Manager Defends Retail Renting As Valuable Sales Tool

A former camera store manager came forward to defend retail renting as a common tactic that helps drive sales. Retail renting is when a customer buys a pricey item like a prom dress with the intention of returning it later. Our completely unscientific poll shows that 70% of you disapprove of retail renting, but our tipster insists that it is a victimless crime and a valuable sales tool. Our enlightening chat with the former manager, inside.

(What appears below was formatted from an IM conversation)

I saw just about any kind of retail renting you can think of. The biggest thing that I wanted to convey is that we, in the business, all did it. Managers, employee’s and even the district managers got in the action too.

Sometimes, it was legitimate product testing. I never liked telling a mom that this camera would take great pictures of her children until I tried it out on my own. Other times, I “tested” the portable DVD player for a week while on vacation. But the rule was always that you paid for the item and then returned it when you were done with it. Nothing under the table.

Customers did it to. The occasional rental didn’t really bother me all that much. What I found was that customers would on occasion buy a camera from me later on once they learned how lax we were about returns.

In fact, last week I “rented” a $1900 lens from [the store.] Now, normally I actually “rent” lenses from a company that’s equipped to do so. However, I needed the lens the next day and [the store] was my only option. As far as I’m concerned, its a victimless crime.

The lens had already been opened and used by someone else. My thought was that if I beat up or damage the lens, I own it. If not, I return it and nobody loses anything. I know that for a fact as a former manager. The only time it would bother me would be when somebody got to return something well beyond the time limit. I sold a digital camera to a woman once who obviously had used her camera on her vacation. However, she had gone almost 15 days over the 10 day return window. Corporate allowed her to return the camera and I had a huge chunk of my check taken away. Had it been during the same window as when I received the comission, I wouldn’t have minded so much.

I think that people need to understand that its really a victimless crime. In the world of cameras, unless the box has a factory seal you have to assume that its been opened and played with at some point. Some stores even go the extra step of breaking all the seals on all the boxes to remove that bias.

We sort of saw the idea of renting as another way to get people into the store to buy something. Even if they didn’t buy a camera, they would on occasion become printing customers. This isn’t something that we encouraged people to do mind you. Its not like you could walk up to me and say, “Hi, I’d like to buy a camera for the weekend and take it back,” and I’d say SURE SIR HERE YOU GO.

What normally happens is the customer would come in and within 5 minutes would make a $500 camera purchase. Before leaving they’d take the camera out and have me spot check it to make sure it wasn’t broken or anything. it was at this point that I realized they were renting. I wished them a nice day and started a pool within the store as to when they’d bring it back.

Some stores would try to “scare” the customer by warning them of return refusal policies or restocking fee’s that don’t exist. My guess is that they were banking on the fact that the customer would be too guilt stricken to question company policy. Some of them were right. But I always found it was hypocritical to stop customers from doing what we ourselves did on a regular basis

My first store manager bought and returned her home printer every month. When she quit, she returned it for good.

I guess what I’m trying to argue is that if its done correctly, its a victimless crime. The insiders do it in much worse fashion anyways. I would argue that if your willing to rent something, you might be willing to buy it (eventually). Allowing you to rent with me increases my chances of a sale. And that’s what I really want.

Do retail renters ever go the extra dishonest mile and try to return damaged equipment?

Oh yes, but that’s why you check out the equipment before you allow the return. That’s where I put my foot down. If I couldn’t sell the camera at full price to the person behind you, we have a problem.

The best is since [the store] has a warranty that covers customer damage, people assumed that if they broke it they could return it and the warranty would cover the repairs. Meaning we’d return their broken camera and fix it under our warranty and somehow not lose money on it.

You needed every plastic cover, every piece of wrapping to bring it back into my store and most of my customers knew that.

These would-be scammers didn’t react well when confronted.

Most of them threw a fit. I would assume because they got caught. But that’s what you get for disregarding how serious I take returns. Some people would rent without regard for the fact that I would still have to sell the product.

Sometimes we’d turn it into a sale. Well, I can’t return this camera but I’ll let you exchange it. Then i’d write “NO RETURN/EXCHANGE” on their receipt and the camera box. But yeah, they’d get pretty pissed. Especially when I found all the little things. I’ve denied returns because that little cover that comes with the batter (that everyone loses right away) was missing. Or a tiny scratch on the bottom of the camera.

My store was very thorough with returns.

So our former manager has no problem with renting. Would she herself rent from another store?

Well, there aren’t many stores where you can these days. I did “rent” a heater from Costco once. I needed to warm my house for a party. I rented a $200 space heater, though I did end up buying a $30 a few weeks later from them. So I don’t think it was a loss. I even repacked the rented heater the exact same way it was.

I suppose renting out of simple need is ok. Habitual renting to me would feel like stealing, and in truth, I did consider keeping the heater.

Does this change your opinion of retail renting? Take to the comments with your moral indignation.

(Photo: *** Fanch The System !!! ***)
PREVIOUSLY: Is Retail Renting Ethical?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Trai_Dep says:

    Cat photographer’s thought balloons:
    “What is this ‘color balance’ thing they speaking of?
    “What’s a flash for when this pitch-black room is perfectly lit?”
    “…Screw it – I’m going to claw up some shoes instead.”

  2. azntg says:

    The moral of the story: “It takes one to know one!”

