Friday, May 6, 2011

Loan Sharks in Sheep's Clothing



The reason I am writing this post is because, as the nation engages on the discussion of the economy, the poor and the near poor are completely left out of the discussion.  

If you think that the wealthy are becoming wealthier on the backs of the middle classes/working classes, they are also gleaning every possible dime from those who are struggling to survive in or near poverty and are slowly but surely pushing more of us closer to the brink every day.

Getting ensnared in the trap of poverty in America can be as sudden and dangerous as stepping into quicksand - just like in the old westerns.   The harder you try to escape, the deeper you sink.

Case in point.  Here in South Carolina, where we are visiting, a 74 year old retired woman wanted to buy a full size bed so that her daughter and her husband, her son and his partner and her grandson and his wife would have a comfortable place to sleep whenever they came to visit from out of state at least several times during the year.  

As she could not afford a new mattress, box spring and bed frame, she when to Aaron's - a multi-national (mostly USA and Canada) “rent to own” outfit where she was able to “lease” the mattress, a “used” foundation (not a box spring) and a bed frame - valued by Aaron's at close to $600, for $49 per month for TWO YEARS. The total cost to own after two years would be $1176 - nearly 100% interest.  

No, more than 100% interest.  I saw the bed.  I laid on it.  It felt like someone - about a 300 pound someone - had slept on it for the past 20 years.  It was worth, at MOST, $240 and a better quality bed could be purchased at a discount furniture store for $300 or so.  

I went on line to research a bit about Aaron’s.  Judging from the complaints that one can read, most of their customers are, understandably of low income and sometimes have trouble paying their monthly bill.  

They have no credit.  They have no savings.  They are on fixed incomes.  They are single moms, young couples with minimum wage jobs.  They are disabled or unemployable or making a few bucks on odd jobs.  Some are likely on drugs or heavy drinkers.  Some have medical issues or are elderly.

Aaron’s and other similar places are welcoming and friendly and have what you are looking for and of course offer “FREE DELIVERY”.  They think or want us (the community) to think they are “providing a service” to low-income folks, allowing them an opportunity to have furniture, appliances, flat screen TVs and even computers that they cannot get at a retail store because they cannot pay cash and have no credit card.  They even have a “$100 off if you can find THE SAME ITEM FOR LESS” but have no shame in admitting, when asked, “You won’t, because we manufacture our own products.”

This “service” is bullshit.  These people have real contempt for the poor.  They laugh at those who get snared in their trap.  They are real bottom feeders.  

These people are operating legally as LOAN SHARKS.  I have no doubt that they know -THAT THEY IN FACT COUNT ON – the fact that a certain percentage of their customers will “default” -  have a late payment or miss a payment.  They can then impose “late payment fees” in addition to their outrageous rental fees - which will often result in a “missed payment” and ultimate repossession.

Oh, they have fancy contracts with everything spelled out, all legal-like.  Just sign on the line.  They count on the fact that many people do not read their contract.  And they quickly send out their thugs, their wolves to pound on the door, harass, and repossess.  

How quickly an unsuspecting customer can loose what little cash, income and dignity they possess at the hands of these thieves and get deeper and deeper into debt.  This is ursury, plain and simple and should be illegal.  Tell me, how does this business help our economy?

Thanks to our dog Benni, who has just been de-gonaded at the local vet for $380 less than at our vet up north, we were able to get the bed returned, buy out the contract and purchase a new bed for our special lady at the local discount furniture store.

And, in researching these scumbags, I found that there is a class action suit against them for using web-cams and key-loggers on the computers they rent out – and actually taking photos of customers as they use their computers!  Hope they shut them down.



7 comments:

Mitch Block said...

You guys are my new heroes! And thanks for spreading the word about Aaron's.

FDeF said...

No heros here. Just guys.

Bob said...

It wasn't but a week after we moved to South Carolina that we heard you do NOT shop at Aaron's.
And we never have.

Mark said...

I see this store around PA too but I never went into one. I feel for those who need to buy used mattresses. I don't even want to imagine. I also know that they rent out those huge T.V.s. Those, to me, are a luxury. Some of the poorest people have these huge t.v.s and I often wonder why they waste their money, or money they don't have, to rent these televisions?
On HGTV, they have shows where people are trying to sell their homes and rent furniture. I think rental places are great for that. But you are right, they do take advantage of those that struggle. And if I may, I think most of the clerks in there are probably struggling too.
I know, they was a long comment. Sorry about that.
Take care.
m.

FDeF said...

My theory "pleasures of the poor" is that many poor people spend money as soon as they get it - on things that give them immediate gratification (TV's, cigarettes, booze). If they hold on to what little money they get or earn someone will quickly beg, borrow or steal it or their debtors will demand it in payment. They can't take what you don't have.

Russ Manley said...

I never thought of it quite in those terms before, but you're right to call them loan sharks. There is no end to the ingenuity that goes into preying on the poor, is there?

FDeF said...

And this is the Republican/Tea Party agenda at work. The more I read, the more I am convinced that the insidious Aynrandian philosophy is at the root of Tea-Republican's plan to divest America of any and all compassion and care for neighbor. All that matters is the Almighty Dollar and the ability to acquire more.

Education needs to play a larger role in fighting poverty too, however. We need to teach children how to manage finances, how not to get ripped off, how taking care of their persons and property "pays off" and other practical skills.

The wealthy corporations take ignorance into account in planning their schemes to suck people dry.

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