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      Use layaway,don TMt let it use you

      The Better Business Bureau said last year, they received a few complaints about layaway service, and they said the best advice they can give the consumer is use layaway, don TMt let it use you.

      If you see an outfit you like,for the most part, Rio Grande Valley stores allow you to either buy it on the spot or place it on layaway.

      "I think it's a great option," said Karla Gomez.

      She said she TMs used the service several times.

      "I use it when I don't have the money at the time to buy the outfit," said Gomez.

      With Christmas approaching, Arselia Salazar from Acapulco Stores said people use the service more and more.

      Since mid November, people have been starting to use the service to get Christmas gifts," said Salazar.

      But Dolores Salinas with the Better Business Bureau said if you're not careful, you can fall victim of the service.

      "It's really up to the consumer, she said.

      It's buyer beware. Make sure they find out all of the policies and procedures of the business before they make a layaway and make sure they are ready to meet those policies and procedures."

      Most store policies require the consumer to put a down payment on the item then over the weeks leading up to Christmas, return to the store and pay down their bill.

      If layaway shoppers don't pay the bill in full by a deadline, they don't get the item and are either charged a penalty to get their money back, or don't get their money back at all.

      "Complaints that the Better Business Bureau has received over the year with lay away policies is that the items were not available after they had paid for them, or they had to make a cancellation and they were going to lose a substantial amount of their money," said Salinas.

      She said most of the complaints stem from the consumer not doing their homework to be well informed of the store policies.

      Gomez said she's not worried about falling victim of the service.

      "I always check the policies when using layaway, said Gomez.

      Salinas said as long as you do your homework like Gomez, you could avoid the pitfalls of layaway.

      Here is a list of tips from the Better Business Bureau:

      Ask the company for a written contract for the layaway and read it carefully.

      Keep in mind that each company may have a different layaway policy.

      Check for:

      1. How long the item can be on layaway?

      It's important to know that some items have a time limit and once that time is up, the item is returned back to the store for someone else to purchase. 2.Will the item be placed in a hold area until all payments are made?

      If the item is not held for you, it may be inadvertently sold to another customer.

      3. Is there a specific date when each payment must be made?

      The contract may specify when payments must be made and that, if a payment is not made by that date, the layaway item can be sold to another consumer. 4. What is the company's refund policy? Is there a restocking fee? Will only a store credit be issued? Are no refunds available?

      Consumers report not being able to obtain a refund or a store credit if they change their mind about buying the item put on layaway.

      In addition, complaints state that restocking fees of 10% or more are often charged.

      5. When putting on layaway a product that is not in stock, is the product ordered when the layaway is opened or when the last payment is made?

      Consumers report that even after the last payment is made the product is not available, as it is then ordered and sometimes is delayed for weeks or months.

      6. Delivery timeframe should be determined up front.

      Consumers report that after the last payment, delivery has been delayed due to the product not being available or other consumers having their delivery dates scheduled before layaway customers.

      7. Is there a fee to use the layaway program? If so, how much is the fee and is it refundable?