Reader Pays Off Strangers' Layaway Tabs, Becomes Santa Claus

Reader Gail read our post last week about a mysterious benefactor who paid off $500 worth of layaway tabs for random strangers at a Michigan Kmart. She found it inspiring, but in a different way from most readers: the story actually inspired Gail and her husband to visit local discount stores and do the same exact thing for some families in her area. She shared how the experience works from the benefactor’s end. “I can’t remember the last time spending $100 made me feel so good!” she wrote. Here’s the best part: she’s not the only one doing this.

Gail writes:

My husband and I were inspired by your 12/7/11 story “Secret Santa Picks Up Kmart Customers’ Layaway Tabs”. This was our experience:

We first tried to do this at our local Walmart store but the layaway clerk, after consulting with members of management, informed us that it was against Walmart policy because of “privacy” concerns. So, off we went to the nearby Kmart store. The relatively new staffperson working in the layaway department called a manager to help us. She came within a minute or two, listened to our request, and went right back into the storeroom to find an order that met our requirements (less than $100 owed, and had items for children) so she could get the contract number. She came back with two possibilities that totalled about $100 left to pay. In quick order, all but $.01 was paid off on the two layaways. So the customers wouldn’t think that a mistake had been made, she assured us that she would call the customers right away and tell them that they only owed a penny before they could pick up their layaway items.

I can’t remember the last time spending $100 made me feel so good!

Gail and Mr. Gail, you are amazing. Well done. But they’re not the only ones. The Associated Press reported yesterday that layaway benefactors are spreading across the country, mostly at Kmart stores. Total strangers have paid off customers’ accounts, up to $250. One Montana man gave $1,200 to pay off the accounts of a half-dozen customers who were about to lose their items due to late payments.

One Kmart manager told the AP that when she called one customer to tell her that she could come pick up her items, the woman broke down crying. “She wasn’t sure she was going to be able to pay off their layaway, and was afraid their kids weren’t going to have anything for Christmas.” Customers have responded with shock, amazement, and hugs. After her own layaway account had been paid off, one woman pledged to use the money she had been saving to pay off a someone else’s instead.

Anonymous donors pay off Kmart layaway accounts [AP] (thanks, scoosdad!)

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