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Aaron Computer Rental Firm Spies On Users 510

Posted by timothy
from the they-learned-it-from-school-in-pennsylvania dept.
An anonymous reader writes with word from Yahoo news of a lawsuit "filed on behalf of a Wyoming couple who said they learned about the PC Rental Agent 'device and/or software' inside the computer they rented last year when an Aaron's Inc. store manager in Casper came to their home on Dec. 22. The manager tried to repossess the computer because he mistakenly believed the couple hadn't finished paying for it, the couple said. Brian Byrd, 26, said the manager showed him a picture of Byrd using the computer — taken by the computer's webcam. The image was shot with the help of spying software, which the lawsuit contends is made by North East, Pa.-based Designerware LLC and is installed on all Aaron's rental computers."
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Aaron Computer Rental Firm Spies On Users

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  • Whoops (Score:5, Informative)

    by bfmorgan (839462) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:24PM (#36019650)
    These stupid companies think they can treat their customers like children and in the process shoot themselves in the foot.
    • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MoonBuggy (611105) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:28PM (#36019680) Journal

      These stupid companies think they can treat their customers like children and very occasionally they don't get away with it.

      FTFY.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PhreakOfTime (588141)

      Well, in this case they are right. This guy has the math skills of a child. If he's lucky. Have you ever worked out the costs of that? Some of the rental ones around here end up being over 4X the price of outright buying it, over just 15 months of payments.

      He shouldn't be allowed to sign a contract that involves math in any way whatsoever.

      • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Insightful)

        by dragonturtle69 (1002892) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @11:12PM (#36020012)

        Or maybe it just proves, further, that the poor get screwed.

        If you have $1,000, you can buy that laptop you didn't plan for, and so didn't save for, but would be really useful now that you are starting higher education. On the other hand, if your income dictates a 12 month period of saving to get that $1,000, chances are that your window of opportunity for schooling has closed before you have the hardware.

        Enter the rent-to-own industry, giving you long term low monthly payments, with what amounts to incredible interest rates. The payday advance places are the same. If you make good money, you'll never fell their sting. If you make really good money, you'll never pay interest period, just handling fees.

        And now they have, if the story is true, real spyware. What type of dirtbag, including the school "officials" reported a few months back using the webcams on student laptops, spies on someone in this manner?

        • by PCM2 (4486)

          If you have $1,000, you can buy that laptop you didn't plan for, and so didn't save for, but would be really useful now that you are starting higher education. On the other hand, if your income dictates a 12 month period of saving to get that $1,000, chances are that your window of opportunity for schooling has closed before you have the hardware.

          So what you're saying is, maybe all those people who tell you that you should never, ever buy anything on credit (because credit is evil and you should always buy everything with cash), should get a crash course on something called "opportunity cost"? It's not as if it's hard for a student to get a credit card.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by dgatwood (11270)

            Opportunity cost doesn't really play into it. You can always use computer labs at your school. A laptop is a low-ticket, nice-to-have item, which mean it should never, ever be purchased on credit.

            The average savings account in the U.S. contains somewhere on the order $20,000. Therefore, if you're buying anything on credit that costs more than an order of magnitude less than that, you are basically declaring yourself to be poor, complete with a giant, flashing neon sign. Because the working poor are more

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Arcady13 (656165)
              The average savings account is $20,000? I don't know anyone with more than $5000 in savings, and the average people in the US save per year is less than $500.

              That said, these rental places should be avoided like the plague. At least use a low-interest credit card if you must buy on credit.
              • Re:Whoops (Score:4, Insightful)

                by vivian (156520) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:19AM (#36020948)

                You need to widen your circle of friends then - or teach them how to start saving. Anyone should be able to reduce their cost of living to that it is 90% of their income, and save the remaining 10%. It's all a question of living within your means, and learning how to save so you don't have to depend on the state or your kids to support you when you retire.

                • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by Hazel Bergeron (2015538) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @07:22AM (#36022316) Journal

                  (1) Median is not mean;

                  (2) I've never met a decent rich guy, and I was brought up in a significantly privileged environment - while I've never used money to decide on my friends, I've never been able to form a lasting friendship with anyone of significant means as they have all failed at demonstrating kindness/selflessness/generosity/etc and end up taking advantage of me when I try to demonstrate same. Causation no, but correlation certainly;

                  (3) People in debt (e.g. medical bills) don't get to save anything, let alone 10%;

                  (4) Many people live on the bread line - for any given location, recalling the cost of transport, there is a typical minimum wage which reflects the absolute minimum needed to survive. Many people are on this wage. The idea that you can always "save the remaining 10%" is inherently irrational and contrary to basic market theory: if it's an employers' market, employers will pay the absolute minimum to keep their employees alive and working;

                  (5) Telling people to "live within your means" is another way of saying, "I should get to enjoy life more than you so please continue suffering so that I can maintain my enjoyment." While I live well below my means, I don't begrudge anyone who feels he should have no less than the greatest glutton;

                  (6) You pay the state when you work to support you when you cannot. If taxation were at the level of, say, the US 150 years ago, then you might have an argument. It is not and you do not.

                  • I was with you until #5. Then you made it into a class warfare or fairness argument and that's where I'll disagree. Because it's at that point where people fall into the debt trap by feeling they deserve to have the things the Jones have next door that have more money. It doesn't matter how or when you get money, people with less money should not try to live as those that have more else they get in that trap, then get bitter when things fall apart. It's greed and coveting and it does nothing but hurt yo
                • Are you including retirement savings in your estimate of average savings account value? I certainly have more than 20k in my retirement accounts, but due to some recent medical crap I'm happy to have a few hundred in my day-to-day savings and heck yeah I put the cat's most recent vet bill on my credit card to preserve that little cash cushion (though my interest rate on that card is under 10%).

              • Re:Whoops (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Nick Ives (317) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @02:42AM (#36021026)

                I bet $20,000 is the mean amount in savings, which would be pushed up by all the {m,b}illionaires.

                I wonder what the modal average savings is? I bet it's a lot lower.

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by JSombra (1849858)
                  Around 2008 average saving per year for Americans was less than $400, though from what i have heard, due to the shaky economy it has now risen a little bit
                  • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Interesting)

                    by realityimpaired (1668397) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @08:26AM (#36022760)

                    Not an American, but I usually keep a float of about $1000 (CAD) in my bank account to pay for incidentals, the rest of the overage in my monthly budget goes towards paying my car loan and mortgage off faster. If I wanted to, I could easily put away more (there's a little over $600/mo surplus in my monthly budget), but it makes better economic sense to pay off those large loans faster, in order to reduce the interest that I'm paying overall: if I pay my car loan off 2 years early, I only pay 0.9% interest on the thing (it goes up to 1.9% in the final two years). The mortgage is a higher interest rate anyway, and for now, that's what I'm overpaying.

                    It's well and good to suggest that people should be saving more money, but there's times where building up your savings is a bad idea. Most poor people aren't even in a position where building up their savings is an option because they simply aren't paid enough, and many if not most middle class people are in the same situation that I am: putting away money is possible, but it's bad economic sense in the long run, because they can save thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars by paying off their debt faster.

                    • by Machtyn (759119)
                      I agree with you. Though, I think I agree with those that advocate a 3 month bumper in savings. That is, if you lose your job, will you be able to pay the minimum on all your bills for 3 months from savings? If not, back off paying down the debts of those loans until the savings is "full".
          • by jrumney (197329)
            Or perhaps the problem will be better solved by giving them easier access to credit - from reputable sources such as banks that don't charge ursurous amounts of interest, coupled with sound financial advice designed to prevent them getting into a debt spiral as a result of trying to give their children a chance to get out of the poverty trap.
          • Re:Whoops (Score:4, Insightful)

            by jimicus (737525) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @04:52AM (#36021622)

            So what you're saying is, maybe all those people who tell you that you should never, ever buy anything on credit (because credit is evil and you should always buy everything with cash), should get a crash course on something called "opportunity cost"? It's not as if it's hard for a student to get a credit card.

            These companies don't aim at people who can easily get a credit card. I don't know what it's like where you are, but here in the UK they've got very flashy window displays proudly announcing things like "Poor credit history? No proof of earnings? Not a homeowner? No problem!". The actual final price you wind up being stung for is carefully hidden.