  3. tme2nsb says:

    I used to work at a Big Lots, and we used to sell this really nice $500 cocktail table…well, living in a richer part of OKC (known as Edmond) a lot of the time, people would “buy” it for a weekend, and then return it. We got to the point that certain items were not returnable or replacable, because we lost a lot of income (at any given time, we’d have about 30 of these things and “sell” about 10 a week..soooo…you do the math there)

  4. visualbowler says:

    the manager is so hypocritical hes saying that its a victimless crime, but in the end he had a big part of his paycheck taken out because of it, anyone else smell anything wrong with that?

  5. Traveshamockery says:

    This guy is simply trying to rationalize his own “retail renting” behavior.

    It’s NOT a victimless crime.

    One of these things happens when somebody buys, then returns:

    1)The product is put back on the shelf, opened, at a discount because it’s an “open box” – The victims? The store that loses profit. From there, hours can be cut, profit sharing is lost, fewer raises…

    2) The product is put back on the shelf, sold as UNOPENED, and somebody buys it, paying full price for a used product. This is simply dishonest, and potentially illegal – you can’t sell a used product as “new”. Victim: the honest purchaser, who now paid full price for someone’s secondhand goods.

    3) In extreme situations, like the manager who kept buying and returning “her” home printer, the store pays for that inventory, but never makes a profit on it – for a year or more, she held their property, cost free, while the store paid for the inventory in the first place. Not to mention, each time she returned the printer (assuming she didn’t take the same one home again) one of the first 2 things happened.

    Retail renting is despicable – if you want to rent something, go to Aaron’s, don’t abuse return policies.

  6. ElizabethD says:

    Sometimes reading the Consumerist makes me feel like either the most naive or the most ethical person on earth. This is one of those times.

  7. mjburnsy says:

    Let me guess…Ritz Camera?

  8. SoCalGNX says:

    Victimless? You let your real buyer assume the product they are buying is new when it is really used? (no matter how little its used, its used). At that point, the buyer should be able to get it at the local Goodwill with the understanding it is used and a hefty 95% discount on the price.
    What a self righteous jerk.

  9. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the victim the person who actually buys the camera next at full price after it’s been used on someone’s vacation? Call me old-fashioned, but no matter how new it looks, used is used. Doesn’t the motor on a camera have a finite life?

  10. A.W.E.S.O.M.-O says:

    @SoCalGNX: Wow, I was one minute too late…

  11. Darkwish says:

    If I buy something being sold as “new”, I expect it to be brand new, factory sealed. If it isn’t, it’s used as far as I’m concerned and I shouldn’t have to pay full price for it since I have no idea what has been done to it or what might be missing from it.

  12. wellfleet says:

    This “manager” was either
    1. never responsible and/or accountable for actual business results like revenue, margin, and operating profit
    or (but probably and)
    2. doesn’t realize there are many costs in retail renting that don’t take effect at the cash register

    If you sell a returned item as new, that’s dishonest. You get to keep all your margin on a product that has wear and tear on the mechanics.

    If you sell it as an “open box” and take 10% for example, that’s lost margin dollars to the company’s operating profit, which means, in the long run, fewer hours, smaller bonuses, loss of jobs, etc. It’s like littering. It’s the aggregate losses suffered from too many employees/customers doing this.

    Every time you have to unbox a product, repackage a product, reset it to MFG’s settings, clean a product before re-selling, you’re spending extra labor dollars and you’re losing productivity. That adds to the “cost” of the item.

    If you ran your own business, where you ate and fed your kids off your profits, you would realize how stupid retail renting is.

  13. sponica says:

    I used to work in a toy store, I wonder how people would feel if i “rented” the X-Box or PS2 when they hit the markets….of course we weren’t allowed to do that because once the box was opened it was yours unless you wanted to exchange it for the same item.

  14. zyodei says:

    Hmmm…one day I “rented” a tarp from Wal-Mart, which we ended up using to keep a campfire in the rain…ended up returning the tarp with an 18″ by 18″ whole burned in the middle, no questions asked :P

    On a side note, the Wal-Marts all over the country are GREAT for “renting” camping equipment from, their policy is 100%’s really the best way if you’re travelling light or flying near your destinations.

  15. MARTHA__JONES says:

    This manager should understand that with clothing, most stores cannot sell worn merchandise. Retail renting hurts everyone because it raises prices when the company has to damage out merchandise they could have sold to someone who legitimately wanted to own it.

  16. @InfiniTrent: “The product is put back on the shelf, sold as UNOPENED, and somebody buys it, paying full price for a used product.”

    This is the part this pisses me off. I do not mind buying used products. BUT I WANT TO KNOW THEY WERE USED. If the company has no problem with “retail renting” but restocks the items as open-box/returned/as-is/whatever, that’s fine. But if they’re repackaging and selling them new, I’m pissed.

  17. ClayS says:

    It’s a matter of one greedy bunch of consumers screwing the rest of us over.

    If I knew that a certain store was selling me previously “rented” merchandise, I would certainly avoid shopping there.

  18. losiek says:

    Costco returns rock. Couple of years ago, I bought 37″ LCD TV and, after 2 weeks, I realized I wanted more pretty colors – went in and switched to 42″ plasma. Then, after 2 months, I compared my tv to Panasonic and decided that is better – returned it again, no worries. It was honest returns, I’m still their customer spending a lot of money there.

    One thing I learned though, they do not sell the returned items in the store – too much risk I guess – they sell it via 3rd party company. So unlike the article, Costco takes some write off even if you returned it packed the same way and all.

