Bags: to buy or to rent?
The final post of a three-part series on designer handbags.

As I've mentioned before, bags are expensive. When I graduated from college nearly eight years ago, my present to myself was a Gucci Jackie O bag, which was $500 and at the time seemed like a ridiculous amount of money. Now I have to talk myself out of buying a Marc Jacobs bag that's on sale for $900. Of course, most bags nowadays don't even make it to the sale table; if I had to guess an average price, I'd put it at $1,300. But even if you settle for a "contemporary" designer bag, it will still set you back at least $500--most Marc by Marc Jacobs bags are in the $400 range, and Botkier and Kooba bags run even more than that. So what happens when you want a new bag? You can save up for one (although if you save up like I do, bags will be double their original price by the time you come up with the cash); you can charge it and put yourself further into debt; or, nowadays, you can rent one.

A number of handbag-rental websites have sprung up in recent years, but the most widely recognized one is Bag Borrow or Steal (full disclosure: Bag Borrow or Steal is a Cheryl Shops supporter, but this is a purely editorial post). If you think about it, it's kind of a genius idea: You can rent a bag for a week, a month, or as long as you want; when you're tired of it, send it back and get a new one. If you're fickle, it's a godsend. If you're a bag addict, it's like crack. BBOS has everything from Coach and Rafe to Chloe and Balenciaga, plus jewelery too. If the bag you want it being borrowed by someone else, add it to your wait list, and they'll send it when it's available. It's like Netflix, but with handbags.

Unlike Netflix, however, the rental fees vary widely. You can either pay a membership fee ($60/year) and take a generous discount on rental fees, or you can choose to stay a "guest" and pay a bit more. The prices start at $30 a month for lower-end bags (think Perlina and BCBG) and skyrocket up to $385 a month ($491 for non-members--yikes!) for a bag like the Louis Vuitton Cabby GM. Which is made out of denim. You're also charged $10 for round-trip shipping on a bag, and it's suggested you shell out for insurance at $19 a week. So if you're a guest and you want that Cabby, it will set you back nearly $600 for a month's use; three months of renting is nearly equal to the cost of buying it on eLuxury.com (four and a half if you're a member). Double yikes.

Renting a handbag, to me, seems akin to leasing a car, a practice that infuriates my dad, who was an accountant. New cars dramatically decrease in value within their first two or three years, and I think the same thing can be said for handbags. So why not do what smart people do with cars: Buy used! New York City is rife with consignment shops, from 7th Street in the East Village and the Ina empire in Soho to the snooty Upper East Side shops on Madison and Lexington where society gals and mistresses dump their unwanted stuff. eBay also has a lot of pre-owned bags for sale, but if you're an eBay neophyte, beware of any sellers with less than 100 positive feedbacks. For new bags at not-so-steep discounts, there's always Bluefly, but, more tellingly, Bag Borrow or Steal also has an outlet, featuring new and gently used bags for sale (not for rent) at up to 70% off. And if you ask me, that's where the real deals are.

1 comment

Caroline said...

I like the system but i dont know if i will use it