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Saturday, November 7, 2015

Rent-to-Own Ripoff: Undercover Investigation

Investigating Rent-to-Own Store Prices

Disguise for Undercover Investigation of Rent-to-Own Prices

As a staff writer for Wise Bread, I was recently assigned to investigate rent-to-own stores.  Are Rent-to-Own stores a ripoff?

Following is a slightly fictionalized account of this undercover investigation.

"Great to see you, Dr. Penny Pincher," said my editor as I walked into his office.  He was seated behind a large mahogany desk with only a desk lamp and a mechanical typewriter on its vast surface.

"Likewise," I said cheerfully, removing my hat.  I hung it on the coat rack and closed the door.  I enjoyed coming to my editor's office because that meant a new article assignment, and that meant money.

"I think people are being ripped off at rent-to-own stores, but I can't prove it," he said.  I always appreciate how my editor gets right to the point.  He manages a lot of writers and has learned to be efficient.

"Interesting topic," I said as I sat down across the desk from him.   "But I have never bought anything at a rent-to-own store."

"We're going to send you undercover," he said.

"But undercover investigations can be risky," I objected.  "Maybe we should send in a private detective instead."

"I thought about that, but we need you.  This is going to require math," he said.

"I see," I said.  "But I still think it could be risky."

My editor opened his top desk drawer and pulled out a fat envelope with "rent-to-own ripoff" typed on it.  The envelope made a deep thump when he dropped it on his desk in front of me.  From its thickness and the sound it made, I couldn't tell if it contained more cash than usual or not.

After a second or so of deliberation, I scooped up the envelope and slid it into the inside pocket of my sport coat as I stood up.  "I'm on it," I said and started toward the coat rack to get my hat.

"Wait," said my editor.  "You can't go undercover looking like that.  They'll recognize you as Dr. Penny Pincher.  You'll need a disguise so you can see how they really operate."

"Roger that," I said as I put my hat on and headed out.

I realized my editor was right.  If I went into the rent-to-own store and they recognized me as Dr. Penny Pincher, they could change their deals so that they would look better in my article.

Dr. Penny Pincher- Before Disguise
I got off the city bus at a department store on my way to the rent-to-own store and picked up a new hat for $3 on the clearance rack.  My disguise was complete, and I was ready to begin my undercover investigation...

Dr. Penny Pincher- In Disguise for Undercover Investigation
One of the shocking things I learned is that buying a TV at the rent-to-own store would have resulted in paying an annual interest rate of over 140%!

Here is a link to the full article so you can learn how much it really costs to buy something at a rent-to-own store and learn about much less expensive options:  This Is How Much A "Rent-To-Own" TV Really Costs

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