They don't know his name. They don't really know anything about him, except that he's a Patriots fan.
But residents in Derby, Vermont, are grateful for a secret Santa who walked into a Walmart store on November 15 and picked up almost everyone's tab -- including the charges on layaway items for customers who weren't even there.
Shopper Julie Gates snapped a picture of the mysterious man -- who paid for her purchases that day -- as he was walking away. His face isn't visible, but he's wearing a New England Patriots jacket.
At first, Gates said she was in disbelief.
As she approached the register with a delivery box, 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'd wait until she was done and pay for everything.
"I kind of chuckled and thought, 'This guy must be crazy,'" she said. So Gates went around the store, shopping for holiday gifts with her mother and son, like she had planned.
Sure enough, when Gates came back, the man was still there, waiting for her. And when her account totaled $199, he used his card to pay.
"I said, 'Who can afford that?' and he said, 'Santa can,'" Gates said.
Gates said she didn't even notice the man at first because he looked like a "normal, everyday, average guy." But she believes his act of kindness will go a long way.
"I know there's a lot of people in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont that were absolutely, absolutely helped so much," Gates said, referring to the state's northeast corner. The kindness means even more during the late fall and winter, she said, when heating bills are on the rise.
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.
When she asked the man for his name so she could thank him, he said, "Kris Kringle."
"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."
It was like watching a Christmas movie, she said.
"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."
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