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It was a concept born during the Great Depression to allow shoppers a chance at items they couldn't otherwise afford, and it remained popular for years. The past few decades, however, led it on an apparent downward popularity spiral.

It's layaway. And, this year, it seems to be back with a vengeance.

Retailers this year seem to have renewed their layaway programs or, at least, are advertising them more.

Walmart and Kmart both boast TV ads alerting customers to the option of selecting items now and gradually paying them off. Other retailers, such as Sears, offer the service on select items.

An article that ran on the Courier-News website explains layaway never really went away, but it seems to be making more of an appearance this year, with so many people looking for alternative options to paying for presents.

The article also goes on to warn shoppers of layaway fees, the risk of stores reshelving the items for missed payments and the like. When possible, it says, just pay the cash up front.

Oh, and hey. Slightly off topic, but still regarding layaway, have you guys heard about the "Secret Santas" making their way to one Michigan Kmart?

On Tuesday, Wood TV reported on a woman in her 30s who put $500 toward three strangers' layaway bills, leaving them owing only $10 each. A follow-up story posted Thursday reports that others followed suit Wednesday and Thursday, one person paying more than $1,000 toward strangers' layaway bills and another paying more than $2,000.

Assistant Manager Carol Vernon is quoted as saying "We cry when we hear of these, and we get chills, and we laugh afterwards and our whole day, it doesn't matter what the day brings It just reaffirms that faith in human nature that everybody is here to help everybody, especially now."

Now how's that for a bit of holiday spirit? It's proof that random acts of kindness can really make a difference.