tiburon) would have been a performance size with most cars rolling on 14 or 13s. Now an entry level car like the new Dart; a Cruze or Mazda 3 all come with 16" tires which are often twice as expensive even when buying comparable performance and wear. The people buying new cars don't care; many of them will never buy a replacement set of tires. It really hurts the people buying the cars used though.
posted by Mitheral at 2:58 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


affluent people are able to either tap other sources of credit, or can make operational cost outlays on the order of a $600 set of tires.

Gah, is this what is considered as affluent now?
posted by jaduncan at 5:18 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


Gah, is this what is considered as affluent now?

$600 is an astronomical (even impossible) single-lump outlay to consider for a large portion of the population. This is why rent-to-own has become so popular. $20/month? Sure, they can just swing that. $600 all at once? Nope. Not gonna happen.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:00 AM on June 9, 2013



$600 is an astronomical (even impossible) single-lump outlay to consider for a large portion of the population. This is why rent-to-own has become so popular. $20/month? Sure, they can just swing that. $600 all at once? Nope. Not gonna happen.

If someone can afford $20 a month after the tires wear out, they can afford it before the tires wear out.

It is not predatory for someone to offer a product for sale. To believe such a thing exposes an underlying belief that (some) people aren't smart enough to make good decisions.
posted by gjc at 7:51 AM on June 9, 2013


Although we've certainly seemed to forget it over the last 30 years, charging what the market will bear is not always ethical, desirable, or justifiable. Usury is predatory, by definition.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 8:09 AM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


$600 is an astronomical (even impossible) single-lump outlay to consider for a large portion of the population. This is why rent-to-own has become so popular. $20/month? Sure, they can just swing that. $600 all at once? Nope. Not gonna happen.

I know, I've been on welfare in the UK before. I've even occasionally given people money precisely because I understand this and don't want to see them get minced up by usurers. $600 on hand isn't affluent though, it's just slightly higher than living hand to mouth.
posted by jaduncan at 4:37 PM on June 9, 2013


It is not predatory for someone to offer a product for sale. To believe such a thing exposes an underlying belief that (some) people aren't smart enough to make good decisions.

Standard Oil will be thrilled to hear this.
posted by jaduncan at 4:39 PM on June 9, 2013


So do Americans not have a US equivalent of the MOT test? Here in the UK, any car over three years old has to be tested to ensure that it's safe to drive. Tyres are one of the components of that test. Not enough tread, damage to the sidewalls, etc. your car won't pass and you need to go away and put it right before you'll get the certificate that allows you to drive it again.

Nope, as said above only a few states do. And it's one of the dumbest things going on with relation to cars in the US. I could also rant about how lax the license process is, but that's only semi-related.(I seriously got my license by driving around a few suburban blocks, and being made to "pretend" to park between two "cars". Not even cones, just fake it)

The shitheaps you see rolling around are almost awe inspiring in how bad they really are. There's cars with bald tires, fucked brakes, and all manner of questionable mechanical problems like disintegrated CV joints or seriously bad wheel bearings.

I'm honestly amazed there aren't more horrible wrecks because of this, and I often wonder when driving how many accidents are attributable to one of the cars having bad tires or some serious fault.

And I'm pretty sure, just like when you try and talk about stricter license tests, if you suggest this should be changed the "war on the poor!" And "racism!"(if you're not familiar with this line of thinking, it can be summed up as "although this hits mostly poor people, most of the poor people it would hit aren't white, therefor its targeting them and racist") People come out of the woodwork to piss and shit all over it.

So I just sigh as I watch another post apocalyptic shitmobile roll by.
posted by emptythought at 5:18 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


So do Americans not have a US equivalent of the MOT test? Here in the UK, any car over three years old has to be tested to ensure that it's safe to drive

The UK has alternative transport infrastructure through luck, history, and at least some sensible planning. The US has plenty of places where people are poor and have no alternative to driving. Neither the option of kicking all those cars off the road (sacking them from their by default) or letting people drive unsafe cars is particularly attractive when looking at those communities; one is always picking the lesser evil.
posted by jaduncan at 5:33 PM on June 9, 2013


I'm sure far more of us would be driving around with bald tyres and defective brakes if we weren't forced to get them sorted out once a year.

I live in a state with a very comprehensive state inspection required once a year, and it's my own personal automotive version of hell. At no time in my life -- even when driving fairly good used cars -- have I ever escaped inspection time under $500, and often it's more. When inspection month rolls around, I'll take my car to one mechanic, get told a set of things that "don't meet inspection" and pay them the (state mandated $21) fee, then take my car to a different mechanic, and get told a completely different list of things that don't pass. If I'm lucky, a third mechanic (and a third $21 fee) will at least yield a sort of triangulation between the first two, but that doesn't always happen.

