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Big W customers furious over big changes to lay-by costs: 'Unaffordable'

Discount department store Big W is under fire after it introduced a $15 service fee on all lay-bys, as well as a $20 penalty for cancellations in stores across Australia.

Big W explained in a statement that it introduced the fee due to rising costs of managing and storing lay-by goods.

"Big W always endeavours to offer great value to our customers. Whilst we try our best to avoid any increase in administration and cancellation fees, this has come into effect due to an increase in the costs of managing and storing goods for lay-by, as well as a rise in the number of orders that are later cancelled," the retailer said.

Shopper getting clothes off rack in Big W
Big W has earned the ire of shoppers after it increased its lay-by fee from $5 to $15. Source: Getty Images

"These changes will ensure we can maintain our ability to continue to offer lay-by as an option," continued the statement, adding that they also offer pay later options such as Afterpay and Zip Pay as alternatives to lay-bys.

News of Big W's plan to increase its fees first came to light earlier this year, when lay-by fees jumped from $5 to $15, and cancellation fees increased from $12 to $20.

'Punch in the gut'

The fees, however, took some shoppers by surprise, with a number taking to Facebook to air their frustration over the new rules.

"Many low-income earners use lay-by. This is just another punch in the gut to them. Low-income earners are always the ones that suffer," one woman commented in the group Markdown Addicts Australia.

"Lay-by for me is now unaffordable. Big W is supposed to be a cheaper alternative. $15 is a big slug to someone shopping on a budget and looking for the best value. It's lost money to me," another commented.

"I have always paid all of mine off, and faster than the terms required, but now the service is unavailable to me due to the big jump in cost. For those who can afford it, good for you. My lay-bys were never big enough to ever absorb that sort of cost."

"Agreed. Like maybe $5. But $15?! I won't be lay-bying anymore. I think that's ridiculous," another replied.

"And the low-income recipients get yet another slap in the face. What about those who can't afford to buy things outright, and don't, or won't, have credit cards and Afterpay? If I want to lay-by a $50 item, I'll be charged a 30% service fee? Big W can get stuffed," said a fourth.

Who's to blame?

But not all members see the increased fees through the same lens. Some members of the group pointed out that this may have stemmed from previous events such as its annual Toy Sale.

"They started this months ago and it's something that’s definitely needed," one woman commented. "Blame it on all those people that put $1,000 lay-bys on and then want to cancel them after buyer's remorse so the store then have stock that could have been sold at the toy sale but now have to be put back on shelves at a reduced price just to sell it through."

"Imagine all the people who put the toy sale lay-bys on and never make fortnightly payments or pick up so they have to return to shelves! I don't blame them tbh," wrote another.

"Used to be free for toy sales many, many years ago. Unfortunately, they lose out when a lay-by is cancelled and the toy is now reduced due to the computer system doing clearance and the $100 item is now $5," a third shopper opined.

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