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Bag Borrow or Steal

Posted by: Sarah Lacy on March 7, 2006

This time it’s not my horrible pun in the headline— that’s the name of a Seattle startup wants to be the Netflix for ladies’ luxury goods from Tiffany’s jewelry to Chanel handbags. You pay a monthly fee, about $20, $50 or $100, and get to “rent” handbags or jewelry and keep them as long as you like. When you’re sick of an item, you mail it back and get a new one. Investors aren’t put off by the mouthful of a name: The company is announcing an $8.25 million round tomorrow. They’ve raised almost $12 million to date.

I think this is a very clever idea and ties into larger trends of sharing everything via the Web; not just amorphous things like digital music, but actual goods. What’s more— this is a new business idea that could only happen on any kind of large scale over the Web. It’s not just an existing concept like content, classifieds or catalogs moving online. Every girlfriend I polled exclaimed things like, “I love this company!”

Then, thought about the economics and got less and less enthused.

How big can this market be? $100 every month is pretty steep for teens to rent handbags and more affluent ladies could easily afford their own Chanel number. (Or at least a NYC street corner knock off, shhhhh.) And keep in mind: Couture items carry a steeper add on price per month—$200 or more on the bags I liked. “Our customers don’t tend to be people who couldn’t afford the bag they’re carrying, they want selection,” countered Adam Dell, of Impact Venture Partners, one of the investors in the deal. “Imagine having a virtual closet with a wider selection than any one individual could ever buy.”

It’s a nice idea. I'm plenty clothes obsessed. And Lord knows my journalist salary doesn't allow for an endless supply of designer handbags. That’s to say nothing of getting it home: Before he would marry me my husband made me promise I’d never spend more than $400 on a pair of shoes. In his mind, I’m sure that extends to handbags. But even he’d probably opt for me to save up for one really nice bag I love and could pull out year-after-year over tossing away $100 per month on a rental. And with $1200 per year, you could buy a pretty nice one every year.

It’s the same thing with Netflix and its copycats. We’re paying the equivalent of $50 to rent a movie because we’re too busy to watch even one a month. That’s why we’re going to cancel our subscription…..eventually. Why eventually? Because we keep forgetting and at just $15 per month, that’s a little easier to stomach.

Dell guided me to the testimonials on the Web site and I have no doubt there are a subset of women who would use and love this service. A quick poll to my bag obsessed friends just couldn’t find any. And we all fit in the target demographic.

Bag Borrow or Steal says its service is like borrowing stuff from your girlfriends. One important distinction-- your friends don't charge you a $100 lending fee, plus shipping. This “borrow” means rent and “steal” means buy it if you decide not to send it back. Not quite the same…

Reader Comments

Chris Yeh

March 8, 2006 8:19 PM

The economics suck as far as people who use one luxury bag a year. But if you already buy a new bag every month, it probably works out pretty well.

I think it's insane to spend that much money on anything you wear, but I guess I'm not in the target market!


March 10, 2006 4:56 PM

$100-$200 a month seems too much... but the basic membership of $20 sounds like a pretty decent deal-- if you exchanged once a month, you could use 12 different bags in a year for only $240. Sounds like fun :)


April 13, 2006 2:35 PM

I don't like the idea of having to pay for a monthly membership. the competition of Bag Borrow or Steal is and they are much more customer friendly. You don't have to commit to a membership, so you can get a bag for a special occasion, send it back a week later, then rent again 4 months down the line. Since there is no commitment, you aren't throwing out $1200 (or more) a year for a bag you could have just purchased on your own.


April 17, 2006 3:45 PM

Another customer just sent this link to me! Thank you for your kind comments Ellie! I'm glad you are enjoying our service. We really strive to be answer for not just the every day bag addict, but the occasional one as well. For us it's really about giving the customer the exact experience they desire.


June 20, 2006 10:11 PM

Great idea!!i don't need waste my money now,who can tell me where is it?


June 21, 2006 7:39 PM

Well there are about 3 of them now, From bag to riches, and
Rentfame says they can help you make money with your bags, Is it a good idea to send them your bag?


December 4, 2006 3:25 PM

I joined and paid 20 bucks for *3* months, not one, and I'm borrowing a bag for 20 bucks a month. So I think you exaggerated just a little. Plus, I get free shipping for 2 months, I'll have the bag for a little while and then give it back, cheaper than buying the bag. Go to the website and see.


December 6, 2006 9:14 PM

Don't you have to pay a monthly membership fee, plus a daily or monthly rate, plus shipping? Sounds very steep to me...It ends up being a lot more than $1200 per year when you calculate all of those costs.


June 21, 2007 10:22 AM

The customer service is seriously a hit to the company. I am about to give up my membership with Bagborroworsteal. Every time I had a concern, their poorly trained staff never assisted me in a correct way. I kept being redirected to another topic other than the one I wanted to cover. ARGH.


September 15, 2007 7:51 AM

I just read in the Wall Street Journal about another company that rents jewelry called I'm Over It. This company was compared to BBOS and other jewelry rentals and I feel like it's definatelty "do-able" since there are no extra shipping fees and the memberships fees are low. Win-win.