            They'll sell to more-or-less anyone, and the business model is clear - their customers have a high risk of not paying, but that doesn't matter too much because the item that was sold under a 12 or 24 month contract was actually paid for in the first 3-6 months. Provided the customer continues to pay for longer than that, you're in profit. And they often will, because you're not the sort of company that writes a few rude letters before taking someone to court over missed payments. You're the sort of company that sends around a couple of big, threatening-looking men to take the item away if payment is so much as 10 days late.

            Such companies are vultures, they prey on a section of society that wants the latest toys but cannot hope to afford them. But they're very well dressed, very smart vultures with high street business premises, which is enough for the target market not to realise what they're letting themselves in for until it's far too late.

        • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Xtravar (725372) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @11:55PM (#36020238) Homepage Journal

          I put tape over my work laptop's webcam. A little paranoid... perhaps... but it makes me feel better.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by d6 (1944790)
            That has been my habit ever since cams started showing up in every single screen/laptop I buy.
            Nothing wrong with covering a cam you are not going to use and plenty right about it if your shit gets rooted.
        • And you need a 1000 dollar laptop for college? Funny, I did just fine with my 300 netbook.
        • by hedwards (940851)

          $1000? If you're that poor there are plenty of computers out there that are more cost effective. My dad is still running a computer he got a couple years back for $400 and it seems to be doing just fine. When it gets too slow for use, I'll just upgrade it to Linux and he'll likely be happy for a couple more years after that.

          $1000 is justifiable for some people, but if you're having to buy through this sort of service you'd definitely be better off paying less and buying outright.

      • Re:Whoops (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gma i l . com> on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:06AM (#36020612) Journal

        Or maybe it just shows the laws in this country allow the poor to be assraped at will? My GF before I met her ended up having to get a rent to own PC after losing damned near everything but the clothes on her back in a fire. Not only did they royally rip her off on the payments but when she brought it in for a cleaning, which was part of the agreement they ripped off some of the parts and didn't even take a can of fricking air to it!

        Soon after we had started dating she asked me to look at it while she was cooking supper (I'm used to it, we PC repairmen are like plumbers that way) and I take one look at the specs VS what it says on the label and I knew she'd been had. Sure enough she called the rent a center the next day and they basically told her "yeah well try to prove it. Sue us and see how far you get".

        These assholes make fricking used car salesman look like paragons of honor. They KNOW these poor folks don't know what PCs cost or what is a good chip VS a bad chip, so they gouge the living hell out of them and then on top rip them off any other way they can! I thought the guys at Worst Buy were bad, but at least the guys I knew there were only sniffing around for free porn and MP3s to copy, these rent a ripoffs as I call them are true scum of the earth! And didn't we have laws against usury and outrageous interests rates? WTF happened to those?

        That is why you should tell your friends and relatives, especially those that are poor or have poor kinfolk, talk to your local mom&pop shop. We're decent folks and we try our damnedest not to cause someone pain in the wallet. Hell I got three of them right now that is paying me my labor costs at $10-$30 a paycheck, simply because they couldn't afford parts and labor at once, so I found them the cheapest kit deals i could find and let them just pay for the parts and pay my labor as they could, interest free. I'd rather get paid for my time in dribs and drabs than see someone get assraped at these rent a ripoffs. Besides I've found you treat folks right the referrals will keep you busy. These leeches are frankly a blight, no different that those check cashing shysters.

        • Re:Whoops (Score:4, Informative)

          by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @03:05AM (#36021114) Homepage

          (I'm used to it, we PC repairmen are like plumbers that way)

          No we're not.
          We don't star in computer games and we don't appear in cheezy porn.

        • Besides I've found you treat folks right the referrals will keep you busy.

          Oh this is so true. I've started a small business part time in the evenings while studying full-time at Uni (back then it was a partnership). I didn't spend more than 200 pounds on advertising when we started - the best thing turned out to be contacting the university library and telling them about our services. Ever since then, we get a reasonably steady flow of new customers, all referred trough other people we have served (about 40%) and the library (the rest).

