Secret Santas paying some layaway accounts at Kmart stores

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 19, 2011 5:14 AM
Secret Santas paying some layaway accounts at Kmart stores

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Attention Kmart shoppers.

Some would-be Santas are making early Christmas deliveries in the layaway departments of the discount retailer.

A spokeswoman for Sears Holding Corp, which owns Kmart, confirmed on Friday that Kmart employees across the country have reported a wave of anonymous donors paying off layaway accounts set up to finance the purchase of Christmas toys or winter coats and other seasonal necessities.

"It's definitely happening all over the country," Kim Freely, a spokeswoman for the suburban Chicago-based retailer, said of the donation spree.

"People basically go into one of stores and say they want to help pay for somebody's layaway and our staff try to identify accounts that fit their criteria."

Karl Graff, an assistant store manager of a Kmart on Maple Road in Omaha, Nebraska, told Reuters that other benefactors are specifically asking to have their gifts used to bring near-delinquent accounts into good standing.

He said one woman, whose $70 in layaways were paid for by a good Samaritan, broke down in tears when Graff called her with the news.

"In the scheme of things, these are small amounts," Graff said. "But man, they have a huge impact on people."

Both Freely and Graff, who have worked for the retailer for several years, said the outpouring was new to them.

Graff said he thought it reflected an appreciation of the hard times many Americans continue to face two-and-a-half years after the recession officially ended.

"I think there's more of an awareness that people are struggling," he said.

(Reporting by James B. Kelleher and Karin Matz; Editing by Greg McCune)