Buy now, pay forever
October 17, 2014 7:22 PM   Subscribe

Continuing the exposure of how "being poor is expensive," the Washington Post takes a look at rent-to-own purchases in its article, Rental America: Why the poor pay $4,150 for a $1,500 sofa.

In the article, WaPo notes "a used 32-gigabyte, early model iPad costs $1,439.28, paid over 72 weeks. An Acer laptop: $1,943.28, in 72 weekly installments. A Maytag washer and dryer: $1,999 over 100 weeks." As for why customers continue to use these stores in spite of such terms, "[n]ormal families have sofas, [a customer] says, and you'll do what it takes to feel normal."

Rental stores continue to prosper, with moderate growth and double-digit stock price increases. As with other financial services companies which market primarily to those with lower incomes and poor credit--charging approximately 100% interest--growth is not without difficulties. Aaron's Rents is paying $28.4 million to settle charges that it violated consumer protection and privacy laws. Investopedia says that rent-to-own can be worth it, provided the item is needed for a short period of time and an easy, no strings return is necessary.
posted by fireoyster (106 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best way to get rich has always been to steal from the poor. Often legally.
posted by sammyo at 7:38 PM on October 17, 2014 [25 favorites]


It would be much more honest and transparent if the rent-to-own employees were just allowed to rob anyone who walks into the store at gunpoint.

How this isn't usury is beyond me. That it's legal says a lot about us. None of it good.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:41 PM on October 17, 2014 [25 favorites]


I would see the commercials on TV, and places like Aaron's just rub me the wrong way, just like places that advertise credit repair or payday lenders in that they create the illusion of helping people but instead reinforce a permanent state of debt peonage. It is the socialization of the underlying psychosis of late capitalism. And the people who are left holding the bag are those who can't afford it.
posted by theartandsound at 7:51 PM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


Rent-to-own CEOs are second, behind check cashing CEOs and in front of dirty cops and judges, up against the wall when I'm king.

That said, $1500 for a sofa sounds positively...inconceivable...to this solidly-middle-class guy. Paying check-cashing interest on an already treble-marked-up POS? The mind, it reels.
posted by notsnot at 7:52 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


I posted this because I have shopped (and, astoundingly, paid off items) at both Aaron's and Rent-a-Center in my past. Why? Because I had shitty credit and low income and wanted "nice" things and "hey, it's only $75/week, I can swing that." The impulse to "feel normal" can't be overstated.
posted by fireoyster at 7:56 PM on October 17, 2014 [80 favorites]


". . . growing up having the chair, the recliner, the love seat, the couch and everything, you just get used to the normal stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to break from the normal stuff and get to reality.”

Oof.
posted by sleepy psychonaut at 7:57 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


How many millions of "free" smartphones are sitting in your pockets right now, tied to 2 year contacts that are costing you multiples of what the phone would cost outright?

¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by JoeZydeco at 8:04 PM on October 17, 2014 [75 favorites]


The saddest thing about this -- at least for furniture -- is that in most places you can get gently used furniture at a thrift store for like $50. Not great for mattresses, but if we're talking about recliner or a love seat or whatever, yeah, dude, what you would spend for a week to rent something would buy a used version of that same thing, outright.
posted by Sara C. at 8:05 PM on October 17, 2014 [26 favorites]


$598.99 monthly mortgage payment on their trailer.

Yikes. How? A quick tour of zillow.com for Cullman, AL shows this bueat for and estimated $478/mo with a 0$ down payment, $600 seems pretty steep for a trailer in the middle of Alabama.

How many millions of "free" smartphones are sitting in your pockets right now, tied to 2 year contacts that are costing you multiples of what the phone would cost outright?

Not if you're on the older 2yr subsidized contract, there you're mainly paying for data plan which you'd have to pay either way, unless you're talking about the increased cost of the plan covering the phone subsidy. The new ATT Next or whatever $29/mo for 24 months ones though...yea.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:11 PM on October 17, 2014


How many millions of "free" smartphones are sitting in your pockets right now, tied to 2 year contacts that are costing you multiples of what the phone would cost outright?

Yeah, but in that case the phone is near useless without the contract (or a PAYG simcard, which winds up being way more expensive). There's no comparable element for rent-to-own stuff.
posted by Itaxpica at 8:12 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


The impulse to "feel normal" can't be overstated.

As a person on his way down the economic ladder, I'm endlessly thankful that punk rock innoculated me against this.

But also a little worried that it conditioned me to happily tolerate a much lower standard of living, dumpsters, etc.
posted by ryanshepard at 8:13 PM on October 17, 2014 [48 favorites]


rent-to-own is a ferocious ripoff akin to payday loans. the nice leather sofa i have now i bought new for $995. when i was in school, i would just grab a discarded one off the sidewalk. the best time of the year for this is when school lets out for the summer in a college town.
posted by bruce at 8:14 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yikes. How?

Bad credit, most likely.
posted by Sara C. at 8:35 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


that in most places you can get gently used furniture at a thrift store for like $50

Not anywhere I've lived for a long time. Used furniture gets sold on Craig's list and you can't get anything gently used for less than several hundred dollars. Plus you have to have a truck or friends with a truck and some strong backs. For someone like a single woman or an older person living in a second floor apartment organizing or physically moving furniture might be an impassable obstacle. Rent to own delivers the next day.
posted by fshgrl at 8:35 PM on October 17, 2014 [39 favorites]


I still have some furniture that I built myself before I was non-poor enough to be able to afford purchase. My favorite piece is my double bed, a massive soaring thing which I built in a late 1980's "found" style out of actual found material, mostly wood from two discarded pallets, one made of perfect yellow pine 2x6x6's which had been used to ship a parcel of glass and the other a crate framed with Douglas Fir 2x4's some of them 12 feet long which had protected a custom made fiberglas car body for shipment to a custom shop. It's on its third set of mattresses.

Most bed frames are like movie props, all appearance but no substance. This one is exactly what it looks like, a frame to which you could nail siding and a roof to make a tiny house. It cost me $25 because I had to buy a set of pipe clamps and pipes to hold it together while the glue set around the dowels. It will be something of a disappointment if I don't die in that bed.
posted by localroger at 8:36 PM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


How many millions of "free" smartphones are sitting in your pockets right now, tied to 2 year contacts that are costing you multiples of what the phone would cost outright?

None, because the contract isn't a subsidy anymore. A few years ago you could get the phone for free or at a discount and pay a higher contract rate, or you could buy it outright and save month to month. Now that contracts have become de rigueur everybody pays the higher rate , whether they got a subsidized phone or not. That's just what phone service costs in the US now.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:36 PM on October 17, 2014 [7 favorites]


when i was in school, i would just grab a discarded one off the sidewalk

Ahh, the glorious pre-bedbug era.
posted by Justinian at 8:37 PM on October 17, 2014 [45 favorites]


Yikes. How? A quick tour of zillow.com for Cullman, AL shows this bueat for and estimated $478/mo with a 0$ down payment, $600 seems pretty steep for a trailer in the middle of Alabama.

Obviously no clue how that compares to their current living situation, but if you credit sucks, you'll be paying a lot more in interest every month. Grab that Zillow link you posted. The home is listed for $102,600, which gives the $478/mo payment you mentioned with $0 down on a 30/yr fixed. Now bump up the interest rate to just 5%, and we'll ignore PMI and property taxes: $550/mo. At 8%, you're up to $752/mo. That mortgage payment is really not that hard to believe at all.

To put it another way, if you were a lender, what kind of interest rate would you want on a trailer in Cullman, AL for a family with poor credit and an unstable income?
posted by zachlipton at 8:37 PM on October 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Used furniture gets sold on Craig's list and you can't get anything gently used for less than several hundred dollars.

Where do you live? Because I live in Los Angeles and seriously all of my furniture is from thrift stores and cost no money.

I schlepped it myself, but there are Man With Van services that'll do it for you.

That said, yeah, I hear that if you are in a really tough situation, hey, at least the rent to own places have delivery built into the process. It also doesn't hurt that rent to own places rent highly visible retail spaces in the middle of rough neighborhoods and use a bunch of flashy and deceptive advertising to lure you into the store. You have to actually seek out a thrift store and then use a little bit of discernment to find stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 8:49 PM on October 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


fshgrl: Not anywhere I've lived for a long time. Used furniture gets sold on Craig's list and you can't get anything gently used for less than several hundred dollars.

It must vary regionally. Here in Boise there's still serviceable furniture in thrift stores and such, although you're more likely to pay $150-200 for something decent, and more if it's nice. Still, it's not too expensive and you can find cheaper stuff if you put any work into it at all.
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:51 PM on October 17, 2014 [2 favorites]


How many millions of "free" smartphones are sitting in your pockets right now, tied to 2 year contacts that are costing you multiples of what the phone would cost outright?

We have two phones on our Verizon account costing us about $150/mo. We could go on prepaid for next to no data for $130/mo total but given that it only gives us $480 in subsidy avoidance and going from 2 year contract list price to outright buying my phone alone wipes out that entire subsidy that we clawed back. So Verizon are effectively giving us high end users a "free" phone anyway.

