Scrooged: Walmart Managers Turn Down Layaway ‘Secret Santa’ Donor

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After one anonymous woman in western Michigan generously paid for a stranger’s layaway purchases, reports of copycat good Samaritans have popped up around the country. But one would-be do-gooder in Houston was thwarted when she went to not one, but two local Walmarts with a request to donate $300 toward other people’s holiday gifts. According to a news report from channel KPRC Local 2, Jennifer LaRue went to a Houston Walmart and asked if she could chip in for a family’s holiday gifts as an anonymous “secret Santa.” The store manager refused. LaRue persisted and drove to another area Walmart with the same request. There, she got into an argument with the store manager after he told her it would violate Walmart’s privacy policy to take her donation and give it to a less fortunate family. (Walmart’s layaway program officially ended last Friday, but the news report says some stores agreed to give people who couldn’t come up with the money a little extra time to scrape up the cash.)

(MORE: Season of Giving: More Secret Santas Pay Off Strangers’ Layaway Accounts)

The only thing is, Walmart doesn’t actually have a policy that would prevent someone like LaRue from performing an act of kindness the way she intended. When Local 2 went up the retailer’s corporate ladder and got in touch with Todd Manley, a regional vice president, he told reporters there’s no such thing as a policy that prohibits anonymous layaway donations. “I was really disappointed that we didn’t handle it right,” he told the station. “There’s no reason we don’t support this.” Manley added that Walmart actually had facilitated several thousands of dollars worth of layaway “secret Santa” gifts in the region, including one whopping $9,500 donation that paid for several families’ presents.

(MORE: Layaway: Worse Than Using a Credit Card?)

As a gesture of goodwill, Walmart invited LaRue to come back to Walmart, where they matched her $300 donation. The recipient was a single mom of four who told Local 2 LaRue’s formerly anonymous gift was the only way she could afford to pay for all the presents she had on layaway. “It just came at a time that I really needed it,” she said.