Is Retail Renting Ethical?

The Boston Globe has an interesting article in which they attempt to explain the phenomenon of “retail renting” or “wardrobing”–where consumers buy items with the intention of returning them when they’re done with the prom or the meeting or whatever. The article blames a mix of influences, including the economy and celebrities who obviously borrow many of their fancy gowns and jewelry.

Some people don’t see anything wrong with the behavior:

Jimmy Deignan’s first time was with a $500 portable DVD player.

He bought it a few years ago at Best Buy for a Boston-to-Los Angeles flight, knowing he would return it for a full refund when he got back. More recently, in November, rather than spending $600 to rent a LCD projector for a business presentation, the Holden resident purchased one at Staples, then returned it a few days later and got his money back.

The way Deignan sees it, he is just a smart shopper: He gets the things he needs, uses them for as long as he wants, and saves money.

Some shoppers who wardrobe do not think they are doing anything wrong. Deignan refers to the way he buys as renting. To see him through the NFL playoffs, Deignan planned to wardrobe a plasma TV after his set broke in December. But it got fixed in time, just before the first Patriots playoff game.

“There’s lots of times when I buy stuff that someone’s bought before. When I rent something, I’m taking good care of it,” said Deignan, who works as an event coordinator. “And, it made me look good when I saved my company $600 in rental fees for the projector.”

Retailers are responding to people like Deignan with increasingly invasive policies that attempt to weed out the “wardrobers” from legitimate returns. Is “retail renting” ethical? Or is this fraud?

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Retailers Crack Down On Serial Returns [Boston Globe] (Thanks, Sean!)

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