Rent-A-Center; Are You Really Saving?

March 31, 2011 by · Comments Off 

By Logan May

Walk into any apartment or home and stop to look at the furnishing. There are couches, tables, desks, and coffee tables. Are there TVs? Most likely there is a washer and dryer as well. The cost of living is not cheap, especially in this economy, and for many people it is difficult to pay in full for the things in their home. Enter Rent-A-Center.

Rent-A-Center, based in Plano, is the number one rent-to-own business. The business promises no down payments or long-term obligations on furniture, electronics, and appliances. It also offers services to customers with little to no credit. It currently operates about 3,000 stores throughout North America and Puerto Rico.

Rent-A-Center offers name-brand furniture, electronics, appliances and computers with flexible rental purchase agreements, according to its website. Rent-A-Center’s customers, who typically lack traditional credit, rent the products for fixed periods. If they make all the payments on time, they end up owning the piece at the end of the contract.

Sales were slightly down for all of 2010, yet Rent-A-Center seems to be doing a better job at controlling expenses. The cost of merchandise sold is down 13 percent from 2009 and cost of rental and fees are down 2 percent. Excluding one-time charges, the company earned $194 million in 2010, compared to $168 million in 2009.

“They are currently implementing new systems to automate and keep better track of their financial transactions, store performance, and inventory,” says Michael Fontana, Enkitec Technical Consultant. Enkitec is a technology company that provides the designated software for companies like Rent-A-Center.

Noe Flores, a manager at the Rent-A-Center store, has worked for the company for eight years and says the company stands out because it offers a wide variety of payment plans.

But are these payment plans the best option for customers? At this particular location, a Toshiba LCD TV goes for $39.99 per week for 100 payments, or $173.27 per month for 23 payments. This may seem like a great deal for someone unwilling to pay full price for a TV, but it ends up costing $3,999 at the end of the rental plan. At a store like Best Buy, this same LCD TV goes for $749.99. You are saving $3,249 by paying one payment at Best Buy.

In hopes to attract more customers, Rent-A-Center has been expanding its financial services. In 2010, it acquired The Rental Store, which operates almost 150 kiosks. The company expects to add approximately 100 domestic Rent-A-Center Acceptance kiosks in 2011.

But not all customers are happy with the current payment system as seen on websites like Many of the customers on the site complain about the endless number of calls received if a payment is late. One upset customer wrote, “they would call me off the hook if my payment was even close to being due,” and another wrote, “Rent-A-Center is trying to take my computer back because I called them and told them that I would be two days late with the payment.”

Yet, Rent-A-Center continues to do well and 2011 numbers look bright. It still stands as the number one rent-to-own business regardless of they way some consumers feel about it.