Harrods, the famously high-end department store in London, is putting a 1% twist on the holiday tradition of the in-store Santa: Only families that have spent at least $2,500 at the retailer this year will be granted access to Santa's lap.
To be sure, the tradition of store Santas is deeply entrenched in capitalism. It's unclear when the first store Santa appeared — by some accounts it was in a Boston store in 1890, although Macy's also claims first dibs on the idea — yet the attraction was clearly designed to not only delight children but get their parents to open their wallets.
Harrods said its store Santa will appear in a "Christmas Grotto" decorated by crystal company Swarovski, promising "a snow-covered woodland filled with sparkling surprises" and inhabited by Father Christmas. But the store's site notes that only Harrods Rewards members at the Green 2 level, which is reached by spending at least £2000 ($2,567), would be allowed to visit "in recognition of their loyal custom," or patronage.
That's striking some shoppers as downright Grinch-like.
"They have lost the true meaning of Christmas," James Browne, 40, told The Guardian. He said he'd taken his four children to visit the Harrods' Santa in previous years. "Visiting Father Christmas shouldn't be reserved for those that are fortunate enough to frequent the store and spend thousands of pounds."
According to The Guardian, Harrods said it will allow 160 families who haven't spent $2,500 at the store to visit the Christmas Grotto, representing about 3.6% of the expected visitors.
In addition to spending at least $2,500 at Harrods to gain entry to the Christmas Grotto, visitors will also have to buy tickets at about $25 a pop, according to the department store website.
Still, even if you splurged on a shopping spree at Harrods before the Grotto opens on November 15, you're not likely to gain entry: Harrods said the Grotto is now fully booked.