Christmas came early to Walmart shoppers in Orlando this week.
As part of a “Good Morning America” segment that aired Monday, Dec. 8, famed former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow surprised a handful of customers by paying off their layaway balances.
“Everybody loves Santa, but getting to play Santa is way more fun,” Tebow said in the segment.
Tebow, on behalf of the ABC talk show, informed a select number of shocked shoppers, “GMA wants to pay your layaway.”
The news meant Walmart customer Jasmine Nunes was done making payments on her $220.02 layaway account. Likewise, shopper Damara Jarrett’s $701 bill was paid in full.
The holiday gesture came at just the right time for Jarrett, a full-time student who noted that she was about to remove items from her layaway account because she couldn’t afford all of them. Now, after an act of kindness in this season of giving, she won’t have to do that after all.
‘Angels’ Fly in Cross-Country
Tebow’s good deed isn’t the first instance of Christmas generosity (and it apparently also won’t be the last one for “GMA,” as the show will be airing similar news pieces from different locations all week long). Monday’s “Good Morning America” segment noted that everyday good Samaritans have been doing exactly what Tebow did at retailers across the country. Year after year, anonymous givers – dubbed “layaway angels” – have made headlines after taking to big-name stores to wipe away layaway bills for complete strangers.
Last year, Walmart witnessed more than 1,000 instances of layaway angels’ working their magic from September to December, according to USA Today.
And earlier this month in Ohio, a secret donor gifted $15,000 toward paying off layaway bills at a local Walmart store, WDTN reported.
Layaway: A Throwback to the Depression
All of these shoppers have had theirs paid off, but for shoppers who haven’t heard the term, what, exactly, is layaway?
In layaway, shoppers select products they’d like to purchase, but can’t afford to pay for in full upfront. The customers then begin making payments toward the items (usually after a setup fee and a down payment).
Once payments are complete, shoppers can take their purchases home. If payments aren’t completed, shoppers will lose their reserved products and may be faced with a cancellation fee.
The idea of paying for purchases over time – rather than all at once – actually first gained traction back during the Great Depression as shoppers were faced with tighter budgets.
Shoppers Minding Budgets
Nowadays, major retailers such as Walmart, Kmart and Toys R Us all offer such payment programs – which tend to be particularly popular around Christmas for those budgeting their money to afford holiday gifts. Layaway accounts can often be managed online, not just in-store.
Layaway programs generally begin in September, with final installments due in mid-December, just before Christmas.
Tim Tebow image from 2012 Florida celebrity golf tournament via Shutterstock