• 55°

Parents pay to skip Santa line at malls

Chicago Tribune

He’s making a list.

He’s checking it twice.

He’s gonna find out who paid that $10 nonrefundable sitting fee and who didn’t.

Santa Claus is coming to town.

That’s right, boys and girls. Santa plays favorites, and it has nothing to do with whether you’ve been naughty or nice.

If your mom and dad are willing to shell out $10, you can skip that long line at the mall and head straight for Santa’s lap. It’s like the Flash Pass at Great America! Forget all that playground talk about waiting your turn for the swing.

Yes, it’s come to this.

Retailers who are desperate to get shoppers off the Internet and into the malls have turned the annual visit with Santa into an extravagant — and expensive — affair.

“They are full-scale Hollywood productions with very high-tech digital walls and cast members in elaborate costumes,” a spokeswoman for a firm that plans and staffs the events told a Tribune reporter.

Bricks-and-mortar stores have lost ground to e-tailers as consumers learned to love shopping in their pajamas at 3 a.m., perhaps with a spiked eggnog alongside the keyboard. But Skyping with Santa hasn’t caught on in the same way.

To compete for foot traffic, the malls have upped the ante in Santaland. They’re hoping the paid express lane will be a big draw, and why wouldn’t it? A portrait with Santa is a treasured token of wide-eyed childhood innocence (or occasionally, abject terror). But nothing tries the holiday spirit like standing in a long line of cranky toddlers. By the time your magical moment arrives, your moppet will likely be overdue for a nap or a diaper change or both. So yeah, who wouldn’t pay the 10 bucks?

The ones whose kids are more likely to get socks for Christmas than iPads. Their kids have to wait to whisper in Santa’s ear, while the kids with reservations — that is, the ones whose parents put down a deposit on a portrait package — step right up.

If you’re not buying a package, many malls won’t even let you snap a photo.

For some people, this is right up there with the sort of creeping commercialization that gave us Black Friday doorbusters on Thursday afternoon, before the Thanksgiving dinner table has been cleared. Our feeling about that has always been that if you don’t like that scene, don’t go.

But the mall encounters with Santa began the day after Halloween and will last right up until Christmas. If you want to avoid them, your best strategy is probably to, yes, shop online. Hmmm.

There’s something truly dispiriting about turning a visit with Santa into a ticketed affair. Santa Claus belongs to the kids, not to the malls and their event planners.

To believe in Santa is to believe in a benevolent elf who breaks into houses on Christmas Eve to bring joy — and presents — to girls and boys who have been good. What kind of Santa lets kids buy their way to the front of the line?



Political Notebook: Despite Cooper’s veto, majority of likely voters support school reopening bill, poll finds


COVID-19 vaccinations in Rowan top positives since start of pandemic


Man faces drug charges after breaking and entering call


Waterworks schedules 2021 Summer ARTventures


Blotter: Man faces drug charges after being found passed out in vehicle

Ask Us

Ask Us: What programs exist for litter cleanup?


County begins accepting restaurant grant applications


Blotter: Salisbury man charged with nine more felony sex offenses


Biden team readies wider economic package after virus relief


Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings


Cuomo sorry for remarks aide ‘misinterpreted’ as harassment


Trump calls for GOP unity, repeats lies about election loss


Rowan County administers 700 vaccines, with majority going to local educators


Shoplifting at Walmart presents challenge for Salisbury police


Commissioners will hear details about changes to solar energy policies


After overcoming obstacles, local barber Daniel King earns registered status


39th annual K12 student exhibitions go virtual


Biz Roundup: Chamber of Commerce to host ‘Salute to Agri-Business’ at March Power in Partnership


Local legislators back bills ranging from new restrictions on sex offenders to Holocaust education


After surviving COVID-19 scare, Lois Willard set to celebrate 100th birthday

High School

Carson rolls over South 41-0 as about 600 allowed in to see season opener for both


East Spencer after-school program looks toward opening, nonprofit status


Frank Ramsey inducted into the NC Military Veterans Hall of Fame


Livingstone’s Stoutamire inducted into 2021 CIAA Hall of Fame