Back when I was in Australia and I could get the quite possibly the world's best network (Telstra Next Fuckin' G) for $29 a month. At that price, sure I'd buy a phone for $1K, sell it the next year for $500 and pocket the difference from what they hit post-paid users for (~$70/mo for a free phone). I'd always have the latest iPhone, it cost me next to nothing for service and I could devote most of my money to data instead of pointless calls and texts.
posted by Talez at 8:52 PM on October 17, 2014


Also, LBH, even if you're just looking to get a bed (because ew no don't buy a mattress from Salvation Army ick), assuming you're a single mom with a few kids, that still runs to hundreds if not thousands of dollars, new. I can see rent to own seeming workable for that, since who has money for that in the event of a hasty retreat from a bad marriage?

Fuck, when my parents split up I spent six months sharing a bed with my mom, while one of my brothers had the couch and the other two shared a mattress on the floor. And I come from a nice normal middle class family, with a mom who had a long-standing career and good credit.
posted by Sara C. at 8:54 PM on October 17, 2014 [3 favorites]


It would be nice if there was a broad organization that figured out the one-time payment a family needs to escape perpetual debt and short-term-weighted decisions and provided it. I believe Doris Buffet does something like this, but because she receives so many requests, she does very strict fact-checking and will only consider people who had genuinely bad luck.
posted by michaelh at 8:57 PM on October 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


Buy the phone outright, pay 40-45 dollars/month actual final cost for Straight Talk unlimited voice and text plus 3+ GB data per month, on AT&T's towers. Save money, thank me later.
posted by NortonDC at 9:01 PM on October 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


The friends I know who have fallen into rent to own have done it cause it is the easiest way to get something in their house and paying 75 a month sounds doable compared to the effort to put all the pieces together to get something used into their house.

Not sure where you are, but this guy in Nanaimo will do pick up and delivery of furniture on Craigslist starting at $30. The shitty economy seems to be producing a large number of folks who are happy to piggyback on Craigs List furniture sales to make a little under the table cash.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:14 PM on October 17, 2014 [4 favorites]


I've been through trying to find furniture at thrift stores, and aside from it generally being ugly as sin, what I've noticed is that people don't give their good old furniture to charity. They give it to their friend, who gives her old furniture to her daughter, who gives her old furniture--a living room set that's by now thirty years old and has had like five owners. And the last two have treated it poorly because they knew they were only keeping it long enough to trade up.

Bedbugs aside, you get stuff that smells funny, stuff with very bad cushions and worn fabric and everything else. A lot of it's just flat out disgusting. Everything I have is a mishmash of hand-me-downs from family--because I'm fortunate to have family doing well enough to have hand-me-downs.
posted by Sequence at 9:15 PM on October 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


I've lived with and worked with plenty of poor people, and I will never as long as I live criticize someone for wanting to have a "normal" life with furniture that isn't awful. I'm in the fortunate position currently to not need to make those kinds of choices, and I would put the fault in the situation entirely on the profiteers, not the people making such constrained choices.

That said, I wish that we had (and would enforce) anti-usery laws. Interest rates that high, as well as the extraordinary fees and surcharges and penalties, should be straightforwardly illegal. Risky credit should cost more than a safe borrower, but only within a moral limit.

I am in a small town at the moment, and the thrift stores here aren't great for furniture -- the times I've looked, it's been totally picked over and the stuff available has been around every block in town. With time and patience you could certainly furnish a place that way, but not quickly and you would definitely be making compromises and needing to cover the couch with sheets or recover a chair, not to mention the smells Sequence mentions.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:17 PM on October 17, 2014 [9 favorites]


It's like extra pain on top of the Sam Vimes boot theory of socioeconomic unfairness.

Oregon banned the usurious payday loan companies a couple of years ago, I hope eventually they take the screws to these rent-to-own bastards.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:17 PM on October 17, 2014 [17 favorites]


How many millions of "free" smartphones are sitting in your pockets right now, tied to 2 year contacts that are costing you multiples of what the phone would cost outright?

Buy the phone outright, pay 40-45 dollars/month actual final cost for Straight Talk unlimited voice and text plus 3+ GB data per month, on AT&T's towers. Save money, thank me later.

Bingo. By switching from my 2007 grandfathered "unlimited" plan to another company (I won't shill here unless asked) that uses AT&T's network, I was able to go from $100 a month to $45 a month by essentially excising the the phone subsidy portion out of my bill. Sure, I brought my iPhone 5 with me but soon I will purchase the iPhone 6 outright and still save a bundle over baking it into my phone bill. At roughly $50 a month for 24 months plus the $300 down, that iPhone 6 was going to run me $1500. Now, I'll just buy it all at once for $749 and stop pillaging my monthly budget as an added bonus.

But this is an interesting point: Why is this model so criminal and predatory when done with furniture and appliances, yet it is the norm for us to pay twice sticker price for a phone and it's "just how it is"?
posted by sourwookie at 9:21 PM on October 17, 2014 [10 favorites]


I was shocked to read that $500-$700 per month is rent of a spot in a trailer park (I think including utilities). Stunning.
posted by brewsterkahle at 9:25 PM on October 17, 2014 [1 favorite]


Interesting. Craigslist isn't big in my town so everyone uses Facebook but that sounds like something I should find out if anyone does here. And pass it around. I was just focused on professional move it people.

I found a similar service through PennySaver when I was living in Indiana in the 90s - not sure what the Canadian equivalent is, but it might be worth checking the classifieds of your community newspapers. One sad byproduct of the recession / depression appears to be more people looking for weekend work like this to make their truck payments, or just scrape by generally.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:30 PM on October 17, 2014


Keep in mind that to buy furniture off Craigslist, you have to have a) an internet connection, b) some form of transportation large enough to carry furniture, c) time to browse listings, contact sellers, and go check out the items in person, and d) cash on hand to make the buy. (b) and (d) also apply for thrift shops. These are a lot of assumptions for some people.

That said, these places should be sterilized with fire. It's legalized robbery of the desperate and (often) financially illiterate, like lotteries and payday loan places.
posted by gottabefunky at 9:35 PM on October 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Just adding another data point to the used furniture discussion - I had to buy an entire apartment's worth of furniture several months ago and I had no capital to do it with. There is very little decent stuff in thrift stores around here and certainly no couches for $50. I also ran into the problem of coordinating someone to move the furniture for me (I posted a question about this here). I ended up getting lucky in that a local business was liquidating their inventory and I got new stuff at prices comparable to what I was seeing on craigslist (and it was professionally delivered). But... I had the credit to do so, and I knew I would be getting money shortly to pay that off. If I didn't have the credit, it would have been very tempting to go the Rent-to-Own route temporarily. Not having any furniture gets old really quickly, it's just camping, but indoors.
posted by desjardins at 9:36 PM on October 17, 2014 [6 favorites]


I actually don't think these are necessarily horrible places, even though the interest rates are egregiously high. No one is going to give these people a credit card. If you argue for their eradication, you are either saying that poor people should not be able to use decent things, even temporarily, or that stores are obligated to extend credit at low rates to everyone regardless of the risk. I just don't see the latter happening - if I loan you $100 and there's very little chance you can pay that back, why would i do it, unless I can get some return from you? At least these people's credit isn't ruined when they default, because they just give the sofa back. I've made some bad decisions with credit cards and suffered the consequences - if I could have just returned the stuff I'd bought when I started to have trouble paying for it, I would be better off now.
posted by desjardins at 9:47 PM on October 17, 2014 [11 favorites]


I bought a couch once for $50, but it was basically a love seat and I only bought it because I knew and trusted the shop and it was a really great couch. I ended up giving it back when I moved for the sake of having a truck come and haul it away. I would not risk getting a $50 couch here because the possibility of bedbugs is just too great. We finally bought a couch, a real couch, but only because of wedding gift cards. (And we paid an insane amount for delivery, but it came all assembled-- what luxury! What cushy bliss!)
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:48 PM on October 17, 2014


The saddest thing about this -- at least for furniture -- is that in most places you can get gently used furniture at a thrift store for like $50. Not great for mattresses, but if we're talking about recliner or a love seat or whatever, yeah, dude, what you would spend for a week to rent something would buy a used version of that same thing, outright.

Ah, but it's not just having things, it's having nice things and feeling normal and that's how they get you. I mean there comes a time in most peoples' lives when they're sick of their places looking like babby's first apartment (and I still have milk crates holding some of my shit, I'm not talking smack here) and they want furniture that doesn't look like you got it out of the Goodwill, which is assuming the Goodwill actually puts the good stuff out on the floor. Most of the ones by me have robust eBay-style sites set up where they sell the good stuff online.

That's even before you take into account the risk of bed bugs (the thing on my lease says basically if you bring bed bugs in and don't notify them promptly, you're paying for extermination in the whole building, which I'm not sure the legality of, but let's just say I'd rather drop a couple hundred dollars on a new bedbug free couch than $50 on a cheap one and have to pay for either an exterminator or a lawyer to unfuck my shit, to say nothing of a new couch).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:56 PM on October 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Homer: Mr. Burns, you do this personally?

Mr. Burns: Oh, it's a hobby. I'm not in this for any personal gain, heavens no! By the way, are you acquainted with our state's stringent usury laws?

Homer: Us-ury?

