'Kmart angels' earning their wings at Janesville store
JANESVILLE They call them Kmart angels.
Unnoticed, these angels go to their local Kmart stores, make their way to the layaway departments and then pay off other people’s purchases.
“It’s been going on for years, but this is the biggest year we’ve had so far,” said Jerry St. Marie, store manager at the Janesville Kmart.
“As soon as people saw it on the Internet, it really picked up,” said St. Marie.
In Janesville, “angels” either call in or stop in the store and ask for the manager, explained Vicki Collier-Vereb, soft lines assistant manager at the Janesville Kmart.
“They don’t want their name left, and they usually ask for a list with toys or clothes on it,” she said.
Then Collier-Vereb or St. Marie have the happy job of calling up customers and telling them their presents have been paid for.
“Sometimes they think it’s a prank call,” St. Marie said.
And other times?
“We’ve had people in tears,” Collier–Vereb said.
On Monday, somebody went into the Kmart on Sandy Hollow Road in Rockford and paid nearly $5,000 to cover 28 layaways, said Chad Bays, assistant store manager.
“I’ve been with Kmart for 21 years,” Bays said. “We’ve usually had about five, maybe 10 layaways paid by strangers. This year it’s jumped to 40.”
Bays said that “people usually start crying” when they get the news.
“One lady said her son was having surgery, and she wasn’t going to be able to pick up the layaway,” Bays said. “Times are tough.”
On Tuesday, a Kmart spokesperson told ABC news that nationally, more than 1,000 layaway accounts valued at more than $400,000 have been settled by layaway angels.
In the past three days:
-- A California businessman paid off $16,000 in layaways.
-- In Souix Falls, S.D., $3,000 in layaway orders were paid off.
-- In Las Vegas, a stranger paid $14,000 to settle layaway accounts. The manager, who had worked with Kmart for 42 years, told the Las Vegas Sun he had never seen anything like it.
-- In Miami, one person paid off $400.
-- In Galesburg, Ill., $700 came in from two people.