  19. starrion says:

    People who fraudulently purchase something while planning to return it cost the computer store I used to work for a ton of money. The manager followed state law that open box items couldn’t be sold as new. Stuff we couldn’t return to the manufacturer went on a discount cart. We lost money on every item sold off it.

    Laser printers were no longer accepted after someone put a toner cartridge in (resumes perhaps) then returned it with the cartridge in. All the bouncing around dumped the toner inside the unit and made a colossal mess. That cleanup had to be treated as hazardous waste.

  20. lemur says:

    I agree with most of the negative comments here about this practice being dishonest.

    The only thing I think that the store manager maybe has going for him is that I do think that people selling photographic equipment should be allowed and even encouraged to use the equipment they sell. Otherwise, how can they give any kind of real advice? (Obviously, even with real experience with the equipment they can give shitty advice, but without experience they sure can’t give any good advice.) Still, I’m not convinced that retail renting is the way to achieve this. It seems to me that any equipment used for this should be sold as “open box”.

    If somehow corporate rules make it so that store managers have to hide that they lend equipment to their sales staff for training, then the rules should be changed.

  21. Binaryslyder says:

    @ClayS: I disagree. From where I see it, its being a thrifty customer.

    I think people do need to be careful buying any product these days. Aside from the open box as new product, how many products have we seen sold from best buy that were buckets of paint or bricks?

    Perhaps this is a little bit of customer vigilantism. Sure, we may have to pay higher prices in the long run. But companies are already trying to make money on US hand over fist. This story is likely talking about Ritz Camera. A CD of your pictures there costs $6! That’s about $5.58 more than what it costs me. And don’t start going into labor/machine costs. Those machines were paid for in the digital boom from 98 to 2002. I worked in retail and the margin for profit was super high. Besides, Ritz Camera rakes in about 4 billion dollars a year. I think they can handle restocking a camera on their own dime.

  22. ClayS says:

    There have to be restocking costs, but who’s to say the store is going to absorb that cost? My guess is a lot of that cost is being passed on to the consumers. Since I don’t “rent”, I feel that I’m getting the short end of the deal.

  23. Binaryslyder says:

    @ClayS: You’re getting the short end of the deal no matter what. Even if you shop at a store that puts restocking fee’s on product, what’s to say that it isn’t damaged or broken.

    I used to work for Best Buy and we frequently neglected to check product before slapping a 10% off sticker on it and selling it to the next shlub.

    No matter what, buyer beware.

  24. Traveshamockery says:

    @Binaryslyder: “I disagree. From where I see it, its being a thrifty customer.

    I think people do need to be careful buying any product these days. Aside from the open box as new product, how many products have we seen sold from best buy that were buckets of paint or bricks?”

    Best Buy doesn’t intentionally sell bricks. Typically it’s a returned item, where they didn’t double check what was in the box – the rotton customer returns a brick, and BB accidentally re-sells it.

    The immature “you got me, so I’ll get you back” attitude doesn’t benefit anyone.

    Your post drips with the attitude that companies don’t have a right to make a profit – I’m sure you’ll deny it, but that’s what you’re saying. Do you know why Ritz charges $6 for a $.52 picture CD? Because they’ve got to keep the lights on. They have to pay their employee. They have to pay for insurance, and materials, etc. You don’t have those costs, or they’re “free”.

    You don’t have the right to abuse return policies simply because you decide that the company is “making money hand over fist”. Start your own company, and your attitude about profit and loss will change.

  25. XianZhuXuande says:

    I think retail renting is unethical unless supported by the retail store. A store with bunches of opened boxes being sold for full price probably doesn’t know about how many customers they are missing. Many customers would that that as an indication of an unethical store. I know I would.

    Restocking fees also exist because of this nonsense, and restocking fees frequently hurt honest consumers who want to make an honest return. If not for all the renters, many companies could eat the occasional cost of selling an open box item to take care of the small group of returning customers. But so many of those returns are rental attempts that this just doesn’t happen.

    People aren’t going to become more ethical, though, so this won’t change.

  26. Traveshamockery says:

    @ClayS: “I think they can handle restocking a camera on their own dime.”

    It’s not on their dime, it’s on mine. And yours, and everyone else. You need to learn more about how businesses work before you make such uninformed comments.

    Companies have a net profit margin they must make to stay in business – if that is encroached upon, they’ll just raise the price.

  27. sir_eccles says:

    He’s definitely trying to justify his own dishonest actions.

    Not only is he fraudulently selling used goods as new, but he is deliberately tampering with factory seals so that they can’t tell which are used and which aren’t. As this somehow justifies the whole thing.

  28. Binaryslyder says:

    @InfiniTrent: Ritz is a joke.

    Managers make $30k Salary, with commission. Regular employees make $7 t0 $10/hour with commission.

    The registers are from 70’s and most of their stores are in need of dire repair and cleanup.

    I’m not against making a profit, that’s the whole premise of running a business. But clearly there are companies that exist to serve their customer, not milk them.

    Ritz is one of those companies that is bleeding its customers, its just that people don’t want to admit it.

  29. edrebber says:

    @InfiniTrent: I believe the item would be resealed and sold as new with no discount, if the item can be made to look as new. The open boxes are the items that look used.

    The victims are the customers who want and expect to purchase brand new merchandise with no intention of retail renting.

    Stores should be required to disclose the fact that they are reselling returned merchandise as new, with signs on the shelves stating this fact.