          And the customers keep coming back - not wit

      • by Pretzalzz (577309)

        Huh? I know this is slashdot and no one reads the story, but if you are going to strut around trying to make yourself look smart you should try. This guy obviously knew that renting it was a very bad deal which is why he bought out the rest on the rental after only two months when he had the money. He didn't wait two months to buy it since it was a time sensitive need as his wife needed it for course work.

  • Shocking (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hinesbrad (1923872) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:30PM (#36019688)
    Wow. A company that built a fortune based on scummy financial deals is being discovered for scummy conduct on computers it sells. Shocking.
  • by Jonah Hex (651948) <hexdotms AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:36PM (#36019738) Homepage Journal

    PC Rental Agent includes components soldered into the computer's motherboard or otherwise physically attached to the PC's electronics, the lawsuit said. It therefore cannot be uninstalled and can only be deactivated using a wand, the suit said.

    Seriously, they had to go with a hardware/software solution, when they could have very easily done it in software only? And what does that do to the warranty from the original manufacturer, soldering new parts into your motherboard usually voids those.

    Also, given the demographic of people who "Rent to Own", I'd hate to see some of those webcam shots...

    HEX

    • hardware may just be a key / on / off switch switch / trigger switch or just a usb board hidden inside. Some laptop boards have usb ports on the in side or headers / plugs for usb ports. Some systems have unused bluetooth cables / plugs that can be used for this.

      seems to be software only
      http://www.pcrentalagent.com/eSiteWay/Home.aspx?tabindex=5&tabid=510 [pcrentalagent.com]

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @11:20PM (#36020064) Journal
      Unless there are additional details not disclosed on their kinda sleazy looking; but unabashed [pcrentalagent.com] website, the hardware component seems like it is either a mistake(perhaps referring to some sort of anti-theft tag?) or an additional feature specific to this major chain.

      If you look at the company's pricing information, it only quotes software licensing fees and prices for additional/replacement/updated install media. No mention of hardware components, much less the sort of model-specific inventory mess that any deep integration would require. Obviously, the information available on the seller's site for that offering doesn't preclude a custom offering for a large customer, with more robust features; but it also isn't as though lying about the existence of super-tough hardware security in order to reduce the risk that your clueless customer tries to have their nephew who "knows computers" install a cracked copy of XP on a "bricked" machine would be a terribly unlikely strategy...
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by captainkoloth (99341)

        Unless there are additional details not disclosed on their kinda sleazy looking; but unabashed [pcrentalagent.com] website, the hardware component seems like it is either a mistake(perhaps referring to some sort of anti-theft tag?) or an additional feature specific to this major chain.

        If you look at the company's pricing information, it only quotes software licensing fees and prices for additional/replacement/updated install media. No mention of hardware components, much less the sort of model-specific inventory mess that any deep integration would require. Obviously, the information available on the seller's site for that offering doesn't preclude a custom offering for a large customer, with more robust features; but it also isn't as though lying about the existence of super-tough hardware security in order to reduce the risk that your clueless customer tries to have their nephew who "knows computers" install a cracked copy of XP on a "bricked" machine would be a terribly unlikely strategy...

        Unless there are additional details not disclosed on their kinda sleazy looking; but unabashed [pcrentalagent.com] website, the hardware component seems like it is either a mistake(perhaps referring to some sort of anti-theft tag?) or an additional feature specific to this major chain.

        If you look at the company's pricing information, it only quotes software licensing fees and prices for additional/replacement/updated install media. No mention of hardware components, much less the sort of model-specific inventory mess that any deep integration would require. Obviously, the information available on the seller's site for that offering doesn't preclude a custom offering for a large customer, with more robust features; but it also isn't as though lying about the existence of super-tough hardware security in order to reduce the risk that your clueless customer tries to have their nephew who "knows computers" install a cracked copy of XP on a "bricked" machine would be a terribly unlikely strategy...

        There appears to be something they add either through hardware or software than can require you to use a USB thumb drive as a key. Check out the accessories page. I'm going to say that it's both hardware and software.
        "Require an unLock device like a CD or a USB Thumb Drive to always be available or the device locks. It will not work unless the unLock device is found."

  • Rent a computer? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PhreakOfTime (588141) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:37PM (#36019744) Homepage

    There was an ad around here not too long ago about something similar. While I was listening to it, they obviously mentioned the 'monthly price' and the length of the term. Before the commercial was over I had done the math in my head, and the laptop ended up costing almost 4X the amount it would have otherwise cost.

