Recently, we’ve been getting our collective rocks off making fun of Aaron’s new “Max Your Tax!” ad campaign to bring in customers looking for ways to unwisely spend their tax refunds. As it turns out, companies like Aaron’s and Rent-a-Center are in the Rent-To-Own industry, a service the government characterizes as a service of predatory lenders.
The way their business model works is they market themselves to low-income people with credit problems, let you walk out of the store with big ticket items without putting much down, then hope you are late on a payment by being difficult to reach in order to aggressively shake you down for late fees, sometimes even showing up unannounced at all hours of the night.
Before we go any further, let me clarify that I love free stuff. Free stuff is my lifeblood. I’m not taking any issue with free stuff. But it makes me vulnerable. The Rent-To-Own industry capitalizes on suckers like me who love free stuff as equally as we hate responsibility.
Top 3 things I love:
- Free stuff
- Expensive stuff that I can buy without having the money
- Stuff (all kinds)
Top 3 things I hate:
- Being yelled at
- Paying (for anything)
To put their practice to the test, I decided to put my promise-money where my promise-mouth is and called up Aaron’s to see if they thought I was a good candidate for their services.
Aaron’s: You’re calling Aaron’s, this is Stacy.
Hi Stacy! I saw the “Max Your Tax” commercials on TV and I’m really interested in getting some new stuff. I don’t know much about how you guys work but I have enthusiasm for acquiring electronic gadgets.
Aaron’s: Have you done business with us before?
No, I haven’t.
Aaron’s: Who am I speaking with?
My name is Grant.
Aaron’s: Hi Grant, I’m Stacy from Aaron’s!
I know. Hi Stacy.
Aaron’s: Okay, so we have a 90 same as cash program and generally we start you off with 1 lease agreement for 12 months. You said you were looking for electronics?
Right. See, I’m a blogger for various outlets, and I’m not making what you would call “a lot of money” but I think I need a new tablet or laptop I can bring around to the various Starbuckses and Coffee Beaneries.
Aaron’s: So you need something with speed and reasonable-priced.
I’m less concerned about being reasonable, but I love speed, Stacy. I have a need for it. A need for sp–
Aaron’s: I have a laptop–
Let me finish please. A need for speed, Stacy. Vroom vroom.
Aaron’s: Okay. I have a laptop that would be 89.99 for 12 months, it’s on Windows 8, are you familiar with Windows 8?
Who isn’t familiar with Windows 8? It’s like the town trollop of the operating system world, Stacy!
Aaron’s: The what?
Sorry, that’s blogger speak for Windows 8 would suffice.
Aaron’s: Does this sound good to you? You could go online and download and send your blogs.
What if I need to download the blogs? Does it do that?
Aaron’s: I think s- yes. Yes, it can download blogs.
Does it come with a mainframe?
Aaron’s: I’d… have to check. It has a webcam if you’re into skyping.
I’m not that kind of blogger, Stacy.
Aaron’s: Okay. So we’re running a deal right now, it’s $25 off your first and last month’s payment. Also there’s no credit check, we just have a basic background check. We need 4 references — 3 family, 1 friend, just as long as they don’t all have the same phone number you’re fine — and an employer’s name and phone number.
Does it have to be an employer that pays me money?
Aaron’s: It has to be a verifiable source of income.
I’m mostly paid in cool. Does that count?
Aaron’s: Do you have pay stubs?
I’m sure I could get one.
Aaron’s: Okay, then that’s all we need.
So I’m kind of in this situation right now where I have been known amongst my family, friends, and employers as the guy in our group of friends who always misses his payments. Like every time. We’ll go out to dinner and someone will be like “who’s paying?” and I’m like “not meeee!” and everyone laughs because that’s just kind of my thing, you know? (laughs)
It’s not funny. What happens if I miss a payment?
Aaron’s: Oh, umm. Well, as far as that goes, you know, we want your payment. It’s due on every due date. If you have any issues, you just call the Accounts Department prior to not making any payment and then they would work with you.
Great. That’s all I ask. I just want someone to work with me.
Aaron’s: Where are you located?
I’m in Hollywood, baby.
Aaron’s: Oh.. let me check. (checks) Yeah, we don’t deliver out there. I’ll have to transfer you to our other store.
Oh. Really? I could come pick it up.
Aaron’s: No, no, we deliver.
This feels personal, Stacy.
Aaron’s: No, no, we just don’t deliver to Hollywood area. I’m going to transfer you to our Pico Rivera store.
Okay. Thanks, Stacy. Have a good day. This was pleasurable.
Aaron’s: Have a good day, thanks for calling Aaron’s!
Fine, be that way.
(i get distracted by a gif of puppy rolling down hill and hang up before it connects)
(a few minutes later i decide to call Aaron’s hotline again)
(this time i type in a random zip code instead of my actual)
Aaron’s: Thank you for calling Aaron’s. This is Kyle.
Sup Kyle. Grant here. I saw the commercials on TV and I’m super interested in buying a TV or a laptop or both.
Aaron’s: Okay. Can you hold on one sec?
(I redial and enter the same random zip code, and I can’t believe it, but I even get Kyle again!)
Aaron’s: Thank you for calling Aaron’s. This is Kyle.
Kyle! Grant again. What happened bro?
Aaron’s: Oh man, I don’t know what happened. I was like, I’m gonna put you on hold. Next thing you know, dial tone. Sorry about that.
