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Layaway Santas Help Kmart Customers Pay Off Christmas Gifts

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Laura ClawsonKmart probably hasn’t made this much news since its 2002 bankruptcy filing. And this time, it’s warmer fuzzier news:

At Kmart stores across the country, Santa seems to be getting some help: Anonymous donors are paying off strangers’ layaway accounts, buying the Christmas gifts other families couldn’t afford, especially toys and children’s clothes set aside by impoverished parents. […]

The benefactors generally ask to help families who are squirreling away items for young children. They often pay a portion of the balance, usually all but a few dollars or cents so the layaway order stays in the store’s system.

Hamilton Nolan makes the point that needed to be made: “Of course, it could be an incredibly effective (and cheap!) PR stunt by K-Mart,” but even he continues, “but if it helps to encourage a nationwide outpouring of Christmas charity, well, we’re willing to overlook it.” Indeed: Kmart still sucks as an employer, the fact that people have to use layaway because they can’t afford to pay all at once for Kmart clothes for their kids sucks, but then again, stories of anxiety and want being alleviated don’t suck:

A Kmart in Plainfield Township, Mich., called Roberta Carter last week to let her know a man had paid all but 40 cents of her $60 layaway.

Carter, a mother of eight from Grand Rapids, Mich., said she cried upon hearing the news. She and her family have been struggling as she seeks a full-time job.

“My kids will have clothes for Christmas,” she said.

This post originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on December 19, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.


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