Shopping: Worth It? Rent the Runway’s Unlimited Program

All this . . . for $99 per month?
All this . . . for $99 per month?

Yesterday, I got an email that seemed to be perfectly timed with my closet purge. Rent the Runway, which lets you rent out dresses for a few days for special occasions and whatnot, was announcing a new, unlimited subscription service. A subscription for  3 dresses or accessories at a time (the company launched a subscription, for accessories only, last year) costs $99 per month, and you get to keep the items for as long as you want. Renting instead of buying lets you refresh your wardrobe quite easily, without commitment or worrying that you’d purchased the wrong size (if it doesn’t fit, just send it back for the next size up or down). I’d make a comparison to Netflix, but that’s been done.

My question is: is this worth it? I probably spend about that much per month on clothing, accessories and the like (I’m lying, it’s probably more, but I’d like to spend that much), but that’s all stuff that I get to keep. When it no longer “sparks joy,” I can either sell it or donate it, so there’s a chance I’d get back some of what I originally spent.

Of course, there is some appeal in having a dress, wearing it once (or twice), then sending it back for a new one without worrying about whether it will end up in a landfill or about the fact that you’ve just dropped a lot of money on something you wore once or twice. There’s no committing to the dress, or to a handbag or piece of jewelry.

But, as with Netflix, you can end up paying for a subscription you don’t really use. How many of us have DVDs languishing in their red envelopes, waiting to be watched? (What, you don’t get Netflix DVDs anymore? Oh.) Imagine that, but with a designer dress just hanging in your closet for months on end, waiting for the perfect moment. At that point, the monthly fee isn’t so much of a steal.

I also have to wonder about the items that do get used. Say you rent a nice bag and use it daily for a month. There’s going to be wear and tear — how will the next person to get that bag feel, even if it’s been cleaned? How can it be kept like new after so many uses and cleanings?

On the plus side, Rent the Runway covers the cost of dry cleaning and shipping. The clothing and accessories also have some insurance, in case you spill your beer on them or something. But, if someone steals your designer, rented handbag or if you somehow lose a dress (it can happen), you’re on the hook for the full retail price. Yikes.

I think my decision is this: I’m tempted, but I’m going to pass, at least for now.


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