It’s no secret that rent-to-own giant Rent-a-Center sells computers at an incredible markup, but the company’s new “Pre-Black Friday” deal stands out as one of its worst ever. In a commercial fronted by celebrity spokesmen Hulk Hogan and Troy Aikman, the store promotes a “Pre-Black Friday” deal on a low-end Acer AS5250 notebook that, at $24.99 a week for 52 weeks, ends up costing $1299.48.
The 15.6-inch Acer AS5250 Rent-a-Center sells is spec’ed with a lowly 1-GHz AMD C-50 CPU, 2GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, a 1366 x 768 screen, Windows 7 Home Premium, a .3-megapixel webcam, and a DVD-R drive. Without any sale pricing, Target sells the same Acer AS5250 with 3GB of RAM instead of 2GB for just $349.99. That’s a 371 percent price markup for the privilege of paying in weekly installments.
As with every product it sells, Rent-a-Center allows you to stop paying at any time so you can return the product and lose your investment in it well before the 52-week period ends. However, after just 14 weeks, you’ll have already spent enough to cover the $349.99 this notebook would have cost you at Target.
If you’d rather invest your $24.99 a week in home theater, Rent-a-Center’s other major Pre-Black Friday deal involves a 46-inch Sony KDL46EX523 HDTV that will cost you $2,598.96 over a period of 24 months. Best Buy currently sells the same TV for just $949.99 and the big box retailer even offers an interest-free, 36-month financing plan that amounts to a monthly payment of $27.14 for those who cannot pony up the full amount at purchase time.
Rent-a-Center’s predatory pricing practices have been well documented by outlets such as Consumer Reports and the New York Daily News. “Avoid rent-to-own, even if it means postponing purchases until you can better afford them,” Consumer Reports advises.