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Call 'retail renting' what it is: stealing

By Paul McNamara on Fri, 02/22/08 - 8:06am.

Generally speaking, I refrain from pointing to online opinion polls because, well, they suck. However, I'm going to make an exception here because I find it astounding that 12% of some 4,000 respondents to a survey on The Consumerist apparently find nothing wrong with a practice euphemistically called "retail renting" or "wardrobing."

Retail renting and wardrobing really means short-term stealing.

Yesterday's Boston Globe carried a story that examined the practice and included unabashed tales from some doofus who apparently couldn't tell right from wrong if you handed him a cheat sheet.

From the Globe:

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. But to retailers, this is wardrobing, a practice they say is unethical, damaging to their bottom line, and increasingly common.

Oh, stop with the unethical. It's theft, plain and simple. The only difference between this kind of theft and your run-of-the-mill five-fingered discount is the duration of use derived from the ill-gotten gains.

Bet Mr. and Mrs. Deignan were proud to read about their boy.

Which isn't to say ol' Sticky-fingered Jimmy is the only one doing this without remorse. The vast majority of those posting comments to The Consumerist item were clear-headed in their opposition and disdain. But there were a few of these:

Er...depends on how you view things as right and wrong. Some people, myself included, don't see this as wrong because it's within the return guidelines, it's playing by the rules. However, it's wrong in the sense that you buy it knowing full well you're returning it. Perhaps when a restocking fee is required for items like a computer, one would gladly pay this "rental fee". I do this. It's wrong in a sense because you know in advance you're just going to return it, but I wouldn't feel bad about it because someone else can and will still buy it so the retailer isn't out any money.

Proving once again that rationalization can be enormously powerful.

But at least that guy was wrestling with the issue. Over at another forum, on Reddit, I found this beauty:

Depends on who you're 'renting' from. I wouldn't do it from smaller businesses. I call fair game on larger corporations, though, because I believe those are the ones that need to fall.

Want change? Fight for it. Use the large corporations' policies against them.

See, it's not just OK, it's your patriotic duty.

So go ahead and feel free to defend "retail renting" or "wardrobing" or whatever other fig leaf you'd like to put on the practice here.

Just be sure to leave your real name so Mom and Dad can be proud ... and I can call you a doofus.


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