'Layaway angels' and gold coins: Americans find new ways to warm hearts (VIDEO)
'Layaway angels' and the phenomenon of jewelry and coins being dropped into Salvation Army kettles shows Americans may be looking for social connections in their giving this holiday season.
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The Salvation Army, too, is seeing evidence of a shift in altruistic behavior at their iconic red kettles. Even as overall coin-dropping is down from last year, people in cities like Atlanta and Kokomo, Ind., are dropping off valuable items, including gold krugerrands, gold bars, and even diamond wedding bands, in large numbers.
Taken together, the two trends highlight a subtle change in how some Americans are choosing to give during hard economic times. And, it seems, those who are donating this holiday season may be searching for more emotionally satisfying ways to give.
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The “layaway angels” phenomenon, which began in Michigan, has settled more than 1,000 layaway accounts with a value of $400,000, according to Kmart. The layaway option, a pre-credit card retail invention that allows customers to gradually pay off the price of an item, has itself made a comeback as credit card use has dropped amid high unemployment and stubborn economic uncertainty.
In Orange County, Calif., one man saw a local story about the layaway angels phenomenon and promptly called the Costa Mesa Kmart, where he spent over $15,000 to settle hundreds of layaway accounts. Other angels had already settled $8,000 worth of layaway accounts at the store.
The “layaway angels” phenomenon likely taps into a search for social connections between those who give and those who receive, Scott Huettel, a psychology professor at Duke University, tells ABC News.