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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Phipps Santa to charge naughty parents a fee this season

 

This year, Santa comes with a service charge.

This year, Santa comes with a service charge.

Apparently, the legendary Phipps Plaza Santa Claus  is borrowing a business practice from Ticketmaster this holiday season.

The Buckhead mall’s popular head elf will be charging parents a $15 service fee when his advance online reservations begin on Oct. 7 at 12:01 AM at phippsatsanta.com.

Explains Santa’s surly spokeselves at santaatphipps.com: “In 2008,  we experienced almost 500 ‘No-Shows and/or Multiple-Bookings’ (families who booked more than one appointment but only  showed up for one without canceling the second). In an effort to eliminate this and make sure as many families get to visit with Santa each season as possible, we will be charging a $15 appointment fee at the time you book your appointment online.”

Ouch, Santa.
Of the advance fee, $10 will be applied to your picture package and/or DVD purchase. The other $5 bill “will cover website services, the appointment system and credit card fees,” according to the Website.

Santa makes his grand entrance at Phipps Plaza on Nov. 7.

Santa aficionados are encouraged to make reservations early. The photo ops on St. Nick’s knee routinely sell out far in advance. Some frazzled parents also will no doubt recall that the Phipps Santa’s popularity  has caused the mall’s website to crash in past years as a surge of reservation requests overloaded the North Pole’s computer systems.

In other words, Merry Christmas.

So parents, what’s your take on Santa’s service charge? Is it an extra unnecessary expense in a recessionary holiday season? Or should parents have been more responsible last year and not wasted St. Nick’s precious time?

91 comments Add your comment

WHATEVER

October 1st, 2009
3:22 pm

Shut up, all of you whiners and complainers. If you have a problem with it, then you obviously wouldn’t go to Phipps in the first place. Stop complaing about “Buckhead Idiots” and keep yourselves on the southside of town and wait in line. The Phipps Santa is THE BEST and should charge more. My children are well-behaved, but I would rather them enjoy Santa than having to wait and will gladly pay for that. I would also not like to wait, especially if I have to listen to rednecks complaining about the cost.

A Better Santa

October 1st, 2009
3:24 pm

For those looking for a good alternative Santa, the one at Dillards in Ashley Park in Newnan is great (if you live near by or are up for the drive). He’s got the look of an Old World Santa (not the Coca-Cola Red and White Santa), and he’s great with kids. I took my nephew last year as a walk-up and waited 10 mins.

I get a little agitated...

October 1st, 2009
3:24 pm

…when reading Phipps line about having the “real” Santa. As others have mentioned, many local mall have equally “real” Santas. From 1986 – 1994 we took our boys to North Dekalb Mall where they had a “real” Santa that looked, and acted, every bit as good as Ray at Phipps. We now have those pictures as part of our Christmas decorations every year and it is great to see how both the kids grew and Santa (the same one every year) aged.

I worked in the Phipps area during those years and would wonder over to see the crowds and kids and Ray dealing with them, and I can assure you that he was no better than the Santa at North Dekalb Mall. And, if you want to see another “real” Santa, just go across the street from Phipp to Lenox, though a Santa in a black Santa suit (not a Black Santa) is not necessarily my idea of how Santa would dress – but that was back in the mid-90’s, so he may dress differently now!

Egg Nog

October 1st, 2009
3:27 pm

If people hadn’t double-booked and no-showed in droves last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, none of you would be paying a dime. Blame them.

WHATEVER

October 1st, 2009
3:27 pm

At least the surcharge will weed out the low-rent type people that make appointments they never intend to keep. Good job, Phipps!! How frustrating to have 500 cancellations!! I’m sure all of you complainers would not be happy when 500 customers didn’t show up to your waitressing job to tip you….

Chris Broe

October 1st, 2009
3:31 pm

I thought there was no such thing as a sanity clause. (Chico Marx)

BIG E

October 1st, 2009
3:42 pm

u know why people dont show up? especially white people? this is more a white people creation once again…..lol do u really ever see black people visiting santa with their kids??? come on he is fake……lol…..just dont see santa and if he isnt “allowed” to say “merry christmas” whats the point??? there is no santa and jesus is the reason for the season……we are already nickled and dimed to death as is.. (atm fees, overdraft fees, chk by phone fees, etc etc)…. just dont go see santa….. thats all i can say… nobody is gonna show up now…. just cancel santa and the picture…… u used to could take a pic with ur own camera or video………its a mess..

jellyton D

October 1st, 2009
3:44 pm

thank you blkshepered – you got the real thing goin’ on.

