Man Sets Himself On Fire At Rent-A-Center After Receiving Too Many Late Payment Notices

There are lots of good ways to escalate your complaints. Going to the store, dousing yourself with lighter fluid and setting yourself on fire is not one of them. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what one Newark, NJ man did after becoming frustrated with the amount of late payment notices and collection calls he was receiving from Rent-A-Center.

“He basically pulled out a bottle of lighter fluid, poured it all over his body, pulled out a cigarette lighter and lit himself on fire,” Bloomfield Police Capt. Chris Goul said.

The man, 62-year-old Emilio Saladriagas, entered the Bloomfield Rent-A-Center location Tuesday and asked to speak to a supervisor about the late payment notices and collection calls, says the Star-Ledger. When a manager was not available, he pulled out the lighter fluid.

Employees doused him with water and he is now in stable condition at the burn unit of a local hospital. He has not been charged with a crime because he did not make “overt or criminal” actions to harm anyone but himself, according to police. The employees are receiving counseling.

“We don’t know if he had mental health issues or what sparked it,” [police] said. “Employees said he’d always been a nice man.”

If you’re in debt and having a hard time dealing with the collection calls and notices, there’s help available. The first thing to do is to familiarize yourself with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (PDF). If you’re being harassed, you can sent a letter to the debt collector demanding that they stop contacting you. They do not have the right to keep contacting you simply to try to get you to pay. You can also do a little research and locate some free or low cost legal help in your area. If you have a lawyer, the debt collectors are required to contact the attorney instead of you. If the debt collectors don’t follow these rules, you can sue them! Not being able to pay your bills can be a humiliating experience, but don’t give up.

Newark man sets himself on fire [Star-Ledger] (Thanks, Andrew!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. RabbitDinner says:

    Reminds me of the buddhist monk (or whatever) who set himself on fire to protest the Vietnam War. Maybe this could be the cover of a new Rage Against the Machine album, if they get around to making one

  2. Ahoatam says:

    Rent-A-Center is truly the hottest way to waste your money.

  3. camman68 says:

    I thought the lighter “sparked” it?

  4. bohemian says:

    I had a friend during my college years that bought a bunch of stuff from RAC. She was constantly behind on payments and they would call her repeatedly just during the short time I was over and harass her on the phone. Another time I was there they showed up at her house banging on her door, she refused to answer the door. I don’t know why or how someone would put themselves through that.
    I can see where it could cause someone to snap if it was done on a daily basis.

  5. snoop-blog says:

    Well surely when he gets home from the hospital he’s gonna have rent-a-center on his machine asking about his late payments.

  6. Parapraxis says:


    you know, when they cremated him afterwards (no joke), for some reason his heart wouldn’t burn.

    now I don’t know if it’s just an urban legend or not, but I think there’s footage sitting around somewhere of the crucible itself showing the heart staying intact.

  7. Seriously, lighter fluid? Maybe gasoline. Lighter fluid would be enough to self-emolument yourself. I hope this guy didn’t read the story about the lady who shot herself cuz they foreclosed on her house. Maybe he read about how in Japan, if you kill yourself, your debts are forgiven. It’s why their suicide rate has jumped as of late.

  8. Nick1693 says:

    Oh my. This is horrible! I’ve heard of some bad debt collectors, but wow.

  9. theblackdog says:

    @Parapraxis: I’m trying, but I can’t find anything on Snopes to confirm or deny that story.

  10. laserjobs says:

    This guy sounds like he fails at most everything he does

  11. redragon104 says:


    Stealing from the poor so you don’t have to.

  12. LadyNo says:

    Self immolation is such a horrible thing, this man must have some major psychiatric issues. I hope he gets the help he needs.

  13. As a side note, they make no mention of the gentleman’s mental condition. They say he was sent form letters, which I doubt was of such a volume to cause suicide. On a side note, my Father was a Newark Police officer who was wounded in the line of duty when a nut job set his own house on fire. My Father ran in to save him, and he caught him in the leg with a hammer. They got the guy out, and after a few weeks w/a cane, he was pretty much fine. I don’t know what happened to Mr. Nut Job. Perhaps this was him. I’m guessing if he was in deep w/RAC, he may have been in deep w/others, and RAC was the closest one to complain to in person.

  14. GothGirl says:

    RAC type places are right up there with “pay day advance” or “title loans” in the way they take advantage of people who really can’t afford to be taken advantage of. We need a stronger educational curriculum early in public schools.. to teach children how credit words… and how to save.

  15. Parapraxis says:


    found something…


    apparently, the heart is considered a holy relic, and is on display in a monastery in vietnam.

    I should go visit it…

  16. MasterShazbot says:


    The monk’s name was Thích Quảng Đức and his heart is kept at Xa Loi Pagoda

  17. moore850 says:

    So, did they forgive the debt or no?

  18. HueyFreeman says:
  19. stre says:

    @RabbitDinner: it’s certainly not as isolated as one guy during the vietnam war. it’s been a style of protest for quite some time and happened recently in tibet, i believe.

    @Parapraxis: i doubt you’re going to find anything on the guys heart, because i believe it’s an urban myth.

