Longreads Needs Your Help

During our Winter Member Drive, we are hoping to raise $50,000 in funding for new journalism and storytelling.

If you support our mission, please contribute today: Make a contribution

Your support means more top‑notch journalism and storytelling.

Make a contribution

When the Poor Pay $1,439.28 for an iPad

At Buddy’s, a used 32-gigabyte, early model iPad costs $1,439.28, paid over 72 weeks. An Acer laptop: $1,943.28, in 72 weekly installments. A Maytag washer and dryer: $1,999 over 100 weeks.

Abbott wanted a love seat-sofa combo, and she knew it might rip her budget. But this, she figured, was the cost of being out of options. “You don’t get something like that just to put more burden on yourself,” Abbott said.

Five years into a national economic recovery that has further strained the poor working class, an entire industry has grown around handing them a lifeline to the material rewards of middle-class life. Retailers in the post-Great Recession years have become even more likely to work with customers who don’t have the money upfront, instead offering a widening spectrum of payment plans that ultimately cost far more and add to the burdens of life on the economy’s fringes.

In the Washington Post, Chico Harlan looks at the proliferation of “rent-to-own” stores, which offer low-income Americans the chance to own items they can’t afford to buy outright, but at a much higher price.

Read the story

Photo: Steven Snodgrass