'Tis the season for giving, and some retailers are providing unique opportunities for shoppers to spread cheer to the less fortunate.
The trend of layaway angels — when a shopper randomly pays off the layaway accounts of strangers — is back this year. Glen Beckley, general manager of the Tulsa Kmart store at 10131 E 21st St., had his first layaway angel of the season visit the store a few days ago. She gave $200 and was able to pay off four customers' accounts.
Beckley said the woman brought her children with her and made it a teaching moment in “paying it forward.”
‘I can't believe it'
Last year, the store had more than $14,000 given by layaway angels, including one who gave $10,000. The accounts are paid except for a penny so they don't close, and the store employees call the lucky customers with the news.
“For the most part, it's a state of shock and ‘I can't believe it' and ‘that's wonderful,'” Beckley said. “They're real happy. The emotions last year were laughter and people crying.”
Monty Swain, who manages the Shawnee Kmart store where several layaway angels visited last year, said staff often help the giver identify households with children by looking for layaway accounts that have toys listed. The donors aren't allowed to access customers' names or personal information.
“They don't want recognition. It's not about them. It's about helping the kids out,” Swain said.
Kohl's recently started a promotion with a twist on giving back. The retailer is picking up the tab for one lucky customer at each of its 1,100 stores nationwide, as well as one online customer, every day through Christmas Eve. Each winner also receives a $10 transferable gift card so they can pay it forward by giving it to someone else.
Kohl's, based in Milwaukee, this week shared stories of some of the winners of its “Dream Receipt” program. Shoppers, some buying gifts or winter clothing, were randomly surprised when the store paid for their purchase. One was nearly $500.
Another retailer, the PAMBE Ghana Global Market in Oklahoma City, offers gifts with a threefold benefit, explains buyer Linda Temple. The purchaser gets something wonderful to give, proceeds benefit schoolchildren in Ghana and the artisans receive a fair wage for their work.
The market, at 6516 N Olie, carries unique items from around the world, including jewelry, bowls, Christmas decorations, pottery and instruments. In its fifth year, the shop opens up for the holidays in a space donated by Chesapeake Energy Corp. and is staffed by volunteers — ensuring more dollars fund PAMBE Ghana, a charity founded by former Oklahoma City resident and teacher Alice Azumi Iddi-Gubbels.
At a glance
Gifts with extra benefit