    @Git Em SteveDave is a poor substitute for LindsayJoy: why wouldn’t lighter fluid work? i’ve seen it used in minor stunts that deal with lighting a person on fire. the fire may not last as long, but it would certainly be enough to cause significant damage before you were extinguished. and in japan, the family of someone who commits suicide still gets to collect insurance, unlike in the US, which is another reason suicide rates have gone up.
    (p.s. it’s “immolate”, not “emolument”, which is compensation for services, basically a salary. unless you were going for some sort of pun, in which case you’re over my head)

  20. Jesse says:

    I guess he had a burning desire to speak up.

  21. Anonymously says:

    Seems like a reasonable response to me.

  22. RabbitDinner says:

    @stre: I know, but the first thing that came to mind was the monk on the cover of the first RATM album. []

  23. stre says:

    @Parapraxis: well i’ll be damned. i’d always thought that was just a urban legend.

  24. The Great Aussie Evil says:

    Maybe he was planning to burn down the building, using himself as a human match?

  25. RStewie says:

    OMG. I can’t help myself. I’m going to hazard a guess that the cigarette lighter is what “sparked it”…

    please don’t bann me.

  26. civicmon says:

    The collection notice part at the bottom may be inaccurate. Chances are that in this case, Rent-a-center is the original creditor. The FDCPA does not -entirely- apply since they are not legally obligated to stop calling when writing etc. They still cannot call during certain times.

    The FDCPA only concerns debt that has been handed to a third-party collector inc. debt that has been bought/sold or a debt collector hired by the lender. Now rent-a-center may have a third-party collector but even then, this is secured debt and if the man who set himself on fire still have possession of the goods, it’s really a collateralized loan.

  27. poetry1mind says:

    This is insane. Now people are killing or hurthing themselves becaues they can’t pay their bills. Just last week, a woman in Boston committed suicide, faxed the mortgage company a note and them basically that by the time they receive the letter, she would be dead. Her house was facing foreclosure. While I feel terribly sorry for those facing rough times, I have to wonder when will it all stop. Who even rents from rent a center anymore? Their obviously robbing customers!

  28. mac-phisto says:

    @RabbitDinner: his name is thay quang duc & the comparison is tragic. his self-immolation was to promote freedom of religion during a time when buddhists were being marginalized, persecuted, imprisoned, tortured & killed for their beliefs.

    yet another sign of how decadent our society has become.

  29. mrgenius says:


    Just a small point of order: your beneficiaries can collect life insurance if you commit suicide. There is just a period of time that must elapse between the inception of the policy and the suicide. Years ago, it was the case that they wouldn’t pay, but a few court cases decided that the families left behind were suffering and ruled that the insurance carriers must pay but the states were entitled to allow for a probation period. If you offed yourself before that period expired then no payout.

    This period of time varies by state, but it’s generally two years. They figure that this is enough time to get over your suicidal tendencies.

    I wonder if rates are higher in Japan because they tend to look at it almost honorably as opposed to here, where it is shamed.

  30. Puck says:


    Well said.

  31. dirtleg says:

    “If you have a lawyer, the debt collectors are required to contact the attorney instead of you.”

    Ha-ha. If I could afford to keep a lawyer on retainer, I probably wouldn’t be falling behind in my payments to RAC. Then again, if I were in a position to have a lawyer on call I wouldn’t have to be buying stuff from loan sharks.

    What do you do if the lawyer comes after you for late payments? Rent some muscle from RAC?

  32. Jaysyn was banned for: says:



    That is pretty neat, thanks.

  33. cmdrsass says:

    @stre: almost all holy relics are fakes.

  34. stevegoz says:

    David Blaine’s latest plea for attention?

  35. bobpence says:

    I wonder if this is over a debt that is continuing to mount rather than something he had already surrendered, maybe some piece-of-crap widescreen that he could have lived without.

  36. RabbitDinner says:

    @mac-phisto: Thank you for the value judgment. Before you go out of earshot back into your ivory tower, know that I was not comparing the statements made by these two individuals, my point was that ostensibly it appeared the same and I wondered perhaps if this man chose to make his statement this way based on this well-known practice

  37. kbarrett says:

    There is one thing that furniture rental places fear more than anything else:

    Telling them to come and retrieve their furniture.

    Rent-to-own is a scam … first late payment, and it becomes just a simply rental with no equity.

    The furniture, once you have been using it, is essentially worthless to them, except as a form of rental income. If they can’t rent it to you, they will probably have to donate it to charity, or otherwise dispose of it.

    Instead of freaking out about rental payments, I would have suggested just telling them to take it … and maybe offering them a few dollars to buy it outright to save them the cost of sending workers and a truck out to retrieve it.

  38. theblackdog says:

    @Parapraxis: @MasterShazbot: Thanks! It’s a very fascinating read.

  39. gliscameria says:

    I’m just glad I wasn’t working that day. My response would have most likely been a WTF face, rub my eyes and walk out the front door muttering “I’m not dealing with this shit”.

  40. cellophane says:

    Once upon a time such acts were reserved for speaking out against political oppression of religious freedoms.

