With many stores offering deals on layaway, consumers may find this old-fashioned concept attractive for holiday purchases. A National Retail Federation survey in October found that 6.9 percent of consumers were using layaway to purchase holiday items.
Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona advises consumers to read and understand a store’s layaway contract before agreeing to place items on layaway. Otherwise, they could be surprised by fees or other charges that could add to the cost of their purchases.
The layaway concept dates to the Great Depression, when cash-strapped families found the idea of paying for items on a monthly or weekly basis attractive. The concept lost its luster in the days of easy credit, but it has been revived and proved popular in recent years. This year, several chains have reduced fees and increased the number of items eligible for layaway.
As a complement to in-store layaway, some retailers provide online layaway services for purchasing items through the retailer’s website. Third-party businesses also have sprung up, offering layaway plans online between customers and retailers that don’t have their own layaway program. Customers make periodic payments to the third-party layaway service provider. Once the item is fully paid for, the business then buys the item from the retailer and ships it to the customer.
When buying items on layaway, BBB advises consumers to get everything in writing and offers the following checklist of questions to ask:
- How much time do I have to pay off the item?
- When are the payments due?
- How much do I have to put down?
- Are there any storage or service plan fees?
- What happens if I miss a payment? Are there penalties? Does the item return to inventory?
- Can I get a refund or store credit if I no longer want the item after making a few payments?
- What happens if the item goes on sale after I’ve put it on layaway?
- Does the retailer or third-party layaway service have a good BBB rating?