It’s early Tuesday morning and you open the fridge to start preparing the school lunches only  to find that everything from the mayo to the ham, the cucumber and the eggs have frozen. Solidly. The fridge is on the blink, clearly, even though you had the repair people in just last week when the problem, ostensibly, was that the fridge didn’t cool at all. 

The rest of the story goes something like this: call the repair people again, find out that the fridge is beyond repair, fret about the cost of buying a new one, coordinate getting rid of the faulty fridge, make a plan for interim cold storage (living without a fridge in summer is less than ideal), and wonder – not for the first time – if there is a better way of dealing with things like this. 

The answer can be found in a growing international trend that is seeing a preference for renting consumer goods such as furniture, electronics and appliances, rather than purchasing and owning them outright. 

“Globally the rental economy is experiencing an unprecedented surge,” says Jonathan Hurvitz, CEO of South Africa’s own rent-to-own provider, Teljoy. “Renting is the new retail and, while there are many reasons for this, one of the foremost is the flexibility renting offers, ultimately allowing for access over ownership. 

Renting may once have had a reputation as the lender of last resort for those who can’t afford to purchase items outright but this is gradually changing as more consumers are attracted to what the US Chamber of Commerce has described as the “privilege of not owning something”. 

The main attraction of a rented lifestyle is in the way it removes the hassle of having to deal with “things”. Here’s a closer look at some of the benefits. 

Convenience 

When items are rented the burden of ownership falls to the owner, and not the consumer who is merely making use of the item for a period of time. Thus, any issues related to repair, maintenance or removal is the responsibility of the owner or, in the case of the rental economy, the business that the appliance or piece of furniture is rented from, such as Teljoy.. “The fridge example is a great one, because if that fridge was rented, the user would have to make a single call and the entire problem would be dealt with for them,” Hurvitz explains. 

Flexibility 

The rental economy has to a large degree taken its cue from the sharing economy, where giants like Airbnb and Uber took the notion of flexibility to a new level. “Flexibility is one of the core tenets of our specific rental model,” Hurvitz says, referring to the fact that Teljoy clients can choose to upgrade, downgrade, or cancel at any time. Flexibility of this nature also removes the burden of commitment and in uncertain economic times, this is the kind of value and benefit more consumers are looking for. 

Cost

The coronavirus pandemic has also put great strain on household incomes, with the household debt-to-income ratio sitting at a worrying 73.7%, according to Reserve Bank data. This pressure on consumers’ pockets has boosted the rental economy as rent-to-own offers more flexible purchasing options and a risk-free alternative to high-interest credit. 

“We’re finding that people are deferring the purchase and/or replacement of big-ticket items, such as appliances and furniture, and opting rather to rent these items and then finding that it makes more sense anyway,” Hurvitz says.  Had the fridge-on-the-blink been rented, the user of that fridge would have been spared the time, energy and hassle of dealing with it. Will “just rent it” become the credo of the crowd with a preference for access over ownership? Only time will tell, but the outlook is positive.

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