Across America, "Secret Santas" paying off families' layaway balances

It's sweeping America -- total strangers asking store managers to apply $50, $100, $500 and even larger amounts to past-due toy and children's clothing accounts

BY: Rob Kerby


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toys, then used the money she had set aside for the gifts to pay off two other layaway accounts.

A canceled layaway bill in Michigan

In Alabama, a man walked into a Haleyville Walmart and donated $11,000 to pay the accounts of 75 families. In Indiana, more than 15 layaway accounts totaling almost $4,000 were paid by strangers at a Kmart in Lafayette. 

In Charles City, Iowa, a man gave the service desk staff $500 to settle layaway accounts — and told employees he was originally from the area and wanted to help people less fortunate than he is.

In California, man paid $9,800 on 63 accounts at the Hayward Kmart, then dropped the remaining $200 in a Salvation Army kettle as he left. 

With the economic slowdown, stores have reported that more and more layaway accounts go unredeemed as families hit by layoffs and cutbacks cannot finish off their tab. That’s where the Secret Santas come in. Most pay the balance due, leaving a penny or so owed – so the account remains active in the store’s computer system. Then the customer gets a reminder phone call to come pick up their stuff and pay off the balance … of 1 cent.

“It is honestly being driven by people wanting to do a good deed at this

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