On the bright side, the Virginia-based retailer USA Discounters offers loans to customers who have no credit. The downside? Those loans may be predatory, and customers who fail to pay will get sued in Virginia courtrooms no matter where they live, Pacific Standard reports. An added wrinkle: Many of the customers are in the US military. "They’re basically ruthless," an Army staff sergeant said after he bought items at a Georgia outlet and was sued in Virginia while serving in Germany. Yet the company still attracts service members by offering them credit counseling in stores near military bases. And "after the horse is out of the barn, there’s not a lot you can do about it," says a finance expert.
Take Army Private Jeramie Mays: He bought a $650 laptop for $2,993 (including add-ons and interest over 23 months) at a USA Discounters in Texas, then failed to pay and eventually filed for bankruptcy. His story isn't so unusual, either: USA Discounters has won 89% of its 13,470 Virginia lawsuits since 2006, court records say, and seizes more pay from military service members than any other US company, ProPublica reports. For its part, the company says its practices are clear in the contract, and active-military customers can seek trial outside of Virginia upon request. "This company is committed to ensuring" that service members "are always treated with the honor and respect they deserve," said a USA Discounters executive. (Read more predatory lending stories.)