Mr. Burns: Oh, silly me! I must have just made up a word that doesn't exist. Now, what is the purpose of this loan?

Homer: I want to buy a pony.

posted by telstar at 10:02 PM on October 17, 2014 [13 favorites]


It would be nice if there was a broad organization that figured out the one-time payment a family needs to escape perpetual debt and short-term-weighted decisions and provided it.

I have a reoccurring fantasy of standing outside a payday loan store and giving people money rather than them going into the loan store. Or paying off their loan so they can keep their paycheck. Just a small boost that may help break the cycle.

Maybe I can include rent to own into that fantasy.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:57 PM on October 17, 2014 [8 favorites]


Where do you live?

I live in Portland, Maine, and work basically across the street from Goodwill. Although I see sofas dropped off occasionally I haven't seen one for sale in, truthfully, years. Many years.

Craigslist. Yep. That's where they go.
posted by anastasiav at 11:19 PM on October 17, 2014


I used to work for RAC. In many ways, it was the worst job ever, but I did learn the in and outs of skip tracing and debt collection, which proved useful a few years later when I got stabbed in a bar fight and (ultimately) had to file for bankruptcy.

Anyway, yeah, RAC is totally predatory. The junk they sell is overpriced if you buy it at their stated price, and if you Rent-To-Own it, it is even worse. But as someone upthread pointed out, the desire to feel normal is tremendous and people have limited bandwidth to find good deals and in some cases, without being judgmental, they are poor because they aren't that smart to start with.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:29 PM on October 17, 2014 [5 favorites]


Someone must be doing rent-to-own more ethically than Aaron's and RAC. Does anyone have any examples?
posted by michaelh at 11:59 PM on October 17, 2014


Meanwhile rich people are buying antique sofas, which sell at a profit ten years later, so that their long term sofa costs are actually negative.
posted by Segundus at 12:32 AM on October 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


Wow.

You always knew it was fucked up. But to see the math. Fuck you, Troy Aikman. How could you?
posted by notyou at 12:55 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I would not risk getting a $50 couch here because the possibility of bedbugs is just too great.

I actually wonder how much this is negatively impacting cheap furniture sales/giveaways. If as said above some thrift stores won't take furniture because bedbugs, and it's tough to buy from individuals because of bedbugs, how much overall economic loss can be said to result from those fuckers?
posted by corb at 2:03 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


That said, $1500 for a sofa sounds positively...inconceivable ... Paying check-cashing interest on an already treble-marked-up POS? The mind, it reels.

It's not a piece of sofa. It's the whole sofa
posted by sylvanshine at 2:10 AM on October 18, 2014 [8 favorites]


I read this story and got angered, but my next thought was, what can you do to the stores? Outlaw them? Because clearly the market is requiring their existence. If you outlaw them, a black market will instantly evolve to fill the exact same "need to feel normal" niche. In fact, this whole scene arguably IS a black market. Just a tolerated one.

Also, while $4K for a $1.5K sofa sounds usurious to almost anyone, the story makes it clear the sales don't always work out that way. To fully evaluate the "value" of the $4K number, it would be useful to know some other numbers, like what percentage of transactions end up requiring a repo man? What percentage of transactions end up with the merchandise and the buyer simply disappearing? What percentage of transactions actually DO end up being paid in full, without problems? What's the actual average cost, to the store, to rent a sofa? We haven't seen all the math. We've seen none of it, really.

I'm also a bit jaded about this because the story is pitched as though this is some new scheme, but it's obviously nothing new at all. The "con" aspect of "rent to own" is so many decades old by now it should take no one by surprise. Until I was about 12, I grew up in conditions like those of the Abbotts. In those days (and I mean the 1970s), the store I remember trying to lure us in with local TV commercials was called McTavish Rents, followed Aaron Rents. But even my parents, lost as they were, could do math, and I remember them scoffing at those ads. Many's the sofa I helped my father pick up discarded on someone else's parkway. I say "many" because it never stopped. Anytime we saw one that was better than the one we had at home, voila, upgrade. I remember one banner year a friend of my parents gave them a matching sofa and love seat. That was a very big deal. All we had to do was pick them up from the bowling alley lounge where they'd soaked in so many great smells for a decade.

But if my parents had been differently minded, and had wanted to "play normal" more than they did, would it really have been McTavish's fault if my parents had taken them up on one of their offers? If we want the stores gone, we need to get people like the Abbotts into better economic postures, where they can make better decisions. You have to address the addicts, not the dealer. Because the market always gets what it wants.
posted by azaner at 2:22 AM on October 18, 2014 [11 favorites]


When my brother was about 15 he decided he wanted a stereo. He was bad with money, so he had about $25 in hand, and a paper round that gave him another $15 or so a week. He found a rent-to own stereo deal that would let him take it home now, and pay it off at a rate that was just under what he brought in from the paper round.

So he asked my parents to drive him to the store, and they had (for once) a really great reaction. They said they'd take him there after he sat down and calculated the total amount he would end up paying for the stereo, what the difference between that and the outright price for that stereo was, and how many weeks it would take him to save up to buy it outright instead.

He was failing maths at that point, so it took him most of the day to calculate,and he had to redo it several times before my parents agreed he had the correct answer, and strangely enough, he didn't want the rent-to-own stereo anymore once he saw the numbers.

I think that was a defining moment for him, because while he has spent a lot of year poor and continued to be bad with money, he has never got into that horrible debt cycle that these sorts of places trap you in, and I think that was a road he could have taken if that afternoon had turned out differently.
posted by lollusc at 2:56 AM on October 18, 2014 [27 favorites]


I've never lived in a house with a new couch. It's like my secret financial dream to one day have one without the dinge and dinged up look of curb salvage and hand me downs.

And yet, I always find bought new couches in other people's homes odd. Like the concept of going out and getting a new one is just inherently strange.
posted by Phalene at 4:10 AM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


Apropos of getting the used couch home from the sidewalk. A few weeks ago I was in Amsterdam and saw a young lady transporting a couch (like, a 2.5 person couch) on her bike.
posted by joz at 4:48 AM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


I remember a good few years ago - I'd fallen on hard times and after a bit of bumming around I had just moved into a really cheap flat on my own. I lived on an inflatable mattress surrounded by boxes of books (my only possessions) for around a year until I could afford to buy a cheap flat pack futon. I couldn't invite a girl back to my place because "hey, wanna do it on the inflatable single mattress surrounded by books? I'll make you noodles afterwards?" isn't exactly tempting.

Beng poor is absolutely soul-destroying but it's given me a great perspective on property ownership. Despite that, I know that the main reason I wasn't tempted by the lure of property-rental was the simple fact that I couldn't afford it.

As has been said above, folks in penury want nice things. It's all they see every day: adverts for stuff they can't afford punctuated with smiling children's faces as they have ludicrous APRs pushed onto them. It's a horrible, shameful trade and one that exploits people's need to feel "normal", to give them the illusion a few minutes respite from that desperate cycle of poverty when all it's doing is digging them deeper and deeper into debt.
posted by longbaugh at 4:54 AM on October 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


Aaron's has a 9% EBITDA margin; Rent-a-Center an 8% EBITDA margin. This is very clear evidence that their rent rates simply reflects the costs and risks of servicing this customer.

So clearly understand that if you ban rent-to-own, you aren't going to cause new furniture to be available at cheaper credit costs, you are banning these customers from having new furniture unless they can save six or nine months for it. The example of payday loan store bans is quite clear. Where they've been banned, they've not been replaced by short-term lenders working at cheaper rates -- the short-term loan option is simply removed altogether.

Now, in the rent to own space, this lack of option will be a positive for two of their customer types (the badly innumerate, and those who insist on having things they don't need and can't really afford), but it will not be great for persons who actually need the furniture delivered now and have no cash or credit to do so otherwise.
posted by MattD at 5:08 AM on October 18, 2014 [11 favorites]


That said, $1500 for a sofa sounds positively...inconceivable

[confused dog look] I mean, $1500 for the quality of sofa that likely appears in a rental center is an abomination, but $1500 to a few K seems like ordinary boring prices for a good quality sofa you expect to last a few decades.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:14 AM on October 18, 2014 [7 favorites]


I think that outlawing these businesses would turn out to be something of a double-edged blade. Yes, they are an absolute ripoff. I completely agree with that. But there's a reason people use these kinds of services, and I think it's important to take notice of that. I was chatting to a work colleague once who used such services, and it seemed that their need boiled down to two things, which were the above-mentioned "wanting to feel normal" and "desperation". Work colleague just didn't have the money to walk into a shop and buy a full priced sofa. That amount of money just wasn't available to them. What was available was a smaller amount every month, and they got their metaphorical sofa right away.

Right away, they got to feel normal. They didn't have to deprive theirself of anything - they got to sit on a comfortable sofa that wasn't second hand, that cost them only X amount each month, the paying of which was a possibility for them. They didn't have to put money away and do without until some point in the future and in the meantime sit on the floor. They knew full well how much the sofa was going to cost overall, but they only had one other option - do without the sofa. The option of paying reasonable market value, over several months/years, for a sofa and getting it instantly just isn't available. If you want it now, at market value, you have to pay market value up front, which means having much more money in one go than a lot of poor people have.