    I imagine this is probably similar. Anyone who signs such a deal should immediately be enrolled in a math class that will sufficiently explain amortization costs in such a situation. They should then be able to pass an exam that proves they are aware of what the real cost is, in a single number, over the rental term.

    There is a reason the phrase 'A fool and his money are soon parted' exists, I suppose.

    • Re:Rent a computer? (Score:4, Informative)

      by demonlapin (527802) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:58PM (#36019898) Homepage Journal
      The people who take this deal don't qualify for better credit. If you ban rent-to-own or limit the interest rates, though, their choices actually get worse, not better. After all, the moment that it leaves the front door of the store, this laptop is a used piece of equipment owned by someone who can't swing several hundred dollars in spare cash (i.e., probably not the most fastidious owner). Shitty credit deals are all they're going to get, because nobody is going to loan them $1000 at 5% interest - the default risk is too high.
      • their choices actually get worse, not better.

        I would consider saving the money before buying it to be better, not worse. The cost is already ~$200/mo, with a few other cuts, they could easily get a laptop free and clear, FOR THEIR NEEDS, within 60 days of saving.

        A laptop isnt exactly an emergency cost. In the story, it is described as being for the wife's new classes. She didn't just wake up one day with no warning whatsoever that classes were starting in 2 hours.

        • by demonlapin (527802) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @11:33PM (#36020140) Homepage Journal
          You would, but you probably have savings accounts, home access to the Internet, a credit card, a stable address, nobody trying to steal your pocket money for drugs/booze/etc, and a lot more intelligence than these people. If you ban check cashing places, people go to pawn shops; if you ban pawn shops, they go to loan sharks. Rent-to-own is part of the same continuum, in which people who are bad credit risks are able to obtain things they want (but can't afford in lump sum, and won't save up enough to purchase) quickly and easily in return for paying a high cost (that covers the enormous risk of default).

          Even when I made the equivalent of $22k/yr in today's money, I didn't do these things. That's one of the many reasons that I'm not still making $22k/year. These people can't delay gratification enough to save up, nor are they smart enough to earn a lot more. The best path is a tough call, because the renters-to-own aren't going to get any smarter - all we can change is whether or not it is possible to lend to them profitably.
          • The point is that they don't need to save for long time. Two of their "low payments" would be enough to buy a decent system outright. If they can make the "low payments" they can save.
        • by corbettw (214229)

          You assume these people can save the money in the first place, which in my experience is an erroneous assumption.

          demonlapin got it right: if you outlaw rent-to-own, you're going to force the people who use those services to go somewhere worse. You will not make their lives better in your attempt to save them from their own stupidity.

    • by artor3 (1344997)

      It's like rent-a-center or payday loans. These companies exploit the poor by taking advantage of their lacking financial planning skills. Some of the blame certainly lies with the people who fall for these scams, but they are scams all the same.

      It's no different from people being stupid enough to send money to Nigerian princes. You shouldn't hold the "prince" harmless.

    • Re:Rent a computer? (Score:5, Informative)

      by adolf (21054) <flodadolf@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @11:05PM (#36019962) Journal

      My math says it's not so different from paying for a new PC with a credit card at not-very-favorable rates.

      And, in both cases, there is the opportunity to buy/pay off the thing at any time. Aaron's retail prices tend to be on the high side of things, but not outlandishly so (in my observation).

      And for some folks, renting is a distinct advantage: Why buy a thing, just to replace it a year or two later (and fuss with selling the old one), when you can just rent the current thing and have it replaced when it is deemed old?

      These aren't leases. They're just month-to-month (sometimes, week-to-week) rentals. Need a fast laptop for a project, with no foreseeable need for one after that? Just rent one.

      Want an additional comfy couch for the house and a big TV to watch "the game" on with your pals, and a dedicated fridge to keep the keg cold until it runs out, but have no desire for these things to take up long-term space? Rent 'em. They even drop them off and pick them up. (Hell, with the deposit for them, even the keg+tap might be considered to be a rental...)

      Of course, there's the dark side, as well: Want a new computer, long-term, but can't afford one? Rent-to-own might not be the most practical choice.

