Is there anything seriously wrong with retail renting?


Retail renting: for the uninitiated, this is the process of purchasing something with the intent of using for a short period of time and then returning it. Examples might include clothing or a big-screen TV for a Super Bowl party.

A piece in the Boston Globe recently looked at the issue -- a form of "return fraud" -- and problems its causing retailers. How can they crack down on people who abuse liberal return policies while still offering high-quality service to bona fide customers?

My thoughts on this are unambiguous: Purchasing something with the full intent of returning it is unethical and fraudulent. I can't imagine any possibly moral/ethical justification for doing it. A poll on Consumerist shows that most people share this view, with 74% saying that retail renting is unethical.

But that still means 12% of people think that this form of theft is ethical -- and another 13% aren't sure. So I have to ask: What people ethical justification is there for buying something with the intent of returning it?

Originally published