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Beware of layaway: $100 down, but no fridge



Updated: January 21, 2012 2:10AM

Dear Fixer: On Oct. 25, I put a freezer on layaway at the Tinley Park Kmart. Four days later, I got a call from Sears telling me that the freezer was recalled and no longer available.

I had made a deposit of $100. First, I was told I could pick up my refund on Saturday; however, I was unable to do so and Monday was Halloween. When I went there Tuesday, they told me they were cutting a check in Texas and I would have it by Nov. 4.

Well, Nov. 4 came and no check. Then I was told it would be eight to 10 days. Well, that also came and went and still no refund!

I did nothing wrong. They cashed my check, kept my money, canceled my order and will not give me my money back. I really need a freezer for Thanksgiving. Sam’s Club has one for the same price, but I’m $100 short.

I realize it isn’t a lot of money to some people, but it is to me.

Pat Calentine, Worth

Dear Pat: The Fixer was happy to retrieve your hundred bucks, and we didn’t even have to call out the Fixer bloodhounds to do it. We were able to find a sympathetic ear at Sears headquarters, where they quickly straightened this out. They’re sending you a check for $100 and a $50 gift card to make up for the trouble.

Your letter reminds us that lots of other readers will be using layaway plans this holiday season. Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission:

◆ Always get the policy in writing, and understand the terms: how much time you have to pay; when the payments are due; the minimum payment required; possible fees.

◆ Find out what happens if you miss a payment or are late. Will the contract be canceled?

◆ If you change your mind, can you get a refund? If so, will you get all your money back?

◆ Check out the company’s record with the Better Business Bureau, Illinois Attorney General and online complaint sites. Don’t do layaway at a financially troubled business that might close its doors.

◆ Keep detailed records of your payments.

AWOL handyman?

Dear Fixer: Last Jan. 28, I had Randy Remblake, owner of R&R Decorating, give me a price to paint my living room, dining room, kitchen and hallway. I hired him, and I also mentioned I needed a new storm door. Randy said he could do that, too.

I gave him $100 to install the door, then later I gave him another $280 for the door itself.

The painting job was completed March 2. Randy said it would take about four to six weeks to get the door. I talked with him April 7, and he said he had been busy with another job but would be finished by the end of the following week.

Several more weeks passed. At one point he said the door had been damaged and the store had ordered another one. I told him to forget it and just return my $380.

On June 2, Randy left a message saying that because of all the problems, the store owed him a free door and I would also get my money back. He said it would take three weeks.

Then he told me on July 12 he would bring the money to my home that day. He never showed up.

Vera Massaro, Orland Park

Dear Vera: When Team Fixer talked to Remblake in mid-August, he said this had been a huge “fiasco,” but he promised you’d have your money within a week. Well, a few weeks passed and still no refund.

We again called Remblake in early September. He apologized and said his mother had died, but he would make good on your refund.

It’s now November, and we have yet another excuse. This time, he’s in the middle of buying out his partner in R&R, who is his brother, and there are some financial issues to work out.

Let us know if he ever pays you back. If he does, we’ll run an update.

For the rest of us: When hiring a contractor, always get a signed contract detailing the full price, start date, completion date and specific materials, and put down only a minimum deposit. For more tips, go to

Contributing: Mike NolanGetting the runaround over a consumer problem? Tell it to The Fixer at , where you’ll find a simple form to fill out.

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