Santa Claus at Cherry Hill Mall will now be free
Anyone wanting to sit on Santa’s lap at the Cherry Hill Mall better have $ 35 for the privilege.
New Jersey’s Cherry Hill Mall wants to get back on Santa’s Nice List.
After feeling the heat from angry parents, along with media inquiries, the shopping center just outside of Philadelphia dropped its new $ 35 fee for kids to get a close encounter with St. Nick.
The Cherry Hill Mall had announced that its “Adventure to Santa” experience would cost $ 35 — up from free last year — and include a photo package.
But as news of the Grinch-like behavior spread, mall managers reconsidered.
“We had complaints, e-mails, and reaction on other social media,” said Ashlyn Delson, spokeswoman for mall owner PREIT. “We listened.”
The hefty charge had angered patrons.
“Disgusting!” wrote Alison Potter Bramhall on the shopping center’s Facebook page. “You are effectively telling less fortunate children that Santa doesn’t want to see them unless their parents can pay.”
But Kim Del Campo of Blackwood, N.J., said the $ 35 photo package she bought of her 8-year-old daughter Gianna’s Santa visit was a good deal. “I think it was very reasonable,” said Del Campo.
Here’s Santa at last year’s Macy’s North Pole village. He’s waving, not holding out his hand for $ 35.
Enlarge Nicole Pesce/New York Daily News
The Santa at Bloomingdale’s also offers free access to his wish-granting lap.
Malls closer to New York weren’t offering customers the same lump of coal.
“Of course you can have a free visit with Santa,” said a representative from Queens Center Mall, where Kris Kringle is receiving starry-eyed kids through Dec. 24.
There’s even a free breakfast there on Dec. 5.
And the most famous Santaland in the world — the 13,000-square-foot mini North Pole at Macy’s in Herald Square, is also free, allowing kids to wander through an elf-filled village packed with animatronic toys and a large train display before seeing Santa.
Santa’s sleigh flies into the Bronx’s Bay Plaza Mall this Saturday for a free breakfast party before holding court for free through Christmas Eve. And his Staten Island Mall counterpart doesn’t just meet with kids; he lets pets sit on his lap on Monday nights from 5 to 8 p.m.
“Smiles, hugs, and wish-taking are always free,” according to My Santa Experience, the company that organizes the Santa visits in the Bronx and Staten Island.
The city malls and Macy’s do sell photo packages, but sitting on Santa’s lap — where dreams of toys, games and other presents are made — is free. And Bryant Park boasts Manhattan’s only free outdoor photos with the big guy at Santa’s corner starting Dec. 18.
The Cherry Hill Mall’s $ 35 fee — first reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer — included photos, but parents were still yelling, “Bah humbug.”
“I’ve always enjoyed seeing Santa. … It definitely puts you in the Christmas spirit,” Stephanie Soden posted on the mall’s Facebook page. “Knowing you have changed this and basically turned seeing Santa into an amusement ride you must pay for is just sad.”
Before changing its policy, the mall’s management company said its “Adventure to Santa” village would be worth the price of admission, thanks to its simulated sleigh rides and holiday concerts.
“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,” Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust said in a statement Sunday night.
Moms and dads were being asked to pay for a photo package upfront, which started at $ 35 and ran up to $ 75 for a video, before their little ones could visit the beloved holiday icon.
When mom Sarah Colleluori FitzPatrick asked Cherry Hill Mall employees if her kids could just on Santa’s lap without paying for the whole experience, a shopping center Grinch told her to, “go to the mall down the street.”