Fact Check: NO Evidence Angel Tree Recipients Can Return Their Gifts To Walmart

Fact Check

  • by: Marlo Lee
Fact Check: NO Evidence Angel Tree Recipients Can Return Their Gifts To Walmart Urban Legend

Is it possible for recipients of Angel Tree, a Salvation Army program that allows a donor to buy the items on the Christmas list of a child or a senior adult, to return their gifts to any Walmart location in exchange for a Walmart gift card? No, that's not true: The Salvation Army told Lead Stories that Angel Tree distributions had not yet started when this claim was made in an online post. Angel Tree recipients do not receive the receipts of the gifts they receive.

The claim appeared on Facebook (archived here) on December 12, 2023. It began:

I just witnessed the most sickening thing... a woman returning multiple 'gifts', clothes, bikes, skateboards, dolls... all given by Angel Tree.

This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-12-13 at 8.32.32 AM.png

(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Dec 13 15:47:59 2023 UTC)

The creator of this post claims that a Walmart associate gave the woman returning gifts a Walmart gift card in exchange for the items she received as an Angel Tree recipient. When the Walmart associate was asked if they saw this exchange happen often, they said it happened all day on Dec. 26. The last line of the post reads, "Copied and pasted," signifying that the creator of this post did not witness this exchange happen at Walmart, rather she copied it from another user.

Lead Stories spoke to Pam Davis (archived here), the external communications manager for The Salvation Army on a December 13, 2023, phone call. Davis told us when the recipients get gifts, "We don't follow up with them afterwards." She noted that the kids don't receive the receipts when they are given the gifts, so she couldn't be sure that it was even possible to exchange the gifts for a gift card at Walmart.

Asked if The Salvation Army had a partnership with Walmart that allowed Angel Tree recipients to do something like this, Davis responded that people who sign up to be donors for Angel Tree can get their gifts from anywhere, it does not specifically have to be Walmart. Lastly, Davis wondered where this exchange had taken place because according to her, "Distributions [for Angel Tree] happen next week, normally." At the time of writing, "next week" would be anytime from Dec. 17 through Dec. 23.

A search of the Google News index of thousands of credible news sites did not expose any evidence to substantiate this claim when we searched, "Angel Tree AND Salvation Army AND Walmart AND returns" (archived here).

Walmart has not responded to our inquiry about this claim. We will update this article as appropriate when a response is received.

Other Lead Stories articles on The Salvation Army are here.

Other Lead Stories articles on Walmart are here.

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Marlo Lee is a fact checker at Lead Stories. She is a graduate of Howard University with a B.S. in Biology. Her interest in fact checking started in college, when she realized how important it became in American politics. She lives in Maryland.

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