5 On Your Side

Customers confounded by rent-to-own plan

Posted March 29, 2016 6:15 p.m. EDT
Updated March 30, 2016 5:26 a.m. EDT

— With cars, furniture, computers many retailers offer options to pay. One option is "rent-to-own," and usually buyers know what they have signed up for.

A Holly Springs couple who thought they were buying furniture but later found out they were on a rent-to-own plan turned to 5 On Your Side for help.

Ana Maria and Manny Godoy got their furniture from Rooms to Go, where they didn't know rent-to-own was an option. Yet they ended up with a rent-to-own contract with terms they can't believe.

"I look at the furniture, and I just hate it now," an emotional Ana Maria Godoy said.

Last May, she and her husband loved their love seat, sofa and table set. They spent hours in Rooms to Go in Raleigh picking it out. They thought they got a deal: $1,450 total!

"We couldn't wait for it to get delivered," Manny Godoy said.

The Godoys put $1,097 down. They planned to pay the balance, $353.36, with a credit card until they were offered 90-day "same as cash" financing.

"So, we said, 'Great. No problem. We can pay the remaining balance by that time without any problem,'" Ana Maria Godoy recalled.

She remembered that the transaction happened quickly.

"They literally say to you, 'Initial here, initial here, initial here, sign here. Don't worry, you will get copies of it,'" Ana Maria Godoy said.

The Godoys say they were handed a sealed envelope of documents. They didn't look inside or even think about it until they realized they missed the 90-day payoff by a week. Expecting penalty fees, the Godoys opened that envelope and called Acceptance Now, the company listed on the contract.

The operator quoted Ana Maria a balance of $1,400 instead of the $353 plus a penalty.

It turns out, Acceptance Now has an office inside Rooms to Go and offers rent-to-own contracts there and at more than 100 different retailers across the country.

A company representative told the Godoys they are on a rent-to-own plan.

"Rental agreement? I was under the impression we purchase the furniture," Manny Godoy said.

Another shock to the Godoys: If they paid under the full terms of the agreement, instead of the initial $1,450 the furniture would cost them $3,759.

The Godoys challenged the agreement, but they say Acceptance Now told them they had to pay. They started getting calls for payment, and someone even came to their house.

5 On Your Side found similar financing complaints online, involving Acceptance Now at Rooms to Go and other retailers. Customers complain they were unclear on contract terms and had to pay a lot more than expected.

5 On Your Side contacted Acceptance Now. We heard back from Rent-A-Center spokeswoman Sonia Holland. She said the company is an "alternative choice" for customers looking to buy. She said they "place an exceedingly high value on transparency and strive to assure customers understand the terms of their rental-purchase agreement."

We also talked with Mike Kettle, an attorney for Rooms to Go. He told us the company is "in the business of selling furniture, not financing." Kettle said they want "all customers to leave ... with a complete and clear understanding of the terms of their purchase."

The Godoys said that did not happen for them, but after 5 On Your Side got involved, Acceptance Now agreed to let them return the furniture for a full refund without any credit issues.

The couple is relieved and elated, and say the next time they buy furniture they won't finance it.

"If we would have been explained the whole process that we're going through right now, I would have never, ever agreed to do what's on those papers," Manny Godoy said.

The big takeaway is to read every word before you sign any agreement. Had the Godoys done that, or had they paid the balance within the 90 days, they would not have been in this position. Buyers should never feel rushed during the financing process.