Some residents of Derby, Vermont, are celebrating Christmas earlier than planned this year. They were lucky enough to cross paths with a secret Santa who just waltzed into a Walmart store on November 15th and picked up almost everyone's tab-- including the charges on layaway items for customers who weren't even there.
Shopper Julie Gates talked to CNN about that unbelievable encounter. She said that she was approaching the register with a delivery box when a man asked her if she "was putting anything on layaway." She said yes, referring to her package, but that she wasn't done with her shopping yet. The man told her he would wait for her to finish shopping and that he would then pay for everything.
"I kind of chuckled and thought, 'This guy must be crazy," Gates said. So she went around the store, shopping for holiday gifts with her mother and son as she had planned.
When Gates came back, she was surprised to see that the man was still there, waiting for her. And when her account totaled $199, he used his card to pay. When Gates asked him "Who can afford that?" he replied, "Santa can," Gates recounted.
Gates also said that she had asked the man for his name so she could thank him, and he had said, "Kris Kringle." She managed to snap a picture of her mysterious benefactor as he was walking away. His face isn't visible, but he's wearing a New England Patriots jacket.
"I left the store in awe, with tears in my eyes," she said. "That some man that didn't know any of us would just walk into a Walmart in a little place like Vermont and pay for everyone's layaway."
For her, it was like watching a Christmas movie. "The only message that he would want me to send is 'be kind to everyone," Gates said. "He's an amazing man and we need more people like him."
A store employee confirmed the anonymous shopper's generosity, although Walmart officials declined to say how many people he helped or how much he spent. After she posted about the act of kindness on Facebook, Gates said other friends and neighbors responded to say the store had let them know their layaway charges had also been paid for. One couple Gates talked to in the Walmart that day said the man had paid their $800 tab.
Gates told CNN that she did not even notice the man at first because he looked like a "normal, everyday, average guy." But she is convinced that his act of kindness will go a long way. She added that this man's act of kindness means even more during the late fall and winter, with heating bills on the rise.