  30. Binaryslyder says:

    @sir_eccles: First off, when I retail “rent,” I don’t do anything dishonest. I never make any claims that I didn’t open the box and use what was inside.

    As a courtesy, I repack everything neatly to save the poor SOB behind the counter from having to do it.

    I have some bad news for you. If the factory seal is broken/not there when you get a product, you should assume it was opened. Because chances are it was.

    Second, if Ritz or other companies were so damned concerned about net profits and profit margins, they’d put things like fax machines and copiers in their stores instead of requiring them to pay other stores for their use. I requested a copy of a reciept once from Ritz. The employee joked that he had to drive 10 minutes over to kinkos to make me a 10 cent copy.

    How much profit and labor was lost in a cent copy. Don’t defend companies that obviously don’t know what their doing anymore.

  31. iliveinyoureyelid says:

    I routinely do this when buying a laptop. I try them out for a week or sometimes less. Usually find something wrong with the layout, something misleading about the hardware specs, or something I couldn’t have known by simply seeing it in store. I do this until I find one that works well then keep it. Sue me.

    Also, I once bought a high end digital SLR to take with me to Mexico for my wedding with the idea that I would return in when I came home. Unfortunately I dropped it and cracked the lens casing. Obviously had to keep it, no complaints. And the universe continues to be balanced.

    /will continue to retail rent. But only from Futureshop.

  32. Binaryslyder says:

    What if i’m working at a sales counter without a demo. You walk in and want to buy something from me, so I open a box and take one out so you can see.

    After about 5 minutes you change your mind and leave, leaving me with a now opened item.

    Should I pack it up as new or open box it?

  33. Skeptic says:

    “by Binaryslyder at 12:56 PM Reply
    @ClayS: I disagree. From where I see it, its being a thrifty customer.”

    If you are “retail renting” then you aren’t a customer at all. Retail renting is the practice of making a sham purchase for the sole purpose of using the product then returning it for a full refund–in lieu of paying a rental fee from a store that rents things.

    Retail renting is completly un-related to legitimate returns, or even questionable returns like losiek’s. Retail renting greedy and selfish and is done by people who don’t want to bear the actual cost but instead pass the depreciation of turning a new item into a used one back to the store.

  34. Skeptic says:

    BTW. To point out the obvious, retail renters are selfish, greedy scum who raise prices for honest people with legitimate returns.

  35. Binaryslyder says:

    @Skeptic: Don’t restocking fee’s counteract that? If not, what are they for?

  36. youfatduck says:

    I was on the fence about this until a few days ago. Visiting my brother and sister-in-law as they were packing up to move. My mom and I offered to help and SIL said what would help her most is if we could return some things for her. Then she took all their clothes and stuff out of the plastic stacking bins, unplugged the fan and put it back in its box, repacked the bathroom scale, and sent us off to Wal-Mart with her ID, debit card, and receipts. Do. Not. Want.

    They returned a spatula. They returned their clothes hangers. That’s small potatoes. I get embarrassed returning new things that I legitimately changed my mind about. I would go around the bend retail-renting electronics and stuff.

  37. Binaryslyder says:

    Listen, to be clear with everyone here I’m not totally advocating for renting.

    I’ve done it before when I was on the fence for a product but wanted to use it. I have bought and returned a few things where I knew I was probably not going to keep them. But the shops where I returned them all knew that I used them. Most of the time I get all my money back because the item is as good as new.

    And yes, I do buy things from these stores.

    I suppose all of you against retail renting are also against downloading music/apps/movies as well? Just checking.

  38. KJones says:

    If you’re going to “rent it” on retail rental, RENT IT. Let people purchase the item at full price, then return it for a restocking fee, say 3%.

    The renter gets what he wants (use for a short time), the store gets what it wants (revenue, and the full price as a deposit), and if the item is damaged, the next buyer (probably a real buyer) can be protected against an item being sold damaged, much like buying refurbished items.

    The “manager” isn’t too bright because he does not recognize the cost in labour and time of his staff to process the “sale” and return. The idea that it’s “victimless” is laughable.

  39. Binaryslyder says:

    @KJones: Your assuming their paid hourly and not commission.

    By being nice and friendly at the return juncture, your attempting to ensure that the customer comes back and actually buys something.

  40. elangomatt says:

    @iliveinyoureyelid: You are describing two different things in your post. I feel that your habit of buying a laptop, evaluating it and not liking something and returning it is ok (no doubt the stores don’t like it, but that is a different issue) I think this practice is perfectly fine because you have ultimate intent of keeping a laptop. Your purchase of a high end SLR camera with the INTENT to return it after vacation though is classic retail renting and is unethical.

    As for the manager in the article, I put him and his store up on the same level as geek squad going through your computer looking for pictures and music. Most people probably don’t know that the retail renting thing is happening and it really doesn’t hurt anyone (assuming that all of the rentals are as pristine as he says, which I doubt) but it is ultimately taking advantage of honest customers.

    The manager in the article mentions his former manager that “rented” her printer, I wonder if she used the ink cartridges that came with her recently “rented” printer each time? If she did, I think she crossed the line from retail renting to plain theft since the next customer would not get to use the ink that their “new” printer is supposed to come with.

  41. elangomatt says:

    @Binaryslyder: Nope, I’m not against downloading music/apps/movies as long as it is legal. I am most definitely against people who ILLEGALLY download music/apps/movies because they are STEALING.

  42. elango says:

    @Binaryslyder: restocking fees are to deter the “retail renters” from doing their thing and restocking fees just hurt the honest consumer that just didn’t like what they bought.

