As we were eating Thanksgiving dinner and thinking ahead to Christmas, the topic of Sears layaway – and other Christmas shopping options – arose. This was a familiar topic to at least one person at that dinner table, a woman born in the early 1900s. She had worked in a department store when layaway was a common practice, used right through the Great Depression. Although I was born after the Great Depression, I could still recall when layaway was fairly common.
“It was a nightmare for the accounting department” my relative said, “but customers loved it “, adding that layaway was “the only way” some customers felt they could afford items during tough economic times (including the Great Depression) , even though many Christmas shoppers never finished paying for holiday gifts or would make small payments for a period of months – or longer – often with high interest payments and penalties attached to the layaway policies.
That was then. But what about now? Sears, Kmart and a host of other stores are once again offering Christmas layaway plans. Although I haven’t used the newest Sears Layaway Program, I have used zero percent, temporary payment plans on credit cards, including one offered by Sears. Here’s how Sears and Kmart layaway programs work and what you might want to consider before using these payment options as you shop for Christmas gifts:
Sears Layaway and Kmart payment programs: how they work. Can you use them for Sears appliances?
Because of Black Friday sales, it took time to get into the main Sears site, located here . However, I was able to find both the Sears layaway and the Kmart layaway pages and check out the information about Christmas layaway payment plans and programs at both stores. Once you reach those pages, you can easily open files spelling out the terms for the Christmas payment plans. According to site info, Sears started layaway programs on November 14 and any merchandise put in layaway will be held until December 23, 2008 (according to the Sears Layaway Program information seen online). I also called a local Sears store to verify the information. I was told that many Sears home appliances could not be purchased with layaway plans.
At Sears site, the information notes that customers can select items, take them to the register and make a down payment. Once payments are completed, the Christmas gift or other item can be taken home. At the Kmart site, however, information notes that payments have to be made every two weeks.
Bottom line: There is both Sears layaway and Kmart layaway but information differs about how often payments must be made while items are in layaway – at least, on the main pages I found which contained basic info about the plans. Sears appliances may not be purchased with layaway programs (but do check with store personnel and check the website often for updates about this).
Are Christmas layaway plans – from Sears or other stores- your best option for holiday shopping?
Think carefully about this. In order to make an informed decision, you’ll want to look closely at the Sears, Kmart and other layaway program details. Also, do some thinking about why these options exist – and who they benefit. With Sears Layaway, you get some breathing room before you have to pay for holiday gifts or other items but that breathing room comes with a cost. Service fees for Sears layaways are currently $5 (with some exceptions, including fees for Maryland residents) and that fee is nonrefundable. You also may have to make a down payment and all layaways must be paid in full (at Sears) by December 23, 2008, according to the layaway program information found online.
Bottom line: know why you are using layaway. If you don’t have the money to pay for an item in full, do you want to pay an additional $5 Service Fee now to hold an item till December 23rd? What are the odds that you’ll be unable to pay for the item by then and have to pay an additional Cancellation Fee? Make sure you have a good plan to pay for any items held in layaway within the short time limits that may exist for these plans.
Sears or other layaway plans or credit cards for Christmas shopping – pros and cons
Given a choice, I’d pay cash but holiday shoppers in a tight economy don’t always have that option. That may be the reason layaway is seeing a comeback at stores like Sears, Kmart and other retailers. Layaway gives retailers some money during a tough Christmas shopping season and it does give holiday shoppers a chance to grab some bargains on Black Friday and throughout much of the Christmas season as well. However, there isn’t necessarily much time left to pay the total cost of whatever you buy. Also, keep in mind that some items are excluded from layaway programs. Items that could be excluded include home electronics, some sales and special items, gift cards and magazines.
When we bought our refrigerator, we used a 0 percent option to buy it from Sears. Looking at Sears layaway program, I think we got a better deal by using that credit card option. We didn’t pay any special fees or interest for an entire year and we paid the total in full before interest could kick in. We also got free delivery, normally an additional cost.
In that case, a credit card payment would be a better deal for some Christmas shoppers – if any attractive credit card options exist and if consumers meet the requirements to use such payment plans. In a tight economy or recession, a year’s time to pay for Christmas gifts could afford more financial breathing room than one month or (depending on the retailer) payment periods that are very short.
Bottom line: try to use cash. If you can’t pay for your Christmas gifts immediately, consider other payment options when shopping at Sears and other stores. If you use layaway programs, know the details and the risks involved. Layaway may still be your best choice but make sure that it is an informed choice and what you’ll pay to gain some payment time.
Christmas layaway plans – compare payment programs carefully
On the Sears Layaway page, there was a blurb about Kmart layaway programs, with a link to Kmart’s site. I checked out Kmart’s payment plan and noticed some differences between the details and payment schedules (as listed from information found online and in files which could be opened) there and Sears Layaway Program. Kmart required bi-weekly payments and had a slightly different list of unauthorized merchandise. Also, Sears has a Fine Jewelry layaway program and the new Sears payment program does not invalidate any existing Fine Jewelry layaway programs.
At Kmart, items could be returned to stock within 7 days of a missed payment. Also, Maryland residents had some special rules, service fees, etc. Differences like this could affect how much you pay for layaway as well as your rights when you use such programs.
Bottom line: even if a site has a link to another store’s layaway plan or program, don’t assume the costs, fees, authorized merchandise and terms are the same. Check the fine print of the layaway programs – and don’t hesitate to call the store or ask a customer service employee for the details. Check all Christmas payment plans carefully. Know your rights and the limitations of each program.
Sears website: here
Sears layaway page: here
Kmart layaway page: here