So, frequently I just say "screw it" and drive my car uninspected until I'm pulled over and then have to pay the $125 ticket in addition to once again playing mechanic roulette and shelling out several hundred dollars to have some obscure part that I'd never previously heard of repaired. (Only rarely is is breaks or tires, which I'd be ok with. I hear 'CV boots' pretty often. More recently it's been the check engine light coming on because of some sensor or other that turns out to not be essential to the car actually running safely but is hundreds of dollars to replace and no car will pass inspection with the CE light on.

I know the standard advice is "find a mechanic you trust". In more than 20 years of driving, I have never, ever, ever encountered a mechanic who say me as anything other than an easy mark.
posted by anastasiav at 5:36 PM on June 9, 2013


One of the problems is in the last 10-15 years rims have exploded in size for mostly cosmetic reasons.

Excellent point. I'm surprised I wasn't more aware of that trend -- I mean, I notice many cars have larger wheel sizes these days, but sort of assumed that was mostly people opting-in to those larger sizes after-market, vs. OEM. I've been driving the same car for 13.5 years, so I'm a bit out of the wheel-loop. It came with R16s, and the last time I bought a set of new tires (five years ago), I think my total outlay was 450 bucks for a set of nice-ish ones.

(On a positive note: this thread reminded me to check my tire pressure, which is something I too often put off.)
posted by nacho fries at 7:00 PM on June 9, 2013


It is not predatory for someone to offer a product for sale. To believe such a thing exposes an underlying belief that (some) people aren't smart enough to make good decisions.

Standard Oil will be thrilled to hear this.


Who said anything about monopolies? Surely, these places are not the only place one can go to obtain tires.
posted by gjc at 7:33 PM on June 9, 2013


yoink: "If we're talking about "things we could 'please' not do" I'd like to add "dramatically declaring how much more wonderfully empathetic I am than all you largely imaginary scum" to the list."

Snarking about snark about snark: the rarely seen triple snark! I think even the Eastern European judges would give you high marks for that.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:37 PM on June 9, 2013


Although that probably counts as quadruple snark. Vicious fucking cycle, man. (Vicious circle? I can never remember.)
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:44 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]


At no time in my life -- even when driving fairly good used cars -- have I ever escaped inspection time under $500

I live in a state without inspections, and i can't think of a time me or anyone in my family owned a car that didn't need at least that much in some type of service a year. As you said, it's always something even if it's a relatively nice used car. Hell, my partners car was bought new and has very little mileage(under 50k) despite being 12 years old and little random stuff here and there eats up close to that amount. Whether the car actually got that work done or part replaced or whatever is another story, but it could have used it. The only exceptions were if the car was really really new, or barely got driven. Hell, my car could really use $500 of service right now, but i'm putting it off since it isn't really unsafe to operate it as is and i don't have to drive to commute so it just sits parked 99% of the time.

I do think some of the things the inspections cover are a bit crap, and that they should really only cover stuff that directly impacts safety and emissions(and i really, really think that stuff like the CE light thing and californias fucking ridiculous "did the inspector see any smoke from the tail pipe" thing are ultra-crap). But i don't think these types of inspections are a bad thing over all, and they definitely should be happening.

Cars are relatively expensive to own, and that's one of those things that just is. That's how it be.

If people can't afford to do the basic maintenance and upkeep needed to safely drive a car, then we should be looking in to alternate solutions like improving mass transit or offering some kind of subsidized service that you could get if you qualified for EBT or other social benefits, not allowing people to drive around in unsafe shitmobiles just because it's the "lesser of two evils".
posted by emptythought at 9:49 PM on June 9, 2013


Who said anything about monopolies? Surely, these places are not the only place one can go to obtain tires.

Standard Oil sold a product in a predatory way, which you asserted could not happen.
posted by jaduncan at 1:48 AM on June 11, 2013


If people can't afford to do the basic maintenance and upkeep needed to safely drive a car, then we should be looking in to alternate solutions like improving mass transit or offering some kind of subsidized service that you could get if you qualified for EBT or other social benefits, not allowing people to drive around in unsafe shitmobiles just because it's the "lesser of two evils".

I think you're assuming that I don't do basic maintenance (oil changes, recommended service, etc.). I absolutely do those things. What infurates me is that I can go to three different shops and get three different opinions as to how my car fails. And it's almost impossible to tell who is telling the truth and who is trying to rip me off.
posted by anastasiav at 10:00 AM on June 13, 2013


Those people giving you those opinions may not have the skill to know the truth about your car, and then again they might just be trying to cheat you. It's a messy business.
posted by caddis at 10:35 AM on June 13, 2013


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