Anonymous Layaway Angels pay off holiday debts


Charity begins ... at Kmart? Image: robertstinnett/Flickr/CC BY

The stale economy is making it a difficult holiday season for many struggling families. But it seems to have sparked another holiday phenomenon as well: genuine goodwill. Hundreds of anonymous “layaway angels” have been showing up at Kmart stores across the nation and paying off layaway items for cash-strapped consumers.

‘Layaway angels’

A so-called “layaway angel” will walk into the layaway department of a store and tell the clerks that they want to pay off the layaway items of needy families. Some 400 of the anonymous benefactors have been reported at Kmarts nationwide.

David Cooper, assistant manager at a Kmart in Braintree, Mass., told local news radio WBZ Monday:

“People come into the store as secret Santas, donating probably close to around $2,000-to-$3,000 for various layaways. They just want to help people out that are in need this year with the economy. They happened to have some extra money and just want to get into the gift-giving season.”

Store clerks told ABC that the job of calling people up and telling them their layaways has been paid off is very gratifying.

In Omaha, Neb., Kmart clerk Edna Deppe told the AP about a woman who entered the store and paid off numerous layaways. On her way out she handed $50 bills to the customers she passed. She would not give her identity, but told everyone to “remember Ben.”

Deppe said:

“She was doing it in the memory of her husband who had just died, and she said she wasn’t going to be able to spend it and wanted to make people happy with it.”

Publicity stunt gone good?

More and more “layaway angels” are showing up almost daily. Kmart says it is doing nothing to promote the activity. Some believe, however, that the trend is actually a publicity stunt for the box store. Kmart recently reinstated layaway financing after  discontinuing it for a decade.

But whether or not the trend began as a publicity stunt, it seems to have developed its own momentum, fueled by nothing more than the desire to give. According to the AP, the phenomenon has also been noted at Walmart stores and other retailers in more than one state.


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