Why Rent the Runway is in hot water right now

Full disclosure—I LOVE RENT THE RUNWAY. I always hit them up when I’m a wedding guest in need of a dress I haven’t Instagrammed 8 times already, and I always get all the compliments on the dance floor, winner, winner.

That’s why all the Rent the Runway fans out there (myself absolutely included) are going to be bummed to hear that the company is under fire right now for some allegedly shady business practices.

Rent the Runway, known for renting garments made by beloved designers for a fraction of the retail price, recently introduced two in-house labels—Slate & Willow and Ella Carter. As Buzzfeed News reports, a customer recently complained to RTR after seeing a dress advertised as retailing for $595  (and avail for 4-day rental for $50) on sale at Nordstrom under the label name “Maia”  for $118.

At Lord and Taylor, another Slate and Willow dress was $129 last week, and is currently on sale for $97. Meanwhile, RTR had it originally listed as $595 retail, with a four-day rental costing $40.

So, it feels like a major bargain to rent a dress that retails for $595 for a few days for only $40. But to rent a dress for $40 that you could just, you know, own FOREVER for $97. Not so much of a bargain anymore.

When Buzzfeed News contacted RTR about the price discrepancy, the price of the sequined dress dropped to $345 retail on the site. Which is kind of silly, because the dress is, being sold for, like, a third of that at department stores, and that’s now very public information.

When it comes to well-known designers, RTR has been forced to stay honest, because it’s super easy to look up how much a Monique Lhuillier dress costs IRL, but with these in-house brands that have been quietly introduced, it’s reported that RTR has been playing a little fast and loose with the numbers, and making it harder to crosscheck by labeling these Slate and Willow dresses under the “Maia” label at department stores.

So what’s RTR’s explanation for these price differences? As they tell Buzzfeed,  “because [department stores] purchased it from a manufacturer that acquired the manufacturer we had worked with — and these companies likely bought a higher volume, driving down the cost.”

While that may be true and the numbers may work out, the optics still don’t look good for RTR.

This feels like a pretty simple fix. Just make sure that the RTR dress price listed matches the actual price the same dress is going for in stores (as is the case with the designer dresses) no one feels scammed, everybody wins.

(Image via Rent the Runway)

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