PORTLAND - At Kmart stores in Oregon and around the country, strangers are quietly paying the bill on layaway items that appear Christmas-related.
In Oregon, Kmart reported nearly 400 such accounts had been paid off.
“The first time it happened we did a public announcement that a Christmas angel had come in to pay off a layaway," said Tualatin store manager Michelle MacGoldrick. "Then another came in a did it, too.”
Since then, each anonymous payoff is announced to the entire store.
MacGoldrick said the strangers target layaway purchases that involve toys or clothing for children.
The fact that the items were selected by a customer, but not completely paid for, suggests to the manager that the customer is extremely tight on money. The payoffs are a big deal.
When KGW first reported the story, one anonymous person morning paid $150 to free up a layaway. Another paid $100.
As soon as workers announce the gift over the store’s PA system, they call the customer who placed the items on layaway.
“We call them and let them know that an angel has come in and paid off their layaway and they can come get it,” MacGoldrick said.
The unexpected gift often carries a powerful impact.
“The one customer we contacted this morning broke down in tears, she was so excited,” MacGoldrick said.
It impacts managers and workers too. “It's heart warming,” said MacGoldrick. “I’m an emotional fool! I tear up. Its great.”
The phenomenon has been going on for at least a week and a half, apparently starting with a story about a Kmart on the East Coast where strangers were settling up the debts of people they did not know.
Kmart’s MacGoldrick says there are many layaway purchases still in need at her store and others. To find the nearest store go to Kmart.com.