A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from October 30, 2012
Layaway

A “layaway” (or “lay-away") plan is one where a customer desires an item and puts a deposit on it, and the retailer “lays the item away” for the customer until the full price is paid. Layaway plans became popular in the early 1900s with jewelry stores. A customer would see a desired item of jewelry and put a deposit on it, and then pay it off by a certain date (such as Christmas). Many layaway plans disappeared since the 1960s with the rise of credit cards.

“Lay-away plan” has been cited in print since at least 1906, when it was mentioned in a newspaper advertisement for a New York City jeweler.


Wikipedia: Layaway
Layaway (lay-by in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) is an agreement in which the seller reserves an item for a consumer until the consumer completes all the payments necessary to pay for that item. Rather than taking the item home and then repaying the debt on a regular schedule, as in most installment plans or hire purchases, the layaway customer does not receive the item until it is completely paid for. There is sometimes a fee associated, since the seller must “lay” the item “away” in storage until the payments are completed. Because there is little risk involved for the seller, layaway can be readily offered to those with bad credit. If the transaction is not completed, the item is returned to stock and the customer’s money is returned minus a fee.

The main advantage of layaway is that no interest is charged. In addition, the price is fixed, availability is guaranteed by reserving the item in stock, and an item being purchased as a gift can be kept secret.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
lay-away, n.
(An item of) merchandise that has been reserved for a customer who has paid a deposit.
1974 State (Columbia, S. Carolina) 15 Feb. 11- b/2 (advt.) Unclaimed layaway… Includes 2pc. black vinyl tuxedo sofa and chair.
1976 National Observer (U.S.) 23 Oct. 10/5 Under a headline of ‘False Advertising is Stealing’, the ads advise consumers to be chary of familiar phrases such as ‘Unclaimed layaway’, ‘Going out of business’, [etc.].
1977 Washington Post 1 July d9/5 Only supervisory personnel was on hand to take care of layaways and alterations.

Chronicling America
13 November 1906, The Evening World (New York, NY), pg. 7, col. 4 ad:
Lay-Away Buyers
Throng to Lamberts’

(...)
Our lay-away plan is an attraction that in connection with our wares and prices is already drawing holiday shoppers to our store.
(Lambert Brothers, Jewelers—ed.)

5 December 1909. The Daily Picayune (New Orleans, LA), pg. 1, col. 3 ad:
OUR LAY-AWAY PLAN
Early shoppers will find every convenience here. We will gladly allow purchasers to make selections, laying same away to be delivered or called for at their pleasure.
(Hart Jewelry Company—ed.)

2 February 1910, Xenia (OH) Daily Gazette, pg. ?, col. 5 ad:
We sell them at bottom prices sell on the Lay-away plan. If you desire—one-third down and your purchase held for you until you are ready for it.
(The Beggs Co.—ed.)

6 November 1910, The Sunday Oregonian (Portland, OR), pg. 2, col. 4 ad:
LAY-AWAY TIME IS HERE
(...)
A SMALL DEPOSIT
Is all we ask on any item you might select, and we will hold it until the time you need it—or you might select what you want, pay a little at a time; you’ll have it paid for by Christmas without missing the small amounts.
(Marx & Bloch jewelry - -ed.)

Google News Archive
1 November 1929, Providence (RI) News, pg. 5 ad:
Have A Christmas Layaway Plan For You
When December 24th dawned last year, had you finished your Christmas Shopping? Were you able to buy gifts for all those whom you wanted to remember? You can prevent any such possibility this year by using my Christmas Layaway Plan. Just come and select the gifts that you want...pay a small deposit, and I will hold them for you. You make no regular payments until after you call for your purchases. Isn’t that a simple way to solve the gift problem?
(Rieser’s jewelry—ed.)

Google Books
30 September 1941, Nashua (NH) Telegraph, “Tax Levy Hits All Goods Not in Buyer’s Hand” (AP), pg. 6, col. 4:
This also means that people who have bought such items on the “layaway” plan better pot their purchases home by tonight, or the government will claim that the purchases were not completed after October 1 and will collect the tax.

Google Books
May 1949, Popular Mechanics, pg. 273, col. 1 ad:
LAYAWAY PLAN— Send a little each month till purchase price is accumulated. We reserve your watch for you.
(Superior Watch Distributors—ed.)

Google Books
February 1952, Changing Times (The Kiplinger Magazine), pg. 2, col. 2::
A local five-and-ten-cent store has started advertising a layaway plan. Five cents down and ten cents a month?

OCLC WorldCat record
Practices and procedures on layaway programs.
Author: Mass Merchandising Research Foundation.
Publisher: New York : [s.n.], 1969.
Series: Survey report (Mass Merchandising Research Foundation), no. 107.
Edition/Format: Book : English

New York (NY) Times
Cartoon for Steak on Layaway Plan Stirred Connecticut Housewife to Call Meat Boycott; Vitamin Pills Offered
By LAWRENCE FELLOWS Special to The New York Times ();
March 30, 1973,
Section , Page 24

Google News Archive
1 June 1973, St. Petersburg (FL) Independent, pg. 18A, col. 2:
Wine On Layaway Plan

Time magazine
How Layaway Is Starting to Resemble the Lottery
By Brad Tuttle
Oct. 24, 2012
One of last year’s feel-good stories for the holidays was the rise of “layaway Santas,” in which random people decided out of the goodness of their hearts to pay off total strangers’ layaway accounts—usually at Kmart, usually when toys (and kids) were involved.
(...)
So far, layaway has been a hit for retailers, with a surge of shoppers opening accounts, putting down deposits, and agreeing to payment plans weeks before Halloween, let alone Thanksgiving or Christmas, arrived.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityWork/Businesses • Tuesday, October 30, 2012 • Permalink