Last week, Time magazine had a story about people anonymously paying off the layaway balances for strangers in Kmart retail stores.
That story focused on a Detroit Kmart where a woman came in and asked to pay off a couple of layaway balances. It set her back $500, but she didn't want any credit.
That was one secret Santa on the loose.
Wait. Edgewater? Edgewater, NJ?
Bruce Derthick, manager of the Edgewater store, confirmed in a phone call that not one, but eight secret Santas stopped by Kmart over the weekend to pay off 13 layaway balances for customers.
"It is happening all over at Kmart stores," Derthick said. "We're on Facebook and stores have reported it in Washington, California, Texas."
Although Edgewater's Kmart is one of the retailer's larger stores, Derthick said he couldn't recall secret Santas paying off accounts at the store in any other years. But then on Friday afternoon, one of the clerks in layaway said someone wanted to pay off another person's layaway and she didn't know how to do it.
Derthick said these secret Santas often have specific wants, like someone who has children's toys or clothing, or something for a family. Some are random, they just come in and say, "Here is $100—just pay someone's layaway off."
After the layaway gets paid off, Derthick said the store tries to get in contact with the person to come and pick up their paid-off items.
"We say, 'A Layaway Angel came in and paid off your layaway.' We got a hold of a couple of people and they cried," Derthick said.
But, for all of that, there is nobody to thank. It's all anonymous.
"One person paid off five layaways, and one person paid on two," Derthick said. "One was $600 total."
Derthick said when people use layaway at the store, they have to pay on their purchases every two weeks to keep them current. But layaway is available at any time throughout the year.
Davie Smith, layaway clerk at the Edgewater Kmart, said she has loved seeing these layaway items paid off. She even took a photo of one of the letters that accompanied the paid-off items.
"People are so happy and surprised," Smith said. "Some of them don't even believe it."