November 22, 2007 10:14 AM

The syndicated game show 'Temptation' offers a one year subscription to Bag Borrow Or Steal and I just *had* to come on the Internet and check out the deal w/ this service. Seems like a pretty stupid idea to me. They also just settled a lawsuit w/ Gucci for selling *fake* "designer" handbags. Mmm-hmm.


December 11, 2007 1:56 PM

I have been a customer for a couple of years now, and I love it. The customer service has been excellent, and I have borrowed bags I can't even find in stores since they are sold out. The bags are always in beautiful condition, and for the price of one of these bags in a year, I can carry 6 or 7.


December 19, 2007 1:50 PM

It's a good way to try out that pricey designer bag before you dump the whole load of $ on a bag that just doesn't work for you. I use the site, choose wisely in the lower priced categories and enjoy the bags. Have fallen in love and "stolen" once.

I totally agree with Kia's comments!


January 10, 2008 1:32 PM

I just saw in Oprah that Bag Borrow and Steal & Bling yourself are the editors picks. I like both companies but prefer Bling Yourself because I earn points towards free rentals and I can rent men items for my man.


January 25, 2008 3:25 PM

The idea behind this is to actually get the goods in the hands of the consumer.I "rented" one bag thinking I really liked it. Once I had it I realized I didn't like it. Easy to return. "Rented" a snazzy Chanel bracelet and LOVE IT. This is a keeper. I am buying this one! Good business strategy in getting it into my home and on my wrist. Great idea!


February 15, 2008 7:13 PM

I received a call asking to verify my account with a social security #. I didn't like that - if this a standard practice - I'd rather not buy. HUGE turn off to me when vendors ask for this and can't even justify why. Poor customer service. I immediately cancelled and I think I will try the other sites mentioned here.


April 23, 2008 12:48 AM

Bag, Borrow or Steal is awesome. I see them all over the place including a big spot in the new Sex and the City movie.

If I only wanted one bag, I wouldn't use these guys, but I've always got to have the latest and greatest.:) I actually save money with them.

I heard it's a bunch of ex-Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman folks. Their site looks great and they have way much more stuff than anyone else. Plus I heard they have jewelry and sunglasses now.

Penny pincher

May 10, 2008 7:22 PM

My co-workers and I have been using for several weeks now....this site is awesome! BagBorrow is wayyyyy too expensive. Borrow for FREE at


Ewww Used Bags!

June 3, 2008 9:59 AM

When I first heard about this, I was disgusted. I joined some purse forums and one commenter suggested that I walk into a Goodwill store and look at some of the purses available--some 'rich' donors get bored and want to empty out their closets. I walked into one Goodwill store and just hated the lighting. I checked a really sad rack of worn out purses. There was one Guess purse that looked vaguely interesting and I checked the inner lining. I found a dirty rolled up Kleenex and gagged. I got the hell out of there with a feeling of defilement and disgust. I immediately located a place to wash my and sanitize my hands. I needed a shower right after that. No more Goodwill stores for me! To even consider paying huge amounts to borrow a bag and share with someone in the world is just beyond me. The image of the dirty snot-drenched Kleenex burned an image in my mind.

Almost all my bags have been bought from retail stores brand new. [I did get a bag or two in my life but they were given to me by friends I trust.] When making a new bag purchase, I try to ask the salesperson to find me the same-styled bag I like still in plastic wrap or from the back room. There is no guarantee that the plastic wrapped bags are brand new but there is a better chance that no used dirty Kleenex ever visited the insides of that bag before I purchased it. I am not germ phobic but I do like cleanliness and expect some exclusivity when I make a new purchase.

To borrow? Are you kidding me???? That' is just plain stupid!

Renting is good

June 25, 2008 8:33 AM is my company of choice. Check them out. The bags are beautiful and the prices are so much lower than the other companies. Also there are no membership fees and shipping is even free. I


July 10, 2008 7:09 AM

My vote goes to


August 8, 2008 5:45 PM

Bag Borrow or Steal, Inc. Rent ALL fakes.
Don't be duped. If you want fake bag get it on any swapmeet for $30.


October 6, 2008 11:25 PM

i am the target audience, and the fact that people throw this kind of money into BRANDING and status symbols absolutely repulses me. there are people living in filth and dying from starvation today.


May 27, 2009 7:31 PM

I co-own a company and even I don't like purchasing expensive handbags and accessories all the time. is TOO expensive for those of us on a budget, especially now. I LOVE designer things and can afford them, but seriously what's with the membership fees, shipping fees, and weekly/monthly fees on that site?? Not to mention having your credit charged ANY amount without your permission. I'll try one of the sites mentioned in this forum from now on...thanks ladies.


August 27, 2009 9:59 AM

ughhh bag borrow or steal is WAYYYY TOOO EXPENSIVEEEE!! Makes me angry and the site someone posted is not goin through..bags borrowed for any high end designer should be a monthly flat rate of about 20 dollars and then a 1st down payment of about maybe 100 or less.. paying over a 100 dollars a month is like paying a car note or something... someone who can afford 100 or 200 a month should be able to buy different high end bags buy an actual store if that was the case. SMH (shaking my head) highly upset

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