Layaway plans are immensely popular, a fact I find deeply puzzling much like the popularity of Justin Bieber, Snooki, and homeopathy makes me question the rationality of my fellow human beings.
The typical layaway plan requires a deposit of 10-15% of the price of the good, say a new TV. If the consumer pays the balance over the following 10-12 weeks (i.e. by Christmas) they can pickup the good. If the consumer doesn’t pay the balance they get a refund of payments made less a service fee.
Consumer advocates say layaway is a great way to manage a major purchase and stick to a budget, allowing consumers to spread the cost of an item over a number of payments without running up a lot of costly debt.
…”The fees, if any, are generally nominal and probably much lower than the interest you’d pay if you purchased those things with a credit card and didn’t pay off the bill for several months,” said Tod Marks, senior editor and shopping expert at Consumer Reports.
Stop the insanity! The relevant comparison is not to buying on credit but to saving. Instead of lending Walmart money, get yourself an old-fashioned piggy bank and avoid the cancellation fee and the hassle of going to the store to make the periodic payments.
Tod Marks, from Consumer Reports (!), also makes this astounding argument:
With layaway, you don’t have to worry that the store will run out of an item you want,” he said.
Are we living in the Soviet Union? Who worries about Walmart and Kmart running out of goods? Occasionally an item will be discontinued but then the replacement is usually better and/or cheaper. Similarly, layaway plans advertise that you can “lock-in” the current price. Right, and if the price goes down or you find a lower price elsewhere you are similarly locked in.
Still not convinced? In the spirit of Tabarrok’s Wager I offer Tabarrok’s Layaway Plan.
Send me $10 right away along with a message telling me what you want, when you want it and the current price. Save your money. If you save enough to buy the good at the requisite time send me a note and I will heartily congratulate you with a $10 reward. If you don’t save enough, thanks for the $10 and better luck next time. Unlike Walmart I will not guarantee the current price but Tabarrok’s Layaway Plan offers significant advantages that Walmart’s plan does not. On the day that you have saved up enough, Tabarrok’s Layaway Plan lets you buy at any store and at the lowest price that you can find! And that’s not all! Tabarrok’s Layaway Plan offers another great advantage, The Tabarrok Switch™. If you find a good that you like more than the good that you had originally planned to buy the Tabarrok Layaway Plan lets you switch to the new good!
Congratulations on choosing the Tabarrok Layaway Plan, the plan with the most options and flexibility of all layaway plans.