Layaway is a useful tool that some retailers only offer during the holiday season. Let lets consumers without access to credit pick out gifts and pay them off over time––and, as one mother pointed out to me, keeps gifts hidden at the store, far away from impatient, snooping kids. Layaway was dying out before the Great Recession, and came back with its own folk heroes: the Layaway Angels.
So far this year, we’ve seen one person drop $15,000 at an Ohio Walmart, and another spend $20,000 paying down the layaway balances of every customer at a Toys ‘R’ Us store near Boston. ABC’s “Good Morning America” staged its own angelic interventions, paying off the layaway balances of some lucky shoppers on live TV. (Warning: auto-play video) Over the weekend, more angels hit stores in West Virginia, Tennessee, and additional stores near Boston.
Late on Friday in the Boston area, a woman paid off about $7,000 worth of layaway balances at one toy store, and an unknown amount at another store. She said that she was helping families out in memory of her mother.
An anonymous person paid off all of the outstanding layaway accounts at the Toys ‘R’ Us in Johnson City, TN, paying over $5,000. The benefactor is being so secretive, local media didn’t even report whether this Santa is male or female.
Meanwhile, a man in West Virginia stood at the counter of a local Kmart, chatting with customers waiting to make layaway payments. He would then offer to pay off their balance, ultimately spending $1,000 on total strangers. “I’ve worked hard all my life and I’ve accomplished a little bit and it’s nice to be able to share it and give it back,” he told local TV station WSYX.
Toys ‘R’ Us told TV station WJHL that almost 600 layaway accounts were paid off last year by a variety of Santas.
Layaway Angel: Spreading Holiday Cheer Through Giving [WSYX]
Layaway angel pays off balances for Toys ’R’ Us customers in Johnson City [WJHL]
Woman pays off layaway balances at two toy stores [Fox Boston]