rent v. buy

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In this Hong Kong alleyway amidst pasted bills advertising a commodity more traditionally thought of as either being rented or bought – namely, physical space – is a seemingly novel offer. Consider how the advertiser settled on this particular price for the rental of this object. At 199 Hong Kong Dollars (around $25.50), this serves as an insightful guide to the general value of status for this context, being that it is roughly equal to the approximate uptick in status resulting from being seen out on the town whilst carrying a very expensive brand-name purse.

Consider also the aspect of depreciation involved in renting versus buying. Once the bag has been purchased, its (monetary) value will drop markedly from what was paid for it, considering it is now “used”. Presumably soon afterwards its new owner takes it out on the town for the first time, where they will likely receive compliments and opinions about the bag and will enjoy their uptick in status associated with carrying it. After that, however, the value the status value of carrying the bag would then start to decrease on successive outings as the novelty wore off. In fact, use as one’s bag exclusively for too long would begin to cause the opposite effect: speculation that one lacked (or was unable to afford) any other bags.

Particularly relevant for Hong Kong (and greater urban China) is how the price and associated risks of renting this (ostensibly) authentic Chanel bag compares with the price/risk of purchasing a counterfeit Chanel bag (and having said purchase be recognized or exposed as fake). When/where does the risk of a cost of having a bag running over $5000 stolen from you outweigh the status penalty of being exposed as owning a counterfeit?

Consider what would most likely be rented in your context, which items you would personally consider renting, and where your limits (in price, in object type, in comfort lying about owning something rented) would be. Next time you are out, look around you – is that a rented dress she’s wearing? Has he rented his female companion for the evening? Is that supposedly influential individual merely renting several thousand Twitter followers?

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