Layaway plans could create a shopping headache

Many retailers rolled out their layaway plans for the holidays a month earlier than last year, with some stores even offering additional incentives to use the layaway option. But Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to read the fine print on layaway contracts to avoid costly shopping blunders. In addition, BBB advises:

  • Plan ahead. Before signing a layaway contract, make sure you can actually come up with the money to pay for the products. Unlike outstanding credit card debt, which will just accumulate interest, failure to pay your layaway payment means you could lose the product and any payments already paid.
  • Obtain a written contract. Ask the company for a written contract and read it carefully. Contracts should include when payments must be made and what happens if a payment is late. Keep in mind that each company may have a different layaway policy.
  • Confirm how long the item can be kept on layaway. Some stores only hold items for a specific time period, and then redistribute them for re-sale — If not paid in full.
  • Ask where item(s) will be stored. Be sure your items will be placed in a secure area until all payments are made, so they won’t be sold to other customers.
  • Read the company’s refund policy. What happens if you change your mind and decide not to purchase the item? Be sure to check if refunds are available.