Manitoba

Manitoba couple pays steep price for rent-to-own goods

Tom and Debbie McKercher have the latest in electronics and a house full of new furniture, but it all came at a hefty price for the Manitoba couple as they spent more than $20,000 at rent-to-own stores over the past four years.

'You don’t realize what you’re getting yourself into,' says Debbie McKercher

Debbie McKercher uses a washer-dryer that she is renting from an easyhome rent-to-own store in Winnipeg. (CBC)

Tom and Debbie McKercher have the latest in electronics and a house full of new furniture, but it all came at a hefty price.

The Manitoba couple spent more than $20,000 at rent-to-own stores in the past four years because both of them had a poor credit rating that wouldn't allowed them to shop traditional retail.

They turned to easyhome mostly because the store seemed to want their business.

"They weren't prejudiced against us for not having credit," Debbie McKercher said. "It was easy to sign up."

And sign up they did. First a fridge, then a laptop, washer-dryer and recliner chair. Eventually, they added sofas, a home theatre set and a camera.

They were paying more than $600 a month at one point and the amount of goods they could get seemed limitless.

"They would allow you up to $1,500" in monthly lease payments, Tom McKercher said.

"I don't think that even with both of us working, we would have enough to pay up to $1,500."

Tom lost his job last year and now they are living on Debbie's paycheque, which is $1,600 per month.

Because they couldn't dig out of the financial hole they were in, a relative helped pay off all the easyhome debts.

'We would overload them,' ex-manager admits

Brad Scott, who managed an Aaron's store in Alberta for six years, said in his experience, customers often got in over their heads.

"We would overload them with products," he said. "They would add more products than they could possibly afford."

Brad Scott, who managed an Aaron's rent-to-own store in Alberta for six years, says the industry lost its appeal for him. (CBC)
Scott admits that he took advantage of people to increase his bonuses, but the industry lost appeal for him.

"These people were in a situation where they wouldn't necessarily have any other options," he said. "Everybody can get approved."

Debbie McKercher said she didn't realize how much the small biweekly payments were adding up to.

"It seemed little when you're only paying payments every two weeks." she said.

The company declined an interview but in an email, easyhome said while the total cost to a customer over the life of their agreements is greater than retail but their pricing includes many services.

These include no credit check, no down payment, delivery, installation set-up, full warranty, optional upgrades, no hassle returns, loaner merchandise and pick at the end of the lease.

"Of course it should be regulated," said Debbie McKercher. "Because like us, you don't realize what you're getting yourself into."

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