  43. BrockBrockman says:

    “… because the item is as good as new.”

    Blech. One person’s “as good as new” is another person’s “covered in cooties.”

    There’s a reason retail items lose value once they are out “of the box.” Because somebody else’s grubby hands touched and used it.

    And I don’t follow the “if you don’t like retail renting you must not like downloading music” analogy. As non sequiturs go, that’s like me saying “if you like retail renting then you must also like tainted Chinese toys.”

  44. Aladdyn says:

    @Binaryslyder: by any chance were you helping them move from their trailer?

  45. Aladdyn says:

    @youfatduck: ^^^^^^
    that was meant to be a reply to you. oops

  46. @lemur: Agree on the use-what-you-sell, but there are ways to do that, like having store items that the salesmen use in the store (sold discounted when they’re no longer the hot sales model), or perhaps can borrow and take home (with it coming out of their paycheck if they lose it); as for the printer, it seems to me one of the perks that low-level employees should get is a certain amount of access to a printer for personal printing.

    (Side note: the best places I worked at minimum wage made office equipment reasonably available for a reasonable amount of personal use. Those places always had the highest morale and people didn’t take unfair advantage of it. Places where “stealing paperclips” was verboten, and you couldn’t make a quick call on the store phones (before cells), folks were always trying to beat the system and scam the management.)

    Another problem retail renting creates that’s only been touched on tangentially above is for people who legitimately buy things and return them UNUSED (I’ll buy a couple shirts for my husband with the intent of returning the one he doesn’t like, still in package), or who buy things, use them, and discover they’re totally unsuited for their needs, and would like to return them. When people rent-and-return, it makes it that much harder for people to legitimately return for reasons that fall within the return policy.

  47. gStein_*|bringing starpipe back|* says:

    did everybody else miss this?
    But that’s what you get for disregarding how serious I take returns.
    he takes returns very seriously.

  48. SuperJdynamite says:

    I call shenanigans. This manager wasn’t fiscally responsible for the inventory and didn’t have explicit corporate authority to endorse “renting”, so who cares?

    I’ll bet you can’t find a small store owner or Ritz corporate hack who endorses “renting”.

  49. Skeptic says:

    “Binaryslyder at 01:25 PM Reply
    @Skeptic: Don’t restocking fee’s counteract that? If not, what are they for?”

    Yes. Restocking fees are, in large part, a reaction to scummy “retail renters.” They are an example of how retail renting hurts honest customers, who now have to pay a restocking fee for legitimate returns.

    If you need to rent something, then RENT IT, don’t pretend to buy it and return it, costing real customers real money in the form of higher prices, restocking fees and stricter return policies for legitimate returns. Yeah, renting is expensive. That’s the amount you are stealing by “retail renting.”

  50. Eilonwynn says:

    I personally love Black’s policy that expressly ENCOURAGES renting – they “love it or leave it” guarantee, wherein, if you buy a camera, and hate, for example, nikon’s obnoxious low-end dslr package lens, you can then find something else, as long as you do it within 2 weeks. Try it out all you like, and even if you end up returning one and buying another one exactly the same, they’ll pricematch it just so you get it at their store. For photographers, it’s *wonderful.*

  51. ClayS says:

    “I think they can handle restocking a camera on their own dime.”

    That’s not my quote, so don’t give me a lecture.

  52. mcjake says:

    Wow… Consumerist readers think pretty highly of themselves. I wonder how many of them are running torrents right now as they are trashing this guy.

  53. I’m in sales, and I would never sell a customer a used or opened item without telling them it’s not in pristine condition. I mean, jeez, who does this guy think he’s fooling?

  54. Skeptic says:

    by mcjake at 03:41 PM Reply
    Wow… Consumerist readers think pretty highly of themselves. I wonder how many of them are running torrents right now as they are trashing this guy.

    Translation: “I don’t have a logical argument but I want to say something anyway.”

  55. crazylady says:

    @iliveinyoureyelid: That sucks about the lens, but if you needed a dslr for a short amount of time, why didn’t you just rent one? It’s less questionable than retail renting.

    Also, how on earth do you go laptop shopping without knowing the full specs and “layout”, whatever that is, if you actually want a laptop and that kind of stuff matters? Unless it’s some custom built thing the full specs of said laptop should be available easily online. Then at that point one of the only other things that matters is design/weight/shape and other things of a physical nature, and even that may be moot if there are demo units on hand.

    @Binaryslyder: But all the camera stores I have been to (when shopping for my last one, which I wanted to try before possibly ordering online for best prices/selection) had demo units on display I could play with. If they don’t have a demo unit and the item in question is popular enough, they should just open a new one and make that the demo unit. You can’t rationally expect a customer to not try out the item in question before purchasing, and it’s quite odd when there is no demo unit!

    • FLEB says:

      @crazylady: Also, how on earth do you go laptop shopping without knowing the full specs and “layout”, whatever that is

      Layout, especially of things like the keyboard and peripheral ports, can be important. Ports that are in a bad place or too close together may cause issues that can’t really be explained in the product literature. I’ve personally used a cheaper laptop (not mine– work computer) that had such a crammed-in keyboard layout that I ended up just buying an external keyboard and using it instead. (the page up/down keys, the backspace, backslash, and Enter were all in odd positions, if I recall correctly). Sometimes, small but constantly aggravating things like that just can’t be found except by using the device.

