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Motivated by new and innovative rental business models, this paper develops a novel discrete-time model of a rental operation with random loss of inventory due to customer use. The inventory level is chosen before the start of a finite rental season, and customers not immediately served are lost. Our analysis framework uses stochastic comparisons of sample paths to derive structural results that hold under good generality for demands, rental durations, and rental unit lifetimes. Considering different \recirculation" rules | i.e., which rental unit to choose to meet each demand | we prove the concavity of the expected profit function and identify the optimal recirculation rule. A numerical study clarifies when considering rental unit loss and recirculation rules matters most for the inventory decision: Accounting for rental unit loss can increase the expected profit by 7% for a single season and becomes even more important as the time horizon lengthens. We also observe that the optimal inventory level in response to increasing loss probability is non-monotonic. Finally, we show that choosing the optimal recirculation rule over another simple policy allows more rental units to be profitably added, and the profit-maximizing service level increases by up to 6 percentage points.


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© Springer. Final version published as: Slaugh, V. W., Biller, B., & Tayur, S. R. (2016). Managing rentals with usage-based loss. Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, 18(3), 429-444.
doi: 10.1287/msom.2016.0576
Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.