BIG E

October 1st, 2009
3:48 pm

and another thing are they gonna charge ur credit card/debit card if u cancel and dont give 24 hour notice? lol send it 2 collections if u dont pay it? cuz u know they will have to get ur card info to set the appointment…lol how else will they charge the 15.00? lol think abt it… just do it cash only…….lol

LS

October 1st, 2009
3:48 pm

Looks like this economy is hitting poor Ole Saint Nick in the pocketbook too. It’s sad that he has to charge for a visit. I feel fo the children who won’t get to see him because parents will refuse to pay.

WHATEVER ROCKS

October 1st, 2009
3:51 pm

I will gladly pay for the Santa at phipps. The Santa there is not just a photo op/assembly line. He spends time with the kids and really interacts with each child. Worth every penny and would pay more if they asked.

Atlanta Newbie

October 1st, 2009
3:55 pm

Tp SHUT IT amd WHATEVER I must ask, how is Christmas Spirit defined in your families?
Also the “Its only $5″ crowd don’t seem to have much in the way of math skills. To recover $10 a family must purchase a photo package. I’m going to make the wild leap that there are no photo packages that wouldn’t put a family our more than “only” $5?
Much of this exchange has lead me to the sad conclusion that there is no more compasion in Atlanta than in the cities of the evil north.

WHATEVER

October 1st, 2009
4:06 pm

So, Newbie, why would you not purchase a picture package? I’m sure it’s great to see Santa, but don’t you want the memory from it in a photo? So, yes, it is only $5. I’m an accountant and have plenty in the way of “math skills”, but apparently can also use spell-check and common sense. There is plenty of compassion here on the northside of Atlanta b/c we are passionate about our Phipps Santa!! If people are worrying about five stinking bucks, then maybe they should spent their Santa time at work and not scheduling an appointment at Phipps! Or they can visit any of the other mall locations in Atlanta – no one is making you go to Phipps, so why are you complaining! You get what you pay for! I’ll venture as far to say that 95% of the complainers on here have never even set foot in Phipps anyway.

WHATEVER

October 1st, 2009
4:08 pm

Sorry…spell check error – spent should be spend….

neo-Carlinist

October 1st, 2009
4:17 pm

talk about passing the buck. Phipps didn’t want to charge a fee, but it was all the cancellations last year. yeah, right. I realize Santa is a secular institution, but is nothing sacred? what’s next, “cover charges” to enter certain stores?

Becky

October 1st, 2009
4:17 pm

@Atlanta Newbie, why would you take your child and have a picture made with Santa if you weren’t going to buy it? Therefore the $10.00 isn’t wasted..Anyone that has ever bought pictures with Santa should know that most packages start at about $25.00..So what math skills did we miss? Yes, I would pay the $15.00 fee to reserve a place in line..

atlanta mom

October 1st, 2009
4:39 pm

I have not been impressed with the new Phipps Santa. The first year, it is all him talking on my kids video (um news flash, i’d like my kid to talk – he wouldn’t lket her!)- then he reads off the list, literally. Last year, he was a tad better but not much, he rushed through and still talked way too much – would ask a question then answer it before my kid could. So another year of HIM doing all the talking n my video, interrupting my kid and rushing her on off his lap as fast as he could. Great! I think we’ll try another mall this year, just not worth the hassle. Another issue is you have to buy the pictures before you ever see them, they are the only game in town that does that – the other Santa’s have it set up so you can see the pictures before you choose a package. Maybe they should invest in that technology with the reservation fees.

soulfinger

October 1st, 2009
4:46 pm

Tis the season to be jolly! Some of you guys are just soooo ANGRY!!!

Tamara

October 1st, 2009
4:54 pm

Wow. I’m glad I’m Jewish. Hannukah Harry, here we come.

J Bryan

October 1st, 2009
4:57 pm

Enter your comments here

This will be my third year taking my grandson to see Santa at Phipps Plaza, but years ago I also too his mother to the same place, and I can truly say it’s been worth it all. As in the above comment, it’s not about going to having your picture made with Santa, but the time that Santa spends with your child that makes it all worth while. Last year we had a video made of the experience and it is something we’ll treasure for years to come. I plan to do the same this year and expect it to be even better. When I first heard of the fee, I too was shocked. I picked up the telephone and called the company. After the conversation and a little explaining, I understood exactly why this had to be done. These people are in business just like anyone else trying to make a living. It’s because of people that abuse the system and have no manners or respect is why they had to make this move. A few years ago I had to cancel my appointment with regret, but I did it in hopes that another child would be able to fill his spot. I would like to ask these people that are doing all the complaining, when they book an appointment to see there doctor, dentist, etc., do you treat them the same way? My doctor, dentist, ect.,states that if you don’t call and cancel within 24 hrs. they have a right to charge you for that visit. If you cancel that appointment because you don’t want to pay, then why could you not be courteous enough to call “Santa” and let him know the same. After all he deserves respect the same as anyone else. Those of you who are doing all the complaining should just stay away this year and open that door for a lot of other children that would love to be a part of this Santa. Complainers, you need to think about what you are saying and give this company the recognition they deserve!!!