In an ideal world, a person would be able to pay 1/24th of the market value of a sofa pcm, over 2 years and get the sofa instantly. Unfortunately, it's likely that the only people who would use such a service are people with cash flow problems, and it's obviously not financially viable for a company to give someone a £2000 sofa and only receive £150 in payment. For the vast majority of the time, it's not going to be deliberate that the money isn't paid back, but intentions don't keep a company afloat. There's possibly, in that ideal world, a way for a non-profit to sell sofas for cost + minimum wage for all parties concerned with the running of the business, but that sounds like a very knife-edged way to run a business.

I'm lucky in that while I don't come from a massively well-off family, my parents were very controlling about what money they spent and what they spent it on. My mom has never had a credit card, and for that matter, my dad has (by choice) never had a bank account. The only debt either of them has ever had has been a mortgage on their house. There were times as a kid when my friends would go on foreign holidays or have the latest computer console or flashy clothes, and I would be jealous. I knew that we couldn't afford those things, though, which took the edge off a little. Since then, I've tried hard to save and have an emergency fund and keep my expenses lower than my income. I'm lucky in that I really enjoy finding a bargain and will spend ages hunting one - the most memorable of which from the past few years was the hunt for the best/cheapest fat balls. Again, I'm lucky to have the inclination and more importantly the time to do such things. Some people have to work two jobs and hold down a family just to keep their heads above water.

I had it drummed into me from an early age to save and save and save some more and then spend, so it's second nature now and I don't even question it. If you've grown up with the attitude that you have new sofas like everyone else, then I guess it would be hard to shake that. And I can definitely see the how and they why of wanting the New Thing. The flashing lights and colourful pictures and the sheer exclusivity of owning the latest consumer gadget is very very hypnotic. It's designed to be, by the advertising agencies who take advantage of human nature. It's pure evo-psych, but I think that the desire to acquire things is hard wired - the organism that has more food/shelter/etc is more likely to survive. When you're in a situation where your base needs are taken care of, for the most part, I guess your brain has to find something else to fixate on, and companies assuredly take advantage of that.

I'm in a position where I can buy a pretty decent smartphone for £144. Being the cheapskate that I am, it runs on the cheapest UK pay as you go network - Three. But to be able to buy that smartphone, I had to have £144 just sitting around waiting to be accessed. The vast majority of poor people don't have £144 just sitting around. They might have £20 a month available for discretionary spending, and they might be able to get a Moto G on a contract that will end up costing them several times what mine cost me. But if £20 is all you have, then you have to make do. That £20 can be turned into a smartphone that will enable you to keep in contact with people and look for jobs and keep working. Or, someone could save that £20 per month for over half a year and be without a phone (or the money) for that entire time. I completely understand the value of buying outright, and I would love to live in a society where it's always possible for everyone.

If you take away people's ability to get something as mundane as furniture for their houses, then you're just going to piss people off. That's not saving them from themselves. What would actually be useful is creating the non-profit I described above, a business where people can get what they need for very low cost without it bankrupting them. Sometimes people don't have much money because they don't know how to handle it. Sometimes people make choices that turn out to be bad. All of the time, though, when you've gathered momentum in a direction, it's extremely hard to reverse that direction, especially when you're fighting against the gravity that comes from money. I completely agree that something should be done about such business practices as are outlined here. Simply outlawing them isn't the answer, though, I don't think.

What worked for me was the upbringing I had (save like your life depends on it) and reading this book. That won't work for everyone, but it helped work to keep me out of debt. One thing I would love to see is financial skills being taught in schools. Every child could get an education in what debt is and how it works and the value of having (and using) an emergency fund. Ideally, society as a whole would benefit - there'd be less debt, less bankruptcy, more money moving around the economy that actually had a solid base, rather than the house of cards that underpinned us until the credit crunch. Thinking back to my own schooling, I had a very cursory glance at stock markets, but nobody explained the value and cost of compound interest to me, or how to balance a cheque book, or how to manage household finances. My parents have never seen a credit card statement, so they couldn't explain one to me. Even if someone had laid eyes on one, there's no guarantee that they'd be financially literate enough to be able to do anything with the information. Nobody teaches this stuff, not even to adults. Please correct me if I'm wrong about this, I'd love to see something.

I spoke to someone once who complained that every time they saved up some money, something happened and they had to spend it on something. Which is kind of the point of an emergency fund - it's there to be spent if you need it. It's better to have it and spend it and rebuild it than need it and not have it. Benefits such as that aren't always obvious unless pointed out. If you're of a different mindset, it's likely to not even occur to you.

Getting started is very very difficult (I'm sure there's a law of physics that outlines what I'm talking about re inertia and momentum, or something), even when you don't have debt. It's much more difficult when you're actually in debt and don't have a sofa to sit on.
posted by Solomon at 5:18 AM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


Yep. MattD has it. As personally distasteful as I find these businesses once you factor in the costs of people defaulting they aren't extraordinarily profitable from a return on capital perspective. Especially if you look and mom and pop firma that don't get scale benefits like the big guys.

It really is either ban the business or just accept that there is a reason why the APRs are what they are.

Personally I'd like to see them banned but I can see why that might be problematic to some.
posted by JPD at 5:22 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


in some cases, without being judgmental, they are poor because they aren't that smart to start with.

My impression is that being bad with finances is, if not universal, at least extremely common and spread across social classes. But if you are middle or upper class, you likely have a much more robust safety net (eg parents, credit cards with semi-reasonable interest rates, HELOC, savings, etc), while if you are poor your couch gets repoed.

I directly and indirectly supervise a bunch of blue collar guys (my own employees plus subcontractors). They earn good salaries, but a few of them are just absurdly bad with money, buying their cars at buy-here-finance-here places and doing the rent-to-buy thing all the time. They mostly have no intention of paying it out for the full term -- it's more of a way to have something nice for a while, and then when money gets tight or needs change you stop paying and let the place take it back and repeat a month or two later. (Quite a few of my white collar colleagues are equally bad with money, but it's much more hidden, because of those safety nets, and they aren't getting their truck repoed from the work parking lot or having collection agencies calling the office.)
posted by Dip Flash at 5:49 AM on October 18, 2014 [16 favorites]


God knows how much I will have paid for my sofa by the time I clear my credit card debt.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:04 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Not anywhere I've lived for a long time. Used furniture gets sold on Craig's list and you can't get anything gently used for less than several hundred dollars. Plus you have to have a truck or friends with a truck and some strong backs. For someone like a single woman or an older person living in a second floor apartment organizing or physically moving furniture might be an impassable obstacle. Rent to own delivers the next day.

It's $20 to rent a truck or van from uhaul or home depot and in cities there are usually casual labourers hanging about the rental place looking for work. So the impassability of this obstacle is largely illusory.

The real money in rent to own isn't made from couches for the elderly or infirm or from things that are 'normal'. It is from higher end status versions of normal items - massive TVs, more powerful computers and fancier appliances. Also the key profit center is not the usury it is the repossession and repeated sale. Straight up usury is the credit card industry.
posted by srboisvert at 6:42 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Now, in the rent to own space, this lack of option will be a positive for two of their customer types (the badly innumerate, and those who insist on having things they don't need and can't really afford), but it will not be great for persons who actually need the furniture delivered now and have no cash or credit to do so otherwise.

Define "need." Because I find that "can't afford" is usually treated by the defenders of this sort of stuff as a synonym for "not a need" when it's anything beyond rudimentary food, rudimentary shelter, and urgent medical aid.

Also, please note more fully the implicit propositions that innumeracy should be linked to immiseration, that some leisure and comfort are not needs for the working poor. And please explain why we should use scarcity economics models to allocate goods and services whose production and distribution has been made tremendously cheap and efficient via technological advances and the globalization (and great slackening) of the labor market.

The system we have does what it does very efficiently and to the increasing benefit of a decreasing number, perhaps because its founding principles fall into the utterly unethical and the merely insupportable.
posted by kewb at 6:48 AM on October 18, 2014 [12 favorites]


Hi. Poor and couchless, checking in.

When I moved across the country I didn't bring my Ikea couch with me, and was lucky enough to get an ugly but useable futon free from my new neighbors shortly after I moved in. When we moved to a new apartment almost 6 months ago we gave away the futon on Freecycle, and have been couchless ever since. It's miserable.

I have been looking on Craigslist and people want $200+ for their couches, which is more cash than I'm comfortable laying out all at once and probably more than a lot of poor people have on hand. Luckily I have a credit card with an 8% interest rate, so my plan is to buy a $400 couch from the discount furniture store and pay it off within a few months, so the interest charges will be reasonable. I just have to find the time to drive 45 minutes to that store to pick one out. Again, luckily I have a car to drive there, and this store exists within driving distance and they have a reasonable delivery fee.

I probably wouldn't rent to own because I hate paying interest, but if I was desperate and without a credit card? And wanted my kid to have a home that doesn't look like a storage unit? I might do it.
posted by apricot at 6:49 AM on October 18, 2014 [9 favorites]


It really is either ban the business or just accept that there is a reason why the APRs are what they are.