    My how times have changed

  41. mac-phisto says:

    @RabbitDinner: i wasn’t attacking “your” comparison of the two – i was attacking “the” comparison of the two. your statement is completely purposeful & validates thay quang duc’s reasoning behind his immolation.

    meanwhile, mr. rent-a-couch here was probably thinking he’d get a guest appearance on jackass out of it, or figured he’d torch the couch instead of letting them take it & forgot to get his fat ass up out of it first. either way, it’s sad that our society has come to a point where we set ourselves on fire for stuff.

  42. cjones27 says:

    why was bill simmons at rent-a-center?

  43. @GothGirl:

    RAC type places are right up there with “pay day advance” or “title loans” in the way they take advantage of people who really can’t afford to be taken advantage of. We need a stronger educational curriculum early in public schools.. to teach children how credit words… and how to save.

    Amen. I snarl every time I see one of those places.

  44. NitrousO says:

    Theres the wiki article on the monk. Im pretty sure he was one of several monks that burned themselves but is probably the most famous of them.

  45. newfenoix says:

    I hate to admit it, but I dealt with RAC several times in the past and I never had any problems with them BECAUSE I paid on time OR all ways let them know if I was going to be late. As one other reader stated, they don’t like picking up the items that you have. And if you tell them the situation, nine times out of 10 they will work with you. BUT, if you don’t let them know something, they will harass the living hell out of you.

  46. newfenoix says:

    @InfiniTrent: I agree. If you can’t afford to buy a big, fancy what-ever-it-is then you can’t afford to rent one either. I had to go through RAC because my credit was killed by my ex. Gladly, I am no longer in that situation.

  47. RabbitDinner says:

    @mac-phisto: I apologize for calling you ivory towered. I thought you were implying that I in some way glorified his actions and attitudes like mine were a symbol of decadence. I agree, it’s a very powerful way to make a symbol, but actions like this devalue it. Self-serving, attention seeking statements like this are not heroic in the least bit, and serve no purpose

  48. RabbitDinner says:

    @RabbitDinner: er make a statement, not symbol

  49. RabbitDinner says:

    @RabbitDinner: And I agree, unless he is mentally ill this is decadent and gratuitous, through and through.

  50. mac-phisto says:

    @RabbitDinner: not a problem – after reading thru my comment, it does come off as a finger-wagging, doesn’t it? i didn’t mean to wag the finger at you, hence my clarification.

    that is all. *begins long stair climb back to top of tower* XD

  51. Zeniq says:

    Heh. “Sparked it”. Funny.

  52. LostAngeles says:

    Once upon a time, I informed a rude customer that we were closing in 5 minutes (this was at an arcade). She whipped around at me and snapped that I should stop with the attitude.

    I pulled out a can of gasoline, doused her, and threw a lit match, saying, “And I think you should stop being on fire.”

    Then suddenly, I left that beautiful, beautiful alternate reality and said again, “Ma’am, we’ll be closing in 5 minutes,” and walked away.

    (In case you’re wondering, she was already pissed that I told her she could not bring her shopping cart from the store down the strip mall into the arcade.)

  53. oneliketadow says:

    I hope they unplug his phone in the hospital!

  54. Hidin says:

    I’ve not made a comment before but I have to now.

    How can people be so cruel? Two years ago my 38 year old husband shot himself to death while I was out grocery shopping. The note he left said it was due to money problems. Yes, there were some money problems but nothing we could not have straightened out. No he did not have mental problems-you never know what it will take to push a stressed person over the edge.

    My heart goes out to this man and his family.

  55. DeeJayQueue says:

    @newfenoix: sometimes you can’t afford to buy it, but must have it.

    My last apartment didn’t come with a refrigerator. The tenant bought one and took it with him when he moved. I was in a crunch at the time and didn’t have much of an option on where to go (bad credit, not a lot of time to find a better place, etc.).

    I didn’t have the means to put together a couple hundred dollars for a good refrigerator, and I certainly didn’t want to deal with owning one the next time I moved, so I rented one from RAC.

    They were really nice about it, I got a brand new unit and everything. But you miss a payment, and the next morning at 8am they start calling your cell, your work, your parents, anyone you put as a reference to get you to pay up. And they don’t stop. They called me every hour on the hour for 2 days straight to get me to pay them $20 for the week. I’d gone down the shore on friday which was when my payment was due.

    Overall though, I have to say that RAC and Aarons are a humongous scam. They charge you double or triple what the item costs over the course of the rental, and at the end of it you get outdated or cheap crap that you didn’t really want in the first place.

  56. Cary says:

    The funny part here is that RAC doesn’t pay their bills.

    I’m a former vendor… I cut ’em off.

  57. gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

    Its RAC…let the crap go back, if you don’t pay for it and they take it back it doesn’t affect your credit. Geez, a little drastic.

  58. mac-phisto says:

    @Cary: lol. did you call the CEO at home, his parents, his work, his pet’s cell, his daughter’s boarding school, etc.?

  59. GrandizerGo says:

    Hahaha, the cop should do stand up comedy…

  60. TyneGadgie says:

    You think they treat their customers rough, try working for them…