Maria Lopez-McIntyre found a brown sectional that fit perfectly into her living room and her budget.
"We were excited. We got what we wanted and it seemed to be a good deal," she said. "$218 each month. I thought it was a six-month payment plan and I thought, well, it's not too bad. The cash price was $1150. I'll take it."
She signed the purchase agreement electronically in July and got the couch the same day. It wasn't until January that she kept receiving e-mails about payments that seemed out of place.
"I called them and I said I think that's already paid. It's been seven months and you told me six months," she explained.
Lopez McIntyre soon found out the couch she had been paying for the past six months wasn't purchased. The document she signed was a rental purchase agreement.
"I said what do you mean lease? That is not a lease and she said 'yes, you signed for a lease.' I was like what?" recalled Lopez-McIntyre.
It's a problem that can have ripple effects not only in your wallet. If you miss payments, your credit can be damaged. You can even end up in jail. That's all due to a Texas law written in 1977 that helped to protect rental companies from customers that would take off with their products with no repercussions.
It's a thousand extra dollars and a lesson learned for Lopez McIntyre; one to which she hopes others pay close attention.
"It's six pages and sometimes you feel like, 'oh I'm not going to read these,' but then you end up in a bad situation," she said.
It's important to read your contract in full. But if you feel that skimming is inevitable, here are Samantha Chatman's Solutions:
• Always double check the numbers.
• Understand what you're expected to do to fulfill the contract.
• Watch out for the words "rent" or "lease."
• If you're ever promised anything by a salesperson, have them point out where it says that in the contract. Word of mouth cannot help you, but having it in writing can.