Or treat it as something that should be done in some way but will have to be done at a loss, and thus outside of market mechanisms. (In this case, the mechanism is apparently a wringer.)
posted by kewb at 6:50 AM on October 18, 2014


God knows how much I will have paid for my sofa by the time I clear my credit card debt.

It's straight up math. No need for god.

I've been carrying student loan debt for decades (far too much education and low income research work). I know exactly how much anything I buy will actually cost by looking at my repayment schedule and working out the interest. It really isn't hard to calculate. It is hard to live with and pretty sobering to know and I wish I could go back in time and get fit, financially and physically, earlier than my forties but it is what is.

This debt reduction calculator on google docs lets you know the depth, duration and cost of your financial hole as well as the cost of the paths out.

It is also pretty exciting as you near climbing out of debt and see how much of your income you will free up.
posted by srboisvert at 7:02 AM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


When I first moved out on my own, I did my laundry at the laundromat. The place I was renting had hookups for the washer and dryer, but I didn't have them. Eventually, I bought a washer and dryer, brand new, on credit, no money down. From Sears, though if the town I had lived in had had those rental places, I might have checked them out.

I am not bad with math. It was clear to me that a used washer and dryer would be a much better deal. And also that paying the minimum on my Sears credit card meant that these appliances would cost a ridiculous amount of money over the six or eight years it would take to pay them off. However, the minimum payment on that charge account, was less then I was dropping into the coin slots at the laundromat every month, and doing wash at home would save me a lot of time and trouble. And when you have three min wage jobs to make ends meet, and you have to pay for uniforms (and therefore you own one, rather than a week's worth) it's nice to be able to wear a clean shirt every day without paying the laundromat time penalty.

Anyways, that's my story of why someone who is not bad at math, might choose to go into the finance-it-forever trap. It worked out OK. I paid a little more than the minimum and dug out of the hole eventually.
posted by elizilla at 7:29 AM on October 18, 2014 [12 favorites]


We get most of our stuff from craigslist. People give away or sell for peanuts some astonishingly good stuff in the Bay Area, just so they don't have to take it to the dump.

This does not happen where my brother lives in the south. The craigslist there is abominable, despite him living near a rich area. The problem (I think) is that the dump is free, and if you leave your thing out, the city will pick it up, free of charge, the same day.

The downside of our insanely high dump fees is that people dump their mattresses (it shouldn't cost $70 to get rid of your mattress- if you're living hand to mouth that's especially insane.) The upside is that people will go to great lengths not to have to pay someone to haul their stuff to the dump. Everyone craigslists and feels good about it, too.
posted by small_ruminant at 7:41 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


I wonder if in bigger cities people could do a furniture co-op of some kind and buy from the manufacturers and sell at cost-plus-renting-a-distribution-space.

As far as this ""$1500 sofa" business goes - part of what frosts me about these businesses is that I don't think they're selling $1500 sofas for $4500 - you can get a couple of Design Within Reach (which is ultra-pricey) models for the low $2000s, and Design Within Reach (lol, "within reach" - to who?) stuff is really solid, so I feel like a $1500 sofa should be a pretty good sofa. Every time I walk past those rent-to-own places, it seems like they are selling utter shit - sub-Ikea garbage with a few bits of varnished wood tacked on - for $1500-plus-all-that-interest. It's never a $1500 sofa - I don't even know how you'd value those things, because for example the Ikea Klippan is ugly and not super-comfortable, but that thing is a fucking rock and it's $299.

If folks were really getting a $1500 sofa, they would at least have something which would last and look good, but it just seems like one more cheat.

I hope and pray that nothing every happens to my furniture, because I got a really nice used $50 not-fifties-but-fifties-style sofa in about 2004, right before the bedbug stuff happened, and my plan is to save up and have it reupholstered/renewed in a couple of years, and then it should see me out if I have that done at the expensive place.
posted by Frowner at 7:47 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


It's really tempting to apply the middle-class logic and ideology to others' decisions. To use simple thrift and planning to surmount problems. But most middle class logic is predicated on a middle class background. Poverty is usually (or at least presumably) temporary, you probably know someone who could give you a hand if you really needed it. But if you're really actually chronically poor, your friends and family are probably poor too. You get used to the idea that money is something that you have only briefly, you skate by as best you can, and really never catch up. Saving is pointless because it's always going to be gone no matter what. You might not even know anyone who ever climbed out of poverty. All those 'common sense' middle class rules don't apply.

So if you get a windfall or some opportunity for a little comfort and normalcy, it makes a kind of sense to jump on that, just because no matter what you do, you're still going to be scraping and barely making it next month, and maybe the only real, tangible difference is whether you're sitting on bare springs or a nice clean, new couch.

I'm pretty good at the middle class thing. I've gotten furniture from curbs and thrift stores. I've built and modified things myself, sometimes out of garbage. I am able to save money because I am not in a permanent economic emergency. I have not just the math skills but the time and the mental energy to use them. If I did need a few hundred or thousand dollars for some urgent reason, I know people I could tap for that as long as I didn't do it all the time.

And all my 'armchair poverty solutions' (and trust--I have lots!) come from that perspective.
posted by ernielundquist at 8:01 AM on October 18, 2014 [16 favorites]


For cryin' out loud, why is there not a pickup-fumigate-dropoff place that will come over to the curb you're waiting at, get your free sofan and for a couple hundred bucks fum$igate your sofa and drop it off at your house? That would solve a lot of problems and make a pretty good living for the owner, I bet.
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:25 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


I am reluctant to call recognizing the improvidence of rent-to-own for most its customers as the application of "middle class logic and ideology." Most poor people, instead, can do the math and/or practice the self-denial which result in not patronizing these stores. Their demonstrated willingness to do this certainly vitiates the case that there should be some kind of subsidy regime for new furniture and electronics.

And when it comes to banning the business, it is the pro-ban people who are enforcing middle class logic and ideology on the minority of poor people who would patronize rent-to-own: you can't afford to buy this furniture the "right" way, the Rent-A-Center and Aaron's EBITDA margin's demonstrate it can't be sold to you other than the "wrong" way, so you must do without.

(And, as an aside to kewb, furniture and electronics are among the worst possible arguments for some kind of socialist paradise you can find. Thanks to capitalism, their raw materials, manufacturing, wholesaling, transport and retail are fully globalized and brutally competitive -- I don't think there's any category that is available for sale closer to its underlying cost of goods. They would be VASTLY more expensive if made subject to some kind of government cheese regime.)
posted by MattD at 8:29 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


If everywhere there's a surcharge* for being poor, and you're born poor, being good at math is largely irrelevant.

*Banks - overdraft fees
*Payday Loans
*RTO
*Credit cards - higher interest rates
*Insurance - higher interest rates
*Utilities - deposit
*Housing - higher deposits
Etc

The system is not designed to allow the poor to dig themselves out. Blaming the poor is victim blaming.
posted by Ik ben afgesneden at 8:37 AM on October 18, 2014 [12 favorites]


Every time I walk past those rent-to-own places, it seems like they are selling utter shit - sub-Ikea garbage with a few bits of varnished wood tacked on - for $1500-plus-all-that-interest. It's never a $1500 sofa

That's the thing. Is thrift store furniture picked over? Sure. But it's not like rent to own places are full of Herman Miller.
posted by Sara C. at 8:47 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


It's $20 to rent a truck or van from uhaul or home depot and in cities there are usually casual labourers hanging about the rental place looking for work. So the impassability of this obstacle is largely illusory.

Both Home Depot and Uhaul require a credit card for pickup rentals. (Weirdly, Uhaul does not require a credit card for a box truck rental but does require a deposit, according to their website.) Plus of course a valid drivers license, and you have to get to and from the rental location which is usually way off with the other big box stores miles from transit. Not insurmountable barriers to everyone, but for a lot of people these things make it not so much of an option. And it's not $20 -- it's $20 plus mileage plus damage waivers plus taxes and fees plus gas.

Ikea offers delivery but you have to be ok with Ikea aesthetics (which is very much not the aesthetics of the furniture rental places I've seen, and presumably they know their market), be able to pay the delivery fee, live near enough to an Ikea, and again be able to get to the store which is often ten or twenty miles down the highway. I've been happy with most Ikea purchases but passed on their couches the last time I was looking for one because they were all flimsy and/or uncomfortable at that time. (Their selection changes often so things may be better now.)
posted by Dip Flash at 9:09 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


For cryin' out loud, why is there not a pickup-fumigate-dropoff place that will come over to the curb you're waiting at, get your free sofan and for a couple hundred bucks fum$igate your sofa and drop it off at your house? That would solve a lot of problems and make a pretty good living for the owner, I bet.

You don't even need to fumigate - you can kill bedbugs very effectively with heat [PDF]. If you were dealing with single pieces of furniture, you could run the business out of shed, storage container, or truck.
posted by ryanshepard at 9:15 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ryanshepard, it also occurs to me that they could de-stank an old stanky sofa as well, and add New Couch Smell for a mark-up! It seems like a trivially easy idea to implement if you already own a moving or storage company.
posted by blnkfrnk at 9:19 AM on October 18, 2014


I spent years with the usual post-college accumulation of particle board bookcases and hand-me-down couches inherited from previous housemates. Currently most of my furniture is well-made early 20thc vintage pieces, none of which cost more than $200 (and the $200 one was a midcentury modern dining table with eight teak chairs). Getting to that point took a combination of time, patience, luck, and unique-to-me advantages.

