The biggest downfall of layaway programs is fees, so consumers should read the fine print to find out what the fees are and what happens if they are unable to continue making payments, she added.
For the first time this year, Toys R Us and Walmart started layaway a month earlier, in September, giving shoppers more time to pay. Both retailers also reduced their fees. Walmart dropped its fee from $15 to $5, and it will now be refunded with a gift card after the final payment is made. Toys R Us waived the fee completely for layaway orders made before Oct. 31. Kmart and Sears, which have layaway year-round, also eliminated fees.
“By kicking off our holiday layaway earlier, it gives customers the maximum amount of time to pay for those items,” said Katie Reczek, a spokeswoman for Toys R Us, which reintroduced layaway in 2009 and expanded eligible items in 2011. “It's grown in popularity each year.”
Reczek points out another advantage to layaway: giving parents playing Santa a place to “hide” large gifts like dollhouses, bicycles and swing sets until closer to Christmas.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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Key questions to ask:
• How much do I have to put down?
• Are there any storage or service plan fees?
• When are the payments due?
• 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?