Worthington James Harrison III

October 1st, 2009
5:03 pm

I suggest one caveat, if your zip code is any other then 30305, stay away. A state issued id with address should be required, keep Buckhead pure……

lovelyliz

October 1st, 2009
5:12 pm

Virtually every other busoiness on the face of the planet that takes reservations charges for no-shows. It’s simply the naure of the business. It’s not like the parents would go to Phipps can’t afford the $15. Just give up the valet aparking.

Wade Dorminy

October 1st, 2009
5:17 pm

Growing up I always saw Santa At either the Ponce de Leon Sears or the old Rich’s downtown and always enjoyed it. I am one of those “rednecks” from the southside and DO occasionally shop at Phipps Plaza (The Belk there has in my opinion the BEST children’s department in the city; almost as good as the Parisian it replaced) However, I have never “seen” the Phipps Santa. My children have always seen the Santa at Lenox Square across the street. He is handsome and kind and even has a southern accent just like a REAL ATLANTA SANTA should. Shame on Phipps’ management with their greedy ways.

Wade Dorminy

October 1st, 2009
5:19 pm

I believe that Atlanta 30326 and 30327 are also “Buckhead zip codes” along with 30305

Elizabeth

October 1st, 2009
5:33 pm

Dear

I get a little agitated…
October 1st, 2009
3:24 pm

While I appreciate the fact that you’ve enjoyed other Santa’s around Atlanta through the years I don’t quite understand the reason you feel the need to knock what any of us have said about Ray. he was a nice man who loved children and unfortunately is no longer with us. I began seeing him when I was 7 months old and he was the Santa at Perimeter Mall!

Why you felt the need to interject your thoughts about him being “no better than any other Santa” is beyond me. Merry Christmas to you. . .

sross

October 1st, 2009
8:42 pm

well, first of all, I do believe that Jesus is the reason for the season, without Him, life wouldn’t be worth living. as for Santa, I’m a bit partial to the Phipps santa, he’s a good friend. He is a wonderful man that loves God and children. He pours his heart into what he is doing. he looks the part ALL year, in June you will see him in a red shirt! I’m not too sure how to feel about the fee, I think it’s alright considering you get to put $10 towards pictures. But regardless, Christmas is a wonderful time of year and if paying the money upsets you too bad, just don’t do it!

afc

October 1st, 2009
9:48 pm

I love the Phipps Santa. Really miss Ray, though. I must say that the children don’t sit in his lap for ‘15 seconds’. One of the reasons that i love this Santa is that he spends several minutes talking with them and hearing what they want for Christmas. We choose to buy the (admittedly expensive) video and I know that hte extra money will be wprth every penny when we watch it in the future. Santa has a microphone so that we can very clearly hear him and the children speaking on the video. It would take more than this for me to change. But, luckily there are many, many Santas around town so that people who choose to may still visit one.

[...] For more on this story, see this link. [...]

Chris

October 2nd, 2009
7:32 am

If you’re going to get the pictures done, great. But who are these pictures and videos for, you or your kids? I’d much rather wait in line an hour with my kids, let them see Santa, and have that happy memory for about a week than pay tons of money on pictures they won’t care about when they turn 13. I’d much rather spend that money on taking them to see the lights at Callaway and having hot chocolate on a hayride. That’s a much better use of my money in terms of memories. Not knocking you if that’s how you choose to spend your cash, but it’s not for me. But no reason to complain about the fee, just go elsewhere. And leave it to someone to bring race into every discussion.

SHUT IT

October 2nd, 2009
10:55 am

NEWBIE, my Christmas spirit is well defined, thank you. The point of the visit to Santa is to get the picture so yes, it is an additional FIVE dollars for those who are whining to show respect that is fast dwindling in this city. And yes….there are plenty of other malls in Atlanta….if you don’t want to spend the additional money…go elsewhere. One of the pros of living in a city with 5.5 million people…you have options.

I LOVE Phipps Santa

October 2nd, 2009
3:24 pm

I would first like to say that Lydia’s Dad is completely incorrect. Santa at Phipps DOES say “Merry Christmas!” I have a video to prove it! I can’t believe there are so many people moaning and groaning about $5. If $5 (or even $15 if you don’t purchase pictures) is too much….WHY ARE YOU AT PHIPPS PLAZA? And there have been many comments on Santa Ray, which was great, but I think Santa Johnny is wonderful!

