We took our nearly 3 year old son to see Santa for the first time today. Still flinching from the barrage of physical and emotional attacks my son laid on me while waiting in line for over an hour at Disney Land to see Mickey Mouse, I decided to try Town Square's Santa because they had a reservation system. The cost to reserve your 5-minute spot is $20, but the fee applies towards your photo purchase with the first photo priced at $19.95.
At TownSquareSanta.com (which actually redirects to tslvsanta.com) you can reserve a time to see Santa. Per the excerpt from their website below, they boast, no crowds, no lines and a premium experience for you and your children.
For 2015, all visits with Santa will be by appointment only. Unlike the virtual queue that was in place in the past, you can now schedule the exact time and date you wish to visit Santa. No crowds, no lines, and a premium experience for you and your children. Your $20 deposit will be applied towards your photo and/or USB purchase when you arrive on time for your appointment.
Please enter the number of children in your party, your preferred date and time below to start the appointment process. Please schedule carefully. While you will be able to log in and make changes to your appointment booking through your confirmation email page while times remain available, you may not reschedule within 24 hours of your appointment time.
There are no refunds if you cancel your reservation. Reservations cannot be canceled within 24 hours of your appointment time.
I'm probably too picky, but I wasn't very impressed. We ended up waiting in line for 20 minutes, I didn't feel there was much of a "premium experience", and I was disappointed that I wasn't allowed to take my own photos or video of my son's first experience with Santa.
When we arrived to see Santa, we checked in and were queued into a line where we waited outside, in the cold wind, for about 20 minutes before getting in to see Santa. I was taking video of my son all the way in, but once we got in, I was told I could not take my own pictures or video. I was really disappointed, because I wanted to shoot video of his first experience to send to his grandparents who live out of state.
Once in Santa's house for our turn, our son was given a chance to briefly talk to Santa, then he sat on Santa's lap for a picture.
After our son's quick session with Santa, we walked a few steps over to a computer monitor where an employee gave us the chance to choose the pictures we wanted from about 7 that they took. We didn't love any of the straight on shots and chose one where he was looking at Santa and Santa was looking back.
Before choosing, I asked if I could pick one now and later order other pictures online, but the employee said they would not be available online. Being a tech geek, I was disappointed that I was forced then and there to choose the pictures. My thinking before going in was that since they were charging for and selling time slots online, they'd be more tech oriented and have way for you to put a code into a website after the fact to purchase more pictures, should you later have a bit of buyers remorse and later want to choose another picture.
At the time, though I was a bit upset, I thought to myself that's probably a good business decision as it forces people to feel pressured buy more pictures right then and there or lose them for good.
Now, after the fact, I'm home writing this article thinking the employee was an idiot as I look at the text around the picture and apparently you can go to MySantaPics.net and enter the code on the picture to see all your pictures.
However, I just tried it and my code was not recognized, so maybe the employee was right. (UPDATE: I checked the next day and the code worked, but only the picture I chose was there. I don't have the option to purchase any of the other pictures they took)
After choosing a picture, we then walked a couple more steps to the cashier as we were to pay the tax on the photo we purchased. Yes... they got us for an extra couple bucks by not including the tax in the $20 we paid online.
This being my first time taking a child to see Santa, I don't have a previous experience to compare this Santa experience, so I'm probably being too much of a diva, but I was expecting a better experience for my $20.
I don't know if other, free, Santa places let you take your own pictures, but I figured since I was paying $20, I'd have the freedom to take my own pictures and video as they had already guaranteed making money from me. I didn't realize that because I was paying for a reservation, I was really saying, "I have money, please find ways to extort more out of me."
I was also disappointed in the 20 minute wait, but it was still better than waiting in line for an hour or longer.
Finally, I would expect for a "premium" experience that there be more than just a Santa sitting on a couch in front of a decorated Christmas tree. With them making $20 per (what's really a) 3 minute experience (that's $400/hour), I'd expect they can hire an Elf or two to add to the experience and costume the employees as well. The employees all had casual wear on.
In all, it was a decent experience. My son, fairly clueless at (2 months short of) the age of 3, had the experience of meeting Santa. However it was not to the level I was expecting, as the website indicated, "for you and your children". Granted, if you've read much of my blog you might find that I'm probably so frugal that I expect a lot from $20.