This may come as a surprise to some but back in the day, if you wanted something, you saved up the money to buy it. That common sense approach is far less common these days as we’ve morphed into an on-demand, instant gratification society fueled by debt offers from all sorts of retail establishments and banks.
I recently came across a service called Grover that I found quite interesting. Think of it as the Rent-A-Center for all things technology. Immediately, my fiscal responsibility shield went up but upon closer inspection, the service could be useful given the right set of circumstances.
The premise is simple. For a monthly fee, you can rent a wide array of tech gadgets including cameras, wearables, smartphones, laptops, tablets, drones, virtual reality headsets, retro game consoles, headphones and other various gizmos. Their selection really is impressive when you get to looking around.
Shoppers simply select the items they want to rent, check out and they’ll show up within a couple days to a week.
According to Engadget, who recently trialed the service, you can continue to rent the gadget for as long as you want, send it back whenever you want or elect to buy it (30 percent of what you’ve paid to rent it will go towards ownership).
As I mentioned, such a service has its uses. For example, it would be great for an aspiring reviewer, allowing you to get your hands on the latest technology, test it for a month or two then send it back once you’ve written your evaluation. The same scenario largely extends to the average consumer – try out a new gadget for a month to see if you like it enough to buy it outright. Similarly, if you're going on a trip, bringing along a nice set of headphones would make a flight much more enjoyable... or maybe you need a laptop to use during a business trip?
Outside of these and related short-term use scenarios, this probably isn’t a worthwhile service, especially if you fully intend to buy a particular gadget even before renting it. Basically, I’m saying not to use it to finance a purchase because you’re going to pay a lot more in the long run for the opportunity.
I don’t see anywhere on Grover’s website where it says how much it would cost to buy a loaner once you take possession which is a critical bit of information to have missing. If Grover is anything like the typical rental service, again, you’re going to pay an astronomical amount of money in the long run. Don’t believe me?
As a quick example, I found a 55-inch LG 4K Smart TV at Rent-A-Center for only $29.99 per week. In small print, you’ll see that after 104 payments, the set is yours to keep. That works out to $3,118.96 over the course of two years. You can also elect to do 90 days same as cash where, you can pay $1,871.38 within 90 days and own the TV free and clear. That sounds like a much better deal until you realize the TV retails for less than $700 on Amazon.
Again, I don’t know what Grover charges to “buy” a product so it’s hard to make a clear evaluation here but they’re certainly not in the business of selling you something without some sort of markup, that’s for sure. After all, there’s a reason you only see these rent-to-own shops in the poor section of town. Poor people don’t ask how much something costs, they only ask if they can afford to make a payment each month.
That doesn’t even cover the inherent dangers here which are aplenty.
If you lose a rented device or someone steals it, you’re on the hook for the full cost. Grover does appear to offer a damage waiver with a 50 percent deductible although it’s unclear how much the waiver will set you back each month. What’s more, it only covers certain unintentional damage (water damage isn’t covered, for example).
Another risk you take is that your personal information could be exposed to the next renter should you return something like a laptop or a smartphone. Even if you wipe the device, it’s usually possible to scrape data from its storage device. And what about drone rentals? How does Grover handle FAA requirements?
Grover is currently only available in New York City right now. No word yet on when it plans to expand elsewhere within the US.