|Happily, "Layaway Angels" have been striking coast to|
coast this holiday season.
Layaway Angels are people who have a pretty decent stash of money. They walk into places like Walmart or Kmart and hand over a check to the layaway department.
What they're doing is paying off everybody's layaway stash. Or, if they don't have that much money to donate, they just pay off the layaway of a few strangers they don't know.
Layaways scare me. For the uninitiated, if you don't have a lot of money but want to buy something as a Christmas gift, you select your merchandise, and bring it to the layaway department in your favorite department or discount store.
You put in a down payment, pay a layaway fee, then make weekly, biweekly or monthly payments until the balance is paid off. Once you've paid everything, you grab your merchandise and go.
Apparently layaways started in the 1930s, when everyone (well, almost everyone) was suffering from the effects of the Great Depression. People tried anything they could including the installment plans associated with layaways, to get their consumer goods.
Credit cards pretty much did away with layaways, since people could just charge their purchases. But the Great Recession, starting in 2008, brought back the layaway, just as the Great Depression gave birth to it.
People couldn't get credit cards, so they went the layaway route.
The problem with layaways is, if you can't pay off your purchase, you don't get the item. You do get refunded, but stores often keep a portion of the proceeds. Which means people who couldn't pay lose.
That's one of the beauties of layaway angels. A certain percentage of people won't pay off their layaways. And pretty much everybody else who can is strapped for cash. So the layaway angels really put people's minds at ease for Christmas,
Which is precisely what you want during this stressful time of year.
So it's great that there's been a flurry of "Layaway Angels" this year. According PennLive.com somebody know only as "Santa B" plunked down $50,000 in a Pennsylvania Walmart to pay off a bunch of layaways.
Other layaway angels have struck in Tennessee, West Virginia, Boston and elsewhere, says Consumerist.
Various media outlets have reported layaway angels in almost every state.
The layaway angel trend seems to have started in 2011 and had been building since.
You can participate, too. People who don't have thousands of dollars running around can also anonymously go into a store and just pay off one stranger's layaway debt, maybe $100 or $200 and remain anonymous if they choose.
In nearly every case, the person acting as a layaway angel has refused to be publicly identified, which makes it even better.
I salute these layaway angels and wish them a totally happy holiday season. Because they deserve it.