      All that said: I, myself, don't rent anything. I buy my houses and have my own name on the deed, I buy my cars, and I buy my electronics and furniture. I have rented apartments before, but got out of that game as quickly as possible. The closest thing I do to renting things, these days, is Netflix.

      But I'm not allergic to the concept.

      YMMV.

    • If you ever get bored, go to the Rent-A-Center's website and check out some of the items and prices they're "renting" them for.

      I remember checking out their price for a 360 a while back because I'd heard their prices after everything was said and done was a bit ridiculous. Boy was that an understatement. The final amount they wanted came to like $1400, for a $300 machine, and the monthly payments were like $120. I'm not sure how retarded people have to be to enter into deals like that, but I guess there's

  • by jtownatpunk.net (245670) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:43PM (#36019790)

    Seriously. I own all of my hardware and do a bare-metal install on every laptop but there's no telling when some piece of malware may come out that secretly takes snapshots with the webcam. Or maybe I do a video chat then forget to turn off the camera. Heck, my current laptop doesn't even have a status light to warn me if it's on.

    If I was renting/borrowing a laptop, I'd be even more inclined to be careful. Heck, I'd probably do everything on a VM.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:55PM (#36019882)

      Easy to solve - just run Linux, and there's pretty much no chance of the webcam working even if you wanted it to ;)

    • by jesseck (942036)
      We have some older laptops at work that have physical switches that completely cover the webcam... it's sad few computers come with anything like that these days.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @10:59PM (#36019906)

    I'm interested to read these comments regarding the fiscal foolishness of renting and have thought the exact same things when seen similar advertisements. I do wonder if the very rich would say the same about us in regards to buying land and houses though - how many times do we pay for our house at 7% PA over 25 years? Also how many of us have bought computers and gear on our credit cards at 15% PA or something?

    It is true that the fool and his money are easily parted but I'm not so convinced that we're that much better than those who rent computers sometimes...

    I do feel for those who really struggle and I think some of these attitudes (which I'm guilty off also) are a bit harsh. They're also seemingly more vulnerable to other illogical deals (in regards to the maths) like going in lotteries and other gambling (gee how does that casino pay for all that fancy stuff?). They use pawn brokers for temporary loans at ridiculous interest rates and are more prone to buy shonky cars with limited life/value again at bad interest rates etc.

    I'm not any kind of expert in socialology but I'm sure there would have been studies and research done in how the poor are more susceptible to being tricked out of their already meagre resources. Its pretty easy for us "middle class" folks to be a bit wiser and more informed in such things.

  • Rent To Own (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wlandman (964814) on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @11:22PM (#36020076)
    Many people are taking an arrogant view of these people and there math skills. Yet those same people leaving comments live in houses they couldn't afford to buy outright. They drive cars, they can't afford either. I think most people use the Rent-To-Own because of cash-flow problems, not stupidity. Remember, it only takes one major emergency to help you lose everything. Don't laugh or look down upon these people.
  • Who in the hell would buy a computer from Rent A Center or Aaron Rents, etc. Computer speeds these days are primarily a luxury for home users...other than hardcore gamers there is very little that a person cant do with a 6 year old hand me down computer like you can pick up at yard sales for $50. I would say its a place for people with more money than sense...but of course its for people with no money and no sense. Their current flyer on their website shows a sempron based cheapo compaq for $99 a month f

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 03, 2011 @11:31PM (#36020132)

    I work at an Aarons Sales and Lease. . As the resident tech guy, I install the PC agent software on all computers before they are sold. If we don't hear from a customer for more than usually around ten days after their bill is due, we send a lock out message. The software pings the server and a red screen pops up asking them to call the store. When they pay or make an arrangement with us, we give them a 7 digit code that unlocks it. It provides ability to view screenshots and take webcam shots but it is only used when a computer is reported stolen and we have a copy of a police report than we utilize it. When they pay out, I go online and mark the agent for uninstall and thats that.

    As far at the RTO business model criticism goes, Aaron's at least cost about as much as if you charged it. All the computers have a two year warranty and I provide damn good customer service which makes up for any more of a price difference.

