Here's your cup of Christmas cheer: In what appears to be either a trend of random kindness or a brilliant viral advertising campaign, anonymous donors have taken to paying off poor families' K-Mart layaway accounts in dozens of instances spanning several states.


It's gotten to be enough of a trend that The Associated Press took notice, after stories about Secret Santas began popping up in Michigan, Indiana and Montana.

Often times, it's accounts with lots of childrens' toys or clothing that the donors are targeting. In one case, the AP recounted the story of a woman in Indianapolis who walked into a K-Mart and paid off about 50 layaway accounts, purchased two cart-loads of toys for one woman, then handed out $50 bills as she left the store. Though she did not give her name, she told people she was doing it in remembrance of her husband, Ben.

In other cases, donors are making small payments on accounts that are past due, giving the retailer just enough to prevent the items from being returned to inventory. K-Mart's layaway policies require payments every two weeks, or the money paid in is lost and the item or items are sold to other customers.

But it's not just K-Mart that's been targeted for holiday cheer: the AP also noted that Wal-Mart stores in Missouri and Illinois have been visited by Secret Santas, although the phenomenon has not been as widespread as it has with K-Mart.

Photo: Flickr user Snake3yes.