I am old enough to remember the days of K-mart blue light specials. Those were the specials that they announced over the store speaker while you were shopping that lasted for a short period of time (maybe 30 minutes to an hour) and that you had to go to the blue light location to get marked down. I loved blue light specials. Not that I ever ran over to the blue light like an overly anxious blue light shopper. I mostly purposefully meandered over to the location of the blue light. I never wanted to be perceived as an overzealous blue light shopper.
But blue light shopping felt good. It was as if you were being treated special because you were in the store shopping…like the best deals were meant for you. Saving money on a blue light special item left you with a warm fuzzy feeling…a sense that there was an equity in the world for those hardworking folks who were loyal Kmart shoppers.
I don’t think they do blue light specials any longer…or at least I haven’t been around to experience one in many moons. K-mart has changed. The store now has an online presence and has to compete with stores like Target and Walmart. It’s a different world these days.
There is one Kmart tradition that has stood the test of time and that remains despite the dramatic changes retail has seen in the last decade…Kmart still has layaway. Layaway is a great concept that allows you to pay for things you can’t immediately pay for over a period of time. I know those of you unfamiliar with this concept may be wondering how this is different than a credit card. The primary differences between layaway and credit cards are: 1) there is only a small one time fee to utilize the layaway system (typically $5-$10) and there is no interest; and, 2) you only get the merchandise after it is all paid for.
Layaway used to be a heavily used service a few decades ago, but over time it seemed to fall from favor. Yet, a down economy and more frugal shopping trends have resulted in a bit of a layaway resurgence. More folks have had to put things on layaway and make payments this holiday season. And even then, the bleak economic outlook left some folks wondering how they would be able to pay off their layaways in time to bring home items for Christmas.
That is when an interesting phenomenon started at Kmart stores in places like Michigan and California. Donors (many who have remained anonymous) started going into stores and paying off family layaways so that children would not be deprived of their Christmas. Stunned layaway customers were called by store personnel with the news that they could pick up their items as their remaining balance had been paid. Awesome, right?? Folks stepping up to help other folks who are in need this Christmas season.
It happened right here in Fargo yesterday. A donor known only as Paul paid off 19 Kmart layways at the tune of more than $2,000. The donor worked with store manager Nick Bosh to identify layaways that included children’s toys, clothing and family items. Bosh reported that the recipients of the donor’s generosity (some who were unsure as to whether they were going to be able to pay the balances by Christmas) were often speechless at the news that their balance had been paid. One layaway customer even cried.
God bless those donors nationwide who have made the effort to help others. You are all kinds of special - indeed, you are blue light special.
Day eight hundred and ninety-nine of the new forty – obla di obla da