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Full-rental lifestyle flies in face of traditional desire to own

RENTING is nothing new. Many people rent/lease houses, cars, costumes, tuxedos, professional equipment like cameras and projectors. But now rental has been taken to a whole new level, a "full-rental lifestyle."

Now these compulsive renters have a name °?- ha zu zu, the "rental maniacs" who want to spend the least money for the maximum pleasure.

Ha means crazy about, the first zu means rental and the second means group. They are the rental lunatics, mostly aged 25 to 35 and living in big cities.

The term was coined early this year and the trend is to rent even more, and more unusual items.

Rental Websites have started up. The economic downturn contributes to the trend.

Ha zu zu represents a "full-rental lifestyle." They live in a rented apartment, sleep on a rented bed with their rented pet nearby, turn on the rented air-con, put their rented DVD into a rented player and watch from a rented TV, drive a rented car to work, wear rented clothes for dates, take rented designer bags to parties, hike with rented jackets and boots, travel with rented tents and cameras, and even chat with a rented friend.

The full-rental lifestyle seems strange in China and flies in the face of the traditional Chinese desire for ownership, though leasing cars and houses is okay until you can afford to buy.

Most Chinese are reluctant to rent clothes, air conditioners, pets and electronics, even if they're okay with renting houses and camping gear.

Houses are expensive and camp tents are used infrequently. Though most wedding outfits are rented, many people consider worn clothing uncomfortable and dirty, even if they were only worn once and were dry-cleaned.

For electronics and pets, most people are more willing to buy and own rather than rent.

But ha zu zu promotes the idea of "renting a life," as 29-year-old magazine editor Lucy Lin puts it. A typical ha zu zu in Shanghai, Lin is no rookie when it comes to rentals.

She started renting evening dresses and luxurious jewelry for social events five years ago.

"Some people might say I'm too materialistic, but it's necessary for me to dress appropriately for these events considering my job. I can't just wear jeans to all those events," says Lin.

She doesn't do it to show off expensive clothes, she says, adding that it's difficult to find suitable clothes, except in expensive stores.

So Lin clicked with the idea of ha zu zu right away when she first heard about it from a colleague photographer from Shandong Province.

The 24-year-old lensman rented a heater for his apartment when it got too cold last November. He could have bought one, but was drawn to the idea of returning it after winter and paying only 150 yuan (US$22) a month. He only needed it for two months.

"It's the idea of appreciating and utilizing without owning," says editor Lin. "It is also the ecological idea of sharing and making full use of resources, just like buying second-hand," she says, adding that Chinese are "obsessed with ownership." That's why second-hand stores are not as successful as in other countries.

All her friends have bought expensive things that they don't often use, such as projectors, fax machines, and the popular DSLR (digital single lens reflex camera).

"So why not just rent them?" asks Lin.

Most ha zu zu agree with Lin's opinion about ownership, but only a few have tried out the more unusual categories.

On the popular Websites and online forums, there are thousands of discussions about renting.

Many people, however, are still not sure how much they can save by renting and are concerned whether suppliers are reputable.

Many non-rental companies also see business potential in renting and post advertisements on rental Websites. The idea is that all deals are a kind of rental.

For example, we see "Ideas for Rent" from an advertising consultancy and "Knowledge/Diploma for Rent" from an evening school.

Lin doesn't know how much she has saved by renting, but insists that "I must have saved because I have maintained the same living standard with fewer perks from advertisers since the global slowdown hit."

She has rented clothes, bags, jewelry, plants, a humidifier and a cell phone, mostly from three popular specialized Websites. All were established last year.

Most rentals are practical, such as air-conditioners, digital products like cell phones and outdoor and camping gear.

Technology is improving rapidly and models are outdated, especially in digital products.

Prices are dropping and renters like the idea of keeping up to date with the latest model, not wasting money on dated technology.

Rentals aren't only products. There's a different side to renting.

Many people post online that they will rent out VIP cards for luxury stores, clubs, restaurants and spas for 5-10 yuan a day.

Others even extend the idea of rental to intangibles, such as time.

It's not uncommon to see posts by unemployed folks and students saying "Rent Me."

Don't get it wrong: They offer their time to run errands, pick up a friend from the airport, play the role of your assistant at dinner with a client, feed and walk your dog, and line up for popular concert tickets.

The hourly rate is usually 150-300 yuan, with additional costs for transport.

Some will even listen to your troubles, cheer you up with jokes or play the role of boyfriend in front of your parents who are nagging you to get married and produce a grandchild.

Clicks are high on these people-time rentals, but so far there are no deals on the big three rental Websites. Quotes from ha zu zu

"I'm not seeking to own forever, I just want to enjoy it for a while."

It's a famous line about diamonds being forever. "I'm not seeking this for eternity, I just want to own it for a while."

The diamond line is one of the most popular and copied in China, quoted by many people when they write about love.

"Contribute my limited money to the limitless pleasure of life."

This turns around the famous quotation widely attributed to model soldier Lei Feng (1940-1962), famed for hard work and serving the people.

"Spend the least money for the maximum pleasure."

"Living is all about attitude. It is difficult to purchase pleasure, but it's possible to rent pleasure now."

"Rental is a way of saving. Rental is a pleasant investment. Rental is an efficient lifestyle."


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