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Is Layaway the Answer to Your Shopping Dilemmas?

If holiday shopping has you thinking about using a layaway plan, the Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection has some advice before you sign.

Q.      Although Black Friday is still about a month away I’ve noticed that the advertisements have already started promoting stores’ layaway programs.  It has me thinking about all the presents that I have to get for the holidays. 

It seems that layaway is becoming popular again due to the economy.  I figure why not shop early so I’ll have time to pay it off before the holidays.

I am feeling the pinch this year and am considering shopping using layaway.  I have never used a layaway program before and don’t know too much about it.  Can you give me any advice?          C.S., Warminster

A.      Layaway can be a good idea when you want to get your shopping out of the way, but may not have the money to cover your purchases upfront.  It allows you to purchase your items right away and then pay for them over a period of time. 

Before you start shopping and using a store’s layaway program, get the specific information about their layaway policies.  These policies can vary from store to store. 

Ask about their return policy just in case you purchase something and down the road decide on a different gift or you find a better deal in another store.  Each store can have its own return policy.   Some stores could have “all sales are final”, others may only give a store credit so you need to know this before you make any purchases. 

Some stores may charge a restocking fee for returned items.  If so, ask how much the fee is. 

Find out if there is a minimum payment that is required when using their layaway.  Ask how much time you will have to pay for the items and when the payments are due. 

Check if there is a penalty for late payments.  Find out if there are any charges added to the purchase price, for example, service fee or layaway fee. 

If you are not happy with any of the store’s conditions, you may want to try another store. 

It may seem a little early to start thinking about your holiday shopping but it’s better to be prepared in advance.  A well-informed consumer is a savvy consumer. 

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