It is absolutely possible to furnish your house with well-made pieces that don't cost much and will hold or even gain value. I've done it. I also happen to be self-employed at a job with flexible hours that requires frequent trips to thrift stores, estate sales, and flea markets. I am good enough at finding nice things on Craigslist that I invented a game around it. I once bought a 1920s spool cabinet for $25; if I ever choose to resell it, I doubt I will have trouble getting $250 for it.

However. I have expertise most people don't-- I know which pieces are actual old things and not fakes, and I know which pieces are underpriced for what they're worth. I have the time to go hunting for things, and also come across a lot of things I'd like to have for my home in the course of my actual job. I have friends with large vehicles who are willing to help me pick things up, so I'm not dropping $60 on a U-Haul every time I find something good. I have $100 going spare in my budget for an antique dresser or an enamel-topped table. I live in a city with an excellent, active Craigslist.

Most people do not have the time, energy, interest or resources to furnish their home the way I do. They still deserve comfort. They do not deserve to be taken advantage of.
posted by nonasuch at 9:33 AM on October 18, 2014 [12 favorites]


Or treat it as something that should be done in some way but will have to be done at a loss, and thus outside of market mechanisms. (In this case, the mechanism is apparently a wringer.)

It would seem more reasonable to promote a basic income scheme or something else that sharply reduces the need for credit rather than directly subsidizing rent-to-own.
posted by JPD at 9:36 AM on October 18, 2014 [5 favorites]


I know which pieces are actual old things and not fakes, and I know which pieces are underpriced for what they're worth.

But you don't need to know all that stuff to own thrift store furniture.

My dresser is... a dresser. It is made of wood. It fits in my apartment. (And, also conveniently, fit into the backseat of my car.) It holds my clothes. It cost $30 at a thrift store. It's a perfectly nice dresser, vaguely shaker-esque, though I'm sure it's nothing fancy. I gave it a coat of paint. It looks nice.

(Also, keep in mind that my refrain of "but thrift stores" isn't because I think the poor don't deserve anything better than that or rent to own. I also understand the lure of RTO over getting furniture in other ways. But, still. This is literally why thrift stores are run by nonprofits.)
posted by Sara C. at 9:54 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


But you don't need to know all that stuff to own thrift store furniture.

But by your own admission, you do need to own a car (or be able to arrange for delivery, which other people have covered above).
posted by desjardins at 10:07 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


It would be nice if there was a broad organization that figured out the one-time payment a family needs to escape perpetual debt and short-term-weighted decisions and provided it.

Well, credit counseling is a thing, and so is bankruptcy.
posted by dhartung at 10:24 AM on October 18, 2014


I find it odd that in all above posts not one person has even thought of putting the blame on reckless financial behavior of the renters. "Abbott and Donald smoked a cigarette in the bathroom and sorted through the grim math. ", "One week, they added a smartphone to their order. Another week, some Samsung speakers. And suddenly, the weekly payments to Buddy’s were $110."

Show some restraint. Yes I understand people need cell phones, but a $10.00 Walmart phone would suffice. And the cigarettes...up here they are $8.40 a pack. I bought some great speakers at a yard sale for $20.00... As mentioned above credit counselling and maybe some remedial home economics is in order. Perhaps some Senator who is all hot and bothered about the middle class getting hammered could get some funding into the communities for financial education.
posted by Gungho at 10:33 AM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


In addition to the rent-to-own vultures, there are also the "buy here-pay here" car lots that prey exclusively on people who live paycheck-to-paycheck and/or cannot qualify for a loan from a bank or credit union.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:38 AM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


The idea of saving enough to buy a phone out right is laughable.

Craigslist again.

I don't know any poor people in the Bay Area who don't know how to use craigslist (or at least have a friend, relative, or librarian to do it for them.) I'm sure they exist but I don't think they're the majority.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:49 AM on October 18, 2014


I find it odd that in all above posts not one person has even thought of putting the blame on reckless financial behavior of the renters.

I've been working on it- here you go.

Best way to get rich has always been to steal from the poor. Often legally.

Seriously? Bill Gates? Larry Ellison? Bernard Arnault? Michael Bloomberg? Mark Zuckerberg? How are they stealing from the poor? Hell, even the Waltons, with whom I have some serious beef, got rich by dramatically cutting prices for - the poor. Granted, few of the world's billionaires are straight shooters, but as far as their money streams are concerned, they're in a different league from the business spotlighted in this article. There are plenty of better ways to get rich than to steal from the poor.

Abbott wanted a love seat-sofa combo, and she knew it might rip her budget. But this, she figured, was the cost of being out of options.

"Out of options"? The option is "living without" until you've got the full price. We're not talking food or clothing or emergency surgery here, we're talking a goddamn leather sofa. Granted, leather sofas are nice. I've been dreaming about one for years. But not at that price.

It would be nice if there was a broad organization that figured out the one-time payment a family needs to escape perpetual debt and short-term-weighted decisions and provided it.


One whose dime? How many times would one be able to avail oneself of these services?

Used furniture anecdote - In clearing an estate I tried to give Goodwill (and their competitors) etc. a dining room table. Did it have matching chairs? No? We don't want it. (Ditto if I had had matching chairs but no table.) How about an office chair? Is it padded? We don't want it.
posted by IndigoJones at 10:56 AM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


What is the point of all these bootstrapping frugality arguments? To show that poor people deserve to be poor? That not-poor people deserve to be not-poor?

If armchairing poverty were going to solve poverty, it would have happened by now. There is no shortage of advice on how to scrimp and save and only buy things when you have money to buy them outright. Lots of lentil recipes and stuff, too.

Nothing productive is going to come out of speculation that doesn't start with empathy. You need to understand why people do the things they do. Maybe you need to be able to at least imagine what it's like to be chronically poor to the point that virtually everything is just out of reach. Where you're mentally and physically tired, where your everyday life is full of threats, large and small.

I can only imagine how tempting it would be to grab at any little chance of comfort or satisfaction available to you, no matter what the long term cost. Whether it's a cigarette or a rent-to-own couch.

The predatory poverty industry has been with us probably about as long as poverty has, and it's probably here to stay. It seems to have gotten steadily worse since Reagan, judging by the increase in rent to own stores, payday loans, scammy private vo-tech schools, and probably a thousand other little business models designed to squeeze blood from rocks. These businesses don't exist because anyone is stupid, though. They exist because they appeal to the instincts and interests of their target audiences, and all the well-meaning middle class folk in the world aren't going to solve the problem by refusing to understand it.
posted by ernielundquist at 11:28 AM on October 18, 2014 [25 favorites]


You can't "solve" poverty like this. There will always be a distribution of luck and pluck, and those with neither will always have lower incomes than those who have one or both. And what poverty is in modern definition is lower relative income -- not keeping up with the Jones's, writ large. There is always going to be a thriving business in selling poor people what they can't, in some sense, afford -- because getting those things addresses the most powerful psychological burden of poverty in the first world.
posted by MattD at 12:36 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Some people who use rent-to-own actually do end up owning the thing, but everyone I know who's done it looks at rent-to-own contracts more like rental agreements that have the added bonus tacked on that if you end up renting the thing for a very long time the company will eventually stop charging you rent.
posted by rue72 at 1:15 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


I read this story and got angered, but my next thought was, what can you do to the stores? Outlaw them? Because clearly the market is requiring their existence.

Layaway.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:45 PM on October 18, 2014 [3 favorites]


Yeah, growing up layaway at the Sears catalog store was a thing. Bought my first computer (C64) that way. I'm really glad RTO wasn't as big a thing back then.
posted by the_artificer at 2:14 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


Show some restraint.

Capitalism is dependent on convincing people that they need to consume (more and more), and on keeping masses of people in this very sort of precarity; it's a curious thing to blame individuals for being vulnerable to a predatory system which is deeply embedded in everything they experience. That there are entire industries built up around e.g payday loans, rent-to-own arrangements is a micro version of the macro problem - an entire economic system built on making the poor pay more.
posted by lwb at 2:16 PM on October 18, 2014


Did you ever have "financial instruction" in school? Once my middle school tried an extra-curricular program that consisted of a couple classroom meetings with I believe a banker and maybe an assistant. They told us how interest works, how to establish credit, how not to fuck up your credit and a piece of advice that always stuck with me: "there are few skill more valuable than learning how to cook your own food and mend your own clothes." Since the info was so singular and unusual for school (I probably spent about 20X amount of time learning about quadriatic equations) it stuck with me. The result was that even though I've had extremely variable income levels and living situations I've never really been in trouble with creditors and always had a least a little discretionary money.

What happened to the middle school financial instruction you might ask? After those pilot meetings I never heard anything about it again.
posted by telstar at 2:20 PM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


I find it odd that in all above posts not one person has even thought of putting the blame on reckless financial behavior of the renters.

