'Layaway Angels' Pay Off Strangers' Debts to Spread Holiday Cheer

All around the country this giving season, several shoppers are getting a dose of Christmas charity as anonymous strangers known as "layaway angels" are paying off thousands of dollars in layaway bills.

Walmart (NYSE:WMT) said it has tracked more than 1,000 instances so far this season of strangers paying down others' layaway accounts. A Walmart Supercenter in Hendersonville, North Carolina says a pair of women in their fifties anonymously donated $2,000 last week to cover 10 layaway accounts.  And at a Central Florida Walmart, Gregory Parady, a 40-year-old financial planner, recently cut a check for $20,000 to pay down the balances of 76 layaway accounts.

"My wife and I don't want for a bunch of things and we know a lot of people do. I have a lot of people who work for me who are single moms," Parady told the Orlando Sentinel. "It just hit me the right way at the right time. It was just a special thing to be able to do it."

At another Walmart in Durango, Colorado, a man who requested anonymity paid off everything in layaway, totaling to $16,700. Every single item was paid in full, including one Walmart employee's tab which alone totaled to $998.

"I couldn't stop smiling," the employee, who requested to remain anonymous, said. "It took quite a while for us to get it rung up because we had to do each individual account. I got to spend a little time with him. A very, very nice gentleman."

Layaway centers at Kmart, too, have seen these kinds of acts occur frequently over the past few years. This year, over $9,000 has been donated by strangers to pay off Kmart layaway tabs. The retailer estimates that since the economic downturn of 2008, $1.5 million in layaway contracts have been secretly paid off by layaway angels at stores nationwide. The altruistic phenomenon led the company to create a Layaway Angels map feature on its website to track the good deeds.

For more see:
-This TIME article
-This Durango Herald article
-This Orlando Sentinel article

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