With the holidays approaching, many shoppers are searching for affordable methods of paying for big-ticket holiday gifts. If you are considering using a “layaway plan,” the Hillsborough County Consumer Protection Agency offers the following information:
How Layaway Plans Work
- No interest is charged on the purchase.
- Buyers should expect to make a down payment of 10 to 20 percent
- Merchants may charge a small fee for holding the item(s)
- Consumers usually have to pay for the merchandise in 30 to 90 days, and can’t take the merchandise home until it’s fully paid for
Questions to Ask Before Entering into a Layaway Agreement
- 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?
- Do I have to pay a penalty?
- What happens to my merchandise?
- Can I get a refund or store credit if I no longer want one or more of the items after making payments?
- What happens if the item goes on sale after I’ve put it on layaway?
- Are electronic items subject to stricter rules, limited return rights, restocking fees, shorter return periods or no refunds at all?
Be Familiar with Return Policies Before Making Purchases
- Find out if the store has different rules for different categories of items
- Inquire about the company’s online policies as they may differ from in-store rules
- Keep the original receipt and packaging
Help for Your Online Shopping Comparisons and Price Research
- Consumer Reports has hundreds of reviews, but you’ll have to pay a subscription fee
- Amazon.com and CNET offer user reviews and ratings
- Pricegrabber.com lets consumers comparison shop for the best price
Other online sites are also available. Consumers should always read the fine print and know what to expect before deciding to use layaway as a purchase option. Always check the retailer’s standing at the Better Business Bureau website.