Well, that’s okay, I guess.
Aaron’s: You were saying you wanted a TV or a laptop.
Or both. Let’s start with the TV.
Aaron’s: What size TV we talking?
Aaron’s: Well, what’s your definition of big? Like… 40 inch? 50 inch?
Aaron’s: 60 inch, 70 inch?
Wow, you are a big guy, huh? No, I don’t think I could fit 70 inches. 60 inches is perfect.
Aaron’s: Anything you want out of it? LED, Plasma…?
Plasma 60 inch. Perfect. I don’t really know anything, Kyle. Teach me.
Aaron’s: Okay so we actually don’t have any Plasma 60 inch TVs.
Kyle. Come on.
Aaron’s: I thought we did. We usually do. I do have LEDs? Do you have any brand you prefer?
I love all brands equally.
Aaron’s: Okay, umm. How about an RCA 60 inch LED? RCAs are making a comeback.
Aaron’s: Umm. It would be about 89.99 a month for 24 months. This is LED, top of the line. This is the best you’re gonna get. It’s got all 120 hertz, which is all the hertz you want. The full 1080p.
Do I want full 1080p? I might just want almost-full 1080p.
Aaron’s: You want it to be full.
I trust you. Okay that sounds fine. Let’s talk about laptops.
Aaron’s: What are you looking for?
I just need a laptop that can watch videos, write documents, edit movies.
Aaron’s: Okay so kinda basic.
Don’t say basic. In fact, no. Not basic at all. It needs to be complicated. God, why is everything so complicated?
Aaron’s: I don’t know. We’re here to help.
I know, Kyle. You’re very helpful it makes me want to kill myself.
Aaron’s: Is there a certain brand you prefer with laptops?
Aaron’s: We don’t have Apple.
Aaron’s: We don’t have Samsung.
What do you have?
Aaron’s: HP, Del, Toshiba…
What’s your favorite?
Aaron’s: I’d go with HP.
Ah, yes. Harry Potterrrrr.
Aaron’s: Hewlett Packard.
Aaron’s: I have one that’s pretty decent: 8 gigs of memory, hard drive is 720.
Aaron’s: Gigs. Now, that’s an awfully big laptop. And that will run you about 120 a month for 12 months, compared to, say, your standard run-of-the-mill laptop, like something with 4 gigs of memory, 500 gig hard drive. That would be 82 a month for 12 months.
That sounds great.
Aaron’s: Have you leased from Aaron’s before?
No, but I like the sound of your business model. I really need to get this stuff, I just don’t have any money and I have creditors banging down the door. Honestly, my life is a complete mess.
Aaron’s: None of that matters here.
It’s why Aaron’s is my favorite. So, let’s say I don’t make my payments. What happens? Do you report negative?
Aaron’s: No. We only report positive. Because you can always return it if you can’t afford it anymore.
What if I run away?
Aaron’s: I mean. If you refuse to pay, it goes to collection, then yeah, that will hurt you. Otherwise we just report when you paid it in full. But if you know you can’t afford it, just return it. No harm, no foul.
That makes sense to me. Sounds like a good agreement. So yeah I think I’m just going to get the TV and the laptop today. Should I get anything else?
Aaron’s: Do you need anything else?
Do you guys have any services on helping someone get their life back together?
Aaron’s: No. No, not really. No, we just – if you need something, like, product-wise, we can help with that.
Aaron’s: No, not really.
You’ve been working here awhile, huh?
Aaron’s: 3 years.
So you’ve probably seen a lot of people in a lot of situations.
Aaron’s: Yes, sir.
So with the free delivery, you know, that’s really great. I’m kind of between places right now, though?
Aaron’s: Well, we just need to verify where you’re living.
Can I just say my buddy Kyle’s place?
Aaron’s: (speaking quicker) We’d need to verify with whoever owns the place where you’re staying. So if you’re living with your mom and dad, you know, that would be okay. If it’s with your friend, we’d have to verify that they live at that place. We’d just ask if they’re living there.
So you’d be like, “Does Kyle live here?” And Kyle would say…
Aaron’s: (says nothing)
He’d say “yeah totally.” And then that would be fine, right?
Aaron’s: If we verify that the location has that contact there, and you’re staying there, that would be fine.
Dude, that’s so tight. My buddy Kyle is going to love that I’m getting him a sweet new TV. Cool, so can we just get this done over the phone?
Aaron’s: Yeah, sure. We can do it over the phone or you could come in.
Oh, I can come in! Oh, I didn’t even realize that was an option. Well, I’ll come in then.
Aaron’s: You live in the (whatever area he said) area?
Yeah, totally. I just moved here. I was living in California for awhile, that’s why I have this area code. But things went bad there, Kyle. Real bad. So now I’m here.
Aaron’s: I see.
Anyway, I’ll be in today or tomorrow or the next day. Hard to say, really, I’m not very good at planning.
Aaron’s: I understand.
Thanks for your help, Kyle!
Grant Pardee is a comedian originally from Ohio living in Los Angeles. He has performed at Bridgetown and SF Sketchfest, the Improv, Upright Citizens Brigade, and many other places, too. He contributes articles to VICE, and in 2013 the webseries he created, wrote and produced “Happy Place” was a finalist for the Comedy Central Short Pilot Competition at the New York Television Festival. Follow him on twitter @grantpa