    • by MimeticLie (1866406) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @12:16AM (#36020364)

      It provides ability to view screenshots and take webcam shots but it is only used when a computer is reported stolen and we have a copy of a police report than we utilize it.

      Clearly that isn't the case.

    • by fermion (181285) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @01:16AM (#36020662) Homepage Journal
      which is all fine and good if the customer was told about this and they initialed next to the section indicating that the capability is there and some random tech would have the ability to watch yo uhave sex so maybe the computer should go somewhere else. Of course if the customer knew, they would tape the camera. So that would defeat the purpose.

      What we are talking about is is the right of a firm to have a customer sign away basic rights. For instance, would Aaron's include a cluase that if the rent was late, a rep would have the right to molest a person, child or adult, in the family of thier choice. Of course not. Then why should Aaron's have the right to watch a peep show. Sure the policy is that this feature will only be used under certain circumstances, and I am sure 99.9999% of the well paid professionals that have access to the computer will do this, but really, why take the risk that the one remaining employee is not going to be jacking off to some kid? What is the rational? To catch the customers that say the computer was stolen but in fact are still using it? Does Aarons have such equipment on furniture and TV so they can watch kids make out? I think not, yet they are doing well without it.

      This is just a case where a firm is being an arrogant dumbass. If the customers were told and they initialed their consent, then I am wrong. If the customers do not know that some creppy guy is potentially watching the kids run around the trailer, then Aarons deserves to be sued for all it can be sued for. It is not because the business model is inherently bad. It is because firms all to often think they can do anything for profit. Sell drugs to kids, frisk customers on the way out, intimidate them into an upsale. As consumers, even those with just enough money to rent to own, we must assert ourselves as the powerful agents in this relationship. After all, we are the ones that have the money, and the retailers are the one's who need it. By accepting the fiction that we are the weak one's, we allow the retailers to screw us.

  • I think if I rented a computer from anywhere, I would wipe the drive and install linux.. or at least reinstall windows using their windows key.. and when I returned it? I would low level format it ;) talk about an ID theft opportunity...

  • There should be a regulation that any audio/video capture device integrated into a computer can be disabled with a foolproof manual interlock. I'm thinking maybe a little cover that slides in front of the camera; I'm not sure how to do the equivalent with the mic.

    Maybe I'm a bit paranoid, but I live in constant fear that my laptop is watching me... trying to figure out how to sap and impurify my precious bodily fluids.
  • Designerware (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Animats (122034) on Wednesday May 04, 2011 @12:12AM (#36020342) Homepage

    State of Pennsylvania Business Search [state.pa.us]:

    DESIGNERWARE
    Fictitious Names - Domestic
    Entity Number: 2808492
    Status: Active
    Entity Creation Date: 3/30/1998
    State of Business.: PA
    Principal Place of Business: 108 HUTCHINSON
    NORTH EAST (a real place, a borough of Erie County 5 miles northeast of the city of Erie) PA 16428-1710

    Owners Name: TIMOTHY S KELLY

    Google Maps shows that as a 2-story frame house in reasonably good condition with two cars in the driveway..

    Dun and Bradstreet reports

    DESIGNERWARE
    Single Location: 108 HUTCHINSON DR, NORTH EAST, PA

    You can buy a D&B credit report on them. [dnb.com]

    Checking Erie County property records:

    Address 108 | HUTCHINSON | DR
    Acreage 0.2870
    Topo LEVEL
    Utility ALL PUBLIC
    Zoning SINGLE FAMILY RESIDENTIAL
    Land Value / Taxable 18,000 / 18,000.00
    Building Value / Taxable 120,560 / 120,560.00
    Total Value / Taxable 138,560 / 138,560.00
    Clean & Green: Inactive
    Homestead Status: Active
    Style CONVENTIONAL
    Basement FULL
    Year Built 1973
    Exterior Wall ALUMINUM/VINYL
    Total Living Area 3156
    Full Baths 2, Half Baths 1
    Heating GAS, CENTRAL, FORCED AIR
    Stories 2.0, Total Bedrooms 3, Total Family Rooms 0, Total Rooms 7, Fireplaces 1
    REINFORCED CONCRETE POOL 1992
    FRAME UTILITY SHED 1990
    Sales History: 1/26/1990

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