  56. Traveshamockery says:

    @ClayS: “That’s not my quote, so don’t give me a lecture.”

    Obviously my comments weren’t intended to be directed towards you – my apologies – I hit the wrong button. Binaryslyder was the intended recipient.

    I really wish they had an edit feature on these posts.

  57. Traveshamockery says:

    @Binaryslyder: I’m not really intending to defend Ritz – I have no firsthand experience with their stores. It just seemed to me that you were attacking a store’s right to make a profit.

  58. ClayS says:

    No problem.

    “Companies have a net profit margin they must make to stay in business – if that is encroached upon, they’ll just raise the price.”

    That statement is right on target.

  59. Johann says:

    Do I understand this right? The guy says he doesn’t mind “retail renting” but then he says his customers need every tiny piece of packaging to do a return?

    So, the people who buy with the intention of returning something will keep every little piece of wrapping, but the person who buys with the intention of keeping an item and has to do a return for some unforeseen reason — he might not still have all the packaging, and he’ll be screwed? Screwed because this store treats all returned items like they’re brand new and it’ll be obvious something is used without all the packaging?

    This sounds friendly to retail renters, and not-so-friendly to normal honest customers.

  60. Traveshamockery says:

    @Binaryslyder: “when I retail “rent,” I don’t do anything dishonest.”

    That’s a contradictory sentence – retail renting is dishonest, period.

    “Second, if Ritz or other companies were so damned concerned about net profits and profit margins, they’d put things like fax machines and copiers in their stores instead of requiring them to pay other stores for their use. I requested a copy of a reciept once from Ritz. The employee joked that he had to drive 10 minutes over to kinkos to make me a 10 cent copy.”

    Are you kidding me? So you’re rationalizing stealing this store’s profits because they’re not perfectly efficient?

  61. iliveinyoureyelid says:


    Often times, when I have been checking laptops, they look fine and feel fine in store. After a short amount of use you begin to notice some of the subtleties of each one. Sometimes the keys, locks, pieces feel cheap after a little use. Sometimes the spacing of buttons, etc. is poorly thought out etc. Sure I could live with it, but I don’t want to and at least for now, I don’t have to.

    As far as specs go, I have found that more than a few times, Futureshop in particular, misrepresents the amount of ram, or other specs, and it is only after some use and increased digging it becomes apparent.I don’t feel overly sorry for returning something that wasn’t what I thought I was buying in the first place.

    Re: the Camera. I actually didn’t mind having to buy it.

  62. Traveshamockery says:

    @Binaryslyder: “I suppose all of you against retail renting are also against downloading music/apps/movies as well? Just checking. “

    Yes, shockingly I support the idea that people should be paid for their work, even if they already have millions of dollars.

    Based on your comment, I suppose that you feel free to help yourself to any amount of illicit, unpaid-for, copyrighted content?

  63. Quirkycat says:

    @MARTHA__JONES: I don’t understand: why can’t clothing be sold as worn? After all, every time someone tries it on in the changing room it’s worn, no? Surely people do expect clothing to be worn before, maybe not as a return but there’s not THAT much difference, to be honest …

    This isn’t a justification, by the by, I’m just curious as to what you meant.

  64. Traveshamockery says:

    @iliveinyoureyelid: Buying a product and then returning it because you’re dissatisfied is one thing…retail renting is another. If you bought the laptop with the strict intention of keeping it, then found things you didn’t like, that are deal breakers, I don’t blame you for returning.

    Retail renting isn’t an action as much as it is an intent – the intent, to me, determines whether it’s ethical or not.

  65. wellfleet says:

    Haven’t downloaded so much as a jingle without paying for it since I managed a cd/dvd retailer and saw how downloading killed our business. Our store was staffed with music and movie buffs who loved nothing more than turning people on to new tunes. It broke my heart every time I heard “Oh this is awesome, I’m gonna download it.” By downloading without paying, you’re not just sticking it to the man (i.e. wealthy execs and artists) you’re also screwing the men and women who work in manufacturing CDs, delivery, A&R, mailroom clerks, etc.
    If you look, there’s always a victim.
    To you who don’t feel there’s anything unethical about renting, why don’t you tell the retailer your intentions?

  66. TPS Reporter says:

    To the people who say they try stuff out, decide they don’t like it and get a different version, size etc. This isn’t retail renting. You wind up buying something like what you bought in the 1st place. People buy something, get it home and maybe right away or a week later go “Man, this isn’t what I wanted at all” and return it. Retail renting is stealing, because you get all your money back, so you get to use something for a time period for free. It’s not like buying a camera for a vacation, using it and deciding that you hate the way it works, then returning it and getting a better or different camera. That’s ok in my opinion.

  67. sir_eccles says:

    @Quirkycat: I think there is a big difference between try some clothes on for a few minutes in the shop and taking something home, wearing it out to a fancy dinner, potentially spilling something on it, throwing it on the floor as you get home and letting a flea ridden cat sleep on it before you decide to take it back because you only needed it for the fancy dinner. For example.

  68. manevitch says:

    Gaining benefit from a product that is for sale, without paying for it, is theft.

    That’s all there is to it.

  69. flconsumer2 says:


    You’re right that there are victims. I agree that it is also unethical. But as for who the victims are possibly the manager is one due to the possibility of lost bonuses. I do very much doubt the employees will be hurt by this though. Most corporations would not return a significant percentage of recovery back to the employees in the form of wages or bonuses. They will instead keep it for the company and the shareholders. Sure it might affect them, but probably not. So what do they care. They are usually just low wage slaves being taken advantage of and they know it.