Totally worth it

October 2nd, 2009
5:36 pm

It’s totally worth it. And it’s not like they are gobbling up all of it. In order to make sure people are not greedy (overbooking appts) I am happy to pay the fee to make sure that we get to see Santa. He is great. We love him.

Those of you saying you want to wait in line are clearly NUTS. I will gladly pay the fee to have my appt time set so that my kids are happy when they sit on Santa’s lap – not at their wits end for having waited 45 minutes.

therese

October 4th, 2009
6:48 pm

If Richard Eldredge had done his homework he would have known that the Phipps Plaza Santa is not charging a reservation fee this year. The company that brings Santa to Phipps Plaza IS charging a fee thanks to those inconsiderate parents who believe only their time is valuable. He also included Santa’s picture so any children seeing the article would pay attention. Way to go Mr Eldredge. But, I think that you did know all this but that wouldn’t have made a very controvertial story. I guess Christmas isn’t controvertial enough already. Some people just can’t be happy unless they’re making someone else unhappy. Shame on you Richard Eldredge. I thank God that Phipps Plaza’s Santa holds the real meaning of Christmas in his heart. I pray that you find it.

Karen

October 6th, 2009
8:51 pm

We love Santa Johnny. He not only says “Merry Christmas,” but also said that our little girl was a gift from God, which she is. I don’t mind paying a fee for a Santa appointment. This way, maybe people won’t abuse the system. Merry Christmas, everyone!

LG

October 7th, 2009
12:30 am

Is anyone else experiencing major difficulties with this website? I was on as soon as the appointment system opened, and it is taking forever!

MP

October 7th, 2009
2:31 am

ATLANTA MOM- You are absolutely correct about this new Santa. My husband’s family has used the Phipps Santa for many years. I can’t bear to break the tradition, because the trip means so much to them. However, he is hardly the poster child for great personalities. For 2 straight years I’ve had to have the company edit inappropriate comments from the DVD. My 2 year old cried, and he made me feel horrible about it. He desperately needs a basic etiquette class.

I have no problem with paying. For those who have made comments about parents being too busy to spend time with their children, you are completely out of line. I would much rather take my children to ride the pink pig, have lunch at the Buckhead Diner & head back to the Buckhead Ritz to swim than stand in line for eternity. We go as a family & don’t do anything except spend time with the children the entire weekend. I love the appointments! Thank goodness there are lots of choices so everyone can be happy! :)

MP

October 7th, 2009
2:45 am

LG- keep trying! It took over an hour, but I finally got a confirmation! The experience is well worth it!

Bronco

October 8th, 2009
11:52 am

There is no such person as Santa Claus, the Easter bunny doesn’t exist and Obama isn’t president, I have never met anyone who voted for him.

[...] Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Santa is getting savvy this season. [...]

Santa Tom

October 21st, 2009
3:28 am

Ihave read all of the posts on this blog and I am amzed at the people who can’t seem to get their arms around who is at fault here. First and foremost, it is absolutely not the fault of the Phipps Santa, he works for a photo company that runs the set and ownes the concession. It is also not the fault of the photo company, a locally owned, single site operation, not one of the mega photo companies that own most of the mall Santa concessions nationwide. It is the fault of the thoughtless, self centered people who double and triple booked appointments so that they could have it all their way. They are the folks to be mad at.
I am a Real Bearded Santa myself and I work all over the Atlanta Metropolitan area and I do not work in a mall. I knew Santa Ray personally and I know Santa Johnny personally and I will tell you that both are/were a class act. In the genre of Mall Santas, they are the cream of the crop, both good God fearing men who love Christmas and love children. I can not say enough good about either one of them.
I don’t, and won’t, work in a mall because there are very few like Phipps, that are locally owned small businesses. Most Malls are controlled by two national photo companies and I wouldn’t work for them on a bet, nor would I take my children to them. Not because of Santa, as their are many good Santas in the malls and a few poor to mediocre ones. The problem is the management, the photo company. They are totally profit driven and care little for the children or the Santa. I prefer to make home visits, I am a party Santa and this is an option that you should explore if you have small children, particularly a child who is afraid of Santa.
Please, never torture your child by making them stand in line for over an hour to see Santa, that is a sure way to really traumatize your child, they are tired and crying and you try to force them into Santas lap for a picture. It just isn’t right.

Santa Tom
www,atlantasrealsanta.com

Elizabeth

December 4th, 2009
7:24 am

For what it’s worth – here in the UK they charge to visit Santa in his grotto. It’s usually £5 – £10 depending if you would like a photo or a present.

We travel all the way from the UK to visit the Phipps Santa every year (oh, okay and family too) and it’s well worth it.