Yeah, I wouldn't make the same decisions as the people in the article, but it doesn't invalidate the larger point that companies are profiteering off of poor folks, or why such income inequality exists in the first place. Cutting $100 here and there isn't going to actually pull them out of poverty. In any case, the woman in the article acknowledges that it's not the most rational plan, but that it provides a sense of normalcy.
posted by desjardins at 2:21 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Itaxpica: "Yeah, but in that case the phone is near useless without the contract (or a PAYG simcard, which winds up being way more expensive). There's no comparable element for rent-to-own stuff."

It varies by circumstance, but data plans are by no means a requirement, no matter how hard the in-store sales rep pushes them. I spent several years using a PAYG plan on a Nokia N900, and it worked out to $100 dollars a year, at ten cents a minute. IIRC, they even had an option to buy a data plan for a day, if you happen to need something like turn by turn navigation. This gets a lot cheaper really fast -- the unlocked phone will be paid for in about a year.

Based on my experience, things your unlocked android phone can do on wifi:

* Call 911
* schedule wake-up alarm that matches your work schedule.
* track your calendar
* check your email
* take a photo of your child
* record video of your cat
* portable USB drive
* play games & music
* post to mefi
* google questions
* call people
* recieve calls, text messages and voicemail
* download podcasts for later viewing
* emergency / pocket flashlight
* check the weather forecast
* pocket calculator
* download maps for later viewing

Things you cannot do without a contract dataplan:

* check Twitter while driving
* use turn by turn navigation while traveling
* ask Google to resolve a debate about misheard lyrics while waiting for the food cart to finish making your enchiladas

There are situations where buying an unlocked phone with a credit card is cheaper than the contract financing made available to you. Anyways, the fact that smartphones are still useful without a blood contract with AT&T doesn't excuse the terrible practices of rent-to-own stores, or cell phone carriers.
posted by pwnguin at 2:36 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


You can, I have heard, get a smartphone even if you don't have home internet and wifi to use there, and in this case perhaps the data plan makes sense.
posted by jeather at 2:47 PM on October 18, 2014


About a year ago I read that some carriers would detect that your phone is a smartphone and automatically add a data plan whether you want it or not, and declining it is not an option.
posted by localroger at 3:37 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


IIRC, they even had an option to buy a data plan for a day, if you happen to need something like turn by turn navigation.

I used to have a T-Mobile, then an AT&T plan like you describe, but they've gotten rid of those types of plans. Now every company (that I know of) requires a monthly plan to use any data. The cheapest plan I know of for those of us who don't use much voice or text and need some data, but mostly use wifi is Consumer Cellular.
posted by dirigibleman at 3:40 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


I spent about six months without a phone and/or data plan, and even though I had (intermittent, but usually OK) internet and a landline at home, it SUCKED. It was way worse than the year I spent without a couch or really any furniture (I did have a dining table I got off the street, but no dining chairs, so no way to actually use the table -- so yeah, some furniture, but not enough to actually have a functional "furnished" home) a couple years ago, which also sucked really hard.

The worst thing about not having a phone and access to email, etc, all the time, is that EVERYONE EXPECTS YOU TO HAVE IT. They assume you have it and count on you having it, and if you're not able to be accessed at literally any time of day or night or just GPS your way everywhere, etc, you're being a screwup or an asshole.

Though I guess that's actually pretty similar to how people act about the no-furniture thing. I mostly hated it because it was physically uncomfortable to not be able to eat at a table and to not have anyplace nice to sit, and the whole "have a house but not a home" thing sounds petty except that it's just really shitty psychologically. But it was also super awkward whenever anyone would see my living situation because they would immediately ask if I'd just gotten through some tragedy like a divorce or a fire or something. Since it's not really a good idea to look like a total fuckup to your neighbors and acquaintances/social circle, since you're going to be counting on them to do you favors that will help get you by and you need to be able to do them favors in return...that also made me feel straight up insecure.

What's weird is that when I was growing up, we'd spend awkwardly long stretches of time with way too little furniture (for a long while in this one place, our living room/family room furniture was one purple easy chair (my parents still have this), a "fancy" gold lamp (my parents still have this), and a TV my dad had gotten years and years before for free from a woman who couldn't work it, which was on the floor) -- yet back then, nobody seemed to think anything much of that? I mostly remember because at one point I had a tantrum and clung to the purple chair and my dad tried to lift me out of it to take me to the bedroom and I literally dragged the chair all the way across the living room and wouldn't let go. That was also in an attached/multi-family house, god help the neighbors.

Anyway, I don't really see the problem with renting something that you have enough cash in hand right now to literally get into your house, even if you can't afford to buy it outright. If you can get use of it for this month, why not use it this month? Who cares if you can't use it for all time/own it? I mean, yeah, it would be even easier/nicer if you could, but just because you can't do "buying furniture" or whatever completely mundane yet important act "perfectly" doesn't mean you have to or should go completely without. People can rent apartments happily without being able to buy a house, and I think the difference of renting housing and renting furniture is one of degree rather than difference. Which the article talks about a lot, by comparing these RTO stores to subprime mortgage lenders, which I sort of buy and sort of don't (because the RTO stores aren't really beggaring their customers, since the customers can just quit paying and the RTO stores will come take their stuff back, no harm no foul -- well aside from the humiliation and inconvenience, which isn't nothing, but nobody is being saddled with hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of debt from that).

Also, the thing about picking up cheap stuff: growing up, it was a completely normal cultural thing to put nice stuff out on the curb and expect others to take what they liked to use in their own homes. My family's furniture (including couches) and my "nice" toys (like bicycles, Fisher Price stuff) all came from the curb, and we would put that stuff back out there for the next family when we were moving to another place. But the culture everywhere isn't like that -- in LA, for whatever reason, if something is left out on the curb, people immediately trash it. People also seem to put only the absolute dregs out there, they don't put out stuff just because they're not going to use it anymore and can't get much for it secondhand, but that will still be useful to somebody. And now with bedbugs, anything upholstered is suspicious. Personally, nowadays, I will wait and get things new if at *all* possible. Partially that's from being spoiled and partially that's because it's become much "weirder" and more difficult (culturally, logistically) to get not-complete-trash secondhand in anything like a casual way.

If you buy new, you also don't have to deal with all the ~complex~ social and logistical stuff that you do when you're trying to buy/sell/gift things informally. I hate having to go search things out on Craigslist because I feel it's unsafe to just show up at random addresses hoping to go inside and look at strangers' junk. Plus, even stuff you get from friends, you've always had to be careful with and know/figure out why they were trying to give it to you. The problem is not always a big deal like bedbugs are but you know, while I CAN and HAVE dealt with the massive amount of dog piss that my second-hand couch/bed for my first apartment had all over it, if possible, I'd rather not do that again. And hell naw on any secondhand mattress, because you have to think about why it's getting thrown out, and I assure you that 99.5% of the time it's because of it being covered in a huge amount of bodily fluids. Once I worked my way up from secondhand futons and sleeper-sofas, I started buying the weirdest pseudo-mattresses (basically big sheets of foam, or mattresses that you "assemble," etc), because imo that's the next step up unless a loved one or a housemate has a mattress for you (I think those two categories of "known person" are OK for mattress-gifting/selling because you're likely to either have slept on a bed with them anyway or you're already sleeping in the same apartment with them so what's the diff). For thrift store furniture, I only buy stuff that has no cushioning/is made of wood because their cushioned seating is usually disgusting and uncomfortable, and honestly not THAT cheap. The absolute shittiest, dirtiest, ugliest full-sized couch at the thrift store that my ex-roommate bought all of our common room furniture at was still $100, and it was sort of a waste of that $100 to buy because nobody wanted to sit on that thing and it was straight up sad to come home to it. Most thrift stores will do delivery for you, ime, though -- you just ask the cashier and they usually have the number of someone with a truck who you can get to deliver your stuff for some flat fee that you negotiate with them personally ($50 for a truck worth of stuff last time a friend did it, a couple years ago, but that was also in LA, where labor is seriously cheap). Those "delivery" guys are usually just people the cashier knows through whatever charity runs the thrift shop in the first place or something, they're not bonded or professionals or anything like that, but they're capable of hauling your stuff. A friend of my parents' used to get called up by his buddies for that all the time (he didn't have a truck/car, but he had a friend who did, and he helped haul), and he usually worked BOH at a restaurant. Other guys are usually construction/contractor workers, other kinds of manual day-labor. It's just a way to get some extra money.

Oh, and back to phones: I actually haven't found it to be at all a better deal to buy the phone separately from the plan. And believe me, my cheap ass has looked. My parents still have burner phones with pay-as-you-go minutes -- I've been trying to get them on my plan FOREVER -- and that *is* cheaper than getting a "normal" phone with an actual talk/text plan, let alone talk/text/data. But come on, that's not actually a replacement for a modern phone that you can use normally, and since you will probably need a home phone line along with your sad burner, you aren't really saving a lot of money. I have an iPhone 5c, and it was somewhat cheaper and vastly easier to just sign up for the phone monthly payment as part of my month-to-month talk/text/data service rather than try to get the phone from some other random source and make sure it can be set up to actually do normal-phone-things with T-Mobile. Those monthly payment plans for phones don't even have interest. Unless you're going so cheap that you for all intents and purposes aren't going to be a modern cell phone user (which my parents aren't, and that IS possible to do in this day and age but is a huge PITA for them and everyone else and frankly I think is being penny-wise, pound-foolish but I digress), you probably aren't getting scammed by just getting your phone from your service provider. And like I said, I spent a LOT LOT LOT of time on this because I'm cheap and was also trying to get my parents phones and onto a plan (and anything would be an improvement over the ridiculousness they have now) as well as myself.
posted by rue72 at 4:18 PM on October 18, 2014 [6 favorites]


What's weird is that when I was growing up, we'd spend awkwardly long stretches of time with way too little furniture (for a long while in this one place, our living room/family room furniture was one purple easy chair (my parents still have this), a "fancy" gold lamp (my parents still have this), and a TV my dad had gotten years and years before for free from a woman who couldn't work it, which was on the floor) -- yet back then, nobody seemed to think anything much of that?

