Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Thursday, October 23, 2021

Credit may be tightening, but the wheels of American commerce grind on: The nearly-extinct layaway payment option is making a comeback with national-level retailers.

Keep in mind that the store — not a bank or credit card issuer — sets the rules here. If you miss a payment, you still don’t have the item (since they’re laying it away until you pay in full), and you won’t get all of your money back. They’re not going to negotiate a payment plan with you like a credit card company might. (Not that those guys have been super-flexible lately, either.)

In other words, credit gets extended via other means: Merchant-centric instead of through the financial institutions. It’s less efficient that way, but consumers still wind up paying someone.

The question is, will a generation of consumers that are accustomed to the buy-now/pay-later of credit-card purchases going to adjust to the idea of not having access to their items until after weeks/months of payments? It’s instant gratification versus delayed gratification — versus, I guess, nonexistent gratification if there’s no other way for people to buy big-money items.

I can see one circumstance where this would make sense: When there’s a specific special occasion being targeted.

Retailer Kmart has recently kicked off an advertising campaign promoting its layaway service as an option for the holidays. While it’s unlikely layaway will reclaim its past popularity, it’s an option some consumers appear to want in this challenging economy.

Discount chain Kmart’s ads, launched in October, feature animated lightbulb Mr. Bluelight promoting layaway as an affordable way to get presents for Christmas.

With eyes on the prize, it’s an appealing pitch. A holiday, birthday, etc. is an anticipatory situation, so it’s easy to plan ahead for such major purchases.

It does mean that the new-wave layaway will be pigeonholed, not applicable to everyday shopping. The extension of card-based purchases over the past 20 years was specifically aimed at counteracting that consumer behavior. In the end, it still means the constriction of widespread free spending, with larger macro-economic impact to come.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/23/2008 10:22:46 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Business, Society
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national hoax-y league
News has it that Mats Sundin is back in Toronto in order to re-ignite his National Hockey League career shortly.

Since this news is coming from The Globe and Mail, I’ll further speculate that Sundin will rejoin the league by playing for Toronto’s fabled second NHL team, the arrival of which is based more upon anonymous whispers than solid reasoning.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/23/2008 09:09:03 AM
Category: Hockey
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When April 15th rolls around next year, I think I’ll get conveniently stricken with some disease. Let’s make it late-filing syndrome, which allegedly afflicted New York governor David Paterson’s top aide, Charles O’Byrne, from 2001 to 2005.

Late-filing syndrome, sometimes known as nonfiling syndrome or failure-to-file syndrome, is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. A spokeswoman for the American Psychiatric Association said that the group does not recognize it as a psychiatric condition.

But legal experts said that it is not uncommon for tax evaders to claim they suffer from such a syndrome, because it can shield them from criminal penalties.

“If the I.R.S. is going to pursue more serious sanctions, they’re going to have to demonstrate a voluntary and intentional decision not to file,” said Gerald Kafka, a lawyer with Latham & Watkins in Washington, who specializes in tax law. “The burden is on the I.R.S. to demonstrate it was intentional.”

Appropriate that a lawyer named Kafka would be an expert in such an arcane legal maneuver…

Truth to tell, I feel that same sort of anxiety when it comes to filing income taxes, and that’s manifested by annual procrastination. That’s just as irrational a reaction as the late-filing thing, just a few degrees less so. The peace of mind you supposedly get via avoidance never really materializes, which is the irony of it all.

But if I were pulling down the kind of cash that O’Byrne was, I guess I’d hire one of those… What are they called? Oh, right: Accountants. That’s what they’re there for — to relieve a good deal of that stress. The bill comes due anyway, but at least you’re not looking at penalties and/or jail time.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 10/23/2008 08:40:51 AM
Category: New Yorkin', Politics, True Crime
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