I’ve been doing some higher-end mystery shops of late: jewellery, luxury fashion. They’ve been awesome experiences, actually. The staff know their stuff and when it comes to making suggestions for improvement, I really don’t have any ideas to offer. In fact, one of the surveys went so well I very, very nearly went through with the purchase (and if New Zealand had strong return policies I probably would have). This wasn’t one of those surveys that included purchase, or purchase followed by return. Just one of those teasy ones where you pull out at the very last minute.
One thing they always make a note of is to mention a layby option. I never really understood this until I got older and realised that some people spend hundreds of dollars on a single item of clothing. (Personally, the most I’ve ever spent is under $200, on a coat, and a pair of a boots respectively.) Since the big bad GFC, layby is apparently making a bit of a return to the retail scene.
If you’re not familiar with the term, layby involves the shop putting aside the item for you. You pay weekly instalments toward the balance – usually interest-free – and once it’s paid for in full, that’s when you finally take it home.
For those who can’t pay in full upfront, I think it’s a great option. It beats paying 20 percent interest on a credit card, that’s for sure. And I certainly am not going to argue with a system that promotes delayed gratification (something I think our generation lacks a little, myself included).
Then there’s that other beast – hire purchase, offered on bigger-ticket items. Electronics. Appliances. They’re not such a good deal, in my view.
I did consider taking out a hire purchase on one of my laptops. It was a lovely interest-free deal, and interest rates were high enough that I figured I might as well keep money sitting in my account as long as possible.
But digging down into the fine print, I found upfront fees and annual charges that totally wiped out the interest-free carrot. And that’s why I whipped out my credit card, took the rewards points, and took the savings hit.
I can see in some situations this might also be preferable to carrying a credit balance, depending on the specific numbers. But I don’t anticipate a hire purchase ever worming its way into my list of financial liabilities.