AAFES plans to cut back on its layaway options

By JIMMY NORRIS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 30, 2007

European edition, Thursday, August 30, 2007

SEOUL, South Korea — The Army and Air Force Exchange Service confirmed this week that it has reduced layaway options because the program wasn’t cost effective, and customer usage has declined the past five years.

Previously, AAFES stores would hold items in the warehouse and give customers up to 120 days to pay for them interest-free.

But beginning Aug. 22, AAFES cut the payoff time to 60 days. It also no longer allows customers to place computers, clearance items, outdoor furniture or other seasonal items on layaway. The new rules won’t affect items already on layaway, officials said.

Pacific AAFES spokesman Master Sgt. Donovan Potter, based in Okinawa, said layaway usage has declined and that customers favor using credit. He said a lack of storage space and the potential for damage to warehoused items also contributed to the decision.

Potter said AAFES is encouraging customers to use their Military Star Cards and the Take it Home Today program, instead of layaway.

Using Take it Home Today, customers can buy large furniture, major appliances, televisions larger than 27 inches and exercise equipment, and pay over time at a minimum 8.24 percent interest rate.

According to AAFES policy, the program can include items that accompany large items — such as sound systems for televisions — but items must cost at least $299.

Kimberly Wilson, an AAFES customer in South Korea, said she uses layaway before the school year and for Christmas. She thinks limiting the new policy is a bad idea.

“That’s pushing more debt onto these young soldiers,” Wilson said. “I learned my lesson about using the Star Card after I had to declare bankruptcy.”

Shopper Shari Arnesson said she thought that layaway would be convenient when living in a small apartment in South Korea. “Where are you going to hide things?” she said of her Christmas shopping. “To me, layaway always meant it was hidden.”

Army and Air Force Exchange Service customers wait in the customer service section of the Yongsan Garrison store on Wednesday. AAFES officials confirmed this week that they reduced layaway options, saying the program wasn’t cost effective; they didn’t have enough storage space; the items were often damaged while in storage; and usage has declined with more customers preferring to use credit.

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