My parents also spent years and years when I was a kid having too little (and awful) furniture, most of which was probably found on the side of the road, and I can remember people making jokes about it when they came over. Funny jokes, not being mean, but it was definitely different enough that people commented, even when my father was in grad school. There was no expectation of having new furniture, but people expected you to have furniture.

People can rent apartments happily without being able to buy a house, and I think the difference of renting housing and renting furniture is one of degree rather than difference.

Maybe it's just that things are different where I am now, but it seems like I see a lot fewer furnished apartments for rent now than I used to. If you are moving frequently, or will only be in a place for a short while, owning furniture makes about as much sense as owning a house, and a place that comes furnished is great. I have lived in a lot of furnished places, and whatever extra it cost per month over an unfurnished place always felt to me like the best deal in the world because I didn't need to deal with all of the practical issues people here have laid out.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:43 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


This debates strike me as very similar to many other metafilter discussions where there is a conflation of explanation/understanding and advice/responsibility (see also diet threads).

Yes, there are broad societal explanations that can help people understand what is going on and these are very very powerful forces in aggregate. Also at the individual level there is prescriptive advice that can help one take responsibility and avoid or fix personal financial problems.

The two are not mutually exclusive or fully separate but when you cross the two streams in discussion the result is always messy anger where some people see victim blaming and others see the negation of individual effort.

Let empathy from understanding the societal level inform how you try to help people deal with their individual situation responsibly.
posted by srboisvert at 6:12 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


This stuff is so incredibly evil. I lucked out with a recommendation for a haggling-friendly used furniture store when I moved to a new city with no furniture whatsoever, and I pass that info on to anybody else who shows up in town in the same situation. Even then, though, it required a decent chunk of change up front (mostly from what I'd gotten selling as much of my old furniture as possible) and I didn't get everything at once. It took probably a year before I bought shelves for my books. And an end table off Craigslist to use in place of the book boxes (with a tablecloth on top!) I'd been using for an end table.

In summary: thank goodness the last tenants left a couple of metal patio chairs behind. That really saved me a lot of money by providing some kind of seating so as not to feel like I was camping indoors while I got the post-move finances straightened out. Living that way isn't so bad if you know there's an endpoint to it eventually, but it has really got to suck if you don't see a way out. I really can't judge anyone for thinking, "fuck it, I can't deal with this a minute longer, I'm gonna hit up the rent-to-own." I can sure judge the RTO companies for their shitty business practices, though.
posted by asperity at 6:19 PM on October 18, 2014


People can rent apartments happily without being able to buy a house, and I think the difference of renting housing and renting furniture is one of degree rather than difference.

No, it's that owning a home is outside the means of a large proportion -- possibly even a majority? -- of people, whereas owning furniture is within the means of all but the poorest people or the people in the most hard-luck situations.

Even if you decide you're a princess who can't have anything secondhand, a trip to any big box store can get you a few chairs, a dresser, a bookshelf, etc. for extremely reasonable prices. And I don't mean by middle class/affluent standards, I mean by "do you have a job" standards. You can have a kitchen chair for $15. You can have a bookshelf for $50. You can have a coffee table for $10-20. Last night in Target I was debating getting one of those shelves that goes around/above the toilet to stack towels and things, and it was going to cost like $30.

Yes, some people are so desperately poor that they really can't spare $10 to buy a chair. And, of course the reality is that if you have a large family, that adds up and you end up spending $100 just on chairs or whatever. Or if you're in a really shit situation (escaping an abusive marriage, recent homelessness, house fire), just getting the basics adds up to a lot. Also, there still are some big ticket items that I would guess are a lot more popular at Rent To Own places -- most people probably aren't going to Rent A Center for coffee tables but for couches and beds.

But, yeah, the reality is that it's not normal to rent furniture for the same reason it's not normal to rent shoes. Most people can afford furniture, even if it's not a lot, not fancy, not new, etc.

Which is probably another angle on the usury of it all. Since the rent to own places are preying on a relatively small and powerless group of people -- the truly desperate -- it's much easier for this to fly under the radar. It's not that the businesses wouldn't be profitable otherwise, or they have to charge these rates because of demand, it's that people who could regulate this sort of thing don't know/care. Because even for someone like me who has actually lived in poverty, it's still very easy to say "just don't rent furniture gah".
posted by Sara C. at 7:27 PM on October 18, 2014


srboisvert: "The two are not mutually exclusive or fully separate but when you cross the two streams in discussion the result is always messy anger where some people see victim blaming and others see the negation of individual effort."

It's not just a negation of effort, but also a bit of resentment, I suspect. For those living within their means, stories of people who are living more extravagant lives than themselves on borrowed money are understandably upsetting, and not empathy provoking. For people who go to lengths to balance the household budget, this story presents a family whose living room looks much nicer than theirs, and a bit of schadenfruede ensues.

Really, the more depressing bit of this whole piece is that you would think that this kind of usury at least pays well. Rent-A-Center, a publicly traded company in the same market as Buddy's, should be seeing crazy margins. Instead, they're seeing about a 4 percent return on assets. So it seems probable that if they changed nothing about the business model other than interest rates, they would no longer be a firm, and their customers would either have to start qualifying for credit or go without. I feel like the schadenfreude crowd and the 'have some empathy' crowd have differing opinions on how to improve the situation.
posted by pwnguin at 8:15 PM on October 18, 2014 [4 favorites]


The real scammy part of rent to own is like the scammy part of the sleazy buy here pay here used car places. Their ideal customer is someone who ends up not paying off their stuff and getting it repoed so they can then "sell" it to some other person at the same price. This way they can make 10 times or more the price of the item before someone successfully pays off the item and gets to keep it.
posted by wierdo at 8:26 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yeah that's kind of the underside of the whole "but we want nice stuff not shitty thrift store stuff" rationale.

How do you think that furniture got into the store in the first place? It got repo'd from somebody who couldn't pay. If you're afraid of bed bugs, Rent A Center is the first place to avoid.
posted by Sara C. at 8:30 PM on October 18, 2014 [1 favorite]


they're seeing about a 4 percent return on assets

<blink>AUDIT!</blink>
posted by Sys Rq at 9:43 PM on October 18, 2014 [2 favorites]


Really, the more depressing bit of this whole piece is that you would think that this kind of usury at least pays well. Rent-A-Center, a publicly traded company in the same market as Buddy's, should be seeing crazy margins. Instead, they're seeing about a 4 percent return on assets. So it seems probable that if they changed nothing about the business model other than interest rates, they would no longer be a firm, and their customers would either have to start qualifying for credit or go without. I feel like the schadenfreude crowd and the 'have some empathy' crowd have differing opinions on how to improve the situation.

I have a relative who worked a few years in their head office. The profit margin problems are probably because it was not a well run business. They suffered from a lot of 'internal breakage'. You run a scammy business you end up with a lot of scammers in your business from top to bottom.
posted by srboisvert at 4:02 AM on October 19, 2014 [4 favorites]


The idea of saving enough to buy a phone out right is laughable.

And please understand, I was in no way being flippant about that. I don't just have $749 lying around either. The only reason I could switch to a data plan at less than half my old rate was because I'm bringing my newly unlocked 2+ year old iPhone with me--a $749 phone I ended up giving AT&T $1500 for over 24 months.

I have decided that delayed gratification is in my best interest, so while I will get a new iPhone 6 it will take months of considerable planning, saving, and scrimping. I've already budgeted my change jar for it, some extra November gigs, selling my old 3DS, and even an injection of holiday cash I usually get from my grandmother. But never would I ever imply "Hey, why don't you just go buy one of those!"
posted by sourwookie at 1:50 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


Of course, that $750 price tag is for the iPhone 6. Even Apple's vertical integration strategy has led to their older models competing with newer ones--you can buy an unlocked iPhone 5 for $450. I don't know if you can find new unlocked iPhone 4s, but they should be cheaper still. On the Android side, I picked up a Galaxy Nexus unlocked directly from Google for $350 last year, and I know that's not the cheapest phone.

And that may be another problem with of Rent-to-Own (I've never set foot in one.) They appear to have little reason to lease cheaper models. The apartment I rent came with appliances from a brand I've never heard of and doubt I would find at Buddy's.
posted by pwnguin at 5:33 PM on October 19, 2014


The idea of saving enough to buy a phone out right is laughable.

My Galaxy mini or lite or whatever it is called cost me $120 brand new.
posted by srboisvert at 6:00 PM on October 19, 2014 [1 favorite]


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