A Layaway Angel Strikes in Brockton

More and more people are anonymously paying off layaway accounts before the holidays.

On Monday, an anonymous man walked into a KMart in Brockton and put $3,000 toward the layaway accounts of the store’s customers. According to the Brockton Enterprise:

“He had $3,000 and he wanted to apply the money to delinquent layaways that would otherwise be cancelled for nonpayment,” [KMart loss prevention lead detective] Jim Doucette said. “He specifically requested that we apply them to layaways containing a lot of toys, basically Christmas gifts.”

Layaway programs allow customers to choose items, make regular payments until they’ve hit the purchase price, then take the items home. Monday’s donor had one kind of layaway customer in mind—people who had picked out Christmas presents hoping they’d be able to put together the money to pay for them, but then fell short. This guy isn’t the first to swoop in and save Christmas. Another ‘Layaway Angel’ gave $20,000 at a Bellingham Toys ‘R’ Us earlier this month.

All around the country, actually, people have been taking up this idea. For the past several years since major retailers brought back the payment option, layaway angels have been pulling similar moves. It’s common enough practice that Wal-Mart has something called “good samaritan view” which allows the cashier to identify randomly selected layaway customers that have only toys on their list.

There have long been, of course, charities that allow those with extra cash to help those in need during the holiday season. So why are people going the layaway route?

It’s not just ego. The Today Show asked a bunch of donors that question. Most seemed to think that this was a more dramatic way to give than writing a check to charity. Maybe it’s the element of surprise. One response:

“It’s raw emotion. There’s no hiding it. It’s pure and real,” said Greg Parady, a 41-year-old CEO of a financial planning firm and layaway angel. “That’s different from writing a check to a non-profit.”

Pair this with something like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, and 2014 is looking like a year of charitable viral trends. (They make more sense than planking, anyway.)