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Holiday layaway programs return to retail stores

Monday, September 16, 2013

We are thinking ahead to the holidays. They're still a few months away, but now is the time to put your budget together, and some stores are helping with layaway plans. But, are they worth it?

For those who live paycheck to paycheck, this might be a great way to budget for your holiday shopping. And for those who are looking for a way to get the hot toys now, this might be the way to go.

With Christmas just under 100 days away, K-Mart is airing a holiday shopping ad hoping to lure shoppers to plan early. Last week, the ad sparked a social media backlash, with many complaining it's way too soon. But K-Mart defended its ad, arguing it coincided with the rollout of the new layaway promotion.

Last week, Walmart also launched their program. Sears and Toys R Us have their own.

Christmas shopping in September with temps in the 90's doesn't bother Hope Mendieta.

"For a person like me that's on a once-a-month check, you have make plans ahead of time," Mendieta said.

It's the same for Evelyn Pipkin. Her Christmas budget is already set and that plan includes layaway.

"It helps me a lot because I have six grandchildren, and they are asking for all these expensive gifts," Pipkin said.

So if you are thinking of putting items on layaway, here are some things to keep in mind. First, ask if there is a fee. Sears charges a $5 fee. At Toys R Us, it's free to layaway now. And Walmart, it's free to layaway during their layaway period.

Next, many stores require you to make a down payment based on a percentage of your total purchase. It's usually 10 percent, plus other restrictions may apply.

"All we need is the items to have a minimum of $15 price point and a total basket to open the account is a $50 amount," Walmart manager Miriam Crosby said.

Next, find out how long the layaway contract lasts and how often must you make payments.

At Toys R Us, the contract requires customers to make bi-monthly payments; and if not, your order could be canceled. At Walmart, the contract is less stringent, but must be paid in full by December 13.

"Customers can pay at their own leisure, their own time. There isn't a strict amount of they can pay, and they can pay at any ready stores through the next 90 days," Crosby said.

And if you cancel your layaway, expect a $10 cancellation fee.

But customers say some of the bonuses of layaway include storing big toys like bicycles, cars and doll houses. Also you can hold popular items on layaway that may not be available as it gets closer to the holidays like tablets, Elmo and Zoomer the Robot Dog.

Keep in mind, many of these stores will price match. So if you see a better price advertised while you item is on layaway, head to the customer service desk of your store and they will likely adjust the price.

Find Patricia on Facebook at ABC13PatriciaLopez or on Twitter at @patricialopez13

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