A reader: My children are getting older and so their Santa lists seems to get more expensive each year. Do stores still offer layaways?
Action Line: Layaway once again has become increasingly popular during this time of year. Layaway programs can be a solution for customers who cannot purchase all their gifts at once, don’t want to max out their credit cards, or just want to make small payments over time with zero interest.
Many big box retailers are offering layaway plans this year, but that doesn’t mean you have to shop only at these big chains. Some small local businesses also offer layaway plans as well. While it may not be advertised, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
When purchasing items on layaway, BBB recommends the following tips:
▪ Always read the fine print: Many consumers just sign contracts without reading the fine print, which can cost them in the long run. Ask the company for a written contract for the layaway and carefully read it. Layaway policies can differ from one company to another, so don’t assume they are all the same.
▪ Understand the layaway fees and policies: Every store has different layaway policies and fees. Make sure you understand these before you commit to the layaway. Most stores charge a small fee to start a layaway, and you must pay off and pick up your items within a specified period of time. You usually have to pay a deposit when you start your layaway and another for a cancellation.
▪ Start your layaway early: Starting late can be a pain, especially when you have to scramble to come up with a double layaway payment to get your items in time for the holidays. To avoid a hassle, start your layaway shopping at least several weeks before the holidays. This gives you more time to pay and you will be sure to have the items in time.
▪ Payment dates: Make sure you know the exact day your payment is due. If a payment is late the layaway item may be put back on the shelf and sold to another customer, and you may also lose your down payment.
▪ Merchandise holds: Find out if the item being placed on layaway is set aside immediately or when it is paid for. Some consumers may be informed that the product they were paying on has been sold to another customer.
▪ Delivery dates: If the product you have on layaway is to be delivered to you, then make sure the delivery date is listed in the contract. You can run into a delivery issue or delay because the product is not available and the non-layaway items were shipped out to customers first.
▪ Length of time: Ask how long the item can be placed on layaway. That length of time varies from store to store.
▪ Check with BBB: Search the company beforehand on bbb.org/ccie to see if it is a company you can trust. If you do run into any problems feel free to file a complaint.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.