  70. tankgirl says:

    a few years back i took a seasonal job at chapters (big canadian chain bookstore) – was really shocked to discover that all staff are fully permitted to basically treat the entire store as a library. they have a sign-out binder and you just take whatever you want and bring it back whenever you want, given that it’s in ‘as new’ condition. that, coupled with an extremely lax return policy, means that a really significant portion of their books are totally used, man – and you really have no idea where they’ve been. hand sanitizer, anyone?

  71. William C Bonner says:

    I read this and pretty much decided I don’t want to go to any store that this person has worked at.

    When I buy a new item, I want to be the person breaking that factory seal. If I’m not the one to break the seal, I want to get some discount.

    My credit card purchase protection insurance doesn’t cover items that are not brand new. That means that it doesn’t cover factory refurbished, or open box items.

    I’ve used the credit card insurance several times in the past when the manufacturer warranty has just expired and the product has died.

  72. angrycandy says:

    Seems to me companies should make rental official for cameras and other large items – just give 90% of money back if it’s returned within a month. Benefits the store, and allows the customer to see if the thing really works.

  73. XTC46 says:

    this guy is just a sleeze. I have worked in electronics stores and agree that the people selling the equipment need to be experienced with it. The way this is achieved correctly is opening a new one, and let employees play with it, then set it out as a demo. You let the same one be used over and over by everyone and sell only unopened brand new items. when the equipment will no longer be carried you sell the demo at a discounted price. The cost of the demo is taken into consideration when deciding to carry an item. So if an item costs $500 and you sell them for $600 you need to sell 5 before breaking even, if you cant sell 10 you don’t sell it because there is no profit.

  74. sventurata says:

    Finally, Consumerist abandons “blame the victim” for “blame the victimless crime” debates. Latent libertarians, now’s your chance to speak.

  75. RedSonSuperDave says:

    @manevitch: Gaining benefit from a product that is for sale, without paying for it, is theft.

    Wrong. Walking out of a store with merchandise that you didn’t pay for is theft. If a music store’s playing a CD and you stand there and listen to the song, and then walk out of the store singing the song you just listened to, are you a thief? Maybe in the eyes of the RIAA.

  76. omgretail says:

    PLEASE don’t get me started on Ritz…


    I would never buy a camera there unless I personally had recieved it in a shipment. There’s no telling what has happened to the camera before it’s been sold to you IN THE PACKAGE. They will sell you items that have been opened and put on display. Even items that have been damaged cosmetically, ALL FOR THE ORIGINAL PRICE. Everything said on this forum is absolutely true of this company. Who knows how they stay in business. Although I don’t condone retail renting, I would say, please do this to Ritz and put them out of business.

    Number 1, David Ritz is a douche. They run their operation of 1000+ stores like a mom and pop shop. This doesnt really make sense as it is a detriment to future business AND the customer. They underpay their many knowledgable employees and force them to sell ridiculous things like damage protection programs and BIG PRINT YOU (oversized prints, THE NAME MAKES NO SENSE!!!).

    Also, good luck with customer service. Most employees are very poorly trained in most customer service areas. Everything outside of the stores (AKA Beltsville Maryland) runs off the back asswards 9-5 routine making it usually impossible to get anything accomplished in the evening OR on the weekends (Esp with three hours difference here on the West Coast). Finally, if you are paranoid about identity theft, you’ll love knowing that they still use carbon paper to make copies of your credit cards. Those valuable slips of paper stick around in the store for a week!

    To finish I would like to remind you that Ritz really does have the most lax return policy. Sure it’s 10 days for equipment, 30 days for everything else, but no one in the store usually goes by that, and unlike Target or Evil Best Buy, Ritz doesn’t have specialized customer service employees. Joe Bob that sells you your camera also does the money/transaction counting and prints your pictures.


  77. Shadowman615 says:

    No, Carey, some jackass retail manager did not change my opinion on “retail renting” just because he approves of it. Sounds like he is just looking for ways to delude himself into believing his actions are ethical.

  78. Benny Gesserit says:

    For me, “rent” seems to be the wrong term as it implies a mutual agreement with fees and, yes, consequences. Yeah, we should call it something else.

    I know! Temporary Theft!

  79. ennTOXX says:

    Why not just RENT the god damn thing & get it over with?… :||

  80. lr0405 says:

    After reading all of the responses, I’m gathering the following:

    1. It is not OK to retail rent.
    2. It is OK to be an ‘honest consumer’ and buy a product, use it at home for a week, decide you don’t like it and bring it back for a full refund.

    What is the difference? Is it because when I go into a store I’m not thinking I’m going to return this in 2 days, 1 week, etc.?

    The company I’m returning the product to is not going to say, ‘OK, you were an ‘honest consumer’ and you hadn’t initially intended to return this product, so we are going to put this for sale as an Open Box Item.’ No, they are going to sell it for the EXACT same price regardless if I retail rent it or if I just plain return it because it was not what I expected.

  81. @lr0405: “1. It is not OK to retail rent.
    2. It is OK to be an ‘honest consumer’ and buy a product, use it at home for a week, decide you don’t like it and bring it back for a full refund.”

    It’s a question of intent, which admittedly makes the ethics a little murky. To give a much larger example, if you’re horsing around with a friend, give him a playful shove, and he falls into the street and gets run over, we analyze that very differently than if you turn to your friend with murder in your heart and push him into traffic on purpose. Both situations look very much the same, except for your intent — in one case, it was an accident; in the other, you acted with malicious intent.

