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What Ever Happened to Layaway?

I recently overheard a Niagara Falls consumer lamenting the disappearance of layaway at a discount department store.

"Look at all these nice coats," she said, sorting through a rack of winter jackets displayed well before the first flakes of winter had flown. "They really screwed us up when they got rid of layaway."

Looking into her tired eyes, I saw my mom. I wanted to cry.

"I know," I said. "And once you get the money to buy them..."

"They're all gone," she said.

"Yep."

Every June my mom would take my sisters and brothers and me to Hills Department Store to put school clothes on layaway.  All summer we would pay on our account, bringing a big brown box of clothing home just in time for the first days of school. What would we have done without it?

Probably the same thing many others are doing now. Opening store credit cards and racking up more debt. Sure, you get to take the clothes home right away, but you pay a hefty price for it. Department store credit lines have some of the stiffest interest rates and late payment penalties.

With layaway, when you couldn't pay, do you remember what happened? They put your merchandise back on the shelves and refunded your money. But if you don't pay your credit card, you're shackled to a debt that just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

How have you gotten on without layaway?

--- Samantha Maziarz Christmann

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