THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Consumers find fulfillment in renting

Eco-friendly and cheaper, trend gains converts

Cassandra Smith held four designer handbags that she rents. The pile on the floor are some she owns but doesn’t use. Cassandra Smith held four designer handbags that she rents. The pile on the floor are some she owns but doesn’t use. (Wilfredo Lee/ Associated Press)
By Tamara Lush
Associated Press / June 30, 2009
  • Email|
  • Print|
  • Reprints|
  • |
Text size +

MIAMI - Cassandra Smith spends $800 a month renting designer handbags and leases a luxury condo in downtown Miami. Environmentalist Zoee Turrill helped create a bike-sharing program at the University of Denver.

Though they might seem to come from different ends of the consumption spectrum, they have something in common: They’re not buying things.

The rise of rental or borrowing services catering to everyone from fashionistas to environmentalists has even spawned a marketing buzzword: the “transumer.’’

It’s a lifestyle that’s “less about treasure and more about pleasure,’’ according to Reinier Evers of Trendwatching, an Amsterdam-based market-research firm that coined the term.

It almost seems anti-American to rent, rather than buy; a look at the popular reality TV show “Clean House’’ is a testament to Americans’ love of accumulating stuff. But Evers says that in this global recession, people are warming to the idea of renting, and not buying, certain goods - because of cost, ease, or space considerations.

“On the one hand, you have consumers who want to collect as many experiences and part-time possessions as possible,’’ Evers said. “And then there are transumers who value non-ownership for environmental reasons: to only use something when you really need it, which involves everything from renting to passing something on to the next person.’’

From rented Chanel sunglasses to the auto-sharing service Zipcars to fractional ownership of a jet to movies from Netflix, the pickings are good for transumers.

“It’s kind of a sister-cousin concept to materialism, which is attachment to possessions. Transumerism, coming from the term transient, it’s more ‘I don’t want to be attached to the possession’ more ‘I’m attached to the experiences,’ ’’ said Alexandra Aguirre Rodriguez, assistant marketing professor at Florida International University.

In recent years, many more companies are renting things at all levels: Wear Today, Gone Tomorrow rents designer clothes (A $495 Vera Wang rents for $49 a week, plus a $10 cleaning charge), Rentobile leases the latest in cell phones, and iRent2u rents almost anything (think ladders and power tools) in a Craigslist-like setting.

Rodriguez says she expects the trend to continue once the economy recovers.

“I don’t think this is a trend that will go away, simply because it is about collecting the experiences and the stories,’’ she said.

There’s also the “eco-transumer,’’ like Turrill.

The 22-year-old worked with another student to raise $50,000 to start their “bike library.’’ Come fall, some 600 bikes will be placed at 40 kiosks around Denver so people can rent the two-wheelers by the hour or day.

“Why does an individual have to hold the responsibility for all the maintenance when a community could hold that responsibility?’’ she said.