    Retail has for a long time allowed you to take something home and return it if it doesn’t suit. Perhaps you’re buying a new outfit and want to get your spouse’s/best friend’s/mother’s opinion on it. Or (perhaps more common these days), mom goes out and buys a selection of stuff for one of her over-scheduled kids to try on at home so she doesn’t have to coordinate an entire shopping extravaganza. The stores say that’s fair. Buying an outfit, wearing it out, and then returning it (often damaged) is not — unless there is something very wrong with the outfit that you did not notice until first wearing. (And a lot of stores won’t let you return even then, precisely because of retail renters who do wear stuff out, damage it, and return it.)

    Then we get into electronics, which is trickier. It truly is difficult to know if some piece of electronic equipment works for you until you get it out of the box and play with it (demo items are good!), put it where it’s going to live, etc. Most retailers do want you to be able to return when you discover “Woah, this isn’t what I wanted at all!” because who’s going to drop $500 on technology they’ve never tried before if they can’t return it if it turns out to be too complicated or have the wrong features?

    This does, however, open up the possibility of retail rental, where someone buys ON PURPOSE with the intent of using and returning.

    I suppose the practical difference is that someone who buys, finds a problem, and returns is going to return maybe 1 in 10 purchases (and is likely to purchase a different version of the same item). That’s a cost of doing business the store is willing to absorb. A retail renter, on the other hand, is returning 10 in 10 purchases; consistently costing the store money instead of making the store money; and eventually raising prices and leading to more restrictive return policies for shoppers who DON’T game the system.

    (I also have a moral problem with opened items being sold as “new,” but that’s on the store’s head, not the retail renter’s.)

  82. beboptheflop says:

    I use to be a Homestore manager of a Federated Dept store before they all became Macy*s, and our return policy was accept the return no matter what, as long as they had their receipt. Needless to say, I had quite a few customers that took advantage of that policy. One customer returned 13 year old All-Clad cookware that had been used. She then proceeded to William Sonoma for an upgrade. People would come in after being married for several years and return all their china from their wedding because they never used it. When you return something to a store, it should be for legitimate reasons: wrong fit, broken, impulse buy, changed mind; anything else it stealing and the ones who do, know it.

  83. yodizzle says:

    I think it’s theft, plain and simple. It’s deception. It’s also the reason why a lot of smaller stores who rely on less income don’t have a return policy. Victimless crime, my ass.

  84. Comms says:

    I’ve retail-rented for years but I generally only do it for things I need only once or for a very short time. For example, I needed a 20 foot ladder once to get something out of an attic. I don’t normally need a ladder that big. First, I called around to see if I could borrow one. No one had one. Next I considered whether I could actually use a ladder that big more than once. The answer was no. So I went to a hardware store, bought the ladder I needed, used it, cleaned it, made sure it wasn’t damaged in any way and returned it.

    In all honesty, the store never lost any sales from me because if I couldn’t return the ladder I wouldn’t have purchased it in the first place. I would have found another solution to the problem. Retail-rental in the situation was simply the easiest and most expedient solution to my problem.

    I’m not rationalizing. I know most of you think I’m a thief and, quite frankly, I don’t care. I happy knowing I don’t have to spend $100 on a ladder I only need to use once.

  85. Seeräuber Jenny says:


    Meetya at the convent.

    Oh, and now I have suspicions about that heart rate monitor I bought at the sporting goods store a few weeks ago. The box was a bit beat up, but the clerk claimed it was new.

  86. NikkorMatt says:

    Another thing that seems to be overlooked (unless I over looked it being mentioned) is that using a Credit Card cost the store money too. So if you return an item and the store does not charge a restocking fee than its out 3 to 5% of that sale in addition to the % that the sale cost as well. On some electronic goods the margin is so little it pratically costs the merchant to sell the item when a CC is used.

    Another thing that costs the store is the man hours neccasary to process the return (check box contents, process return through system, issue CC or check/cash return, restock item)

    Retail renting is not a victim less crime. It costs the store money and in return costs honest customers because stores have to charge more to cover losses.

  87. nardo218 says:

    Add another tick to the “retail renting IS a victim-ful crime” column. I don’t want used goods, ta.

    Jezebel Eds, thanks for transcribing this im convo, it was v pleasant to read.

  88. nardo218 says:

    @wellfleet: I’d hazard that s/he got fired for ‘renting’ and is now excusing zir crime with this interview.

  89. EmperorOfCanada says:

    So, has anyone here ever bought a new car? Do you honestly think you are the only one to have sat in it? You dont think it has been driven at all? Or do you not consider that buying new?

  90. sheallegedlysaid says:

    Retail renting is just a low rent thing to do. There is no justification for it. People that abuse it and/or make a practice of it have no breeding whatsoever.

  91. @Comms: “I would have found another solution to the problem. “

    You could have done. Call Rent-a-Tool or your local equivalent. And don’t be a jerk.

  92. adam_h says:

    Making a habit out of it is indicative of downright douchebaggery.

  93. Jeneni says:

    I would be REALLY pissed to find out I bought a printer, even as used or refurbished, that someone had been renting for months. There IS a victim, and it’s the honest consumers who buy the products after they’ve been used.

  94. dj-anakin says:


    Ya, I don’t know why they took part of his check away. The woman was 15 days over the return limit, and the item was used.