The Short of It
Some malls are actually charging for kids just to sit on Santa's lap!
Ho, ho, oh no. The decision of certain malls, including the Cherry Hill Mall in southern New Jersey, to charge as much as $50 for kids just to sit on Old Saint Nick's lap has parents angrier than the Grinch on Christmas morning, and some are even threatening to boycott shopping there.
One upset parent wrote on the Cherry Hill Mall's Facebook page: "Your decision to make Santa photos mandatory is a disgrace for families that can't afford this. The green you're trying to collect is the same color as the Grinch. That can't be a coincidence. I won't be shopping there this year."
How are malls getting away with this Scroogey behavior? By making photo packages mandatory. That's right; kids can't just sit on Santa's lap and dream up all the gifts they hope to receive on Christmas morning. Mom and dad have to pony up for pictures, too.
For its part, the Cherry Hill mall claims the castle display—which incidentally hides the jolly man from the view of passersby—as well as the incorporation of the cartoon character Shrek and a simulated sleigh ride are worth the expense, saying in a statement:
"Families who experienced this exciting amenity last year commented that it was nothing like any Santa visit they had ever had before, and parents were thrilled with not just the adventure but the quality of the photos as well. We were mindful of all our customers' wishes and therefore host the more traditional Santa visits at our six other PREIT malls in the Philadelphia area."
There are a growing number of malls in cities like New York and Chicago that have taken the simple joy out of a visit to Santa. I personally have experienced being banned from taking my own photos of my kiddos meeting their Christmastime idol, and instead having to buy one of the on-site photographer's overpriced packages.
But apparently, a plain ol' meet and greet with the big man is a thing of the past, as Ruth Rosenquist, from Noerr Programs, a training program for Santas and photographers told the Chicago Tribune: "They are full-scale Hollywood productions with very high-tech digital walls and cast members in elaborate costumes."
And for that, you gotta pay up, I guess.