Every year around Thanksgiving hopeful kids would scour the ads in the Sunday newspaper and compile lists of presents that they wished to receive for Christmas. One of their parents would then go to the store, list in hand, and pick out toys, sweaters and jeans for their kids.
If they did not have enough money to pay for the merchandise, they could buy the items on credit. There was usually a long line of people with cartfuls of goodies waiting at the layaway window at Hills Department Store on East 28th and Elm Street. This was back in the 70s and 80s, when stores actually ran out of things, before you could find practically anything on eBay and the Internet.
Here's how layaway worked:
Merchandise was held for 60 days to give the customer time to pay for the items. The clerk at Hills placed your items in bags or boxes and they were stored behind the counter in the layaway department.
A minimum deposit of 10% of the total purchase price or $1 (whichever was larger) was put toward the bill.
The total price of the merchandise had to be at least $5.
You had to bring your ticket and cash register receipt with you to make payments or pickup your merchandise.
A small fee was collected with each payment. In 1983, the fee was $1 per transaction.
If you failed to pay for your items within 60 days, the merchandise was returned to open stock, and you forfeited the service charge and handling fees.
If you had items in layaway, your kids couldn't snoop around the house and figure out what their gifts would be.
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