With stores near military bases across the country, the retailer USA Discounters offers easy credit to service members. But when those loans go bad, the company uses the local courts near its Virginia headquarters to file suits by the thousands.
This article was co-published with The Washington Post.
Army Spc. Angel Aguirre needed a washer and dryer.
Money was tight, and neither Aguirre, 21, nor his wife had much credit history as they settled into life at Fort Carson in Colorado in 2010.
That’s when he saw an ad for USA Discounters, guaranteeing loan approval for service members. In military newspapers and magazines, on the radio, and on TV, the Virginia-based company’s ads shout, “NO CREDIT? NEED CREDIT? NO PROBLEM!” The store was only a few miles from Fort Carson.
“We ended up getting a computer, a TV, a ring, and a washer and dryer,” Aguirre said. “The only thing I really wanted was a washer and dryer.”
Aguirre later learned that USA Discounters’ easy lending has a flip side. Should customers fall behind, the company transforms into an efficient collection operation. And this part of its business takes place not where customers bought their appliances, but in two local courthouses just a short drive from the company’s Virginia Beach headquarters.
From there, USA Discounters files lawsuits against service members based anywhere in the world, no matter how much inconvenience or expense they would incur to attend a Virginia court date. Since 2006, the company has filed more than 13,470 suits and almost always wins, records show.
“They’re basically ruthless,” said Army Staff Sgt. David Ray, who was sued in Virginia while based in Germany over purchases he made at a store in Georgia.