Layaway: A Lost Service?

December 2, 2003 -- Posted at 11:15pm

JONESBORO, AR - So you've found the perfect gift for that someone special, but you don't have the cash with you to pay for it, and you don't want to put it on your credit card. Now what?


It's a service that's going by the wayside at some stores, but for Teresa Wooten it's a welcomed convenience.

"I use it every year around the holidays," said Wooten. "You know you're basically assured that the merchandise is going to be on the shelves and they're not going to be out of it."

She just picked up DVDs she had on layaway at Wal-mart. She's also used it for bicycles and other big items she's purchased for her children. Customers at this store have to pay 10% of the price to hold merchandise, have to make one payment every 30 days and have 60 days to pay the balance and pick it up.

"..and we offer.. if you aren't able to get it in the time it's out, you can always extend it, or you can cancel it and put it back in," explained Jennifer Bartelt, Customer Service Manager. "We offer little things that help a person out."

Some stores stopped offering layaway in the 1980s. Dillard's and Target are two retailers that don't have the service.

"Other stores in the area charge you to put items in layaway," added Wooten. "Wal-mart does not."

Here are some tips to remember when using a layaway service:

*KNOW THE TERMS - get the minimum payments and payment deadlines in writing; different rules may apply during the holiday season.

*ASK ABOUT REFUNDS - if you don't complete your payments, do you get a cash refund or a store credit and is there a service charge?

*LOCATE YOUR MERCHANDISE - is it set aside in the back of the store, or does it have to be specially ordered? Is the item you're paying installments on identified on your receipt?