Sears has unveiled a new travel booking site called SearsVacations.com, which unlike most sites, lets consumers put their vacations on layaway. As with sites like Kayak and Orbitz, customers can book their flights, hotels, resorts, cruises and car rentals with a best price guarantee. It’s as easy as entering details, then choosing a package and a method of payment.
Whether or not a down payment is required at the time of the purchase is not disclosed on the site.* The site does say it will not charge booking fees for cruises, resorts or escorted tours.
Layaway, or paying for an item in installments (usually with interest), became a popular marketing scheme in the Great Depression. By the 90s’ credit boom, it was no longer in use, but big box retailers like Wal-Mart saw an opportunity to revive it by the recession when nearly everyone was spiraling in debt.
For cash-strapped consumers, layaway looks like a smart move: You pay what you can upfront, as Your Money editor Jill Krasny explains, then pay off the balance when you have the money. The problem is, most consumers rarely do that. Even worse, many layaway plans carry interest, which can make a $100 purchase, for example, snowball over time.
Although Sears Vacation doesn’t mention such interest fees on its site, we advise giving them a call to check beforehand. The last thing you want is to go deeper in debt for your summer vacation.
*A Sears representative had not yet returned a request for comment at press time.